‘Tis the season for being surrounded by holiday spirit at every department and grocery store, bakery and home! Co-workers bring trays of cookies, truffles, and chocolate treats stacked neatly on top of a Christmas dish (wrapped with red cellophane and topped with a big green bow) to share with everyone at the office. Malls are filled with the sweet chocolate aroma from the Godiva store. They’ve got chocolate covered strawberries, oranges, and nuts sitting in the windows facing the shoppers, and it’s as if they are calling out, “Yes, I am delicious…yes, you know you want to try each and every one.”
There are gold and brown chocolate gift boxes with red ribbons stacked in giant pyramids. Behind the mountain of elegant boxes is another glass case that's what looks like a ray of light shining down on it from the chocolate gods…and inside are truffles. All of these treats—the strawberry-filled, butterscotch, cheesecake, chocolate éclair, crème Brule, chocolate lava, red velvet. More—make even the healthiest person stop and stare with amazement.
Just now as I was writing this blog, deep in chocolate thought, my phone started buzzing. It was a text from my husband—he sent me a picture of a beautiful basket he got as a gift with all kinds of holiday chocolates inside. He said, “What do we do with this?” These are just a few of the holiday goodies that we all are faced with from the start of Thanksgiving all the way through Christmas. And it doesn’t stop at just chocolates (which we all love). The list goes on: candy canes in every flavor imaginable, bags and bags of candy stocking stuffers, chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil, candy black coal (which I can’t imagine being good), plastic reindeer that poop out candy (yum), plastic candy canes filled with skittles and M&M’s, cookies in the shape of Christmas trees with green frosting. Many different shapes and sizes of dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate. Crunchy chocolate Santa’s, Oh Mylanta!
Aghhhh you can run. You can’t hide! So, this brings me to ask the question: What's a vegan to do when surrounded by all these treats?
It’s hard enough just staying healthy during the holidays. It’s an additional challenge for some vegans not to give in to temptation—especially from girls standing in front of the Godiva store holding platters of truffle samples in your face as you walk by…or from the sweet-smelling, colorful display of cookies, pies, cakes and candies on the table after Christmas dinner at your relatives’ house. You’re likely to find yourself staring while that little voice inside your head says, “No you can’t have those.”
Well, what if I told you that I'd some delicious, guilt-free chocolate treats that were quick and simple to make. Actually healthy? These are treats that the whole family can enjoy. Make these melt-in-your-mouth cookies, put them on a decorative platter, wrap them in red cellophane, put a big bow on the top. Proudly take them over to your relatives’ house on Christmas day. Place them right next to the brownies, pies, candies. Chocolate fudge on the dessert table and watch everyone enjoy your delicious and healthy cookies. You can keep the “healthy” part a secret—no one will ever know.
These cookies have no sugar, no oil, no flour and of course they're vegan. They've the perfect sweetness and hearty texture that make them melt in your mouth and satisfy that holiday chocolate treat craving.
Here is my version of the “healthy” chocolate chunk, walnut, cranberry. Raisin goodness cookies. I tested them out on my co-workers and they passed the yummy test. Godiva chocolate…who needs it?
HEALTHY VEGAN CHOCOLATE CHUNK, WALNUT, CRANBERRY, RAISIN COOKIES
-1 cup packed dates, soaked for about 15 minutes for softness (dates are a natural sweetener)
-2 Tbsp peanut butter (make sure that ingredients say only peanut butter)
-1 cup almond meal (Bob’s Red Mill carries this in most stores. You can grind your own in a coffee grinder with raw almonds like I did)
-1 cup old fashion rolled oats
-Handful of fresh or dried cranberries (Whole Foods carries freeze dried cranberries, with no oil or sugar added)
-Handful of Thompson organic raisins
-About half a cup chopped organic walnuts
-For the chocolate I used Ghirardelli intense 85% dark chocolate bar. I broke it up into little pieces. This has nothing added to it.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Then, drain the dates, put in a food processor and pulse until small bits remain.
2. Add banana and peanut butter and pulse some more.
3. Add the almond meal and rolled oats and pulse on and off just until loose dough is formed.
4. Transfer dough into a mixing bowl. If dough is too wet, add a bit more almond meal or oats. However, keep in mind that add-ins will make it thicker.
5. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and stir. It should be thicker now. Then, chill dough for 10 min in fridge.
6. Scoop out 1 Tbsp. scoops of the cookie dough and place onto a cookie sheet with unbleached parchment paper. The dough balls won’t expand so they can be placed close together.
7. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Check the bottom of one and if it's golden it's done.
8. Remove and let set for a few minutes on the pan. They'll firm up a bit.
9. Pack them up in a box or bag to give as Christmas treats. Keep them all for yourself!
Image source: Christmas Treats | southernmatriarch.blogspot.com