Healthier Holiday Treats

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Have you started your state-mandated cookie-baking yet? I’m mostly kidding, but it does seem like there is a lot of pressure to give your family the perfect holiday experience, whatever your holiday of choice happens to be.

Whether it’s a home-made dreidel and lighting a Hanukkah candle every night, or stockings hung over a fireplace that you had to build from scratch, it’s the time of year when people shop in a hurry, eat in a hurry and decorate in a hurry. December is over in the blink of an eye, and then all you’re left with is extra inches around your waistline, bags of crumpled wrapping paper, and regret, which leads to a week and a half or so of healthy living resolves in January.

If you’re choosing to ride the wave, as most of us do, and just hope for the best, you may at least decide to try out some healthier holiday baking alternatives.

One idea is trying to replace regular processed white sugar in your recipes. My friend Sarah Bender loves to redo recipes and make them healthier, and one that she especially loves this time of year — and you will, too — is her alternative buckeye recipe. You don’t have to be from Ohio to know that buckeyes are big this time of year. (The chocolate-peanut butter treat, not the nut.)

In the following recipe, the white sugar is replaced with coconut sugar, which has much less fructose, and a lower glycemic index score than white processed sugar. Of course, no sugar of any kind would be the ultimate healthy choice, but who wants to live in a world like that?

BETTER-THAN-BUCKEYES

Ingredients:

1/2 c. ground coconut sugar (ground until like commercial powdered sugar)*

1/2 t. Himalayan pink or sea salt

2/3 c. peanut butter powder

1 c. peanut butter (unsalted)

1 T. coconut butter or unsalted butter

1/4 t. vanilla extract (optional)

1 3/4 c. Semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (10 oz. package)

*Grind sugar in, yes, a coffee grinder. Pour into large bowl.

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, combine sugar with peanut butter powder and salt. Add peanut butter and coconut oil or butter and vanilla (if using,) and cream together with a fork or wooden spoon. After fairly well combined, it works best to “knead” the mixture with your hands. These should be rather stiff and easy to roll without sticking. You can experiment with the amount of sugar and peanut butter powder to get a more solid, more peanut-buttery or sweeter candy, and you can use a food processor, but the less equipment to clean, the better.

Using hands, roll mixture into walnut-sized balls and place on large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan lined with waxed paper or parchment paper. Place in freezer for about an hour.

About 30 minutes into the chilling process, stick a toothpick in each ball and return to freezer.

About 15 minutes before balls are done chilling, place chocolate in small double-boiler pan (or small regular pan if you have an electric stove with a very low setting) and heat on low setting until completely melted, stirring occasionally. When done, place on trivet or hot pad on table or counter.

Prepare another cookie sheet or jelly roll pan by lining with waxed paper or parchment paper and misting with coconut oil.

Remove peanut butter balls from freezer and dip each ball into chocolate, being sure to leave the top of the ball uncoated (otherwise, they won’t look like buckeyes!). Place each ball on cookie sheet or jelly pan. Work quickly. Return to freezer for at least 1/2 hour; then remove toothpicks, put in a glass container and store (for up to a week). Makes about 25 buckeyes.

Note: With any leftover chocolate, simply dump some unsulfured, unsweetened coconut or a few chopped almonds or pecans into the pan, stir to coat, drop by teaspoon- or tablespoonful, on the same sheet you had the buckeyes on, and refrigerate until set; then store in glass container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Viola! Extra goodies! Stick these in the freezer and add to them if/ as you make other batches of buckeyes, and you’ll soon have an entire additional batch of healthy, robustly satisfying candies for a “sampler platter.”

Miranda Beverly is the front-end manager and marketing coordinator at Maple City Market in downtown Goshen.