Localicious: The Tradition of Giving

Growing up I lived three houses down from my best friend.  During the holidays we would get together with our moms and make either a craft or treats for each of our neighbors.  This is one of my favorite memories of the holiday season; there is something so special about learning what it feels like to give.  I can still remember the anticipation I felt knocking on each door with a handmade goodie I had put so much work into.  This, I believe, is the true spirit of the holidays and one of the very best traditions we can start with our kids. 

This will be my daughter’s first Christmas and I have been brainstorming recipes to share with our own neighbors.  Below are some treats that are simple, healthy, and incorporate local ingredients. So whether you make them with your family, for your family, or share them with your neighbors, it’s a wonderful tradition to start.  All of these recipes are gluten and dairy free for friends and family who might have allergies (dependent on which chocolate chips you choose).

Healthy Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

adapted from therealfoodrds.com

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats (gluten free oats optional)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 whole eggs
  • ¼ cup coconut oil or unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp.  vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-natural peanut butter, room temperature
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • ¾ cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in a medium bowl and mix well. You can use a mixer if you like, but a fork or wooden spoon will do the trick.
  3. Fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Spoon onto sheet pans. Can mold cookies with hands a little or carefully spoon them on the pan for simple drop cookies.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are golden.

I added the banana to these and tried them with honey since I didn’t quite have enough coconut sugar on hand.  They were absolutely perfect.  If you don’t have coconut sugar I think ½ cup honey would work great too.

Pomegranate Peppermint Bark

adapted from eatthegains.com

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 3 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  • ½ -1 teaspoon peppermint extract, depending on taste
  • 1/8 cup pomegranate arils
  • *optional add 1 tablespoon local raw honey or maple syrup

Instructions

  1. Add coconut oil and coconut flakes to a high powered blender or food processor. Process for 5-10 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides, until a smooth butter-like consistency forms. Add peppermint extract and honey, blend to combine about 20 seconds.
  2. Line a small glass dish (about 8×6) with parchment paper and spread out coconut mixture to ¼-½ inch thick, smoothing the top. Sprinkle pomegranates over evenly and press them down into the coconut butter.
  3. Place in the refrigerator or freezer for 1-3 hours until hardened. Break into small pieces.
  4. Store in fridge or freezer.

This was my first time making coconut butter and I was surprised by how easy it was.  I used a food processor for this recipe and only needed to stop it 2-3 times to scrape down the sides.  This is an easy recipe for little helpers as it involves simple pouring, using a spatula, and fun breaking of the finished product.  The recipe does not call for honey but I thought it might need a little sweet so I added some local raw honey and it was just the right amount of sweetness. 

Crockpot Chocolate-Nut Clusters

adapted from popsugar.com

Ingredients

  • 3 ½ cups shelled pecans, toasted
  • 3 ½ cups shelled walnuts, toasted
  • 3 ½ cups roasted, salted peanuts
  • 1 12oz package semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 12oz package dark chocolate chips
  • Sea salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Layer ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on low for 1 hour, or until chocolate melts. Do not open lid. Watch time carefully, being careful not to overcook and burn the chocolate. After 1 hour, stir mixture.
  2. Cook 2 minutes and then stir again.
  3. Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper. Optional, sprinkle sea salt at this time. Let harden completely before transferring to an airtight container.

In this recipe I used Enjoy Life Foods chocolate chips and Pascha dark chocolate baking chips.  They are allergy friendly and don’t contain any pesky ingredients like soy lecithin.  I did use peanuts but might skip them when we share them with neighbors to accommodate those with peanut allergies.  I also purchased raw peanuts for this recipy, I like roasted salted peanuts but could only find them coated in a vegetable oil like sunflower or canola.  These oils become rancid quickly and take away from the overall health benefits of nuts.  Instead I roasted the peanuts with the pecans and walnuts and I added sea salt at the very end to the warm clusters.  No need to add salt but I think it brings out a really good flavor combination with the chocolate.  We are lucky to live in Northern California where walnuts, almonds, and pecans are plentiful local crops; search for them at local markets and farm stands.

Localicious is a monthly column celebrating food in the North State. If you would like to suggest a food-related business or organization, email us at  localicious@northstateparent.com.

Erin Bianchi
About Erin Bianchi

Erin Bianchi is a registered dietitian from Northern California. She has a huge passion for local agriculture and fermented foods. Erin owns Cook, a kitchen boutique in Red Bluff, CA, that carries kitchen tools, local foods, beer and wine.

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