The holidays walk a very thin line of treating myself and over-indulging. I love the holidays; don’t get me wrong. I love the extra time with family, warm pajamas, big duvets and my holiday cider that makes my whole house smell like a big, delicious hug (recipe below). I love the the random gestures that overcome people during this time. People smile at each other at the grocery store. News stations cover wonderful gestures of kindness and graciousness. Dogs are adopted. Children are excited. And Christmas trees. Nothing smells better than a Christmas tree at night.

But, the holidays can get glutinous pretty quickly. Cookies, cake, delicious and beautiful treats are seemingly everywhere you go. I try to offset the indulgences that I do love with some healthier treats I can make myself and bring to holiday celebrations. Treating ourselves is a wonderful thing. Food is love and I am lucky to enjoy the best of both. But, overindulging doesn’t feel good. And what feels better than healthier cookies?! Here are a few recipes I use to save myself this time of year.

Christmas Cider

Ideal for: entertaining, warming your cold hands, happiness

  • ¾ cups apple brandy
  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • juice and peel of 1 orange

Heat on low at least 15 minutes.

Adapted from my mom’s non-alcoholic version

I also love these Berry Cocoa Bars!

Ideal for: gifts, work parties, eating them yourself

  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5 TBS agave
  • pinch of salt
  • tea almond extract
  • 1 cup rice crisp cereal
  • sliced berries of your choice

Melt coconut oil and mix with cocoa. Magic is happening.

Add almond extract, salt and agave and mix.

Incorporate liquid mixture into mixing bowl with rice crisp cereal.

Pour into prepared 9 x 5 baking dish.

Top with sliced berries.

Freeze 15 minutes and slice into bars.

Adapted from Oh, She Glows.

Cashew Chocolate Cups

Ideal for: hosted holiday parties, showing off

  • 2 TBS natural cashew butter
  • 2 TBS coconut oil
  • 1 tea agave
  • dash cinnamon
  • 1 very ripened banana
  • 1 cup melted dark chocolate
  • Adapted from Oh, She Glows.

Melt the coconut oil in pan. Add agave, cinnamon and nut butter over low heat. Break up the nut butter, as best you can. Pour into and top with chocolate mixture.

Melt the chocolate by placing a large metal mixing bowl (I use a quiche plate. Whatever works.) over a big pot of boiling water. The chocolate melts more slowly this way and is much more manageable. (I also don’t have a microwave.)

Meanwhile, blend a banana for several minutes in the food processor. Combine with melted chocolate. This is the top layer that becomes pudding-like after it is refrigerated. And delicious : )

Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

  • ¾ cup agave
  • ¾ cup turbinado
  • 2 chia eggs (2 TBS chia seeds + 6 TBS warm water, mixed, and left for 5 minutes)
  • tea almond extract
  • 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • tea baking soda
  • tea cinnamon
  • ½ tea salt
  • 2 ¾ cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • handful of roasted pistachios
  • Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients. Mix together.
  • Bake at 375 degrees, 8-10 minutes.

Apple pie bites

  • Honeycrisp apples, halved, de-seeded and hollowed
  • Agave
  • Cinnamon
  • Sprinkling of salt
  • Dash of lemon juice

This recipe can be adapted to adjust to any number of portions and I love it because I am imprecise : ) Dash of this. Dash of that.

Basically, cut an apple in half. Remove the seeds and hollow, using the removed apple as the filling. Heat with the remaining ingredients and adjust sweet/tartness to your tastes.

Eat, drink and be merry! Make so much smart merry that you have no regrets this new year!

Vegan Desserts

Vinthea is a vegan personal chef and caterer in Atlanta.

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