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  • Jill Schienle

Merry Alternative Christmas Cookie

After making some food related lifestyle changes and going gluten and dairy free a few years ago I have made frequent forays into the world of healthy food alternatives and I follow some food gurus that share recipes on the internet. It's very difficult to partake in the full potential of the Christmas spirit when you are unable to just gorge freely as nature intended this time of year, so I make an effort to accommodate myself with healthy alternative sweets and snacks to allow for at least a sense of spirit and festivity that's possibly a notch below full gorge. In the past I have made a few modified holiday snacks that these born-again foodie experts published. They ranged from palatable to truly awful. In the past, I gave up but not after subjecting my family, friends and a select group of customers to their awfulness. This year seemed different. I have been cooking gluten and dairy free for several years now and there are way more options for baking supplies that fill my need for special ingredients. I picked a few recipes and "went to town" as they say.

Cooking is a joy for me. I love the exacting science coupled with the possibility for creative expansion. And it provides almost instant karma. My fruitcake had to cure for a week but I was still able to taste test it right away. And, really, cooking is all about love, right? Provided with a well-curated ingredient list and all my efforts toward grace, dignity and respect, an extra dose of love and the buddhist nature of no expectation for the outcome I was sure to put together a plate of not only healthy but super yummy sweet and savory treasures for the palate. Where I ended up was rather far from where I thought I would be which might mean I didn't stir in enough buddha.

The fruitcake I think is pretty good. It has dried fruit with no additives or preservatives, some of it organic and after soaking it in rum for a day who would care anyway? The cake part has minimal sugar and the whole shebang is cured in sherry. Its fruitcake for the elderly – gluten free with plenty of booze and prunes. Sure to please. The shortbread is from a Scottish recipe and naturally gluten-free because its made with oat flour. Seemingly healthy because of the whole grain but with enough butter to clog even a sporty artery (negating it from the dairy-free category just by a hair) (hopefully there are none of those) and low on sugar just to make up for it. The chocolate truffles are sweetened with maple syrup and honey which still scores high on the glycemic index but somehow manages to keep it looking “all natural” or possibly just appealing to hippies. They have freshly grated organic orange peel in 100% cacao organic fair traded chocolate in an attempted f/u to Nestle. They taste pretty good but likely cannot really be considered anything like healthy. And, the sweet potato, turmeric spice truffles. Mmmmm. Described in the recipe as creamy and decadent made with wholesome ingredients. Wow! I thought. These look like the best thing to happen since gluten-free donuts. I followed the recipe exactly so they taste exactly as they should. Labor intensive with several steps requiring cooking and refrigeration and small amounts of time in the freezer in between procedures, these were truly a labor of love. This is the thing that makes the holidays special because sharing something like this with people you care about is the meaning of all of this effort. They are the one truly healthy alternative sweet thing I made. No bad ingredients. So, why do I want to instantly spit them out of my mouth? In the end this year's sweet platter had to be delivered with a humorous disclaimer to justify even including the sweet potato turmeric truffles in the mix and allowing all recipients to respectfully spit them out as well. As I tweak my recipes for next year I believe I will tweak those right off the platter.

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