Happy Holidays Everyone! I hope you’re enjoying this most wonderful time of year. Overall, we’ve been spoiled with the weather here in Chicago (though I’ve heard a snow storm is on the way!). PK even squeezed a game of golf in the first week in December!
I love the holidays . . . a season of the senses, with beautiful lights and evergreens . . . the scent of pine (oh I so can’t get enough of it!). The bells are ringing and if your home is anything like ours, the cookies are baking!
I have to say, we do have our favorites. Many I’ve been making since I was a little girl. My Godmother would pull a step stool up to the counter, wrap an apron aound my middle and we’d create these deliciously sweet treats, together! Baking with my mom is always amazing too . . . . and we started early this year with cookies for my sisters book release party (see previous post)!
This year, I decided it might be nice to weave in something new. . . . something I could share with my Mindful Holiday Eating class. Something sweet and chewy and dare I say healthy!? I went searching. It didn’t take long as I quickly fell upon this awesome recipe at EatingWell.com. It came with excellent reviews so I gave it a try. . . . and I’ve been making them ever since. Can’t even count how many pans of these moist pecan and fruit filled treats I’ve put in the oven! Or how many times I’ve tip-toed to the mudroom freezer to sneak a bar after the boys head upstairs. Does anyone see you if you tip-toe? hmmm . . . .
I definitely have a sweet tooth. When it starts talking to me, I always try to choose something that both satisfies and also offers up some nutrition benefit. Like mixing a few dark chocolate covered almonds with raw almonds for something crunchy and sweet. That way I get monounsaturated fats, a bit of calcium from the almonds and the antioxidants in the dark chocolate. I also like the Banana Bread I posted back in April (see archives).
So my new favorite Christmas Cookie – which is actually quite limiting as I think this is my new favorite anytime cookie – is loaded with pecans, dates, golden raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg. Yep, it’s got a bit of butter too and brown sugar. But honestly, I feel like I’m eating the best energy bar I’ve ever had when I indulge in one of these! Many of the ingredients are similar. They also make a great looking cookie platter or gift box if you’re baking for friends or family!
Here they are out of the pan sprinkled with powdered sugar . . . .
And a bit of mindful holiday coffee time . . . .
I actually believe a little indulgence keeps us on track during the holidays (or anytime really) as it encourages less of that All Or Nothing thinking. For more ideas on Mindful Holiday Eating check out the Archives in November of last year!
This year for Advent, the pastor of our church, Melissa, has been focusing on the idea of more presence in our lives with perhaps a few less presents. She’s challenged us to find ways to be more present . . . . with our families and friends, as well as for others. I love this . . . . In the wake of all the yuck our country has witnessed this past week, it seems especially important that we slow down, breathe the air, lead with love and take every opportunity to be present.
May your Holiday Season be filled with great joy, laughter and sweet blessings and may the New Year for us all, be filled with presence . . . .
Merry Christmas! Heidi
Pecan Creole Cake Bars
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup pitted dates, finely chopped
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of a large (17×12 inch) jelly roll pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
3. Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time and beat until creamy. Add vanilla and beat until combined.
4. Add half the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until well combined. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg and stir until well blended. Add the pecans, raisins and dates to the rest of the flour mixture – coating the dried fruit and nuts completely. This will help keep them from sticking together and distribute the more evenly into the mix. Stir the flour coated fruit and nuts into the batter. Evenly spread the batter into the prepared baking pan with a spatula. Coat the spatula with cooking spray if necessary, to make the spreading easier.
5. Bake for 45 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the sides. Cool in the pan on a wire rack – takes about 45 minutes. Cut into 48 squares. Enjoy!!
Food Prep Notes:
The original recipe calls for 3 cups of pecans. Because I was making so many batches of these cookies I pulled back a bit to 2 1/2 cups as I felt it didn’t need quite so many. The original recipe also calls for freshly ground nutmeg. Because I knew the people I was sharing the recipe with would not be grinding fresh nutmeg I used the store-bought already ground variety.
Recipe Gently Adapted From, www.eatingwell.com