Christmas is less than two weeks away...are you kidding me! The days are flying by way too fast. But we are completely in the Christmas spirit here. The tree is up, the house is decorated, the presents are purchased (well, most of them), some wrapping is done- that is my weakness...big time, and of course lots of yummy things are happening in the kitchen.
Hold on. Let me back up to the Christmas tree part. My husband and I have this tradition when it comes to finding our tree. It's a tradition we are trying to put an end to, hopefully by next year. Perhaps you have the same issue. We always come home with a tree that seems like it doubled in size sometime between when we purchased it to when we got it home. This year was no exception. It reminds me of that saying on your vehicle's side mirrors. "Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear." Except in this case, when it comes to our Christmas tree, we need a warning sign that says, "This tree is double the size than it appears."
When we spotted our tree this year, we thought it was perfect! It did seem a tad bigger than we wanted, but we thought we could handle it. We love natural noble trees. Those differ from regular noble trees in that they are much more sparse in their layers with extremely strong branches. Both of these qualities make them great for displaying ornaments. They are considerably lighter in weight as well. Some people may think they look a little like a Charlie Brown tree, but not us! Last year my husband single handedly brought in our tree and it took him less than 5 minutes to set it up. It was glorious! The tree was still quite tall, maybe 10-12 feet, but totally manageable. I think that experience gave us a little too much confidence when choosing our tree this year.
When we got the tree home, it all of a sudden seemed huge! So we measured it and it was 17 feet tall! Oh dear! We had a challenge on our hands. I literally started stringing the lights on the top of the tree while it was still laying on its side. It was the safest and easiest way to get the lights on. Then, when I couldn't go any further, my husband got it up in the stand, surprisingly with no issues, and we proceeded to string the rest of the lights on. Three hours later, we had finished...with just the lights! I can look back and laugh now, well, kind of. But next year, I vow that I will not make that mistake again! How about you? Any crazy Christmas tree stories of your own?
So as I mentioned earlier, there are yummy things going on in the kitchen. I'm sure most of you are familiar with the popular candy known as Buckeyes. They are delicious morsels that are extremely popular in Ohio, particularly around football season and Christmas time. It's easy to understand why. Traditionally, buckeyes are made up of peanut butter, powdered sugar, and butter partially dipped in chocolate. The end result produces a treat that looks similar to an Ohio buckeye tree nut which is how the candy got its name. Ironically, even though the nuts and candies resemble each other, the nuts happen to be toxic. So we won't be confusing those!
Many people make their own buckeyes at home. In my opinion, homemade is definitely the way to go. The recipe is simple and requires little effort. And better yet, you can control the ingredients. In an effort to create my own buckeye recipe, my goal was to replace the ingredients with things that would yield a similar taste, but include clean eating choices.
That of course means replacing the sugar. Pure maple syrup made a great swap. Next, to replace the peanut butter. Why would I do that, you may be wondering. If you follow a paleo diet, you are staying away from peanuts. Since they are actually a legume, they can be hard to digest for some people. Another reason is peanuts are typically planted in heavily sprayed soil which means they are absorbing a great amount of toxins. If you purchase peanuts or peanut butter on occasion, look for organic. So, instead of using the ever so popular peanut butter, I opted for cashew butter. It is seriously a family favorite! Rich, creamy, delicious! I even created some chocolate to dip these guys in that only contains maple syrup as the sweetener. So you won't find any refined sugar in these paleo and vegan friendly treats. Of course if you are a peanut butter fanatic, you can use peanut butter instead of the cashew butter. Other nut and seed butters are also great options.
They are great for gift giving over the holidays as well as being a nice addition to your Christmas cookie trays.
1 cup cashew butter, room temperature (homemade or store bought)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 Tbs coconut flour
4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate (100% cacao)
1/4 cup maple syrup
5 Tbs coconut oil
1. In a medium bowl, combine the cashew butter, maple syrup, vanilla, sea salt, and coconut flour. Mix well and form into 1 inch balls.
2. Place the balls onto a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet and stick them in your freezer for about 30 minutes. I like using these quarter sheet sized baking sheets because they can easily fit into your freezer.
3. When the 30 minutes (or longer) is up, start melting the chocolate before removing the buckeyes from the freezer. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate and coconut oil, stirring frequently to avoid and burning. Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the 1/4 cup of maple syrup.
4. Remove the baking sheet from the freezer. insert a toothpick into each buckeye and dip it into the chocolate. Coat the buckeye 3/4 of the way and put it back on the baking sheet. Repeat with the other buckeyes. You can dip the buckeyes one more time once their first coating has set. This is completely optional but you will have enough chocolate to do that if desired. Once the buckeyes are coated with chocolate, remove any toothpicks and return the baking sheet to the refrigerator to firm up the chocolate. You will want to store the buckeyes in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks, if they last that long. Makes 30 buckeyes.