It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.....

We’re almost ready to dress the tree and play Christmas tunes……literally around the clock. I love the traditions involved with Christmas. The music, dressing the tree, the advent calendar, Santa Claus and of course the food. 

The first Christmas ritual in my family is to dress the tree. This dates back to my favourite end of year holiday activity with my mum and sisters. We would all get together, play Christmas carols and deck the tree with our beautiful Christmas decorations that mum had collected over the years.

Now it’s my turn to establish my own family’s Christmas rituals. The first is to add to our Christmas Playlist with a new album – last year it was Michael Buble, the year before that, it was Rod Stewart! We also shop for a few new decorations to add to our tree. For me, dressing the tree and adding to my Christmas sing-a-long is like cutting the red ribbon to a jolly good time.

From this moment, the festive season has official begun! You can feel the buzz of excitement and anticipation in the air – people getting ready for end of year parties, pre Christmas festivities, the end of one year and the promise of a new year, and for those with children or at university, the start of the long awaited summer holidays.

It’s that time of year when you like to have your pantry stocked for friends popping in, or to have a homemade gift at the ready for that favourite person or teacher.

With this is mind, I have created two recipes – one is a “festive” variation on the Ginger nuts (page 204 of our cook book) and the other is a “festive” variation to my raw chocolate brownies. With both recipes, I have added some Christmas notes to them – orange zest, cranberries, cloves, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon.

These treats are also gluten, sugar and dairy free. I love them, Ness loves them and so do our kids. They are a perfect sweet treat for after school and during the holidays.

Raw chocolate festive brownies

Base ingredients

1 cup roasted hazelnuts
1½ cups pitted Medjool dates (approx. 275g)
½ cup raw cacao powder
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla bean paste
¼ teaspoon Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup raw cacao nibs
Zest 1 orange
½ cup cranberries

Top ingredients

½ cup virgin coconut oil
½ cup raw cacao powder
¼ cup raw coconut nectar or other sweetener of choice
Pinch Himalayan salt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste

Line an 8-inch square tin with baking paper. In a food processor, process the hazelnuts so they resemble bread crumbs. Add the pitted dates, cacao powder, vanilla, salt, cinnamon and orange zest. Process until thoroughly combined. You will have something resembling sticky crumbly earth. Stir or pulse in the cacao nibs and cranberries until combined.

Evenly press the mixture into your prepared tin until smooth. Place into the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

For the chocolate topping, in a metal or heat resistant bowl, add the coconut oil, cacao powder, coconut nectar, salt and vanilla bean paste. Put the bowl on top of a saucepan filled with simmering water. The coconut oil should melt quickly. Using a whisk, mix all the ingredients until thoroughly combined and smooth. Take off the heat. Remove the brownie from the freezer and pour the chocolate on top.

Pop the tin back into the freezer.

After about 30 minutes remove from the freezer and from the tin. Using a sharp knife, slice the brownie into whatever size you wish. Store in the fridge or freezer for a really delicious and awesome treat. Perfect to have with coffee. Good enough to eat for breakfast!

Festive spice biscuits

Ingredients

1½ cups gluten free flour
½ teaspoon Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Zest 1 orange
1 cup almond butter (you can buy this in jars at the health food shop or make your own if you have a high powered blender)
1 cup maple syrup

Method

Pre heat oven to 180 degrees. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

In a large bowl mix together the almond butter and maple syrup.

In a smaller bowl, mix together the dry ingredients – the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom and zest of orange.

Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture in several batches. Stir to combine. You should have a sticky dough. Use a dessert spoon to make small balls or your hands. If the mixture is too sticky, flour your hands with gluten free flour.

Once your baking tray is full, wet your fingers and press down on each ball to create a disc. Place in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until brown on top.

Let the cookies cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 20 to 30 small cookies.

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