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Green, Healthy Holiday Treats

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From wrapping paper and gift boxes to unwanted, non-recyclable gifts, the holidays can be a big uh-oh instead of a ho-ho when it comes to the season's impact on the environment. But there's no need to be a Scrooge in order to be earth-loving. Many of us seek out creative ways to save resources while we celebrate the holidays in greener ways. With just a subtle shift in consciousness, you can celebrate a green holiday and give Mother Earth a present too.

Eco Food Gifts

This holiday season, contemplate giving eco-friendly, food-inspired gifts such as locally produced food baskets, a plot at the community garden, or weekly shipments from a local community-supported agriculture (CSA) group. Consider giving green foods that were raised, farmed and made in earth-friendly ways. You can create homemade food baskets out of organic, seasonal products from your local farm stand or stores. (To find local farmers' markets and CSAs, check out the online resource, http://www.localharvest.org.)

For example, pack juicy, organic apples or pears with local artisan cheeses in a beautiful recycled container. Wrap a decorative container of pure maple syrup or local honey along with an organic pancake mix in a festive recycled box.

Tasty Holiday Treats

Your kitchen is the perfect place to stir up green gifts for the holiday season. I enjoy making deliciously healthful food gifts that can be savored throughout the season. You can make multiple batches of goodies and keep some for you too!

My tasty holiday treats are made healthier by using unrefined whole wheat pastry flour, natural sweeteners and nutrient-packed ingredients such as heart-healthy nuts, dried fruits and 60 to 70 percent dark chocolate. To satisfy holiday cravings, I replace butter and saturated fats with healthy fats such as organic expeller-pressed canola oil or olive oil.

Indulge your family and friends with a batch of delicious, all-natural holiday cookies. Greek paximadia cookies are one of my holiday favorites. Similar to Italian biscotti, these twice-baked cookies make a scrumptious treat at holiday parties and cookie swaps or to give as gifts. Made with health-promoting olive oil, crunchy pistachios and flavored with Greek ouzo liqueur, this Holiday Paximadia recipe is sure to become your new favorite. Ouzo, Greece's national liqueur, has a mellow, licorice-like taste that takes on a sweet flavor when added to desserts.

If giving Holiday Paximadia as a gift, festively wrap the cookies in recycled-content holiday paper and tie with a raffia ribbon. The receiver of your present will be thrilled that you took the time and made the effort to give a food gift that is delicious, healthy and earth-friendly.

HOLIDAY PAXIMADIA

Similar to Italian biscotti, these Greek twice-baked cookies are perfect for holiday parties or to give as holiday gifts.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup organic evaporated cane juice sugar
2 whole eggs
1/4 cup light olive oil
1 tablespoon Greek ouzo liqueur
1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.

2. In large bowl, beat together the sugar, eggs, oil, and ouzo until combined. Slowly add the flour mixture to the oil mixture and mix to combine. Stir in the pistachios.

3. Shape the dough into a log about 10-inches long and 3 inches wide. Place the log on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.

4. With a serrated knife, slice the log into 1/2-inch diagonal slices. Place the slices on the baking sheet, cut-side down, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Turn the cookies over and bake for another 5 to 8 minutes, or until golden.

5. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to one month.

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