St. Nicolaus Day Brings Sweet Childhood Memories

My childhood holidays are filled of sweet memories. My mother, Bunny, made sure we were indulged in every way.

Bunny was an only child of Irish descent who grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn. She was born to parents of the Greatest Generation who never forgot the lessons of the Great Wall Street Crash. My mother’s father, who we called Poppy, worked on Wall Street in 1929 and witnessed the devastation firsthand.

Because of this, my grandparents never invested their money in markets or in a home. My mother grew up in a one bedroom flat with very few frills or holidays trimmings. When she became a mom, she decided to celebrate in a very differnet way.

Back to the sweet memories. I mean, literally sweet. The celebrations started with St. Nicolaus day on December 6th, when Bunny would wake us to Christmas stockings filled with candy and gifts. That was just after we were given our own Christmas Chocolate Advent Countdown Calendars. Remember those? 24 Days of being rewarded with chocolate candy while you ticked away the days till the motherload.

Of course, there was the Christmas cookie baking extravaganzas and overflowing candy dishes abound.

When Christmas morning came, I’d lick a candy cane or two while waiting for the family tradition to be served, Petit Fours from Kirschbaum’s Bakery.This was the commencement of a two-week feast of sweets!

Now that I am more than grown up, and admittedly growing older, I’ve decided to celebrate in a differnet way. A healthier way.

Living a whole food plant-based lifestyle doesn’t mean sweets be shunned, but it’s not so nice to your body to overindulge in refined sugar. Sweet treats can still be enjoyed, but with healthier ingredients.

I’ve used substitutions to “plantify” goodies I’ve been making for years such as banana bread, pancakes and cookies. Perhaps you can enjoy some of your traditional sweets with plant-based ingredients so you can, as they say, have your cake and eat it too. 

This chart will guide you in making healthier swaps while still enjoying holiday sweets and baked goods.

Two recipes that I’ll be serving a lot of this season are made mostly with shelf stable ingredients. This means they require no refrigeration and can be whipped up quickly. Ideally, a food processor and high-speed blender are needed to make these recipes work.

*See note on high speed blender in Chocolate Nirvana Crème Recipe.

Vegan Coconut Blissful Balls

These vegan coconut bliss balls, which my sister insists I call Betsy Balls, are always devoured.  I’ve become known for them in my community and corporate workshops and have made many friends serving them. They are a wholefood breakfast, snack, dessert or any time of day kind of treat that fill you with wonder that they are actually healthful.

  • 1-1/2 cups sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/4 c. grade A maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a food processor cup fitted with the s-blade, grind the sunflower seeds, walnuts, coconut and sea salt to a crumbly consistency but leaving some chunks of nuts.

Add in remaining ingredients and process until the mixture forms into a sticky dough. Remove lid and scrape out into a bowl. Form into balls and roll in shredded coconut. Store in refrigerator or freezer.

Chocolate Nirvana Crème

This crème is heavenly warm or cold.  You can adjust the sweetness to your preference.

Serve as a dip with fruit, over pancakes or waffles, with sundaes or lick the spoon to your hearts content. This is a decant treat you can eat without regret.  

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch or arrowroot powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 oz. medjool dates (about 10 large) soaked in hot water for 10 minutes to 1 hour
  • ¼ to ½ cup grade A maple syrup
  • 4 cups warm water

Using a highspeed blender with a heating element and the ability to cook food, add all ingredients to blender and blend on high for 5 minutes, or until creme begins to thicken. You will hear the motor slow down and the sound get louder as the creme gets to the right thickness.   Once thick, stop the blender and quickly transfer to a large container.  It will thicken more as it cools. Store in refrigerator.

If you don’t have a high-speed blender, you can use a standard blender, transferring mixture to a medium to large saucepan once blended. Stir over medium to high heat until desired thickness is reached.

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