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Fair Trade
Something tells me that I might want to do a little shopping in the next few weeks. In my world, gift giving is fairly important and my peeps love giving gifts at Christmas.  I like to give consumables, such as special foods or the DIY gift ideas I am sharing with everyone this month. These are always a huge hit!  It feels better giving to others in a way that does not overload their lives with stuff that ends up in landfills.

I can get into quite a state thinking about how gift-giving may be hyper-consumeristic and sometimes supports not-so-shining industries.  I try to use this season as an opportunity to tweak gift-giving. I like to do it right under the Christmas tree and in the kitchen too.  It is important for me to buy an organic, free range turkey because I feel sick preparing an industrially-produced one.  I buy organic and fair trade sugar and chocolate. It disturbs me to think that we are eating and celebrating with chocolate that might have been picked by a child (see Carol Off’s Bitter Chocolate).

If I am not going to make things for others, I try to consider my options as to who can do it for me.  This is where gift shopping comes into play. There are many ways of approaching this tradition that do not necessarily cure consumerism, but will make a small difference. Some of these gifts are fair trade, some of them involve making donations to good organizations. Hannah Sung of the Globe and Mail calls into question the scope of such strategies in Philanthropic shopping: to give and to get. Do we really need to get and give so very much? Maybe not.  Can we actually redeem consumerism by tweaking it a bit? Yes, I believe so.

Some DIFY Ideas.

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal.

*In the coming days, we will post some Green Christmas Tips from a few of our friends: Brooke McCartney Langdon, Julie Webb and Jodi Hildebrand!

Besides the crunched-up almonds and vanilla, these are the ingredients.

A few days ago I shared the story about my favorite Christmas recipe: Mom’s Peanut Butter Balls. I had expressed a hope that I would be able to improve the healthiness of this treat, while maintaining the deliciousness of it. I think that somehow, through luck or divine intervention or possibly even ingenuinity, I managed to actually improve the recipe. Please don’t tell my Mom I said that.

So, if you look at the recipe for Peanut Butter Balls, you will see that icing sugar is called for. No. Not using that. I replaced it, on the advice of my Herbalist-Friend Tammy, with dates! They were available at the local cool grocery/convenience-ish store. One could use figs in the same way. I replaced the peanut butter with almond butter, and almonds in place of peanuts. I used good quality nice chocolate. I think my Mom’s already onto THAT one.

Mashing it up with a fork...

So, to be all precise, I used the amount of almond butter that I had left in the fridge. That’s about one cup. Then I chopped up the delicious “meat” of five dates, mixed that in with a dash of vanilla and a handfull of crumpled-up bits of almonds. I formed them into little balls, refrigerated overnight. The next day I took three (perhaps one too many) Lindt 70% Cacao chocolate bars and melted them. There is leftover chocolate (I threw the pan in the fridge) so I am compelled to make more of these. Darn… Coat the little tiny balls in the chocolate, let sit in the fridge overnight.

Delicious and somewhat nutritious too!

Roll the balls in the chocolate... mmm...

I presented them at an event (after taste-testing them a few times, of course) and everyone who tried them LOVED them. No one over-ate, and they just savoured the high-quality and richly flavoured little treats. So good. My new Christmas tradition…

Natasha Henderson, in Montreal

Important Update: See Comments below…

by Natasha Henderson. Recipe thanks to her Mom.

When I was growing up, there was an infamous recipe (well, there were actually several) that my Mom would make for Christmas. This is one of my personal favorites, a classic combination of peanut butter and chocolate. A reward for not eating them all while they’re being processed is to lick clean the chocolate-pan. Yummy!

care package...

I love this recipe, however, I would like to try some changes the next time I make it. I’d change the icing sugar to a small amount of stevia, or try some natural cane icing sugar. I would most certainly change the sweet chocolate into dark chocolate with a high cocoa content. I already use a natural peanut butter (ingredients: peanuts!) rather than a sugary, fructose-laden, hydrogenated-oily one. I might even throw a dash of salt into the mix to contrast with the sweetness or tartness of the chocolate.

Mom’s Peanut Butter Balls

1 Cup Peanut Butter

1 Cup Icing Sugar

1 Teaspoon vanilla

3/4 Cup Chopped Peanuts

Combine all above ingredients, then shape into balls of about 3/4″. Chill in a pan, on waxed paper, overnight.

When they’ve chilled thoroughly, melt enough sweet chocolate to cover them (about three squares) and dip. At this point you have an option to roll them in crushed nuts, toasted coconut, or graham crumbs. (My family has tried all these over the years and always go back to the plain chocolate…) Place on waxed paper pan, and chill in the refrigerator again ’til the chocolate hardens. Can be frozen (but probably won’t be!) Enjoy!

Natasha will make a “classic version” of this recipe, and will also try out the healthier options. She will taste-test them both, and report back here…

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