Conscious Cook: ’Tis the season for sweetness

“Perhaps the best yuletide decoration is being wreathed in sweet smiles” —Unknown

As I go about my routine during this month, tending to errands, getting to appointments, and the usual array of responsibilities, I see the world from behind my cars’ windshield. I see the stressed-out, hostile, snarling, frenetic façade of holiday time. Finding a parking spot requires tactical maneuvers, driving on the highway can be a harried maze of confusion and ordinary chores seem to take hours to complete. Too much noise, too much activity and too much expectation can sour the sweetness of the season.

In the midst of all this strife and hysteria, I am reminded that the greatest of gifts don’t come wrapped up in shiny paper or tied with big, floppy ribbons. The greatest of gifts come from the heart. The sweet smiles of babies, a warm hug, a moment of kindness, a polite word or gracious gesture can send a ripple effect through a world sorely in need of more love. Sometimes a holiday cookie can bring a much-needed sense of sweetness to those in need.

Preparing sweet treats for the holidays is a time-honored tradition that keeps our own personal history alive. What a wonderful gift to recreate Grandma’s chocolate bark, Aunt Betty’s shortbread or Uncle Phil’s spicy gingersnaps. The warm and comforting heat of a busy cookie making kitchen can calm even the most frazzled soul. As the spicy scents of cinnamon and allspice begin to fill the air, we are transported back to childhood, and for just a few moments, all is right with the world.

If the vast variety and availability of holiday sweets leads to a bit of overindulgence, and you are feeling sluggish from say, one too many snickerdoodles, cleanse your body with a cup of peppermint tea. Peppermint is a restorative ingredient that warms and relaxes muscles and relieves headaches, nausea, bloating and gas. Peppermint oil is a powerful digestive stimulant, which aids in the processing of fats and strengthens liver function. Peppermint can also help stimulate circulation, revive aching muscles and joints, and is a highly effective decongestant.

The aroma of peppermint can be quite soothing and may quell feelings of anger, hysteria or emotional burnout, making it a particularly healing ingredient to enjoy during stressful moments.

Be sweet to yourself this holiday season and smile as you prepare your delicious and gifted life.

This silky smooth and refreshing candy makes a wonderful gift.

Sweet Season Peppermint Bark

12 ounces dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao)

½ teaspoon peppermint extract

2 cups crushed peppermint candies

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Break up chocolate and place in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 second intervals, stirring each time, until chocolate is melted and very smooth. Add peppermint extract when melted and ¾ of the crushed peppermint candies. Spread chocolate mixture out very thinly on parchment paper. Scatter remaining peppermint on top of chocolate and press down slightly to adhere. Put the cookie sheet in the refrigerator until chocolate hardens. Break bark into pieces when completely cool.

For more on Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “the Conscious Cook,” go to theconsciouscook.com.

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