Cookie Swap Recipe Round-up and a Christmas Presence

Like so many other families, baking Christmas cookies has been a much loved, happy tradition for as long as I can remember. It still is, though exploring healthier options (especially for Little Monkey) brings the most joy now. As years have gone by, I look forward to the process less and less for the sampling, more and more for the sharing. This year, the usual boxes were packed minus one. It hit me for the first time that no more tins would be sent or hand-delivered to my grandfather, who loved them.

Date bars1

These vegan maple date bars are naturally sweetened with a little pure maple syrup. There’s an option for brown sugar in the topping…not needed. Wholesomely so good!

                                                        Click here for the vegan maple date bars recipe

Throughout this month, I’ve been posting quinoa cookie creations that were developed for Ancient Harvest…and they were a blast to make and photograph. WAY more photogenic than I can ever lay claim to have been. Everything I want to say about them can be (mostly) summed up in one word: yum. Only this year, the absent cookie tin nudges me with things I want to say. It only seems fitting to round up recipes and share a story about my grandfather that took shape this Christmas.

My grandfather was a learned, witty, sharp, successful, brave, active man of moral sense and dignity. In retirement he learned French and studied history. He taught chess to school children, painted, and played piano. He served on the local ski patrol until age 87. He was a man of many talents. In the late nineties, he dabbled quite diligently at writing poetry, and collected his own typed book of selected poems. Overall, they weren’t particularly good, and he would be the first to say so. They were by turns a bit silly, occasionally indulgent; some felt forced and laborious, others were just nonsensical. Yet they were also exceptional.

Gingerbread Men-8

I love these easy vegan gingerbread cut-outs, and so does Little Monkey! We’ve made them nut-free with minimal adjustment, and with coconut sugar and molasses.

                                               Get the recipe for vegan gingerbread cutouts here

For three weeks in November, I spent a good hour or two at night before bed working on copying, editing, and formatting my grandfather’s poems into a Create Space book for my family as a Christmas present.  It didn’t occur to me while working on “Dogdy Doggerels”, selected poems by A. M. (Grandpa) Schuyler, that by putting together the book in CreateSpace the result would automatically be available on Amazon. I hope he would be amused more than appalled. As it turned out, I was gifting myself something splendid and profound as well. My grandfather took care to explore meter, form, and tone; he played with shape and sound. Most meaningfully, he poured a whole marvelous kaleidoscope of his dazzling mind in those light-hearted poems, many intended as a bit of a jest; and he infused such warmth and tenderness for the loves that really mattered. Most of all, the love of his life, my grandmother. Reading and typing, I got to know him again.  Completing my secret project was like finishing a gripping book, the kind that befriends and enfolds you. There was a sense of satisfaction coupled with a greater wistfulness at loss.


I have always had a weakness for snowball cookies. This vegan version has 1/2 cup powdered sugar plus extra for dusting, but uses coconut oil in place of butter and is meltaway delicious.

                                                              Find the vegan snowballs recipe here

In today’s world of whirlwind social media, constant stimulation and hasty reactions, it is too easy to establish a running record of embarrassment we can’t take back. Everything is recorded. I cringe at the thought of my mother eventually clearing out the basement and finding old notes, letters and artifacts I meant to destroy. And that’s nothing compared to the beet red regret that is likely connected to a whole host of chatter I’ve put out there into cyberspace. From Facebook photos to confessional blog posts, there is a lot of awkwardness that can’t really ever be permanently deleted.

toffee bars3

I was hesitant about these., unsure if the recipe would really pan out the way I hoped. They were better! I am trying a coconut oil version this week. They’ve already been cookie swapped and gifted times 7. 🙂

                                                                   Click here for the toffee bar recipe

A surprise side bonus of compiling my grandfather’s photos: something of a release from allowing my past self to cause present embarrassment. Why should it? Every time I do look back at something cringe-worthy, I tend to gain insights, wisdom, and compassion. Nothing is going to keep me from blushing and smarting at my more-than-ample past and present gaffes, but those moments are part of who we are and how we grow. Maybe one day my Little Monkey will read some of the notes I’ve released out there into the air and find comfort in those that taste today like variations of humble pie.


I’m partial to the vegan version of these quinoa dark chocolate coconut macaroons, but both are so simple and so good! Basically just cooked quinoa, dark chocolate, unsweetened coconut, a little cocoa powder and vanilla.

 Dark chocolate coconut quinoa macaroons, for you

At my grandfather’s memorial service, I played a Chopin Nocturne on the piano (E flat major). It was his favorite to listen to. My grandmother marveled at fast fingers and runs up and down the keyboard in the Fantasie-Impromptu, but every visit my grandfather would ask at some point, “How about a little opus nine number two”? That weekend felt so rushed and busy, it wasn’t until midway through the piece that it struck me…in playing, I was having an opportunity to share one more conversation with my grandfather. At that revelation, I felt my eyes tear up, and I stumbled, just a little. After that, I just wanted to linger on each note. I didn’t want to say goodbye. Since November, I’ve felt as if I didn’t have to. We spent much of a month conversing again, only this time I was listening.

pistachio bars1

OMG…these fudgy shortbread bars are beyond decadent. But it’s the holidays, and mmmm…!

                        Click here if you dare put yourself in a room with these…

Happy holidays, friends, xo


  1. Mary
    December 21, 2015

    Lovely post, Wendy, and I can’t wait to try some of these. I hope you guys have a wonderful Christmas.

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