THE AMISH COOK: Healthy chocolate for Christmas?
How can it be that Christmas is actually just around the corner? It just seems unreal that Thanksgiving has already passed and Christmas preparations are in full swing almost every way you turn. While I tend to try to “slow time down”, (if there is such a thing,) my husband, Daniel is ever optimistically excited to see what is around the next bend of time, such as having the children grow up, seeing what God has in store for us for the next year, and such.
As we traveled home from Danville Ohio where we spent Thanksgiving Day with Daniel’s family we were constantly looking for new ways to entertain our four little ones. It was after dark and we were all more than ready to see our seven-hour drive come to an end so the children could be free to roam about, not having to be strapped into car seats. “Look at those pretty Christmas lights,” we told them time and again as they “oohed and ahhhed” over the many colors and designs of still more lights. That’s when Julia proposed the question, “Why don’t we have Christmas lights?” I love when people ask questions, whether it’s my children, my friends, or whoever. Isn’t that how we find common ground and get to understand each other more fully? Anyway, we explained to her that we don’t view Christmas lights as a sin, even though we don’t use them. “To us, Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birth; there are children who don’t know about Jesus’ birthday being celebrated on Christmas. Simply for the sake of not getting our focus so much on other things we choose to not have lights or Santa and things as such.” I explained.
Exchanging Christmas cards as well as some gift exchange is common among many Amish communities. I usually write a newsletter about our family and what is happening in our lives, and then stick a copy in the cards that I send to friends. I used to write separate letters for everyone, but unfortunately, I don’t get around to that anymore!
We also enjoy baking some homemade goodies to share with our neighbors, such as last year when Daniel had off of work for the day he suggested that we make cream sticks, or long Johns, as some people call them. The children were delighted to have Daddy home from work on a weekday and joined in the best they could. Of course the frosting and finger licking part was their favorite part. We haven’t decided what we’ll be making this year yet, maybe some cinnamon rolls with camel frosting. Daniel is very fond of these, in fact, enough so that I call it a “love language of his!”
Today our widowed neighbor lady stopped in with some Gingerbread cookies for the children. They were especially fascinated with the candy eyes and buttons she had used. This older neighbor lady then told us how this used to be her mother’s recipe from decades ago. Isn’t it something how those old recipes just seem to be the best and no, they never do get old in the sense of getting worn out or even stale!
Some sort of homemade candy is usually made at our house as well. This year we will probably try limiting it to a healthier variety. We have a healthy chocolate recipe that we can be used in countless ways, which we’ll be using for our chocolate coating. There is a satisfaction all its own in helping the children make candy that they will be able to enjoy without consuming large amounts of artificial sweeteners, colors, and preservatives.
I’ll pass our basic chocolate recipe on for you to try. The sky is the limit on ways to enjoy it. We will probably be making peanut raisin clusters with it as well as mixing some with granola and dabbing it onto wax paper and refrigerating it. Of course, there’s the old-fashioned idea of simply dipping pretzels into chocolate or peanut butter balls which we always enjoy. “Amish hats” are also a specialty around here. Simply spread peanut butter on a snack cracker, top with a large marshmallow, cut in half, with cut side down. Dip into melted chocolate, cool and enjoy an Amish hat! Perhaps our favorite way of eating this chocolate is as a hot sauce over ice-cream. Mmmm… I confess if we have this chocolate heated to spoon over ice-cream I tend to eat an ice-cream with fudge instead of fudge with ice-cream
I wish all of you a happy holiday season filled to the brim with the sweetness of the love and light of Jesus!
1 cup coconut oil
1 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
Heat and stir together over medium heat until melted. Use as a dipping chocolate or pour into a 9 by 13 pan and refrigerate or freeze, then break into pieces and enjoy. This chocolate is very runny when hot, so choose the temperature that works best for your project at hand.
Gloria is an Amish mom, housewife and writer in rural Illinois. Readers with culinary or cultural questions can write her at PO Box 157, Middletown, OH 45042. The Amish Cook has been publishing weekly since 1991. The column’s creator and editor is Kevin Williams. To learn more about the column visit www.amish365.com/about.