As you continue to come out of your carb-enduced Thanksgiving coma and your neighbors start to put up all varieties of tacky Christmas decorations, I’m going to focus this month’s food blog on some recipes that can easily be used for gift giving. All of them happen to be Paleo, but your friends and family won’t have a clue unless you tell them. Two of these recipes have won the Paleo Bake Off at Endure for the Cure, so I feel very confident that people will be happy to receive them. Another is a taco spice mix so it is a gift that can be used after the plethora other homemade Christmas gifts have been eaten up. I like to use mason jars for these kinds of things, but I also have used plastic containers in a pinch. *Frugal tip – I usually purchase the plastic containers at the Dollar Tree. They carry Betty Crocker red containers that usually come in sets of two depending on size. So they are very economical.

Well, with four recipes to cover, I better get straight into it! For the taco seasoning, you can find some additional tips at the original website, www.gimmesomeoven.com. (I love the name of her site!) You can completely customize it to your tastes by tweaking the spices, but this is delicious as is for me. I quadrupled the recipe and put it in an 8 oz mason jar.

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TACO SEASONING
1 Tbsp. chili powder*
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes**

Instructions:
Stir or whisk all ingredients together until combined.  Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months. You should use 2-3 TBS seasoning per pound of meat.  This recipe is from www.pinchofyum.com. There is even a video to demonstrate how to make these. I did make some adjustments so I will note these in (parentheses) in the recipe. I HIGHLY recommend using parchment paper. If you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, it’s found in near the aluminum foil at Giant, often on the bottom shelf. It is Reynolds brand.

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Dark Chocolate Coconut Bites
Yum Serves: 18
Ingredients
2 cups dessicated coconut
4 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
5 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ounces dark chocolate for melting (i.e. chocolate chips) (I used Good Life GF dark chocolate chips)
Almonds (I made some with almonds in the middle)

Instructions
1. Pulse the coconut in a blender or food processor until the texture becomes like thick flour. (I used Bob’s Red Mill shredded coconut which is super fine to begin with. I skipped the food processor.) Transfer to a bowl and add the honey or maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla. Stir until a thick paste forms.
2. Using your hands, squeeze the mixture into about 18 small balls. (I got only 16.) I found that rolling was difficult because they weren’t sticky enough, but I was able to shape them into balls by first squeezing them in my palm a few times (you’ll get some oil on your hands), and then gently shaping it from an oval into a round ball. (I always have food safe gloves on hand to use with raw meat or jalapenos. So I wore those. Also, I didn’t worry about the shape too much because once they are chilled you can smooth them out a bit. She mentions this is the video too. This is where I also added the almonds to some. That process is a little trickier so have patience. I put a little of the mixture in my hand, then an almond follow by a little more mixture. Squeeze gently. These will be oval instead of round. Again they can be smoothed a little later.) Place the coconut balls in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes or until firm. I could tell that mine were ready because there was a small white ring of solidified coconut oil around the base of each ball.
3. Melt the chocolate slowly and gently until smooth and spreadable. We don’t have a microwave, so I had the best results melting this in a stainless steel bowl placed in a hot oven for about 10 minutes. (Well, I have a double boiler and that is by far the best and easiest way to melt chocolate correctly. I have never tried her oven method, but I have used the microwave. Some of them even have a preset button for it. *Caution* if you use the microwave be VERY careful to do it in burst of about 15 seconds at a time. Chocolate can “sieze” very quickly and you will need to throw it away. Siezing is basically burning chocolate. It all of the sudden turns lumpy instead of a smooth liquid. It’s bad. Trust me. Do it SLOWLY.)
4. Lay out a sheet of wax paper. (I prefer parchment.) Using two forks, roll each coconut ball in the chocolate until completely covered. Scoop the ball out with the fork and let the extra chocolate drip off the fork. (My double boiler came with a dipping tool which makes this process less messy, but it is doable with the forks.) Gently nudge the chocolate covered ball onto wax paper. (You can make these a little prettier by sprinkling a little extra coconut on top before it hardens.) Chill until the chocolate has hardened. Store in the refrigerator.
Notes It’s very important to use coconut oil because other oils won’t harden like coconut oil, and that hardening is what holds the shape together.
1 g protein 16g fat 12 g carbs
Spicy Roasted Cashews from www.fedandfit.com is a delicious snack for any time of the year. Beware though. They are addictive! They can be price due to the cashews. I have found them reasonably priced at the Indian market on the Carlisle Pike near Party City, but Giant does have them in the bulk section as well. My main tip with this recipe is that you have to be very careful when roasting the nuts. It is easy to over cook them and that ruins the taste. Set the time for about 6 minutes and keep a close eye on them. You can roast them in a pan on the stove too if you are more comfortable with that. You definitely don’t’ want to have throw them out!

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Spicy Roasted Cashews
2 lbs Raw Cashews (can usually find in the bulk foods section)
¼ cup Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
1 Tbl Finely Chopped Fresh Rosemary
1 Tbl Kosher Salt
2 tsp Hot Paprika
2 tsp Cracked Black Pepper

Instructions:
1. Preheat your oven to 400 F.
2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
3. Spread the raw cashews out over the baking sheet one layer thick (not any thicker).
4. Bake for approximately 7-9 minutes or until they’re slightly golden brown. Your nose will be able to tell you when they’re ready.
5. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil. (I did this in microwave so I didn’t dirty a pan.)
6. Turn the heat to low and add the seasonings.
7. When the cashews are finished in the oven, transfer them to a large bowl, pour in the seasoned coconut oil and stir until all the nuts are evenly coated.
8. Serve warm in a bowl.
7g P, 16g F, 13g C

Lastly we have these taste bars that you can add to your Christmas cookie offerings or give as a tasty treat to someone you love. I double this recipe and make it in a 9 x13 and cut into 24 small bars, because who owns a 5×5 baking dish?! Again, I recommend parchment paper to line the pan. I also press the crust directly in the pan. I use the flat side of my meat tenderizer for that, but you can use the bottom of a flat glass as well.

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Salted Caramel Maple Pecan Pie Bars

by Alessandra Peters from www.thefoodieteen.com
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients (12 bars)
For the Shortbread Crust
3/4 cup pecans
2 tbsp + 1 tsp coconut flour
1/4 cup arrowroot starch
pinch salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp maple syrup

For the Salted Caramel Pecan Filling
1 1/2 cups pecans, roughly chopped
2 tbsp full-fat coconut milk
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1 tsp arrowroot starch
3 tbsp maple syrup

Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 325F/160C.
2. To make the shortbread dough, place the pecans in a food processor and process until very fine, 60-90 seconds. The result should look like almond flour. Add in the remaining ingredients and pulse to combine. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 15-20 minutes, until firm.
3. Roll the dough out between two pieces of plastic wrap until it is 1/4 inch thick. Trim until it measures 5×5 inches, then transfer it to a lined 5×5 inch baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden. While it cools, make the filling.
4. To make the filling, spread the pecans on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 8 minutes, until fragrant. Remove from the oven, then place the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and whisk constantly for 3-4 minutes, until the sauce is thick, smooth, and golden. Fold in the pecan chunks, then pour the mixture over the shortbread crust.
5. Bake for another 15 minutes, then let cool for at least half an hour before cutting up into bars and enjoying! Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
2g p, 23g c, 26g f