Manic Monday ~ HEALTHY Holiday Flavors

If you are like me and my family, Christmas is full of traditions passed down from generations. One of those generational traditions is baking cookies and distributing them as gifts. My grandmother, Eva Neal (whose name is so worth mentioning as she was known for her wonderful recipes and loving heart), would bake cookies for days and freeze them so that when Christmas came, she would have an outstanding array of cookies for everyone to take home. In fact, she had to put a lock on her basement freezer chest because grandpa (and many young members of the family) knew cookies were being stored in that freezer. There was a year that many of us snuck cookies out of that freezer and by the time Christmas came, Grandma Eva's array of cookies were sparse. They were amazing cookies....all made from scratch.

Fast forward many years, Grandma Eva had passed away and there was something missing at Christmas: gifting cookies. The following year I picked up Grandma Eva's tradition. For years (14), I have baked hundreds and hundreds of cookies so that I can bundle them in my traditional packaging of white paper gift bags adorned with the message: "Merry CHRISTmas! Celebrating the birthday of our Savior, Jesus!" So in lieu of a birthday cake, it's Christmas cookies honoring Jesus as I continue Grandma Eva's tradition. One year, I baked over 3,000 cookies. It took a month of many evenings and a lot of freezer bags. I believe I delivered 50 gift bags and 5-6 large platters full of every kind of cookie. That was then. Now, I have realized I can't let such an awesome tradition become a "bad thing." Meaning, I have a young family who needs me and they come first before cookies. Not only that, but with cookie baking, comes cookie taste testing. Many, many years I fell very short with my healthy eating efforts because I was engulfed with cookies. We would be eating cookies for weeks, sometimes finding freezer bags still in the freezer well in time for the Super Bowl. But, now....let's say I am wiser and realistic! I still continue the cookie tradition, but I've cut back on the amount of cookies I bake. I include my children in the few days of baking and we are making wonderful memories. My children serve our entire cul-de-sac neighbors by delivering these gifts along with Christmas greetings. My extended family receive these gifts and we only have a select few left to snack on for Christmas Day. Also, in the meantime I have learned to prepare wonderful protein shakes that mimic these aromatic holiday flavored cookies so that I satisfy my taste buds with the healthy option instead of taste testing a dozen cookies. So I am not leaving you with my favorite cookie recipe, rather my favorite Christmas shake!!

Christmas Sugar Cookie Protein Shake

1 cup of vanilla almond milk

1/4 cup of raw oats

1 scoop of vanilla whey

1/4 tsp butter flavor extract

1/4 tsp of pure vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Blend....

Top with fat free whip cream and sprinkles (all optional)

Approximately 250 calories without whip cream. 25g of protein!

Enjoy!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

~Rachel Zimmerman

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