Keeping it Real During the Holidays

I often get asked questions about how to handle social gatherings since, lets face it, they always revolve around food. But that’s ok because food comforts us, it brings us together, and can bring so much pleasure to our lives.

Unfortunately through information overload and countless attempts at dieting, so many of us have created this love-hate relationship with food. Food is thrown into these “good” or “bad” categories, and makes us feel incredibly guilty every time we “cheat”.

Before I move forward, I do want to say that selecting the foods that will optimally nourish your body is of course important. But we are all human, right? NO ONE is perfect when it comes to eating healthy. I will openly admit I am definitely not! And that is OK!

So what do you do when you are on the right path and the Holidays are fast approaching?

Number 1 is you relax! Don’t get anxious that there may not be enough healthy food there. Worrying is wasted energy. You know your limits so just be sensible with what you eat. Or offer to bring something that you know will be a healthful choice.

Number 2 is relax. Yes, I said relax twice. You are at this special gathering to enjoy the company of your friends and family, so enjoy! Have small portions of food that you would like to eat that may not be the healthiest if it will add to your enjoyment.

Number 3 is to remember (nope, not relax again haha). Remember that there will always be birthdays, and BBQs, and holidays, and graduation, and whatever else. You will always be presented with a social situation that may not present the healthiest options. So I say again, just be sensible. Enjoy but don’t over-indulge.

To sum it up, its incredibly important to practice healthy lifestyle habits as often as possible, but if it starts to impact our life in a negative way, then that is NOT healthy for anyone. Remember there is so much more to healthy living than just what goes on your plate. Social interaction and connection is also a huge component of healthy living, along with many other things.

So as a Registered Dietitian, I give the ok to have that small piece of pie-just don’t tell anyone I said so. Just kidding ; )

 Me and my youngest son enjoying the first snowfall in Buffalo for 2018

Me and my youngest son enjoying the first snowfall in Buffalo for 2018

Choosing a Plant Based Milk

There are so many plant based milks out there, how do you know which one to choose? One thing is for sure, as long as it’s NOT a dairy milk you are in the clear! Below are some guidelines to help you choose the best non-dairy milk for you and your family.

1. Make sure the milk is fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 (these will be listed as a percentage on the nutrition label). And always shake the milk prior to pouring as the fortified nutrients tend to settle at the bottom.

2. Make sure there is an adequate amount of protein in the milk, especially if your child's main source of nutrition is still coming from milk consumption. If your child eats mostly solid foods, then the amount of protein in the milk may not matter as much

3. It is advised to avoid rice milk due to arsenic

4. If your child has multiple allergies, then select a milk with low allergen properties, such as pea or oat (preferably pea since it is higher in protein)

Below is a list of commonly consumed milks in order of protein content. Sticking with the higher protein content ones for the kids is usually the best choice. My kids drink mostly soy with the very occasional almond. And even though almond is very low in protein, my kids drink very little milk and get pretty much all of their nutrition from solid food.

1 cup Silk Nutmilk (cashew, almond, pea blend) = 10 grams
1 cup Soy Milk = 8 g protein
1 cup Ripple Pea Milk = 8 g protein
1 cup Good Karma flaxmilk (contains added pea protein) = 8 g protein. *other flaxmilks without added pea protein will be much lower in protein content
1 cup Oatly = 3 g protein
1 cup Almond milk = <1 g protein
1 cup Cashew milk = <1 g protein
1 cup Coconut milk = <1 g protein

Just as a comparison, 1 cup of cow's milk contains 8 g of protein.

So I would suggest taking a look at your child's overall intake, and if they are a poor eater or get most of their nutrition from liquids, then choosing a higher protein, fortified nondairy milk is by far the best choice.

As for us adults, choosing a plant based milk is mostly a matter of preference and taste since we get the protein our bodies need from the foods we eat. Still choosing a milk that is fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 though is best.

What plant based milk does your family drink?

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Move Over Meatloaf

It continues to amaze me how the wonderful world of plant based eating is just so delicious. Even the typical comfort foods, like mac and cheese and meatloaf, have no shortage of flavor when made with wholesome plant based ingredients. The lentil quinoa loaf (plant based alternative for meatloaf) below is loaded with flavor and can be made into a loaf or meatballs. The ingredients can also be mixed around any way you like! I think I’ve made about 10 variations of this recipe so far!

Lentil Quinoa Loaf

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked quinoa

1/2 cup brown lentils, uncooked*

1 1/2 cups water

3/4 cups onion, chopped**

3 garlic cloves, minced**

1 small jalapeno, minced***

2 Tbsp ground flaxseed

1 Tbsp Worcester sauce

1/4 cup ketchup

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place ground flaxseed in a small bowl, add 6 Tbsp of water, and set aside.

Combine lentils and water in a pot, bring to a boil, cover, and then reduce heat and let simmer until all the water is absorbed. If needed add more water; you want the lentil very soft.

While lentils are cooking, saute onions, garlic, and jalapeno in a couple Tbsp of water over medium heat.

When lentils are done drain any excess water, put in a large bowl, and add quinoa and sauteed veggies. Then add sauces, flaxseed and water mixture, and breadcrumbs. Mash mixture with hands until well combined. Add more breadcrumbs if needed to thicken mixture.

Press mixture firmly into a parchment paper lined loaf pan.

Cover with foil and bake for about 25 minutes. Uncover and cook for another 10 minutes.

Let cool and slice to desired thickness.

*If lentils cooked ahead of time, use 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils and omit 1 1/2 cups water

**Replace with onion and garlic powders if you are short on time or don’t feel like chopping!

***Use 1 Tbsp crushed red pepper in place of jalapeno to save on prep time

Download the recipe PDF HERE.

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School Lunch Ideas For The Kiddos

Now that back to school is full swing, I wanted to share some ideas for school lunches. Packing lunches can be a daunting task, but it is important to get your kids in the habit of planning and preparing, which is the foundation of life-long healthy eating habits.

But let’s get real for a second. If you are a parent, you know how picky kids can be. And on top of that they LOVE to snack! Trying to get my kids to eat one full meal is about as fun as watching paint dry. So why not apply that same principle to school lunches! Instead of worrying about one big meal item, pack lots of little things for them to munch on AND fill up their little tummies. Below are several plant based lunch ideas you can mix and match to get you started this school year.

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Whole wheat tortilla with nut/seed butter. Spice it up with some granola and banana slices! FYI granola is super easy to make at home!

Make your own trail mix. Either make at home the night before, or pack all the ingredients and have your kiddo put together at lunch time. Don’t be afraid to add some vegan dark chocolate chips in there…yum!

Home-made cashew cheese. Serve with veggie of choice, such as cucumber, and whole wheat crackers. Cashew cheese is a simple recipe to make at home, and is way better than the processed non-dairy cheeses you buy at the store.

Breakfast foods. I’m sure you’ve heard of breakfast for dinner, but how about breakfast for lunch! I try to make a family breakfast every Sunday, so I’ll usually make extra pancakes or French toast to pack in my son’s lunch. PS. There are some really great, plant based pancake and French toast recipes out there.

Pasta with veggies. Who doesn’t love a good pasta! Especially the twisty kind (kids love fun shapes). Let your kids pick out the shape of pasta they want and add some frozen peas (peas will thaw overnight or over the course of the day), and voila!

Stuffed Pita. Pitas are fun for kids (well anyone really!), and can be packed with pretty much any healthy food you choose. Try stuffing a whole wheat pita with some halved grape tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and plant based “meat”, mashed beans, or hummus.

Fruit salad. Instead of just throwing a piece of fruit in all the time, why not have your kids choose a few fruits to combine for a mini fruit salad! It just mixes things up a bit rather than always throwing a singular fruit in their lunchbox.

Home-made Nutella. I came across a vegan Nutella recipe that I printed out a couple years ago, brushed the dust off it, and finally made it. Talk about an easy recipe! And soooo good! Serve a side of that with some graham crackers and apple slices and it’s sure to be a hit!

Celery with nut/seed butter and raisins. Who can forget about the very popular “ants on a log”. Even as an adult I still indulge on this classic snack. On top of being delicious, it’s super fun for kids to put together.

Protein balls. There are more recipes for protein balls out there than you can make in a life-time. Not only are they a super filling snack, but fun for kids to help make in the kitchen.

Smoothie. This is a great way to get fruits and vegetables all in one shot. Make the smoothie the night before or the morning of and put it in a high quality thermos. As a side-note, I often make smoothies the night before and store in the fridge overnight. They are always fine the next day; just need a little shake.

Home-made muffins or breads. Buying muffins or flavored breads at the store usually equates to a lot of unnecessary refined sugar. Take some time over the weekend to make a batch or 2 of some muffins or breads. It really doesn’t take that long, and it’s a good time to spend bonding with your kids.

Roasted chickpeas. Getting kids to eat beans can be quite the task. That is why I love roasted chickpeas! Toss them in seasoning or home-made sauce, roast them, and you have a delicious, crunchy snack!

Chocolate avocado pudding. Non-dairy puddings are the bomb. Seriously, they are so delicious, and easy to make! Easy recipes are key when we are talking about busy family life. Chia pudding is also an option here, but if your kids have a texture issue, then it’s best to stick with the smoother consistency of the avocado pudding.

As a busy mom of 2 young boys, I understand that life gets hectic. Preparing lunch can take some extra time, but is a great habit to get into, and is a good opportunity to spend time with your children teaching them to prepare healthy foods. If you haven’t guessed, kids LOVE to help out in the kitchen. And being involved in meal preparation heightens excitement for the meal as well, making them more likely to eat it.

Have a lunch idea not mentioned above that’s a hit with your kiddos? Comment below! I’d love to hear!

Vegan Pancakes (with Blueberries!)

Who doesn't love pancakes?! Naturally sweetened with fruit and love, these vegan pancakes are so dense, thick, and delicious, they are sure to be a hit among the whole family. My 4 year old even eats them without any syrup! And there is always plenty of leftovers, so these pancakes are usually a staple in school lunches. 


Vegan Pancakes (with Blueberries!)

Makes 10-12 pancakes

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup rolled oats

2 Tbsp chia seeds (I use white for best color)

1 Tbsp baking powder

2 ¼ cups nondairy milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

 

Combine flours, chia seeds, and baking powder in a large bowl, and mix. Add milk and vanilla and mix in with dry mixture. Fold in blueberries.

Very lightly oil a non-stick frying pan (I use coconut oil) and heat to medium temperature. Use the 1/3 cup to place batter on frying pan (I find this gives the perfect size pancake). Flip pancake when top starts to bubble and edges start to become slightly crisped.

Download the printable PDF for this recipe HERE.

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Did you make these pancakes? Post on Instagram and tag #plantifulpowermom

How To Get Your Kids to Eat More Veggies

Ugh. Just the title makes me quiver. Let’s face it, most kids don’t LOVE their veggies. When my kids first started eating solid food, I always offered a wide variety of vegetables, which they usually gobbled up! But as they grew and started developing a taste for other things, it got more challenging. The good news with kids is that they need a lot of calories to meet the demand of their rapidly growing bodies. But with that said, you still don’t want to be feeding them fat, sugar, and refined foods all day. 

I have found a few ways that have really helped me to get my kids eating more veggies. It took some time though! So if these methods don’t have your kids eating a salad the next day, don’t worry! Just keep working at it : )

1. Try them frozen. I was listening to the radio one day (my favorite station 106.5 WYRK), and they were discussing ways to get kids to eat more veggies. Even as a Registered Dietitian, my kids are still just as picky as the next. So I turned the volume up over the screaming kids in the backseat, and tuned in. One thing they mentioned that I hadn’t tried is to offer the veggies frozen instead of cooked. Sounds crazy, but I figured what the heck and starting offering my youngest son frozen peas….and he LOVED them!!!!! That’s all he asked for to eat for like 2 weeks straight!!

2. Cut them into different shapes. Another piece of advice that may sound crazy, but really works! My oldest son has been broodle lately with the ‘not eating veggie’ thing. One day a few weeks ago I was spiralizing some yellow squash, and the idea popped into my head to offer them to him raw. He refused to try, but I didn’t give up. He used to eat a lot of cucumber, and I had some in the fridge, so I spiralized some of that up….and he couldn’t get enough. I have also discovered he likes when I cut cucumber into longer stalks. Still won’t touch them if they are sliced into circles. So weird.

3. Have them help in the kitchen. I know it can be a little scary having kids help you out in the kitchen with knives, and boiling water, and things of that nature, but even just having them help you get out the ingredients, do some mixing, or look at the food through the glass oven door excites them. Getting them involved with the cooking intrigues their curiosity and gets them in the spirit of trying what was prepared.

4. Make them readily available. Keeping veggies whole piled up in the produce bins in your fridge makes them hardly accessible. Take some time a day or 2 after shopping and slice up veggies like carrots, celery or cucumber, and put them in the fridge somewhere easily accessible and in plain sight. Berries are a huge demand in our family, so I try to rinse and slice the strawberries as soon as I can and put them right at eye level in the fridge for my kids. They are usually gone before I even get a chance to eat any!

5. Offer veggies first. My boys are ALWAYS hungry!! But I attribute that to them A. being so young, and B. being so active! My point is that they are always asking me for food. I have learned to adjust my approach from “What can I get you?” to “How about some carrots or apple slices?” It’s working great so far in that they often will pick one of the 2 healthy options presented.

6. Have them see you eat them. If you are never eating the right things, then how do you expect your kids to? Make sure to present veggies often, as often as you can so your kids will realize that as “the norm”. Often times now when I want to snack on some veggies, I will sit next to my boys on the couch, or place the open container on the counter if they are in the kitchen. Being a good role model and making these items as accessible as possible is key. My 3 year old now likes to take 1 bite of each stalk of celery and carrot and put it back, but Hey, I’ll take it!

7. Try a smoothie. What better way to sneak in some veggies then mix it in with some fruit! This is a great tactic for spinach especially. Spinach is super mild and mixes beautifully in a blender with fruit and liquid to make a smoothie. This trick doesn’t work every time though; my son has made it very clear that he will only drink light green smoothies. Kids. Click here for my simple kid approved smoothie recipe!
 

Any of the methods above get your kids eating more veggies? Let me know in the comments!!!

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My Plant Based (Vegan) Story

A Brief History
I was never the person who I thought would ever go vegetarian or vegan. Ever. I distinctly recall myself saying in the past several times the infamous, “I could NEVER do that.” It’s funny that we are so quick to respond like that when someone mentions that are “meatless”.

Before I transitioned to this lifestyle (I say “lifestyle” and not just “diet” for a reason which I will explain later), I always thought as vegan or vegetarian as just a personal choice with no real health implications. This sort of naïve attitude continued until I actually learned more about the science and spectacular results behind this way of eating. But first let’s back up.

Where It Started
I have always thought of myself as a healthy eater, hence the primary reason why I decided to become a Registered Dietitian. I wanted to educate people on the power of food, and show them that a healthy lifestyle was worth living.

I started my career in a hospital. It had its rewards, but over time I felt as if I was banging my head against a brick wall with about 75% of my patients. How could they not care that just by eating differently that could save their life? Save their life!!!! I never understood that, and still to this day don’t.

A New Path
I decided to start my own business to try to help more people that really wanted to be helped. My practice grew quickly, but I just wasn’t feeling fulfilled. On the other side of that, with 2 young kids at home, I was often feeling tired and run down. I noticed I wasn’t enjoying the company of my kids like I used to, and it felt awful.

I decided to start searching for that “special” thing that would boost my energy, fill the void, and most importantly, make me happy. By chance I came across a presentation by a very well know Dietitian, Brenda Davis. She spoke about all the wonderful health benefits of vegan eating, while also protecting our earth and fellow living creatures. It intrigued me like nothing else before. I decided to do more research.

The Right Path and Finding Myself
The more I found out about vegan eating, the more excited I became, so I decided to make the transition myself. After about 2 weeks I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing. My energy spiked, my endurance during my runs increased exponentially, my recovery after exercise was off the charts, I lost weight without trying, and I was actually excited about cooking again!

The best part is that the longer I ate this way, the more enhanced the results were. And after about 3 months, my skin troubles virtually disappeared! THANK GOODNESS!!! I had struggled with adult acne since college, and have tried virtually every product out there. Some things worked ok, but only temporarily. I never thought that dropping animal products would be the answer to my embarrassing skin problems. Now my skin literally glows. No lie. Glows. It’s glorious not having to worry about how many zits I’m going to wake up with.

Taking It to the Next Level
Naturally I wanted to help others achieve the same tremendous results that I did. I rebuilt my business to focus on plant based eating, and have met some absolutely amazingly wonderful people in the process.  I will forever be grateful to everyone who has been apart of this journey so far-friends, clients, colleagues, professional acquaintances, and of course my husband for being so supportive.

As I mentioned in the beginning this is more than just a diet, it’s a complete lifestyle change that will optimize your health and energy, increase your compassion, strengthen your relationships, and lead you to love your body and most importantly, yourself.

I invite you to find out more about how this journey will look like for you by scheduling a complimentary discovery call. Just click HERE to get started.

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Is the Plant Based Lifestyle the Right Move for You?

I’m back!!!! Its been like 10 years since I last wrote a blog (ok so maybe only a couple months), but I’m excited to be blogging again! My team and I have been busy building the ultimate community for those of you looking for ongoing support, tools, and resources for making the transition to more plant based eating.

I wanted to get back in the blogging game with why I decided to make this transition to plant based eating and some things I have experienced since making this change about 1 year ago. I feel like when I say that that is sounds so miniscule compared to other people I know, but I am proud to announce that I will officially be 1 year plant based next month! 1 year protecting our earth and our fellow animals will be in the books! Yay! And I must admit this has been such an incredible and life-changing experience. Reason being, plant based eating goes so far beyond what you put in your mouth. It’s a total lifestyle change that encompasses how you think, act, feel not only about what you eat, but about yourself and others around you. You are optimizing your health, while sustaining the environment (I don’t know about you, but I like trees), and protecting ALL living creatures on this earth.

When first making the switch, I was confident in my decision, but at the same time felt a little weird telling my friends and family. I got a lot questions, mostly being “where do you get your protein from?”, but the further I got in my journey the more I noticed how many people were supportive of this lifestyle, or looking to make the transition just like me! I sought out Facebook groups and other ways to connect with people living this lifestyle, and ended up being introduced to some of the most passionate and driven people I ever met.

The physical part was incredible too. Being a working mom of two young boys, I was frequently feeling tired and burnt out. But that’s totally normal for a mom of young kids right? To an extent I guess. But I can’t even describe the incredible surge in my energy level I almost immediately noticed. And I want to point out I don’t drink a drop of caffeine either. Never have, never will. Favorable changes in my body were more noticeable as well. I started to slim down around my waist without even trying, and I visually have more muscle tone than I’ve had since high school (that was 15 years ago now!). And the best part….my skin cleared up and literally glows now! I have always struggled with my skin, and who knew all I had to do was to stop eating animal products! My family has been on board as well, which is really great. I will admit my husband still will eat meat from time to time, as well as my children, but this is still fairly new to them, and we are all making strides towards healthier living every day.

So why did I decide to make this transition? As I mentioned above, I was tired ALL the time, and starting feeling unmotivated about work, cooking, and playing with my children. I was also seeking out a specialty area in my health coaching business. What was it that I could provide to clients that would give them the long term, desirable, sustainable, results they were looking for? Well the answer to all the above was plant based eating.

This switch has been a great one for me, and I thank everyone who has helped me grow and change within the plant based community. But you have to decide what’s right for you. If you are looking for some guidance to determine if this is the right path for you, then we would love to chat! Hey, what have you got to lose?

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Bangin Black Bean Chili

As the snow is falling hard (again) in Buffalo, I am sitting here wondering "and why do I continue to live here?" That's a joke of course. Buffalo really is a wonderful city, and the fact that we get to enjoy all 4 seasons is something that I definitely appreciate. I have had to shovel about 4 times within the past 24 hours though, which is not one of the highlights of the winter season. 

But along with the snow and cold comes those warm soups, stews, and chilis, that we have all grown to love. Except for my husband. He won't touch a bowl of soup. His reason is that when he was growing up, his Grandfather would throw all the leftovers that were going bad in a pot, heat it up, and make "soup" for everyone to eat. Kinda funny, but that was like 25 years ago, Mike. Get over it! Just kidding, love you hunny!

Anyways, I LOVE soups, stews, and chilis! What is easier than throwing a bunch of veggies and beans in a crockpot and letting it cook by itself for a few hours? Crockpots are by far one of the best inventions ever. Most of us associate crock pots with throwing in a beef roast or some pulled pork, but it works just the same for plant based recipes. I made my first black bean chili the other day, and just had to share, because it turned out magnificent! (I usually don't make chili because no one else in my house will eat it, but I figured screw it! I'm going to make what I want for a change!)

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Bangin Black Bean Chili

Ingredients:

2 cups chopped onion

1 2/3 cups chopped bell peppers (I used yellow and red)

6 medium garlic cloves, chopped

2 Tbsp chili powder

2 tsp dried oregano

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (use more or less depending on how spicy you want the chili)

3 15-16oz cans of black beans with 1/2 cup liquid reserved (I used 5 1/4 cups dry black beans that I had pre-cooked, and saved 1/2 cup of the cooking water)

1 16oz can of tomato sauce

Put all ingredients in a crock pot and mix well to coat beans. Cover and simmer on low for 4-6 hours.

Serve plain, or over brown rice or quinoa, and top with cilantro, non-dairy cheese or sour cream, or chopped green onions

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Healthy Cookies

I can't believe it's the Holidays already! I know we all say it every year, but the months just seem to fly by. I have never been a cold weather person. I much prefer sweating over freezing. But with that said, it definitely is not the same this time of year without a little snow. I think I mentioned in my last post how my oldest son LOVES the snow. And I would be a horrible doggie mom if I didn't mention that my rottweiler loves the snow more than any animal I've ever met. The first thing he does when he goes outside is flops down and rolls around on his back for 5 minutes. Then he buries his ball, and tries to find it. It's pretty entertaining to watch.

The one thing I think we can all relate to this time of year is the abundance of food, especially Christmas cookies. Not sure if this makes me a bad mom, but I haven't yet gotten into the cookie making tradition. I was never one to keep many sweets in the house, and I know if I make cookies I will eat them, and probably most of them. Also, my kitchen is tiny.  I don't know where the heck I would prepare and then store all those cookies! Of course I would give some away, but I'm not putting in all that hard work to not enjoy any of them myself! My son and I did attempt to put a gingerbread house together, but it turned out to be a total disaster. I just ended up indulging on all the gingerbread, while he ate the candy.

It's no secret that there is so many temptations around this year, so it may be difficult to stay on track with healthy eating. While maintaining an overall healthy eating pattern is of course important, it is equally important to enjoy this time of year with family and friends. Food is the centerpiece of most activities, and it is possible to stay sensible and socialize with loved ones, while not being paranoid about over-indulging. And if you do tend to go a little over-board, its ok, we are all human. 

My main reason for writing this blog, is to share with you a recipe that I have had for a while now. One of the main things I've learned more about after becoming a plant based eater, is how to sweeten things without always adding regular old cane sugar. Other great sweeteners are: over-ripe bananas, applesauce, dates, coconut sugar, and pure maple syrup. Luckily this recipe I already had on hand fits the bill! So here it is; so simple and delicious. Enjoy!

Healthy Cookies

Ingredients: 

3 overripe mashed bananas
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups uncooked oats
1/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup raisins or dark chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

Roll into cookie shape balls, and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Let cool. It's that simple!

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Would love to hear your comments/thoughts about these cookies, so please share once you've tried!

Wishing everyone a very happy, healthy Holiday season!