Dec 28

Strange But Good Holidays

Christmas Eve traditions are special.


That doesn’t mean the tradition can’t be #strangebutgood!

Every year we have family friends over for desserts and drinks after dinner.  And every year I make a different dessert and drink.

Exhibit 1:

In my version of heaven, cookies have the nutritional merits of spinach.  My German Chocolate Chip Cookies do not qualify as spinach, but they do have a few redeeming qualities.  I’m declaring these #strangebutgood because they are a cake-turned-cookie, and it’s a little strange for a holiday cake-cookie to be sort-of healthy.


German Chocolate Cookies 1


The most important lesson I have learned when you are trying to make a dessert a little healthier is not to go too far.  You’ll see here that while I made some subs, I still left some “real” flour and sugar in.  This is important if you’re going to be sharing with people who aren’t used to eating like a blogger.

The healthier subs were spelt flour and NuNaturals’ new Tagatose sweetener as a sugar alternative for some of the sweet.   The most important redeeming quality is that they taste delicious… which they were.

 German Chocolate Cookie bite


Like the cake, these cookies are a combination of chocolate and coconut.  I loved the chewy bits of coconut against the melt-y chocolate chips.  That with the crunch from the nuts made the texture in this cookie fantastic.  I used macadamia nuts because they are my mom’s favorite, but almonds or cashews would go well here too.

My healthy changes went undetected.  In fact, I never told anyone they are healthy-ish.  Don’t be afraid to sneak a little #strangebutgood healthiness into your cookies!

 German Chocolate Cookies

German Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 C butter, softened
  • 1 C packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 C NuNaturals Presweet Tagatose
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp coconut extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C flour
  • 3/4 C spelt flour
  • 1/2 C cocoa powder
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 C chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1 1/2 C unsweetened coconut flakes


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together the butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla, and coconut extract in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, and baking soda.  Stir dry ingredients into the butter mixture, until fully incorporated.

Fold in chocolate chips, nuts, and coconut.

Spoon batter on to parchment lined baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 mins.


Exhibit 2:

As much as I like to try new things, my favorite cocktail is a classic Manhattan.  It’s one of the oldest cocktails.  It’s a simple mix of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters.  With a marinated cherry (don’t forget – it’s the best part!).  With my favorite drink in mind, this year I created Christmas in Manhattan.

A week before Christmas Eve, I poured a bottle of Bulleit Bourbon into an empty ACV bottle (typical blogger…) and added 2 cinnamon sticks and 2 cups of fresh cranberries, sliced in half.  I took another 1/2 C of the cranberries, stabbed a hole in them, and covered them with Gran Marnier.  Both mixtures were then stored in a cool place for the week.

What resulted on Christmas Eve was a cinnamon-laced, festive, #strangebutgood interpretation of my favorite classic.


Christmas in Manhattan cocktail

Christmas in Manhattan

  • 2 oz. Cranberry-Cinnamon infused bourbon
  • 1 oz. Domaine De Canton (ginger liqueur)
  • 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth 
  • 3-4 drops orange bitters
  • Gran Marnier-soaked cranberry, for garnish


In a cocktail shaker add all ingredients and shake vigorously.

Pour into a martini glass (or short glass). Add a Gran Marnier-soaked cranberry for garnish and serve.

Makes 1 drink.

Note: I like this drink straight up, but you could add a splash of water or serve over ice if you prefer.


Want to Join?

All you need to do to join this link up is create a concoction that is Strange But Good, post it with the Strange But Good logo, and link up to your recipe.  (See below for code.)  In the Strange But Good post each week, you’ll see a link to add your own recipe and picture at the bottom of the page.  I’d prefer you use a new strange but good dish, but if you realllly have a good previous one you can add it.

Not a blogger?  You can play too!  Send me an email with a picture of your food and a brief description by noon on Thursday and I’ll include it in Friday’s post (too late this week, obv… but next week it’s on!).


Sprint 2 the Table

Remember to use #strangebutgood in any Tweets and Instragrams of your creations. :)


This is the last dessert or drink thing I post for a while.  I swear.

Do your families/friends mind if you make a healthier versions of foods?

What are some of your tricks for lightening up recipes?



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  1. Lisa

    I think your strange but good foods sound pretty delicious! Coconut and chocolate are TOTALLY meant for each other in my opinion! Okay, yum to that martini! That sounds simply fabulous!

  2. Debbie

    I don’t drink cocktails very often but I am intrigued by the Christmas in Manhatten. It sound yummy (which is probably dangerous!)

    1. Laura

      Definitely dangerous. ;)

  3. Khushboo

    Totally agree that you can’t go too far with making replacements…there’s a reason why baked goods that taste yum also contain butter & sugar- no coincidence!! I love healthifying recipes, my family eating & loving it and THEN telling them some of the ingredients…if I told them beforehand, chances are it would go untouched! The other day I roasted up some squash and my brother (who claims to hate squash) polished it off thinking it was sweet potato…boy bursting his bubble sure was fun!

    1. Laura

      I bet your brother was totally befuddled. LOL! I love doing that to people. :)

  4. Angela @ Happy Fit Mama

    Christmas in Manhattan sounds delightfully delicious and dangerous! May have to make that for NYE!

    1. Laura

      thank you! I wish I had some left for NYE!

  5. Fran@ Broken Cookies Don't Count

    How can anything made with brown sugar, chocolate and cinnamon be anythin other than delicious! Sounds great to me! But I like Strange But Good! ;-)

  6. Allie

    Okay, I’ll be back on the Strange but Good track next week, I promise! I’ve never had a Manhattan, but cinnamon and cranberry? Can’t go wrong with that. And I totally love subbing healthier flours–I think they make for better desserts, as cookies/brownies come out extra-dense. Who’s going to argue against a chewier cookie??

    1. Laura

      Hang out with me and you will definitely have a Manhattan at some point. ;)

  7. Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers

    Mmmmm, cookieeeeees! I’m so happy yet so sad that I’m all out of cookies at my house.

    1. Laura

      Right?! It’s a love-hate thing.

  8. Kierston

    Cookies look yummmers! Strange but good is nothing but tasty :)

  9. purelytwins

    both recipes sounds yummy! our grandpa would love that german chocolate cookie!!
    love being able to make certain recipes ‘healthier’ :)

  10. Heather (Where's the Beach)

    The cookies look nice and fluffy. I agree, you can try to make something healthier and take it too far so that it’s just not even worth it. I’ve not tried that tagtose yet.

  11. lindsay

    i added grapefruit pulp and carrot pulp to a chocolate gf muffin mix with coconut flour. No one new. I forgot to take a pic though. Made me think of you. And i love it when you trick people with healthy cookies. mawahahahahaha

    1. Laura

      I get jealous of people with juicers just because you have the pulp to use. Have you ever made crackers?

  12. Sarah @ The Smart Kitchen

    YUM! My roommate swears that vegan (and in my world, that does actually mean healthier…which is not always the case) cookies have ‘a taste.’ But when I offer such delicious, slightly tweaked treats to others in my life, they usually have NO clue. [Dads are particularly easy to please. :)]

    So, I failed a bit again this week in not providing an actual recipe…but you know how hard it is when my entire diet is Strange But Good. I have started to think of this Link-Up as What I Ate Wednesday for Weirdos.

    Also, I am making the Bluberry Mustard Squash for a whole family of not-as-adventurous eaters this weekend, and would like to see how that goes before I post a recipe!

    1. Laura

      I love that you make the vegan not necessarily being healthier distinction. There is some tasty vegan junk food out there. ;)

      Your link ups make me smile. Keep doing your thing, friend. But I am going to need that squash-berry recipe. Soon.

  13. Lee

    I’ve never heard of tagatose. Interesting.

    I have that strange but good picture that I sent you but it’s not in a blog post anywhere. It’s just a picture that I took. Could you post it next week?

    1. Laura

      It was good… didn’t detect an aftertaste, but I don’t know what would happen if used on its own.

      Happy to post the pic. :)

  14. RavieNomNoms

    I will have to try these! I am always looking for ways to make my cookies healthier. You are right though you can’t go too far!

    1. Laura

      Let me know what you think! Happy New Year!!!

  15. Jody - Fit at 55

    I LOVE NuNaturals!!!! I must check out that sweetener!!!! I want those cookies! :)

    1. Laura

      COOKIES!!! :)

  16. Michelle @ Eat Move Balance

    oooooh, the cinnamon infused bourbon sounds like it would be fantastic in a variety of drinks! Great idea. I’ve been wanting to try infusing–I need to get on top of it!

    1. Laura

      You should! It’s so much fun – I infused vodka with bacon and habaneros for New year’s Day brunch 2 years ago.

  17. Nadiya

    The cookies sound good :) At first I though that you actually put spinach in them lol! That’d be pretty wicked and a great way to get kids to eat their veggies ;)

    1. Laura

      Ohhhh… I like that idea!

  18. Kammie @ Sensual Appeal

    I think your cookies sound and look awesome. I love the combo of coconut and chocolate. It’s yum. And I definitely agree with not healthifing the baked goods too much. They may taste great to me, a blogger, but I can see my friends may be able to tell sometimes that it’s healthier. Although not often.

    1. Laura

      My co-workers have learned to always be suspicious… I keep them on their toes by sometimes giving them the fully-loaded versions. ;)

  19. Heather @ girlyeverafter

    German Chocolate is my all time favorite! I usually add less sugar than the recipe calls for when baking. People never know and I actually get more comments than when I use the normal amount.

    1. Laura

      Great point – I usually reduce it some too. And omit salt.

  20. Calee

    Oh man. That martini looks fantastic. :) Glad you got to do some drinking and sugar eating for Christmas. I’m trying to quit sugar (easier said than done). I’m doing Sarah Wilson’s 8-week program. I’m on week 1 (again — technically started last week, but then I got Nutty Butter in the mail … d’oh).

    1. Laura

      I am right there with you. Starting Jan 1… I have a really good dinner planned for NYE. ;)

  21. Olivia Hill

    LOVE the idea of a strange but good recipes! I’m glad there are people out there who also like combinations that are a little out of the ordinary. That Christmas in Manhattan looks strange but sooooo good. :)

    1. Laura

      Thank you so much!!! If Instagram is right, I think there are more of us that we realized. :)

  22. Danielle

    Love that cookie recipe! Sounds amazing! I love my chocolate ;)

  23. Alex @ therunwithin

    oh man I bet that is a kicker, I love this whole link up you do

    1. Laura

      Thanks, Alex! Happy New Year!

  24. Heather @ Better With Veggies

    Oh yum – will you come bring me a Christmas in Manhattan?! That is SO my kind of drink. I’m sure Kirk will want one too, so you better bring two. :)

    1. Laura

      Of course! Add that to the Denver to-do list. :)

  25. Shari

    I love that you let non-bloggies submit… my only problem is I don’t have anything yet. Maybe one of the new things I plan on trying in the next month… hmmm :)

    1. Laura

      I would love for you submit a pic! Eat something crazy to start 2013 out right. :)

  26. Christine @ Love, Life, Surf

    haha! Family and friends who aren’t used to eating like a blogger << so true! Sometimes my husband looks at me like I'm completely nuts. I think both of those recipes sounds pretty good.

    1. Laura

      I know that looks well! ;)

  27. Hannah

    I’ve never been much of a cocktail drinker so my knowledge of liqueurs is very small, which leads me to ask whether Gran Mariner is a new spirit I haven’t heard of, or whether you meant Grand Marnier? I’m actually really hoping for the former, because Grand Marnier makes me watch to retch (KRYPTONITE FRUIT) :P

    Cookies are good though!

  28. Alexandra

    OH MY WORD those cookies!!! You had me at “chewy bits of coconut” and “melt-y chocolate chips”! I have to bookmark those for later! :D

    1. Laura

      Thank you, Alexandra! Happy 2013!!!

  29. Carol @ Lucky Zucca

    Soooo creative!!!! Wow!!! I always make my mom try my “healthy” creations and usually she likes them. Sometimes though, they’re too much for her. Like green smoothies. I can’t break her of the fear.

    1. Laura

      Why are people so scared of green drinks?! You realllly can’t taste the spinach!

  30. Amanda @ .running with spoons.

    Couldn’t agree more that you can’t go too far when healthifying recipes. I’ve definitely been guilty of trying to make fat free, sugar free cookies and that didn’t go over too well at all – no one would touch them, and even I had a hard time convincing myself they were edible.

  31. Lauren @ Oatmeal after Spinning

    Tagoste… well, that’s a new one to me! I’m intrigued! The recipe sounds delicious.
    Manhattans were my Gammy’s drink. I’m not generally a big fan, but they always, always make me think of her. :)

    1. Laura

      I remember you saying that at Blend. :)

  32. Laura @ Mommy Run Fast

    Yay for a sneaky cookie success! I have many recipes where I’ve learned to keep the butter- makes such a difference! I do think my husband gets annoyed at my healthy makeovers sometimes, but it definitely makes a difference when I don’t mention it… :)

  33. Miriam @ Sometimes I Veg

    My friends and family assume that everything I make has a healthier spin on it, even if I didn’t do anything to it. Those who are reluctant will often as me “what the catch is”.

    1. Laura

      Mine do that same! I try to thrown them off by making the “real” thing sometimes too. LOL!

  34. Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets

    I need more tricks for lightening up recipes actually. I never get the chance to test things ahead of time, and I don’t want to bring a healthy, but bland dish to a function, so I stick with what I know. when I do make something healthy, i usually don’t tell anyone it’s semi-healthy until after the fact either. It’s just easier that way.
    These cookies sound great, and German chocolate is the Hubby’s favorite so I’ll definitely be trying them.

    1. Laura

      Let me know if you do! I was really happy with them. Happy NYE!

      1. Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets

        Happy New Year’s Eve back atcha….I hope you red wine purge doesn’t start until you wake up New Year’s Day.

        1. Laura

          Bhahaha! I’m not crazy. ;)

  35. Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn

    OMG dem cookies and cocktails. Me love.

    1. Laura

      LOL! I heart you.

  36. Katerina

    The cookies look totally delicious! I wish to you a very happy full of joy and prosperity New Year!

    1. Laura

      Thank you so much, Katerina! Have a wonderful start to 2013!!!

  37. Allison @ Life's a Bowl

    Major YUM to the German Chocolate Cookies! I agree that there should be some “normal” per se ingredients left in desserts, but there’s no shame in tweaking them a bit to perk up the nutrition points! Cake-like and chewy cookies are my fave, and who doesn’t love chocolate or coconut- I’m book marking this :D

    1. Laura

      Thanks, Allison! I’m all about the more cake-y cookies too. :)

  38. Brittany @ Delights and Delectables

    I always think your strange food sounds delicious!! I need to check out this new sweetener!

  39. Cucina49

    Mmm, a healthier German chocolate cookie. Sounds perfect to me. Happy new year!

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