A grain/veggie bowl and smoothie will give you a needed burst of energy as you power through the holiday preparations. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

A few years back, my friend, Elaine took me to Life Alive Café in Cambridge. I totally fell in love with the bowls of beautiful organic vegetable and grain combinations as well as the colorful smoothies. From that day forward, I vowed I would eat this way as often as I could by making grain bowls at home and upping the game on my smoothie routine. At this time of year especially, when there is so much more to do than the usual, it’s good to have these healthy recipes in our arsenal to keep us strong and energetic.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

The rule of thumb I use for creating my Thrive Bowls is to have as many colors as possible along with a grain, a bit of onion and/or garlic, some nuts or seeds, and a sauce. I cook my grain of choice and roast (in fall/winter) or steam (in spring/summer) my vegetables. I store all my Thrive Bowl components in the fridge in separate containers to mix and match throughout the next few days.

While you’re chopping up all those veggies, be sure to set aside some leafy greens for this smoothie. It’s nutrient-packed, really refreshing, and you don’t even taste the greens, if you’re concerned about that. When I drink the smoothie to replace a meal, I include a scoop of plant-based protein powder and it keeps me going through running errands, baking Christmas cookies and more.

Speaking of which, I chose my daughter’s gingersnaps for this week’s cookie. I may have shared this recipe in the past, but they are a favorite. These deserve fresh spices, not the 3-year-old ones in the back of your cupboard! You can also add a bit more molasses if you like, too (just sayin’).

The baking time for these cookies can be adjusted as well. Slightly under-bake them for a chewy texture or keep an eye on them and crisp them up for ultra-fine milk-dipping.

After eating this nutritious, delicious meal, you deserve a cookie or two!

Christmas Countdown Smoothie

1 cup milk (try almond or coconut)
1 cup baby spinach or other leafy greens
1 ripe banana, frozen
3 ice cubes
2 tablespoons nut butter
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg (optional)

In a blender, combine all ingredients except nutmeg. Blend until smooth. Sprinkle of nutmeg if desired. Yield: 2 servings

Thrive Bowl

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups butternut squash or sweet potato cut into 1-inch cubes
3 cloves garlic, slivered
3 cups broccoli florets
3 cups kale, stemmed and torn
2 large carrots, shredded
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cups cooked brown rice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash or sweet potato on a large parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet and drizzle olive oil over all. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

After 10-15 minutes, stir squash and add broccoli. Toss with a bit more olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for about 5-7 minutes or until vegetables are tender and broccoli is beginning to char a bit. (Keep a close check on things so nothing burns!) Add kale to baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, toss and season. Roast for 5 minutes more or until kale is crisp.

Sunshine Sauce:

2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon tahini
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Place all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk or use a mini food processor until well-blended. Yield: 3/4 cup

To serve, place rice in individual bowls and add squash and broccoli. Spoon sauce over all and garnish with kale, raw carrot and sesame seeds. Yield: 4 servings

Shannon’s Gingersnaps

3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
Sugar for rolling

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add molasses, egg and vanilla and beat until blended.

In a separate bowl, beat whisk together dry ingredients. Add to butter mixture until well-combined. Stir in chopped ginger. Cover and chill dough for 30 minutes or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place sugar on a plate. Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls, thoroughly coating with sugar. Place these on the baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Flatten very slightly with the bottom of a sugar-coated glass. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cookies feel firm. Remove from baking sheets after cooling for 2 minutes then move to wire racks. Yield: 3 dozen

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