Healthier Holiday Foods: Thanksgiving Edition

It’s coming. The great big Thanksgikuhmas. We will be doing a lot of celebrating, and I assume many of you will be as well. I want to make it clear, despite our occasionally ascetic sounding screes about food in the modern world, Big Sis and I both do really love to eat. And most of all we really love to eat with family and friends. Over the years we’ve found that it is particularly helpful to have an arsenal of healthier foods to either create a super buffet out of or to bring as a contribution to someone else’s meal to help decrease the likelihood that we will not only overeat but we will not have any nutrition whilst we do that.

If you are leaning in a similar direction, or are just trying to stay out of elastic waisted pants this winter, you may find these suggestions helpful as part of your holiday scene. I’ve leaned in the Thanksgiving/Harvest/Fall flavor profile direction for this post since Thanksgiving is coming up so very quickly. I’ll try to offer some similar assistance during the later cold and dark time of December. For now, let’s all go make some hand turkeys and be grateful for friends and family, for our health, and for bountiful and delicious choices!



1. Mixed Grain Bread

2. Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

3. Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

Sides or Veggie Banquet Fare

4. Naturally Sweet Sweet Potatoes

5. Creamy Non-Dairy Mashed Potatoes

6. Bulgur PIlaf with Pine Nuts and Cranberries

7. Creamed Kale 

8. Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash

9. Waldorf Saute


10. Healthy Pumpkin Cookies

11. Sweet Potato Crusted Apple Pie 

12. Cranberry Apple Pecan Crunch

Real Green Food for St. Patrick or Every Day

I love my twins’ teacher. I really do. She’s smart, organized, thoughtful, compassionate, and inspiring. She has been super helpful with out big transition to first grade. In addition to all her other fine qualities, my favorite first grade teacher LOVES holidays. She loves all of them. She knows all the traditions, all the stories, all the everything about every holiday anyone might celebrate EVER.

My daughter knows more about St. Patrick’s day than Tommy O’Shaunassy in County Cork. Somehow in sharing these stories about St. Patrick’s Day, my daughter received the impression that EVERYONE experiences all the possible traditions and myths all day long. I know I sound like a killjoy, but frankly St. Patrick’s Day has had pretty limited implications for me in the past – a few jigs and reels, a green shirt, perhaps a green beer. I had no idea I would be expected to produce big green messes and pretend a leprechaun made them. If I’m forced to make a mess intentionally, I WILL be building a leprechaun trap and it will work – I don’t need help with messes in my house, thank you. I also had no idea of the variety of food to which green food coloring could be applied in celebration of good old St. Pat.

In order to satisfy my daughter’s rapidly increasing expectations where St. Patrick’s Day was concerned I confess that I did a little reel around Pinterest and I had a revelation. Here’s the thing to remember about St. Patrick’s Day – leprechaun aside, a great deal of the focus is on green food.  Guess what I try to get my VERY picky daughter to eat every other freaking day of the year? You guessed it, green food.  I had already decided not to apply green food coloring to anything (see yuckies about food coloring here), it was just a short step to decide to simply make green food – perhaps not the dishes we eat regularly – it need only seem unusual and green to be passable as a special St. Patrick’s Day meal. And a healthy day of eating ensued.

St. Patrick’s Smoothie (or We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Shamrock Shake)

  • 2 c fresh pineappleIMG_0274
  • 4 medium frozen bananas
  • 4 c spinach or other deep greens
  • 1/2 rolled oats
  • 1/2 c unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 c coconut milk
  • 1/2 large avocado
  • 1 T honey or maple syrup

If you have a power blender, load it up and let her rip as you usually do. If you have a standard blender, I would start with the milk and frozen bananas and add the other elements when possible. The result? Super creamy, super green, fantastic and delicious way to start a happy St. Paddy’s Day. And not a pinch in sight.

IMG_0271 IMG_0269 IMG_0276

While I’d hoped to pack lunch for the kids today, it snowed here in the Mid-Atlantic last night and so we had yet another Monday at home. Our lunch at home consisted of some Japanese style noodles. Know what goes great on top of Japanese noodles? Green things: dried seaweed, peas, and cucumbers. Yep, she did it. Ms. Picky Pants gladly took all those bits in celebration of St. Pat.

Dinner was a little trickier… we had a green salad because we often do and everyone enjoys it.  I figured why stop doing something that works.  The trick was to make the rest of the meal different enough. I had cauliflower I really wanted to use, but the only way that’s green is in spirit, and I knew that wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted to make cauliflower steaks – but what to sever them with that would be green enough? Time to get clever.

Savory Green Quinoa

  • 2 c quinoa
  • about 4 c water, divided
  • 2 c spinach or other deep greens
  • 1/2 t salt
  • Shake of nutritional yeast (opt)

Combine 2 c water and greens in blender and blitz the mess out of it. Add enough water to get 4 c liquid. Move the 4 c to a large saucepan. Add salt and bring to boil. While water is warming, rinse quinoa at least twice. When water boils, add quinoa, lower heat and cover. Cook for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork. Add a shake of nutritional yeast if desired. Delish.

Having found a strategy that I can really get down with, I admit to having warmed to St. Patrick’s Day this year. I remind myself as I check the calendar for the next holiday my daughter will be excited about that which stories we tell, which traditions we follow, and what that looks like in our house is up to us. Green food doesn’t have to mean green cotton candy or even green beer, it can mean a day of eating the healthiest real foods we can find and enjoying them as we celebrate with family. Okay Easter, I’m ready now.

Happier Healthier Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, with all the joy, merriment, gatherings, and well, lots of other stuff that comes with it.  I imagine that there are people who remain stress free in the face of all of the everything, but I will readily confess that I am not one of them.  While I love seeing the people I care about, I am not really one for crowds, big gatherings.  It’s fun to be with everyone, in the same place, but after a few hours my little introverted soul comes a little unglued.

BSHolidayIn the past, one of my strategies for managing my little introverted soul in the face of big bruhahas, or bruHoHoHos in this case, was to slip away from the larger group for a few minutes into a quieter space and take a few really deep breaths; sounds pretty zen, right?  What I didn’t mention is that those few deep breaths are typically between ginormous scoops from whatever nibble tray I can find lying about (usually shortly before or after a huge meal that will include a variety of desserts).  THIS is not celebratory eating, folks, this is NOT food as nourishment or tradition.  THIS is food as a crutch.

I can’t speak for anybody else, but my own personal holiday food crutch has, in years past, rewarded me with fluctuations in body weight, that oogie too full (“why did DO that”) feeling, and general lethargy that extends well into late winter (or until all the cookies are gone).  While again, I can’t speak for everybody, I am secure in the notion that I am not the only one who gets a little mixed up about food during the winter holiday cavalcade and so I thought I’d share some suggestions for how to enjoy a healthier holiday season.

1) Remember That Each Meal Is A Decision – One of the things we’ve worked to focus on in our Baby Steps to Better Health series is that each time we eat, every meal, we are making a choice about what we put in our bodies.  It is our decision, every single time.  This choice can become more complicated during the holidays, particularly if you are traveling and playing guest more often than you are playing host, but the reality is that you are still in charge of what you eat.

When it comes to healthy eating, one Bad Apple Doesn’t Always Spoil the Barrel.  So you went to Aunt Carol’s and ate stuff you wouldn’t even have considered putting in your mouth yesterday.  So you had 13 cookies.  So what.  This is not a test of your character.  It’s a decision.  Come next meal time, make a different decision and you will (and probably your stomach will also) feel better.

2) Get The Good Stuff In – Be sure to give yourself opportunities to eat healthful foods.  While you may be indulging in all manner of traditional and favorite foods that aren’t necessarily great for you, this doesn’t mean you can’t make sure you eat some broccoli.  If you are staying with family or friends, offer to do some of the cooking so you can ensure that you are able to prepare and share healthful food that will make you feel well.  A body that is well-nourished will crave less of the foods that are most likely to trip you up.  Some tried and true strategies that fall into the get the good stuff in category:

  • Eat before you go – If you aren’t sure what kind of fare will be served at a gathering OR if you know what it will be an it is something you have been trying to cut back on, eat before you go.  Our first holiday party of the season was hosted by folks we’ve just started to get to know, rather than asking too many questions about food OR puttting myself in the position of being starving and not feeling great about my options, we chose to eat dinner before we left.  The food we ate at the party became a treat – bites of things that looked really great and that we didn’t want to miss.
  • Bring something you want to eat – If you feel it would be acceptable to your host, bring some food to contribute to the event.  I often grab some dip and veggies (i.e. sunflower cheeseartichoke dip, baba ghanoush, baja hummus) as that way I can be sure there will be lots of veggies and something I REALLY enjoy that is also good for me.
  • Load the plate with veggies first – If you are filling your own plate, stack the odds in your favor by helping yourself to the most healthful dishes first – load those veggies on and don’t leave as much room for the things that you can’t resist but probably should.
  • Eat ONE – If there’s a food that IS the holidays to you, eat one.  Eat some.  Have it.  Just make sure you don’t ONLY have that if it is something that isn’t particularly healthful.

3) Change Your Focus – While there’s no question that it can be delightful to prepare, serve, share and enjoy holiday foods, there are so many other aspects of these gathering that I know could benefit from my own attention.  I’ve tried to choose a few folks that I don’t see as often and really try to spend some quality time talking with them, connecting with them, finding fulfillment in other people instead of craving fulfillment in a second piece of pie.  Food is wonderful – you know I love it and I spend SO much time talking about it, but when it comes down to it, I’d rather spend my holiday sitting next to and talking to my sister in person than eating pie, really, I’m serious.

Almond Lemon Jots

As Little Sis told you in her post of some fabulous cookies that include garam masala, that intriguing Indian spice blend, we, like so many of you have a strong Christmas Cookie tradition in our family.  I particularly loved making cookie press cookies with my Mom and Little Sis and sprinkling red and green sugar on top of the various shapes.  So what’s a sugar-busting, gluten free baker to do?  Apparently lots of GF bakers are using almond flour.  Well, almond flour is a bit over the top price -wise, but why not make your own?  Especially in the interest of making a healthier iced lemon cookie!

I placed a handful of raw almonds in the Vita-Mix at a time and ground them until a few chunks were still flying.  You don’t want to go too long or you will create gooey, pre-almond butter.  Then I poured it through a colander to remove the big pieces which I threw back in with some more almonds until I had enough almond flour.  (I used whole almonds, Detoxinista suggests using blanched, slivered almonds, but again… I’m cheap!)

This lot of almond pieces got dumped into a container with sweet potato, rice, raisins and cinnamon for the next morning’s breakfast!

sifting almonds

Now I was ready to adapt Detoxinista’s frosted almond sugar cookie recipe into Almond Lemon Jots.

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, softened (or use butter instead)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 – 2 tsp. lemon zest (I say the more the better!)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Frosting: 2 tablespoons coconut oil, softened
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • pinch of salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together cookie ingredients

    lemon cookie dough - zest

    I doubled the recipe, so I used a LOT of zest.

  3. Drop by Tablespoon-ful onto a baking sheet, lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.
  4. Bake for about 8 minutes at 350F, or until the edges turn golden brown.
  5. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. For the frosting, cream together the coconut oil, honey, lemon zest and salt, until well combined. If the coconut oil starts to melt (it melts at temperatures above 76 degrees), briefly place the mixture in the fridge to help it set.
  7. Frost the cooled cookies, and let them set in the fridge for a more solid-frosting.lemon cookies lemon cookies - done
  I really like these cookies, and both my boys young and young at heart love these cookies.  The original recipe states you can also chill the dough and then cut out shapes by smushing out a bit on the silpat/ parchment and using a cookie cutter.  I’m afraid I don’t have time for pretty this year… I’m so glad to have time for yummy!
We hope you are enjoying this phase of the holidays.  It can be so overwhelming and so hard to stick with dietary goals.  Just remember, every meal and every snack offers another chance to make healthy choices.  Don’t beat yourself up over the slips.  Remember the Baby Steps and which we’ll be getting back to very soon.  Happy Holidays!

Holiday Fudge Pleases Mom & Child…. page 10

Oh me oh my.  For a reforming sugar addict the holidays offer that rare combo of plenty and plenty-good-excuses!  I’m sure I’ve used all of these: It is the holidays after all, right?  Tradition!  Hosts and hostesses to please!  Gift givers to mollify!  There is always January to mend my ways!

Well, perhaps we need not so hastily jump off of the wagon into the piles of sugar that surround us.
(If you want a little motivational anger at what the sugar makers have been doing for the last 80 years to bring us to our sweet, unhealthy knees, check out Little Sis’ link to a sugar timeline.)

But placing anger and worry aside….

What if I told you you could have your fudge and eat it too?  What now Marie Antoinette?  Let them eat fudge!  Vive la reve-luscion!

You can tell I’m enthusiastic about this stuff.   This stuff right here…

fudge b

It doesn’t just look good friends.  Oh yes.  I’m happy about this discovery of a fudge that gets it’s creamy richness from almond butter, not evaporated or condensed milk and 18 pounds of powdered sugar.  I happily swiped, and only slightly adapted this recipe from Susan Powers at Rawmazing

Appropriately, she calls it Holiday Fudge

Should probably stick in Disappearing or Revolutionary but I’m gonna go with

Let Them Eat Holiday Fudge

  • 1 1/4 cups almond butter
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder
  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted (not sure a substitution would work as coconut oil is hard at cooler temps, probably helps firm the fudge)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped ( I used cherries)
  • 1/2 cup dried golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
    The only change I made was that I used 1 cup of pecans and a total of 1 cup mixed cranberries, raisins and dried cherries.  If your crowd is really used to sweet you might want to stick to the original, but we all liked this a lot.

1. Mix almond butter, cacao, agave nectar and coconut oil.

3. Mix in dried cranberries, apricots, raisins, and pecans.

4. Press into 8 x 8 pan and refrigerate until set. Cut into 1 inch squares.

Makes 64, 1-inch pieces.

It’s that simple.

Santa drops by for a taste test.  Don't worry his beard grows fast and will be ready for Christmas.

Santa drops by for a taste test. Don’t worry his beard grows fast and will be ready for Christmas.

Little Sis and I will be satisfying our cravings, while trying to hang on to our health and sanity over the next few posts, by bringing you some other healthier holiday treats.  This one is a keeper!  (Do keep it in the frig or at least chilled to maintain firmness!)  We shared this recipe on Wildcrafting Wedensday – a very cool site!

You can also make your own almond butter – and with the price of almonds from Costco – I’m going to try this out!

Extra holiday eating tip: Eat something very healthy before going to the party.  You won’t be as hungry and so tempted, and you’ll have some broccoli under your belt as well!

This recipe was featured on: