3 Healthy Holiday Treats

Holidays are filled with cheer and family and… sugar. While I am certainly not planning on cutting out every last piece of pie or skipping peppermint hot cocoa all together, it is good to change things up with some healthy options that still feel festive. These first two ideas are so simple they take the stress out of holiday “cooking.”

1. Watermelon “Cookies”

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Change up your yearly cookie decorating with some cute watermelon cutouts. Decorate liberally with mint for an unbelievably awesome combination of flavor.

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2. Yogurt Desserts

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Make a festive dessert with yogurt as a base. I like plain whole milk yogurt since it doesn’t have added sugar. But feel free to use vanilla yogurt and/or sweeten with a little honey. A cherry and mint topping gives it some holiday flair.

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3. Cranberry Goat Cheese Spring Rolls with Spinach and Sweet Potatoes

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If you want to get a little more invested in a party appetizer, try these Spring Rolls. The combination of sweet cranberries with herbed goat cheese and spinach is rounded out by a hearty sweet potato.

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Turkey Bacon Bean Soup

This turkey bacon bean soup is simple and delicious. I really like the combination of black and white beans with the split peas and chick peas, but feel free to change it up or simplify with only one or two types of beans. Homemade soups are a staple for me this time of year. Some foods taste pretty good out of can or a box, but soup is not one of them. I often cook a large batch of soup on the weekend, and pack it into my glass Snapware containers for easy meals during the week. I also find that soup is one of my go-to foods when I am trying to watch calories. I can get that delicious savory flavor and feel full without overdoing the calories. Plus beans are supposed to help you live longer and it is loaded with vegetables, so it is pretty much a win all around.

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Ingredients:

serves 3 (this recipe is easy to double or triple if you want more)

  • 1/4 cup dry black beans
  • 1/4 cup dry split peas
  • 1/4 cup dry chick peas
  • 1/4 cup dry white beans
  • 1 – 14.5 ounce can chicken broth (vegetable or beef broth work great too)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup sweet potato, chopped in cubes
  • 1 cup carrot slices
  • 1/2 cup red onion (or any onion)
  • 6 slices turkey bacon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon basil

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Instructions:

  1. Soak beans for at least 6 hours.
  2. Rinse and bring to a boil with chicken broth and 3 cups water.
  3. Reduce heat slightly (medium to medium high so it still boils lightly).
  4. Add all remaining ingredients and cover, cooking for approximately 45 minutes or until beans are tender.

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Pumpkin Spice Mango Yogurt Pudding

My sister, Christine recently sent me a recipe for a pumpkin smoothie with a banana and Greek yogurt base. This reminded me of a mango sweet potato smoothie I used to make with yogurt. I set out to fuse these recipes into a pumpkin spice mango smoothie and the result was so deliciously creamy that I ate it with a spoon and decided to call it pudding. Get your pumpkin spice fill with this rich pudding that is delicious enough to be a dessert and healthy enough to eat for breakfast.

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Ingredients:

makes 2 servings (It is pretty thick, so I do not recommend doubling as it may not blend properly. If you have a crowd, just make it in batches.)

  • 1 cup whole milk plain yogurt (you can sub in low-fat yogurt, but you will lose some of the richness)
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1 tablespoon honey (use up to 3 tablespoons if you want it really sweet or go without if you are trying to cut out sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • dash of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

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Instructions:

  1. Place all ingredients in Vitamix and blend. You might have better luck starting on a low variable speed and gradually increasing to high speed.

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Coconut Curry Chickpea Salad

This coconut curry chickpea salad recipe feels a little like cheating since the Korma Simmer Sauce provides the main flavor. But who doesn’t like an easy recipe? If you already have chicken breast cooked, this salad can be whipped up in five minutes and it is very satisfying. The first time I made it, I threw some guacamole in, and I would highly recommend this addition.

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Ingredients:

makes 1 serving

  • 3/4 cup canned chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons Korma Simmer Sauce
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 handfuls fresh lettuce or greens of your choice
  • 1/2 cup fully cooked chicken breast slices (check out this soy basil lime baked chicken recipe if you need suggestions on how to cook the chicken)
  • 1 tomato sliced
  • 1 ounce herbed goat cheese
  • optional: sliced avocado or guacamole

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Instructions:

  1. Mix chickpeas with simmer sauce and ground pepper.
  2. Put greens in bowl and top with all ingredients.

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Tomato Cheesy Grits

These tomato cheesy grits are perfect for brunch or dinner. The fresh tomato puree with homegrown basil gives it a delightful taste. We paired it with spicy Italian turkey sausage for a perfect breakfast. I’m sure it would also be delicious with a poached egg or a side of hash browns.

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Ingredients:

serves 2

  • 1 cup tomato (2 medium size tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 5 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking grits
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar is probably my favorite)
  • 1 sprig green onion or chives, chopped

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Instructions:

  1. Blend tomato, red onion, garlic and basil leaves in blender to make a puree.
  2. Pour into saucepan with 1 cup water and salt. Bring to boil.
  3. Slowly add grits, stirring constantly (seriously, don’t stop stirring, you don’t want lumpy grits). Reduce heat to medium as needed to prevent boiling over.
  4. Once grits have thickened (about 5 minutes), add butter, pepper and cheese.
  5. Pour into bowls and top with green onions to serve.

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End of August – Blackberry Ginger Hennessy Cocktail

My husband made this the other night, and it was so good, I wanted to share. Using 1893 Ginger Cola with Hennessy and blackberries created a spiced warm flavor almost reminiscent of fall but still distinctly summerish because of hints of lemon and lime. So we settled on the name, “End of August.” Enjoy.

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Ingredients:

makes 2

  • 1/2 lemon squeezed for juice
  • 1/2 lime squeezed for juice
  • 12-14 blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 drops orange bitters
  • 2 – 1.75 ounce shots of Hennessy (3.5 ounces total)
  • 1 12 ounce can 1893 Ginger Cola (if you can’t find this type, sub with your favorite ginger beer)

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Instructions:

  1. Muddle lemon, lime, blackberries, sugar, and bitters. I find it works best to muddle half the ingredients in each glass for even distribution.
  2. Pour a 1.75 ounce shot of Hennessy in each glass and split the ginger cola between the two glasses. Garnish with lime and serve.

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Strawberry Peach Cheesecake Brownies

Yes, you read that right: strawberry peach cheesecake brownies. I know it’s a lot of calories, but this is a decision you won’t regret. Imagine taking a cheesecake topped with fresh ripe peaches and smashing it into a pan of brownies. Then add strawberries just to make it a little extra pretty. Now imagine it’s still warm from the oven. Now imagine that this recipe isn’t really much harder than whipping up a pan of brownies from scratch. Okay, that is enough temptation. As a side note, this is a great way to use up strawberries that are still edible, but slightly past their prime.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs (1 for the cheesecake part, 1 for the brownie mix)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (if you don’t want an intense cocoa flavor, use only 1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced (reserve half for topping)
  • 1 fresh peach, sliced thinly (reserve half for topping)

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Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9 inch pie plate or 8×8 baking dish.
  2. Mix 1 egg, cream cheese, and vanilla together then slowly add powdered sugar until fully mixed and set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, melt butter and combine with 1 egg and sugar.
  4. Add flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and salt.
  5. Mix half of strawberries and peaches into chocolate mix and pour into baking dish.
  6. Pour cream cheese mix over chocolate mix and and partially mix with a spoon or knife.
  7. Lay remaining fruit slices on top and bake for about 40 minutes.

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Cranberry Goat Cheese Spring Rolls with Spinach and Sweet Potatoes

Saute your cranberry spinach goat cheese salad and turn it into a colorful spring roll. As with a lot of my recipes, the original inspiration stemmed from a list of things I needed to use up: sweet potatoes, half a box of spinach, garlic herb goat cheese I had purchased for another project and ended up not using, and a package of spring roll wrappers that has been in my fridge longer than I care to disclose. I did make a quick trip to the store for the cranberries and I’m glad I included them in the recipe. These can be prepped a few hours before a party and stored in the refrigerator as long as you separate them so they don’t stick to each other.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chopped sweet potatoes
  • 4 big handfuls spinach (I haven’t figured out the secret to measuring spinach yet so interpret as you see fit. I could weigh it, but are you really going to get out a kitchen scale?)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (I keep it peeled in the freezer and then you can grate it easily with a zester)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh green onions chopped
  • 1 cup dried, sweetened cranberries
  •  4 oz. garlic herb goat cheese (I got mine from Aldi). If you have plain, just add some garlic powder and Italian seasoning to give it some flavor.
  • 10-12 spring roll wrappers (I used ten, but my rolls were probably on the larger side.)

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Instructions:

  1. Chop sweet potatoes and boil for about 10 minutes or until tender.
  2. Drain water and add to saute pan with spinach, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and coconut oil.
  3. Cook on medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until spinach cooks down.
  4. Turn off heat and mix in basil, green onions, and cranberries. Let the mix cool.
  5. One at a time, wet a spring roll wrapper in water for 10-15 seconds (see photo) and place on towel. Fill with mix and add a line of goat cheese. Roll as shown and place on plate. Keep the rolls separate so they don’t stick to each other. In other words, don’t make a cute little stack like I did for the photo.
  6. Chill in refrigerator before serving.

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Spiced Peach Pie Cocktail

This spiced rum cocktail is flavored with peach, cloves, and vanilla for a refreshing summer drink. I made this on a whim and fell in love with it.

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Ingredients:

serves 1

  • 2 ounces Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 fresh peach chopped (reserve 1 slice for garnish)
  • dash vanilla
  • dash cloves
  • 6 ounces carbonated water

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Instructions:

  1. Muddle all ingredients except carbonated water.
  2. Add carbonated water and pour into glass garnished with peach slice.
  3. Repeat as necessary.

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Basil Crab Cakes with Chunky Marinara

These basil crab cakes have a delicious, buttery flavor that pairs well with a zesty marinara sauce. They were pretty easy to throw together as an appetizer, and once you know the basic recipe, feel free to customize them according to your palate.

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Ingredients:

Crab Cake:

  • 1 – 14 ounce package flake style imitation crab
  • 1/4 cup red onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup sweet red pepper, minced
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) jalapeño, minced finely
  • 2 tablespoons basil, chopped finely
  • 30 Club crackers crumbled (you can also use Ritz, but I would stay away from Saltines or oyster crackers)
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I used 1 tablespoon of garlic mayo and 1 tablespoon of sriracha mayo since I had them on hand, but plain works just fine too)
  • 4 eggs
  • juice of 1/4 lemon squeezed
  • smoked sea salt
  • black pepper
  • cayenne pepper

Marinara Sauce:

  • 1 – 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup sweet red pepper, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon red onion, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped finely
  • juice of 1/4 lemon squeezed
  • 2 Roma tomatoes chopped
  • dash of cayenne pepper to taste

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Instructions:

  1. Chop imitation crab and place in large bowl.
  2. Chop and add all other ingredients for crab cakes (save time later by chopping the extra red pepper, red onion, and basil you will need for the marinara and setting them aside.
  3. Stir crab cakes until mixed.
  4. Lightly coat skillet with olive oil and heat to medium or medium high heat.
  5. Form crab cake and gently place in skillet (you can make them any size, but they will be a little harder to handle if you make them too big).
  6. Flip gently after 2-4 minutes or when golden brown (if you want to serve them warm, keep them in a warm oven until everything is ready).
  7. Mix all marinara ingredients to make a thick sauce.
  8. Top with sauce and a sprig of basil to serve.

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It also made a great leftover breakfast sandwich with an egg on an English muffin. Unfortunately, I was out of marinara, but a little ketchup and sriracha mayo still tasted pretty good.

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