Healthy Holiday Recipes

This article was published as my Holistic Outlook column in The Times Herald Record.

Here are six recipes to help make your holiday delicious and healthy. I love sharing the gift of health, while letting people know how easy it is to make and enjoy tasty treats, without guilt!

Raw Cranberry Relish
A change from super-sweet jellied cranberries, this side dish is not only packed with nutrients, but it is refreshing and beautiful, too.

2 cups of fresh cranberries
*1/2 cup xylitol, or more to taste
1 navel orange, preferably organic so you can use the peel too
1 Granny Smith apple

Cut the orange into chunks. Core the apple but leave the peel. Combine the cranberries, xylitol, and orange pieces in a food processor or blender. Just pulse, don’t liquify. When finely chopped and blended, add the apples and pulse a few more times to break down the apples. This keeps well in the fridge for a few days, but is at its prettiest if served immediately.

Raw Chocolate Mousse

Your guests will never guess the secret ingredient in this recipe, but it’s what turns this treat from an indulgence to a virtue!

6 dates
1 ripe avocado
*1/4 cup xylitol or agave
*1/4 cup raw cacao powder (unsweetened cocoa powder will also work)
1 T vanilla extract

Soak dates in water for half an hour, then remove. Process them with sweetener and vanilla until smooth. Mash the avocado and add it, processing just until mixed. Add the cacao and process again, adding a little water if necessary to adjust the texture.
That’s it! You’re done!

There are so many ways to use this recipe. You can serve it in dessert dishes on its own, top it with coconut, grated chocolate, berries, or nuts. Put it in a pie crust for chocolate pie. You can easily double or triple it, as well.

Chocolate Truffles
You know those fabulously delicious and fabulously extravagant raw chocolate truffles you see in health food stores? Want to know how to make them at home? It’s really simple, and while these are not “diet” food, they are food: healthy, unprocessed and good for you in so many ways. So, enjoy!

*1/4 cup raw cacao powder
6-8 pitted dates, depending on how sweet you want them
*3 Tablespoons coconut oil (the kind that is solid at room temp)
1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews or walnuts
pinch of salt

Put everything in food processor and pulse until it is blended into a fine mix. I use a 1.5 Tablespoon cookie scoop to form the balls. If the mix is too dry, you can add some more coconut oil.  Do not pack them too tightly; you want them to cohere, but retain some lightness.  This makes about 10 truffles.

You can also play with the recipe. The ones in the photo have 2 T of coconut flakes added in, or you could use the coconut to roll the truffles in after they are formed. You could also roll them in finely chopped nuts, cacao nibs or even chocolate sprinkles.  Another variation is to add different flavored extracts or oils to the basic recipe, like orange or peppermint.

Or use my Chocolate Dipping Sauce and coat them in even more raw chocolate-y deliciousness!

Chocolate Dipping Sauce
Blend 1/3 cup raw cacao powder* with 1/4 cup melted coconut oil*. Add maple syrup, agave, or stevia* (for no blood sugar impact) to taste. Adjust ingredients if necessary to desired consistency.

I foresee this being my go-to holiday gift this year. I love sharing the gift of health, while letting people know how easy it is to make and enjoy delicious treats, without guilt!

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
The traditional way is to bake the seeds in the oven, but I like to make them in a pan.  It’s so easy: just pour some olive oil on the bottom of a heavy skillet and add your washed and dried seeds when it’s heated.  Add seasonings (I used cumin, hot pepper and a little Himalayan sea salt, but you can use garlic or onion powder, curry or chili powder – use your imagination), then shake and stir until they’re done to your liking. About 20 minutes on medium heat is when you should start checking.

If you want to make them in the oven, rinse and dry them, and then toss them with a little oil, salt and spices.  Lay them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet. The lower the oven temperature, the longer it will take. Figure about an hour at 300 degrees, but check while they’re cooking. You want to take them out as soon as they start to turn brown.

By the way, you can also eat the seeds from butternut, acorn, and other winter squashes.

Pumpkin Chai Cookies
This recipe combines two of my favorite things: pumpkin, and chai. It’s gluten-free and sugar-free. Replacing sugar with xylitol is so simple. Xylitol is the same texture and virtually the same sweetness as sugar, and can be used 1:1 in any recipe. Xylitol has many health benefits: not only minimal impact on blood sugar, but anti-microbial and alkalinizing.

2 1/2 cups gluten free baking mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened (I always use either ghee, or butter from grass fed cows)
1 1/2 cups xylitol*
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

a few tablespoons of butter
Approximately 2 tablespoons strong chai (I brew a few chai tea bags in about 1/3 cup of boiling water)
a few tablespoons of xylitol*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and xylitol. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool cookies, then drizzle glaze with fork.
To Make Glaze: Melt butter in a saucepan, combine xylitol, chai, and 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir until it all blends together. Let cool a little bit to drizzling consistency. You can start with just a little bit of chai, and add as needed, to achieve the right flavor and consistency.  I just made enough to dribble a little bit on each cookie. It’s a great flavor combo!

*’d ingredients are available from my office – just ask!

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