Fresh holiday fare

We love gravy and green bean casserole as much as the next guy, but this Thanksgiving why not share at least one new, better-for-everyone dish? Nutrition Counselor with PPG Integrative Medicine Lou Ann Binkley, RN, makes small healthful adjustments to bring some added nutrition alongside crowd-pleasing flavor. “I take a tray of beautiful strawberries dipped in dark chocolate to almost every holiday get together,” she said. “It looks pretty, and I know I can enjoy one for my dessert. Try dipping the chocolate-covered tips in finely chopped pistachios for a festive look. This was the first dessert to vanish at last year’s Thanksgiving and the little ones had some fruit with their chocolate!”

Here is a generous sampling of some of Lou Ann’s other suggestions for delicious, balanced recipes to cook up this holiday season. Who knows, you might just find a new favorite food tradition.

Sweet Potato Casserole

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3.5 pounds sweet potatoes (about 5 medium), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon packed coconut palm sugar (optional)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  1. Chop potatoes into cubes, put them in a large pot, cover with water and boil until soft when pierced with a fork. Drain, and return to the pot.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Mash the sweet potatoes. Add the nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Whip with an electric mixer or an immersion blender until smooth (if you don't have one, you can do this step by hand—it'll just take a little muscle!).
  4. For the Topping, mix the coconut palm sugar (if using), salt, pecans and cinnamon in a bowl.
  5. Spread the sweet potato mixture in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle pecan mixture over the potatoes. Bake until hot and beginning to brown around the edges, about 15-20 minutes.

Serves 12

(Nutritional information: 90 Calories; 2.5g Fat; 0.3g Saturated Fat; 16.5g Carbohydrates; 5.8g Sugar; 106.9mg Sodium; 2g Fiber; 1.3g Protein)

Sweet Potatoes with Sage and Goat Cheese

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1½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon organic extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
Salt, to taste\
Pepper, to taste
¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
¼ cup chopped walnuts, toasted

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In large bowl, combine cubed potatoes, sage, olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat.
  3. Transfer potatoes to a greased baking sheet. Bake in the 450-degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until tender, stirring halfway through.
  4. Remove from oven and transfer to a serving bowl. Toss with goat cheese and toasted walnuts.

Serves 4

(Nutritional information: Calories 170; Total Fat 10g; Saturated Fat 2g; Cholesterol 5mg; Sodium 25mg; Carbohydrates 19g; Fiber 3g; Protein 3g)

Crustless Pumpkin Pie

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1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 12-ounce can full fat coconut milk (found in the Asian section of the grocery)           
3 egg whites or 2 organic eggs                                                                                             
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar or honey (You can also use Stevia, to taste. A little goes a long way)
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Spray a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray.
  3. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Spread evenly in pie pan.
  4. Bake in the 400-degree oven for 15 minutes.
  5. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 45 minutes.
  6. Cool before serving.

Serves 8

(Nutritional information: Calories 86; Total Fat 1gm;  Sat Fat <0.5gm;  Protein 4gm; Fiber 2.0 gm; Carbs 15gm)

Whipped Cream Coconut Milk
(To serve with Crustless Pumpkin Pie)

1 can full fat organic coconut milk (Found in Asian section of grocery)
Dash cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 packet Stevia or 2 teaspoons organic sugar

  1. Place coconut milk in the fridge for a few hours or, if time allows, over night.
  2. Scoop out all the thickened coconut cream on the top, and save the coconut water on the bottom to use in a drink or smoothie. Add cinnamon, vanilla, and Stevia or organic sugar and whip it in a mixing bowl until it thickens. 
  3. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Apple Tart with Pecan Crust    

4-5 medium Jonagold or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced ⅛-inch thick
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon arrowroot or organic cornstarch
1 tablespoon honey or 2 packets of Stevia
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1½ cups pecans
1 egg
1 tablespoon coconut flour (can use organic regular flour as well)
⅛ teaspoon Celtic sea salt

Syrup (Optional)
True maple syrup
½ teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. For the Filling, in a large bowl, toss apple slices, lemon juice, arrowroot or cornstrach, honey and cinnamon.
  3. For the Crust, place pecans in a food processor and pulse until the texture of coarse gravel. Pulse in egg, coconut flour and salt until mixture forms a ball.
  4. Grease a 9-inch tart pan. Using your hands, press crust onto bottom and up sides of tart pan.
  5. Fan apples out on top of uncooked crust, forming a circle. (I like to leave the peel on and alternate red and green apples to make it pretty.) Layer more apples over circle and in its center.
  6. Cover the tart with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 45-70 minutes, or until juices are bubbling. Remove foil and cook uncovered for 5-10 more minutes.
  7. For the Syrup, warm the maple syrup and add cinnamon.  Serve this warm cinnamon syrup on the side of the tart. If people want their apple tart sweeter, they can drizzle a little on their piece.

Serves 6-8

Gluten-Free Pear Cranberry Crisp

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4 large Bartlett pears (can substitute Granny Smith apples) (about 2 pounds), peeled, cored and sliced into small bite-size pieces
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
⅓ cup honey
2 tablespoons arrowroot starch or 3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup almond meal or almond flour
½ cup chopped walnuts
⅓ cup lightly packed organic brown sugar or coconut palm sugar
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3 tablespoons plain yogurt (Greek or regular)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9-by-9-inch baking dish, mix together the pears (or apples), cranberries, honey, arrowroot or cornstarch, lemon juice, ginger and cinnamon.
  2. For the Topping, add the butter to a small saucepan over medium heat. Swirl the pan by the handle often so the butter doesn’t splatter.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the oats, almond meal or flour, walnuts, brown sugar and salt. Mix in the Greek yogurt and browned butter (melted butter). Stir until all of the flour is incorporated and the mixture is moistened throughout.
  4. Dollop spoonfuls of the oat mixture over the filling and use your fingers to break up the mixture until it is evenly distributed (no need to pack it down). Bake in the 350-degree oven for 55 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling around the edges, the top is turning lightly golden and most of the cranberries have burst. Let the crisp rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6-8

Brussels Sprouts with Mixed Vegetables

3/4 pound Brussels sprouts*, preferably large
2 small red onions
Yellow and 
zucchini squash, to taste, cut into large pieces
Broccoli and cauliflower, to taste, cut into 1-2-inch pieces
1 cup baby carrots
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Remove tough outer leaves from Brussels sprouts and cut crosswise into 3-4 rounds, about 1/2-inch thick. Halve onions and cut crosswise into very thin slices. Place all vegetables on the baking sheet. Spread them in a thick layer and drizzle with oil.
  3. Bake vegetables for 15- 20 minutes, periodically stirring, mixing in any browned bits and rearranging the vegetables in a thick layer. Roast until Brussels sprouts are almost tender, about another 10-15 minutes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve.

Serves 4

(Nutritional information: 120 Calories; 4g Fat; 0.5g Saturated Fat; 16g Carbohydrates; 4g Protein; 6g Fiber; 180mg Sodium)

*Keep the sprouts simple. Often touted as one of the most hated vegetables, Brussels sprouts can be highly underrated. Give them another chance. Roasting evaporates excess liquid from the sprouts, making them pleasingly firm, while caramelizing their natural sugar for a bit of sweetness. As added incentive, cruciferous vegetables, like Brussels sprouts, are a source of isothiocyanates, a class of phytochemicals that may help our bodies detoxify undesirable compounds, possibly stopping cancer before it starts.

Greek Green Beans        

¼ cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 16-ounce bag frozen green beans    
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 cup canned diced tomatoes (can use fresh if in season) (optional)

  1. Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil. Add green beans and cover.
  2. Steam the beans on low-medium heat until tender, about 45 minutes. If you’d like, add the tomatoes to the pan for the last 15-20 minutes of cooking.

Serves 4

(Nutritional information: Calories 30; Total Fat 1gm; Saturated Fat 0gm; Carbohydrates 6; Protein 2g; Sodium 60mg)

Apple, Pecan and Goat Cheese Quinoa Salad

2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 cup quinoa
2 apples, diced
1/3 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
2 cups fresh spinach or kale, roughly chopped
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese (optional)

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup or Stevia
1 tablespoon dried mustard or 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

  1. Bring water or vegetable broth to a boil in a small pot. Add quinoa, lower to a simmer and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes, checking periodically, until all water/broth is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the other ingredients. Chop the apples, pecans, and spinach or kale.
  3. Make the Dressing by combining all ingredients in a mason jar with a lid and shaking to combine, or by whisking ingredients in a bowl.
  4. Once quinoa is done cooking, combine quinoa with apples, pecans, spinach or kale and goat cheese (optional). Toss with Dressing and serve.

Serves 6

(Nutritional information: Calories 297; Fat 12.7g; Carbohydrates 22g; Protein 13.6g; Cholesterol 25mg; Sodium 148mg; Fiber 5.2g; Sugars 5.9g)

For the inspiration to stay on track during the holidays, Lou Ann turns to one of Parkview’s favorite authorities in wellness and eating for health. “I love Dr. Ann Kulze’s holiday health tips, and hope you find them helpful as well.” 

Dr. Ann’s Holiday Health Guide

The good news is that the "holiday 10" that is frequently touted is a myth – in reality, most Americans gain around 1 pound. The bad news is that studies show the weight gained over the winter holiday season isn't lost during the rest of the year. Overtime, this yearly pound creep can have a devastating impact on your health, as even 5 pounds of weight gain can increase your risk of a number of chronic diseases, including high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Keep in mind that it's much easier to prevent weight gain than to get the pounds off after the fact. Here is my best advice for enjoying the holidays without wrecking your health.

Stay away from foods that increase your appetite.
A.K.A. "The Great White Hazards" – white flour products, white rice, white potatoes, sugars/sweets. Choose whole grains and beans as the alternative to the starchy white stuff. Whole grains and beans are super healthy and provide long-lasting appetite suppression.

Don't drink your calories! 
Liquid calories (soda, fruit drinks, fruit juices, mixers) tend to be very fattening. 1.) Liquid sugars elicit rapid surges of blood glucose and insulin that perpetuate appetite and put the body in fat storage mode. 2.) Liquid calories provide no bulk in the tummy.

Be sure to have some protein at each meal.
Protein is nature's diet pill. The digestion of protein gives rise to a steady, more prolonged blood glucose level, which translates to less hunger and more energy! The best proteins are fish, shellfish, skinless poultry, beans, wild game, soy, omega 2 eggs, nuts/seeds, and low-fat dairy products.

Fill your tummy up first with foods that have lots of bulk but minimal calories.
For example, "big, yet skinny" fruits and veggies. Physical bulk in the GI tract provides great appetite suppression. At a holiday cocktail party, go straight to the fruit and veggie platter first and really indulge; use high fat/oil based dips sparingly. If available, make bean dips (hummus) your first choice.

Control your portions!
Portion sizes for nearly all foods served both at home and at restaurants have dramatically increased over the past 10 years. Unfortunately, it is well documented that as humans we are hard wired to consume all of the food put in front us and we are poor at truly assessing whether we are full or not. A very valuable "visual" rule of thumb is to never consume more than the equivalent of your hands cupped together at any one sitting (with the exception of veggies, which you can consume in unlimited amounts).

Don’t let yourself get hungry!
It takes less calories to prevent hunger than it does to deal with it once it occurs. Always consume 3 meals a day with between-meal snacks as necessary to keep your hunger at bay. Withholding food for several hours or more leads to hypoglycemia (excessive hunger), slows down your metabolism and primes the pancreas to release extra fat-storing insulin when you finally eat. Additionally, true hunger elicits a primal fear and anxiety response that sets you up for dietary indiscretions. Have a snack an hour before you arrive at a holiday gathering. My top pick would be a small handful of nuts along with a piece of fruit (apple) or fresh raw veggies (handful of carrots) dipped in hummus.

Make exercise a priority! 
It’s a fantastic safeguard against weight gain and helps compensate for holiday indulgences. It’s also the perfect tonic for the stress and anxiety we all experience during the holiday season (many people binge when stressed).

Be prudent in satisfying your sweet tooth.

Fresh fruit salad, a piece of high quality dark chocolate or a cup of “real” hot cocoa are delicious and nutritious. If you prefer other goodies, be mindful of your portions.

Indulge in alcohol in moderation.
Over indulgence loosens inhibitions and increases the risk of dietary indiscretion. To add insult to injury, too much alcohol in the evening triggers excessive morning hunger and cravings for starchy junk foods for many. And of course the calories in alcohol can really add up!

Get your beauty rest!
Provocative new science reveals that sleep deprivation enhances appetite, and increases cravings for diet-sabotaging foods like sweets, chips, breads and pasta. Late-night partying is a risk for expanding waistlines along multiple fronts! Additionally, sleep deprivation zaps energy and enthusiasm for exercise.

Avoid mindless eating
Approach every meal, every snack and every party mindfully. Don’t linger over the buffet table or hover over the hors d’oeuvres nibbling as you engage in conversation. Pre-plate everything (meals, hors d’oeuvres, dessert etc.). We tend to eat less if we can view it all before we start.

– Dr. Ann Kulze


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