The Jewish festival of lights is filled with potato pancakes, jelly doughnuts and chocolate. Instead of making it a holiday celebration of calories, offer a variety of eye-appealing, delicious foods that friends and family will enjoy —including a lighter take on the traditional doughnut. Read more
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When I think of delicious Middle Eastern food, I think of the Israeli-born British chef Yotam Ottolenghi. Ottolenghi captured my heart and taste buds years ago with that gorgeous photo of roasted eggplant with buttermilk and pomegranate on the cover of Plenty, and now my kitchen shelves are lined with his cookbooks. That eggplant dish was the first recipe of his I made, and it was the first time I’d ever used za’atar spice.
Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice made up of dried thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, sumac and salt. Deliciously nutty, it’s perfect sprinkled on roasted vegetables and meats or on yogurt or olive oil as a dip for pita.
Inspired by Ottolenghi and the upcoming holidays, I decided to make a Middle Eastern spiced quinoa salad, complete with eggplant, pomegranate and pistachios, topped with a lemony za’atar vinaigrette. This dish is vegan friendly and gluten-free to accommodate all your holiday guests. Looking for a creamy, salty component to round out the dish? Add some crumbled feta cheese on top for a vegetarian version.
Your family and friends will appreciate this flavorful, lightened-up holiday side dish. Packed with plant-based protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium and antioxidants like vitamin C, this salad is brimming with nutrition and flavor. Plus, it’s easy to make the day before to save you time and sanity on the actual holiday. Read more
’Tis the season for overindulgence — holiday parties, family gatherings, piles of cookies and candy all over the office. And while it can be difficult (if not downright impossible) to avoid all those temptations, you can help offset some of the negative health effects of straying from your normal healthy diet. The secret weapon? Exercise.
A 2013 study found that just one week of eating 50 percent more calories than normal can impair insulin sensitivity. But that research was based on people who were sedentary. So researchers at the University of Michigan decided to test the same scenario — but this time using lean, active adults as subjects. “In conditions of excess food, there is more circulating fat interfering with the normal function of tissues that are not supposed to have fat (like muscles and the liver),” explains Alison C. Ludzki, first author on the study. But if you stay active, you may ameliorate some of that damage. Read more
These festive sweets are ideal for a holiday cookie swap, and they make great hostess gifts too. If you’re having trouble deciding on just one recipe, go ahead and make them all — it’s totally doable, since each recipe requires just 20 minutes of prep or less. Keep a few for yourself, then bundle the rest in gift bags for your friends and family to enjoy. Holiday “shopping” doesn’t get much easier than that. The fact that they’re all on the lighter side? Consider it a bonus.
No-Bake Chewy Truffle Cookies
Embrace the opportunity to give your oven a rest. These chewy, no-bake truffles are loaded with sweet dried dates bound together by cocoa powder, reduced-fat peanut butter, and a little bit of butter and honey (instead of the traditional combination of milk and sugar).
Merry as they may be to many, for those of us who try to eat healthy and keep our weight under control, the holidays can be brutal. We step on the scale, cookie crumbs barely brushed from our lips, and watch as the pounds tick up into the danger zone. Ho-ho-how did this happen to us again this year?
Of course, we know how it happened. We made a few too many trips to the snack table, drank more eggnog than we knew was good for us and indulged a little too enthusiastically at family dinnertime. The good news is that it all tasted delicious and we enjoyed it in the company of family and friends. The bad news is that feeling festive as we eat those holiday delicacies doesn’t make them any less fattening — for proof, just look at Santa.
Sure, we’ll resolve to be better next year: “Lose weight and eat healthier” is penned in at the No. 1 spot on our New Year’s resolution lists every year. But what if we could do something to start the year without all the disadvantages of those holiday pounds?
Writing in the Washington Post, nutrition expert Jae Berman offers 11 (count them!) tips for keeping the pounds at bay over the holidays. Her suggestions include eating a small balanced meal before you go to a holiday gathering and eating your vegetables and drinking water once you’re there. Savor every bite, don’t drink too much alcohol, bring snacks in your bag to make sure you don’t get super hungry between meals (and then go crazy heaping your plate when dinner is served), she advises, and don’t forget to exercise.
Possibly Berman’s most-important piece of advice? Don’t beat yourself up for the moments you fall short. “Be kind to yourself and give yourself a break,” she writes. “Acknowledge the successes.” Read more
Give a gift that’s thoughtful, creative and affordable. Whether you’re presenting them to relatives or toting them along as hostess gifts, these homemade treats are sure to please.
Pack a beautiful jar of this natural sweetener along with some loose-leaf tea or a loaf of freshly baked bread.
Curried Lentil Soup Jar
Tuck all the necessary ingredients for a warming soup into a pretty jar and jot down the cooking instructions on a note card. Or, try a sweeter take on the jar motif with Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies.
Customize these perfectly portioned chocolate treats with whatever flavorings your loved ones adore. Popular suggestions include chopped nuts, crushed candy or a dusting of quality unsweetened cocoa powder. Read more
As much as we love baked Brie wrapped in phyllo dough, the best-executed holiday cocktail hours consist of light, refreshing bites that anticipate the meal ahead — without spoiling it completely. If there’s a creamy, bubbling-hot dip on the table, it should come as no surprise when your meticulously arranged crudite platter goes untouched and, worst of all, your guests are too stuffed to enjoy the main event. Small bites that are not only light but also quick and easy to make are best for everyone in attendance — especially the host — so choose recipes that require no more than 20 minutes of prep work (the less time, the better). Here are five finger foods you can count on to hit the mark at your upcoming soiree.
Vegetarian Spinach-Walnut Pate (pictured at top)
This creamy, spinach-packed appetizer spreads like pate, and the tart bursts of pomegranate seeds remind us of caviar. Set it out with an array of fresh vegetables and crackers, for dipping.
The holiday season has become so hectic and overscheduled that finding a night to throw a dinner party or cocktail soiree has become nearly impossible. One solution is hosting a laid-back holiday open house, which allows guests to come and go as they please after crossing some holiday shopping off their lists. These shindigs run for about four hours during a weekend afternoon, and the flexibility can help minimize holiday stress for the host and guests alike. Plus, typical open-house fare is cocktails and light bites, which means you won’t bust a pant button on your way out. Use these tips and recipes to help you host a tasty and healthy open house this holiday season. Cheers!
Keeping Things Light
Delicious and healthy can go hand in hand if you follow these tips.
Minimize fried goodies: There are many finger foods and apps to choose that don’t need to be fried.
Add color: Select recipes with seasonal fruits and veggies for gorgeous eye appeal. Fruits and veggies also tend to be light in calories.
Go for lean protein: Choose lean cuts of beef, pork, chicken, and turkey to help keep foods healthier, or opt for fish like salmon or tuna (to boost Omega-3s) and shellfish like shrimp and crab.
Offer small plates: Eating off smaller-sized plates means less food (or at least more trips to the buffet table to get the same amount of food). Instead of 9-inch dinner plates, offer smaller sized dishes.
Use a jigger: To keep calories from alcohol under control and prevent guests from getting overserved, use a jigger to measure alcohol instead of “eyeballing it” when making cocktails.
Offer low- and no-calorie beverages: Serve unsweetened iced tea, hot tea and coffee, and sparkling water with a twist of fruit as low-cal options. Read more
Layer after layer of warm cheesy potatoes — it’s pretty much a classic definition for comfort food. Here, buttery yellow-skinned potatoes and thickly sliced mushrooms are drenched in a 10-minute cream sauce and sprinkled with rich blue cheese.
In past decades, scalloped potatoes were on the dinner rotation with other casseroles. But these Scalloped Potatoes with Blue Cheese and Mushrooms have been updated for modern tastes, and they feature a few tricks that make them lighter than the cream-drenched “covered dishes” of the past. Here’s what I stirred up:
Yukon Gold Potatoes
These thin-skinned potatoes taste buttery even without the addition of any dairy. Leaving the skins on ups the flavor and nutrition.
Your grandma probably didn’t add blue cheese to her hot dish; using this umami-rich cheese packs intense flavor throughout the recipe, with the use of only a half-cup of cheese.
Baby Bella Mushrooms
Also known as “cremini,” these meaty mushrooms are sliced thick to give them solid structure, making the scalloped potatoes hearty enough to serve as a meatless meal. Also, mushrooms contain vitamin D, which may help improve your mood as daytime sunshine becomes sparse. Read more
Have you ever hosted a holiday feast and genuinely enjoyed the gathering as much as your guests did? It can be a reality — with a little help from your friends. During the holidays, many of the top food allergens — especially gluten, dairy, eggs and tree nuts — appear throughout the meal. This year, we’re turning the tables on guests and preparing them with these five easy tips to make this season’s holiday feast fun, and safe from allergies, for everyone.
1. Be prepared.
Avoid anxiety by giving the host a heads-up about any food allergies or intolerances the moment you receive the invitation. Ask if you can bring your favorite dish or dessert. It’s an opportunity to share not only the gift of food, but also your personal food memories and family traditions.
2. Be generous.
If you approach the gathering from a place of gratitude rather than just focusing on the food, your experience will shift. How often do you get the chance to be with those you love or meet charming new people? Think of everyone you get to spend time with, the laughter and the all-too-rare, real-life interactions. Invaluable. Read more