Here we go! In the past, as the holidays approached with their myriad of eating occasions, I always felt like I was on a slippery slope and gaining those extra 5-10 pounds was inevitable.

I have recently been able (by the grace of God) to shed about 75 pounds by reining in my indulgences and working diligently to get new, healthier habits in place. So this year, I felt even more apprehensive about how to navigate through countless seasonal treats without undermining all that hard work.

I always thought the only way to avoid that dreaded number on the scale on January 2was serious deprivation. BOY, was I wrong! I have found, much to my delight that good, healthy food doesn’t have to be boring, or feel like deprivation at all! Au contraire!

This year I am trying to think of different ways to use familiar holiday ingredients by giving them an entirely different twist. So, before I get to that post-holiday cuisine, let me share a few of my healthy holiday recipes with you! For example, instead of a green bean casserole, how about making a fresh green bean salad that has all the colors of Christmas? Here’s how:

  • Steam a pound of haricots verts (I get them at Sam’s) until they are just tender (about 8 min).
  • Put them in ice water immediately to stop the cooking and set the bright green color.
  • Cut into 1 ½” lengths.
  • Add about 6 Campari tomatoes, cored, seeded (cut in half and use a melon baller to scoop out the core and seeds), and cut into 1/8’s, some slivered red onion (to taste) and fresh herbs, such as basil or thyme.
  • Then mix with a balsamic vinaigrette of your choice and arrange on platter.
  • Sprinkle the whole thing with some feta cheese. Beautiful and so yummy!

Or, how about replacing the traditional mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower and caramelized onion? Caramelized onion will make (almost) anything taste better!

  • To caramelize the onion:
    • Place a large sliced sweet onion in large skillet with 2 t. of olive oil and 1 t. butter.
    • Season with salt and pepper and cook low and slow for 30-45 minutes.
    • Don’t get in a hurry – the heavenly flavor comes from that beautiful color that is developing!
    • They should be caramel colored when done. Set aside. I find it hard not to just dive into the bowl!
  • For mashed cauliflower:
    • Cut a head of cauliflower into florets and steam until very done. (I steam because I want them very soft, but not waterlogged!)
    • Transfer to food processor with 2 or 3 wedges of Laughing Cow cheese. I use Creamy Swiss.
    • Season with salt and pepper.
    • Puree until very smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.
    • Now, stir in those onions you set aside.
    • And to add that little something – sprinkle a tiny bit of nutmeg on top. Oh My!!

And, now, for that post-holiday cuisine! In my former life, pizza was definitely the relief my taste buds called for after eating all the turkey and traditional “stuffing” I could stand. This year it will still most certainly be pizza, but again, the humble “cauli” comes to the rescue in my Cauliflower Crust Pizza! I love, love, love this recipe! It is my most requested healthy recipe ever! Allow me to walk you through the steps!

  • Assemble the ingredients you will need for the crust: cauliflower, shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan cheese, garlic, egg, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper and salt.

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I will give measurements for one 9 inch pizza, which is 1 serving, but if you share even a bite of this, you’ll wish you had made more!

  • Get the oven turned on to 450 degrees.
  • Cut a medium to large head of cauliflower in half. You will be “ricing” it by rough chopping it and pulsing it in a food processor, or skip the rough chopping and use the humble box grater to do a course grate – just watch your knuckles! When properly done, it will look like, you guessed it – rice!

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  • Place the “rice” in a microwavable bowl and cook uncovered for 8 minutes. Don’t add water. There is enough steam to cook it perfectly. This is the key to a crust that doesn’t turn out soupy!
  • Now, measure out 1 cup of the cooked cauli into a medium mixing bowl and allow it to cool a bit. (You will have enough for another crust if you want to make 2, or just put the rest in the frig and save for another day.)
  • Add ½ cup mozzarella, 2 t. grated parmesan, 1 t. minced garlic, 1 egg, 1 t. Italian seasoning, ¼ t. crushed red pepper and ½ t. salt. Mix it all together with a fork.
  • Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, then dump the mixture in the middle and pat it into a 9 inch circle with your hands. Not too perfect, please – you want it to have that rustic feel!

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  • Into the oven for 15 minutes while you prepare the toppings of your choice. (Below are some of my favs!)

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  • I spray a non-stick skillet and lightly sauté some slivered red onion, red pepper and baby portabella mushrooms.
  • Remove from skillet and drain on a paper towel, spray the pan again, throw in a big handful of baby spinach and cook until it is wilted and the moisture is gone. Control the moisture in the toppings – you will have a beautifully crisp crust and don’t want to ruin it with wet toppings!

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  • Pull the crust out of the oven and turn the broiler on.
  • Pile on the toppings! Spinach on the bottom, then arrange the rest over the spinach.
  • Now, sprinkle with 2 T. goat cheese and put under the broiler for a couple of minutes.

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Oh. My. Goodness! I truly would rather eat this than anything they could deliver to my door! AND, no regrets!

Use your imagination on the toppings!

  • Greek: pesto on the bottom, sundried tomatoes, Kalamata olives and feta cheese.
  • Traditional: pasta sauce on the bottom (easy does it!), crumbled, cooked turkey sausage, mushrooms and mozzarella.
  • BBQ chicken: Thin layer of bbq sauce on the bottom, diced, cooked chicken, slivered red onion and reduced calorie shredded cheddar.

Oh, the possibilities!


Betty Plank | New Song Cool Springs

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