I adore holiday traditions. The food, the decor, the greetings and parties… for me, the traditions are a big part of what makes the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays special. Growing up, there were a few dishes that always graced my mom’s holiday table, and one of them was my Aunt Jean’s Cranberry Salad. As a child, I was repulsed by the combination of cranberries, celery and walnuts (who would eat that?!) Once I finally got around to trying it in my teenage years though, it quickly became my favorite holiday dish.
In the last few years, my family’s large holiday spreads have taken different turns. One year my mom decided to make curry for Christmas. The next year she made corned beef and cabbage. After years of preparing the same holiday dishes, she was ready for a change! Each year though, when I see the fresh cranberries come out at the grocery store, I know it’s almost cranberry salad time, and I make it for whatever holiday meal I contribute to.
As much as I love the dish, for several years I’ve wanted to create a healthier version of it. Cranberries aren’t very sweet, so the salad requires a fair amount of sugar to make it palatable. It also calls for flavored Jello as the binder (although I promise, it isn’t your typical Jello mold!) Just as I set out to recreate my Aunt Jean’s recipe, I found a similar salad without the sugar or Jello in the book Stevia: Naturally Sweet Recipes for Desserts, Drinks and More! by Rita DePuydt. It uses other fruits and fruit juices as well as stevia for the sweetness, and replaces flavored Jello with plain gelatin.
I set out to make this healthier version of my favorite holiday dish and was really pleased with the result. In look and taste, it’s fairly similar to my Aunt Jean’s recipe. It doesn’t have as many cranberries, but the grapes and apples help give the salad a bit more sweetness, and give it the crunch I’m used to from the original recipe’s celery. Both salads include walnuts which I’m a big fan of. The healthier version did take longer to gel, so make sure you give yourself several hours or overnight before you serve it. I’ve found the healthier alternative I was looking for, and I think Aunt Jean will approve!
I’m sharing both recipes below. Maybe one will be a hit at your holiday meal!