For a Festive, Flavor-packed–and Fit–Holiday
By Chef Lynn Michelle
Photography by TR Love, TR Media World
This year’s holiday may be a little different than in past years, but there’s one thing sure to stay the same: A focus on the festive foods of the season. From the aroma of freshly baked gingerbread wafting through the house, to the fruitcakes that will make their way onto countless holiday tables, some things just say—and taste—like the holidays. This year, perhaps more than any other, the traditional foods of the season can take on a whole new level of importance and meaning for many families. And, with some simple substitutions and a focus on wholesome, nutritious ingredients, you can turn some of your favorite holiday recipes into healthier options—giving you and your family the best gift of all this year.
From enticing appetizers, to traditional dishes, to that all-important, festive dessert, every family has its favorites. But when it comes to giving them a healthier spin, many people would be surprised as to just how easy it is to make their favorites even healthier simply by making some little adjustments and “swaps” that create dishes that are keto-friendly, gluten free or sugar free. Eating healthy—particularly during the holidays—doesn’t have to be about depriving yourself of the signature dishes that have been part of your family traditions for years, perhaps decades. Rather, it’s about little things you can do, and choices you can make, that work for you and your family’s health. There is also a whole bunch of “superfoods” out there that you may not have ever thought could be part of a holiday meal, which can not only add delicious flavors to your holiday table this year, but also help keep you healthy all year long.
Following are some of my favorite healthy holiday recipes that have become part of my new holiday traditions. As you’ll see, just a few simple adjustments have turned these longtime holiday staples into dishes that are literally bursting with flavor—and healthier eating. Whether you’re looking for vegetarian, vegan, keto-friendly, gluten-free or sugar free options, these delicious dishes can add something special to your holidays this year – without taking away any of the traditional flavors, or festivity, that are such an important part of the most wonderful time of the year. Let’s eat!
Here’s to a happy, healthy—and delicious—holiday season!
Holiday Quinoa “Meatballs”
Gluten-Free | Vegan | Vegetarian | Sugar Free
1½ cup Quinoa, cooked
½ cup fresh Parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup Red onion, diced small
2 eggs OR (2 Vegan eggs—see note)
¼ Red pepper, diced small
½ cup Almond milk (maybe more for blending)
¼ cup + 1½ Tbsps olive oil, split (or 4 Tbsps butter)
¼ Yellow pepper, diced small
¼ Orange pepper, diced small
4 Tbsps Almond flour or all-purpose flour
¼ cup Celery, diced small
2 cups Vegetable broth
2 Tbsps Old Bay Seasoning
½ tsp Black pepper
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Garlic Powder
1 cup Heavy cream
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Rice, optional for serving
Worchestershire Sauce (optional- not Gluten Free or Sugar Free)
2 cups Garbanzo beans, pureed (set aside some to break apart with your hands)
Meatballs: Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium sauté pan, add ¼ cup of olive oil. Place red onion, peppers and celery into pan. Sauté until translucent. Set aside and let cool. In a large bowl, add pureed garbanzo beans, Old Bay Seasoning, black pepper, salt, garlic powder, and fresh parsley together and slightly blend. In a separate bowl, whisk together almond milk and eggs (or Vegan eggs). Once cooled, add onion, peppers and celery mix, and almond milk mixture to bean mixture. Lightly blend together with a wooden spoon. Once blended, roll into desired size of meatballs. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until slightly golden. Remove and cover with foil. Note: Do not blend the meatballs and sauce if you wish to use it the next day or want leftovers. Store cooked meatballs and sauce separately to avoid mushy meatballs.
Sauce: In a large skillet, add 4 Tbsps almond flour (or all-purpose flour) and 2 Tbsps butter (or 1 ½ Tbsps olive oil) and whisk together until it turns brown to make a roux. Slowly stir in vegetable broth and heavy cream. Add Dijon Mustard and simmer until sauce thickens. Salt and pepper to taste. Optional add in: Worchestershire sauce to taste (not Gluten Free or Sugar Free). Add meatballs into the skillet and simmer for few minutes. Serve over rice or serve as an appetizer.
Note: To make Vegan egg: mix 2 Tbsps ground flaxseed and 6 Tbsps water, let set for 10 minutes.
Honey Dilled Carrots
Vegan | Vegetarian | Gluten-Free | Pictured at Top
6 Carrots, peeled & cut into
large bite size pieces
¼ cup Honey
½ tsp Salt, plus more for seasoning
Pepper, to season
2 tsps Dill, fresh or dried
¼ cup Olive oil or 2 Tbsps Butter
Place cut carrots in a medium size pot. Cover the carrots with water and add ½ tsp of salt. Simmer until the carrots are at desired firmness, about 20 minutes. Drain carrots and rinse with cold water to preserve bright orange color. Place pot of carrots on medium heat and add olive oil (or butter), honey, dill and salt and pepper to taste. Saute until carmelized.
Roasted/Grilled Pork Tenderloin
With Creamy Mustard Seed Sauce
Without Marinade: Keto | Gluten-Free | Sugar Free | Pictured at Top
1 pkg Pork Tenderloin (usually has 2)
2 tsp Mustard powder
1 tsp Pepper
2 tsps Thyme, fresh or dried
½ tsp Salt
Marinade: (Not Keto, Gluten-Free or Sugar Free)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tbsps Pickled ginger
½ cup Soy sauce
¼ cup Olive oil
1½ cup Heavy whipping cream
½ cup Whole grain seed mustard
Salt, to season
Pepper, to season
In a small bowl, mix mustard powder, pepper, thyme and salt together. Rub olive oil over the pork tenderloins; then rub the dry seasonings mixture onto the tenderloins generously. For marinade: Put olive oil, soy sauce, pickled ginger and garlic in a large plastic baggie. Seal and gently massage to mix ingredients well. Place the seasoned pork tenderloins into the marinade; seal and place into refrigerator for 2-3 hours.
Creamy Mustard Sauce: Place the heavy whipping cream, whole grain seed mustard, salt and pepper into a blender, food processor, or bullet and mix on high and blend to desired thickness (it should look like whipped cream). Place into refrigerator until ready to serve. You may serve cold with pork tenderloin, or lightly heat it up. To cook tenderloin: Heat grill to high or your oven to 375°F. Grill or roast for about 25 minutes. Let rest lightly covered with foil for about 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with Creamy Mustard Seed Sauce.
Peppermint Cheesecake Vegetarian
1/3 cup Butter, melted
2½ cups Cream-filled chocolate cookie crumbs (like Oreos)
1 cup Sugar
5 (8 oz pkgs) Cream cheese, softened
1 cup Sour cream
3 Tbsps All-purpose Flour
3 tsps Vanilla
1 tsp Peppermint extract
3 large Eggs, slightly beaten
2 pkgs Andes Mint candies, roughly chopped
Andes mints, for garnish
1/3 cup Sugar
1 (8 oz pkg) Cream cheese, softened
1 (12 oz pkg) Cool Whip, thawed
Miniature candy canes (or peppermint candies)
Preheat oven to 325°F. Place a greased 9-inch Springform baking pan onto a sheet of foil and secure the foil tightly around the base of the pan. In a small bowl, combine cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press cookie mixture onto the bottom of pan and up about 1 inch on the sides. Put in the oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes. Cool completely. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add sour cream, flour, vanilla and peppermint extract, beat well. Add eggs and beat on low speed, just until mixture is combined. Fold in chopped Andes mints. Pour into cooled chocolate crust.
Place springform pan into a large baking pan with sides and add 1 inch of hot water to the larger pan. Carefully place baking pans into preheated oven. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the center is just set. Carefully remove springform pan from the hot water bath and let cool.
Once cooled, run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen; let cool in springform pan for at least an hour. For best results, refrigerate overnight.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Fold in thawed Cool Whip. Place topping over cheesecake. Remove the springform pan from the cheesecake and garnish with mini candy canes and Andes mint candies.
Chef Lynn Michelle is a personal chef located on Hilton Head Island serving the entire Lowcountry. Whether it’s preparing healthy, gourmet family style meals, or expertly creating elaborate dinner parties, Chef Lynn and her team do it all— planning, shopping, cooking and clean up. Cheflynnmichelle.com 843-422-5480