5 Simple, Healthy Holiday Treats

Don’t you just love quickies? Whoops, wrong series.

Kidding. Sort of…

I don’t know about you all, but this holiday season seems to be flying by, leaving me little time to bake up a storm in the kitchen. Rather than prepare my family’s traditional cardamom bread, which is scrumptious yet labor intensive, I’ve been relying on quick throw-it-together concoctions. The result? A healthy, happy, aromatic home and plenty of time for writing. And shopping. ‘Tis the season, right? Okay, I lied. I primarily shop online. But not for most groceries, of which you’ll need few for the following.

These recipes are far from gourmet, but they’re pretty darn tasty, if I may say so. They’re also healthier than your typical treats, making them a sweet tooth/wellness win-win, and require very little time and cleanup. *sigh* Just the sound of that last bit lifts my spirits…

Chocolate Banana Pudding

Ingredients:

12-oz package tofu
2 bananas, cut into chunks
1/4 cup sugar or honey
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Splash of soy milk (or any milk)
Pinch of cinnamon

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl or mixer. Blend until smooth, then chill in a pie pan or prepared crust for an hour or more. Top with whipped topping and fruit, if desired. Serves about 6.

Egg Nog Smoothie

Ingredients:

1 banana
1 cup eggnog
1/2 cup milk
1 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1 Tbsp ground flaxseeds or walnuts
Optional addition: 1/4 cup pureed, unsweetened pumpkin

Directions:

Blend all ingredients together. Vwa-la! Serves 2.

Cinnamon Baked Pears

2 large pears, sliced
2 Tbsp butter or coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp whole wheat or almond flour
4 Tbsp old-fashioned oats
Pinch of cinnamon
Slivered almonds and ice cream (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine butter or coconut oil, brown sugar, flour, oats and cinnamon in a freezer bag. Shake to combine. Add pear slices to bag, and shake until they’re coated. Arrange coated pears on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 30 minutes, or until cooked through and lightly golden. Serve plain or topped with vanilla ice cream and almonds. Serves 4.

Quick Apple Sauce (adapted from the Food Network’s recipe)

Ingredients:

3 sweet apples, peeled, cored and quartered
3 tart apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
1 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons rum (optional)
2 tablespoons butter, softened or sliced
3 tablespoons agave or honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave on high for 10 minutes. Remove the lid carefully then mash the apples with a fork or potato masher. (If you prefer, you can heat the mixture on the stove until soft, or 30 to 45 minutes.) Serve hot or chilled.

No-Bake Coconut Cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups chopped nuts
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup almond or peanut butter
4 Tbsp honey or agave
1/4 – 1/2 cup mini dark chocolate chips

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Stir well. Freeze for 20 minutes or so then form into balls and refrigerate. Makes about 24 small or 12 larger cookies.

For more fabulous recipes, check out the appropriately titled Yum Blog Hop, hosted by K.B. Owen. Bon appetit!

What’s your favorite holiday treat? Any super simple recipes to share below? 

Time-Saving Cooking Tips for Healthy Writers

I knew for certain I loved writing when within weeks of committing to the craft my kitchen looked more like a college dude’s than a health conscious adult’s. What should I make for dinner? Let’s see… We have mustard, ancient beer and an entree formerly known as fish. I think. (Ew.)

“Hello..oh…oh…? Is anybody in there?”

Writing like crazy and with gusto is a great thing. Starving ourselves or existing on cereal, Pop Tarts and fast food, not so much. As we’ve discussed here before, our brains require a healthy, balanced diet for proper function. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to my creativity and works-in-progress, I’ll take any effective tool I can get. Whether you’re gearing up for NaNoWriMo or simply wish to up the ante on your wellness, the following tips can help.

10 Time-Saving Ways to Cook Your Way to Better Writing

1. Dust off your crock pot. They aren’t just for savvy grannies anymore. I was living in Paris with a kitchen that consisted of a pop-out burner and a cooler when my mom suggested a slow-cooker. They are the time and money-saving bomb. Recipes for particularly brain-healthy options: Salmon, Veggies & Rice, Quinoa Red Lentil Soup, Chicken with Kale

2. Prepare large batches. Make a big batch of veggie-loaded lasagna, turkey meatloaf, soup or chili to last you several days or more. For healthy frozen meals, freeze single or family-size portions in secure containers. This Whole Wheat Spinach Lasagna is one great option. For you gluten-free folks, use sliced zucchini or brown rice lasagna noodles.

3. Stock up on frozen fruits and veggies. Frozen fruits and vegetables are flash frozen at their nutritional prime, so they’re at least as nutritious as produce-bin items. For healthier throw-it-together meals, add frozen greens or mixed veggies to pasta sauce, leftover mashed potatoes and soups. To add brain-healthy nutrients to oatmeal, add frozen or thawed berries while cooking.

4. Freeze leftover and over-ripe fruits and vegetables. Freezing changes the texture of fruits and vegetables, but maintains their freshness. Freeze peeled bananas and other fruit for use in smoothies. For an ultra-filling smoothie, blend 2/3 cup frozen blueberries with 1 banana, a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds and 1 cup of Greek yogurt or milk. Chop up leftover greens, such as kale and spinach, for use in sauces, soups and smoothies. Bonus: No thawing required.

Berry smoothies knock OJ out of the park.

5. Freeze batches of cooked grains. Preparing large batches of brown rice, wild rice and quinoa then freezing single or family-size portions in freezer bags can cut an hour or more of cooking time, plus cleaning time, from your days. You can also purchase pre-cooked frozen whole grains at most grocery stores, which cost more, but save time.

6. Become a one-pot rockstar. There are zillions of healthy one-pot recipes available, which reduce prep and cleanup time significantly. (Hallelujah for that!) For some delicious, nutritious ideas, check out these Healthy One-Pot Soup, Stew and Chili Recipes at Epicurious.com.

7. Give your restaurant leftovers healthy makeovers. We all dine out occasionally, sometimes due to an empty refrigerator. When you do, reserve leftovers to work into a healthy meal the next day. Roasted, steamed and seasoned vegetables work well in soups, pasta and rice dishes. Leftover meats can be diced up for salad topping and sliced up for sandwich filling. Breads (preferably whole grain) can be dried and crumbled into breadcrumbs for use in meatloaf and baked, chicken parmesan.

My favorite use of leftover Indian food: whole grain, veggie-loaded, chicken tikka pizza. Stir tamarind chutney into tomato sauce for added zest.

8. Stock your pantry with healthy staples. Whole grain rice and quinoa mixes, whole grain pastas and canned goods, such as diced tomatoes (which aren’t typically as nutritious fresh during winter months), reduced sodium beans and organic soups, such as Amy’s brand, provide nutritious meal additions without a soon-coming expiration date. To save shopping time, purchase healthy pantry staples online. Organic Kingdom, True Foods Market and even Amazon provide useful options.

9. Keep healthy foods readily available. Fill an attractive jar with nuts or trail mix and a bowl with ready-to-eat fruit to keep in your kitchen. If you’re prone to salty food cravings, nuts, low-fat or air-popped popcorn, pickles and olives provide healthy alternatives to potato chips. For sweet teeth, turn to unsweetened dried fruit, fresh fruit, berry-filled yogurt or small dark chocolate bars. Less healthy treats are okay in moderation, but they shouldn’t take center stage.

Move over pretzels. How scrumptious do these look?!?

10. Shop with a list, then stock, cook and chop. Take a list for your one-pot-wonder or crock pot recipe, plus healthy staples, to the grocery store once per week—or whenever you can. Once you’re home, begin cooking a meal. While it bakes, stews or simmers, chop up fresh fruit and vegetables, or boil grains for those freezer options in #5. Turn on relaxing music and have fun with it. The couple of hours shopping plus food prep can take is a worthy investment that will save you time, stress and brain fog.

Lastly, ask for help as needed. None of us go it alone, in writing or life. Your loved ones want to support you and so do I. So, any questions? Challenges? Tips to add? Thoughts to share? My blog living room is yours, too. 🙂