Cook’s Corner: Healthy Holidays

You’ve been here before. Extended trip to the family’s for the holidays. At least two sit-down meals and a table filled with more desserts than you can feed yourself. By the time the trip is said and done, you’ve probably consumed more than several thousand calories… and none of them in the “healthy” department. How can you possibly get around this yearly tradition without avoiding the trip altogether? That’s where our recipe guide comes in! We’ve filled it with a variety of recipes that are delicious and not full of unwanted starches, butter, or calories. And for a unique twist, try the Spice-Crusted Duck Breast followed by Elli’s Mashed Potatoes.


Spice-Crusted Duck Breast with POM-Infused Duck Jus

Serves: 6

Duck Breast

6 Moulard duck breasts

1/4 cup coriander seeds

1/4 cup fennel seeds

2 tablespoons cumin seeds

2 tablespoons whole white peppercorns

6 whole cloves

All-purpose flour (for dusting)

3 teaspoons vegetable oil

POM-Infused Duck Jus

2 cups juice from POM Wonderful Pomegranates or 2 cups POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice

1 cup arils from POM Wonderful Pomegranates or 1 cup POM POMS Fresh Arils

1 medium shallot, small dice

Duck jus (recipe below)

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon chives, chopped

Natural Duck Jus

1 pound duck bones

1 yellow onion, rough chop

1/2 carrot, rough chop

1/2 stalk celery, rough chop

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 sprig each, thyme and rosemary

1/4 cup red wine

2 cups chicken stock

Green Beans

1/2 pound haricot vert or tiny green beans

1 tablespoon reserved duck fat

Salt and pepper to taste

6 sprigs fresh chives, sliced on the bias for 1-inch batonettes

Trim most of the fat from the duck breasts: Moulard ducks are particularly fatty, so you’ll want to cut off about half of the fat. Score the remaining fat (but not enough to cut through to the meat) in a crisscross pattern. Grind the coriander, fennel, cumin, peppercorns, and cloves together in a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a plate and press the duck breasts fat-side down into the spices. Place the duck breasts in a large non-stick sauté pan. Slowly render them over medium heat, basting them occasionally with the rendered fat. Cook the breasts to an internal temperature of 130 degrees for medium. Set duck breasts aside and keep warm while preparing jus. (If serving immediately, allow the duck to rest for five to seven minutes before slicing.) Set aside one tablespoon of the duck fat for reheating green beans.

Drain off any excess duck fat from pan; keep any meat that has stuck to the pan. Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and aromatics; cook until soft. Add the duck bones, and continue cooking until vegetables are caramelized. Deglaze pan with red wine. Add chicken stock and reduce by half. Strain jus into a clean saucepan and bring to a boil. Skim off surface fat and reduce until stock is a sauce-like consistency. Reserve duck jus fo POM-Infused Duck Jus below.

Prepare fresh pomegranate juice if necessary. Prepare fresh pomegranate arils if necessary. In a small sauté pan, sauté diced shallots until golden brown. Add pomegranate juice and reduce by three-quarters, until thick. Add duck jus, black pepper, and cardamom. If necessary, adjust seasoning and add salt to taste. Continue to reduce sauce until thick. Strain jus through fine sieve; add arils and fresh chopped chives when plating.

Trim beans. Place in boiling water for about 30 seconds, or until they are crisp and the color has set. Drain and immediately immerse in ice water. Drain, pat dry, and set aside until ready to reheat. Heat reserved duck fat in a large skillet over medium heat. Add blanched green beans and toss to coat evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place sliced duck breast on plate, divide green beans equally around breast and ladle POM-Infused Duck Jus over breast. Garnish with fresh arils and chive batonettes. Source: Charlie Palmer


Elli’s Mashed Potatoes

Serves: 4-6

3 pounds small red bliss potatoes

4 cloves garlic

1 cup Elli Quark, Plain

3 tablespoons chopped chives

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot, cover unpeeled potatoes and garlic with water by one inch. Bring to a boil, add salt, and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain potatoes and garlic well and then place back into the pot and cook over low heat to evaporate the rest of the water. Remove from heat, and mash up. Then add in the Quark in stages until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Garnish with chives. Source: Elli Kitchen


Tri-Colored Scalloped Potatoes

Serves: 4-6

3 medium red potatoes

3 medium yellow potatoes

3 medium purple potatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 sprig rosemary leaves, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the potatoes and thinly slice with a mandolin or sharp knife. Lightly coat a 9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Layer the potatoes in the baking dish, mixing the colors together. Drizzle with olive oil and season with the rosemary and salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional five to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Source: Peruvian Power Foods by Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD


Roasted Beets and White Balsamic Vinegar

Serves: 4

4 large beets, tops and roots removed and washed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs, such as chives, thyme, tarragon, or basil

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar (may substitute cider, sherry, champagne, or white wine vinegar)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the beets and one cup water in a shallow baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the beets become tender all the way through. A knife inserted in the center should slip easily in and out. Remove the beets from the oven, uncover, and allow to cool enough so you can handle them. Wearing gloves or using a paper towel, gently wipe the beets to peel them. Cut the beets into 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange on a plate. Sprinkle with the salt, black pepper, and herbs and drizzle with the oil and vinegar. Serve warm or chilled. Source: The Vegucation of Robin by Robin Quivers


Apple Crisp

Serves: 8

6 large tart apples (Pippin or Granny Smith)

1/3 cup sugar or 1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons tapioca starch

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

1/2 teaspoon ginger powder

Generous pinch salt

3 tablespoons cold butter


1/2 cup sweet white rice flour

1/2 cup millet flour

1/2 cup tapioca starch

1 cup packed golden brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder

1/2 teaspoon ginger powder

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

3/4 cup gluten-free oats

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel, core, and slice the apples into 1/4-inch slices. Put the apple slices into a large bowl and sprinkle the sugar over the top. Add the tapioca starch, cinnamon, five-spice, ginger, and salt and toss together to evenly coat the apple slices. Pour into a 9x13 baking pan, dot the top with pieces of the butter, and set aside. To make the topping, combine the flours, tapioca starch, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, five-spice, and ginger in a mixing bowl. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix in the butter until it is uniformly incorporated into the flour mixture. Stir in the oats and pecans. Crumble the oat topping evenly over the apples. Bake until the topping is golden brown and set and the apples are warm and bubbly, 55 to 60 minutes. You can prepare everything ahead of time. Refrigerate the apple filling and keep the topping frozen until ready to assemble and bake. Don’t refrigerate the unbaked topping overnight, as the millet flour will interact with the butter and taste and smell cheesy when it’s baked. Source: Sweet Cravings by Kyra Bussanich


Wine-Poached Pears with Saffron, Apricots, and Almonds

Serves: 8

1/2 vanilla bean

4 pears, peeled, halved, stems intact

4 cups water

1 cup white wine or sparkling wine such as cava or prosecco

1 cinnamon stick

Pinch of saffron

2 tablespoons honey

1 cup apricots, dried or pitted fresh, cut into thirds

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and run the tip of your knife or a spoon down the inside to collect the seeds. Reserve. Using a melon baller or teaspoon, remove the seeds from the inside of the pears. In a large saucepot, combine the water, wine, vanilla pod and seeds, cinnamon, saffron, and honey. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for five minutes. Gently slide the pears into the poaching liquid and simmer until a knife can be inserted but still can meet resistance, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the pears to cool in the poaching liquid. Carefully remove the pears and reserve. Return the poaching liquid to a boil, having removed the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick, and reduce until syrupy in consistency. Add the apricots and heat for another minute. Place the pears in individual bowls and smother them in sauce and apricots. Sprinkle with almonds and serve. Source: The Vegucation of Robin by Robin Quivers


SunButter Strawberry Rhubarb Bread

Serves: 8

1/2 cup fresh strawberries, chopped into small chunks

1/2 cup fresh rhubarb, chopped into small chunks

1 cup gluten-free flour mix

1 tablespoon flaxseed meal

3/4 cup sugar substitute (like Truvia)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup SunButter

1 tablespoon water

2 teaspoons liquid egg substitute

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with nonstick spray. In bowl, combine SunButter, water, egg substitute, and vanilla, and mix together with hand mixer or stand mixer. In a separate bowl, combine gluten-free flour mix, flaxseed meal, Truvia, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add to liquid mixture and blend just until combined. Fold in strawberries and rhubarb. Place in loaf pan, smoothing top with spatula. Bake about 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then invert and place on platter. Slice and enjoy! Source:


Lemon Kefir Blueberry Pie

Serves: 8

Pie Dough

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

4 ounce (one stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

4 tablespoons ice cold water

Blueberry Compote Topping

4 cups fresh blueberries, divided

2 tablespoons water

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon honey

Lemon Filling

4 ounce (one stick) unsalted butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 cup Lifeway Organic Whole Milk Kefir

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. For pie crust, combine flour and butter in a food processor. Pulse seven to eight times, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cold water, one tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition. If dough seems too dry, add additional cold water by the tablespoon. Remove pie dough from food processor and mold into a circular disk. Cover and let refrigerate for at least 25 minutes. Roll out dough on a floured surface and transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Trim any crust overhang, fold under, and crimp the edges. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork. Place a large piece of aluminum foil on top of dough and fill with dry beans or use pie weights. Par-bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and beans or pie weights. Add the lemon filling (prepared in the next step).

While the crust is par-baking, prepare the filling. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until the butter is fully melted. Add the flour and continuing whisking until incorporated. Remove from heat and whisk in the lemon juice, kefir, vanilla extract, and eggs. Continue whisking the mixture until all ingredients are incorporated. Pour the lemon filling into the bottom of the par-baked pie shell and return to the oven. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until filling has set. Remove from oven and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Add the blueberry compote, (prepared in next step) and return to refrigerator for three more hours before serving.

While the pie is baking, prepare the compote. Combine three cups blueberries, water, sugar, and honey in a medium sauce pan. Stir coat the blueberries, then cook over medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and stir in the remaining one cup of blueberries. Set aside until ready to top on the lemon pie. Source: Adrienne Blumthal


XyloSweet Heavenly Spice Cake

Serves: 9

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 tablespoons prune purée

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

2 eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups XyloSweet

2/3 cup finely chopped prunes (cooked and drained)


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1 egg, lightly beaten

2/3 cup XyloSweet

1/2 cup finely chopped prunes (cooked and drained)

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine first six ingredients in medium bowl; set aside. In another bowl, mix melted butter, prune purée, applesauce, sour cream, and egg yolks. In a large bowl, beat egg whites with mixer until soft peaks form; gradually add XyloSweet and beat until peaks are stiff but not dry. Using a spatula, gradually fold dry ingredients into egg whites alternately with liquid ingredients; stir just until batter is smooth. Fold in chopped prunes. Transfer to a 9x13 baking pan that has been buttered, lined with parchment paper, and buttered again. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. To prepare frosting, combine butter, sour cream, egg, and XyloSweet in a saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Stir in prunes and pecans. Allow to cool completely before spreading over cooked cake. Refrigerate frosted cake until ready to serve. Source: Karen Edwards, PhD


Chili Lime Coconut Macaroons

Makes: 21 cookies

4 3/4 cups desiccated macaroon coconut (not sweetened flaked coconut)

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons coconut flour

1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest

3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup egg whites (from about 8 large eggs)

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the coconut, sugar, coconut flour, lime zest, cayenne, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg whites, honey, and vanilla. Make a well in the coconut mixture and pour the egg white mix into the center of the well. Stir together until thoroughly mixed. Drop golf ball-sized scoops of the coconut mixture close together onto the baking sheets. Bake until dark golden brown and set to the touch, 22 to 28 minutes. Let cool completely on the baking sheet, then peel off the parchment and store in an airtight container. You can make the “dough” ahead of time and freeze unbaked on the baking sheet for up to two weeks or freeze in an airtight container for a month once they’ve been baked. Source: Sweet Cravings by Kyra Bussanich


XyloSweet Holiday Cranberry Walnut Cobbler

Serves: 9


4 cups fresh cranberries (two 8-ounce packages)

1 1/3 cups XyloSweet

3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1/3 cup unsalted butter


1/4 cup XyloSweet

1 cup spelt flour or whole wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 egg

1/2 cup low-fat milk

In a large bowl combine XyloSweet with cranberries that have been cut in half. (Cutting cranberries in half prevents them from bursting during baking, which helps them retain their shape.) Stir well to coat all the berries with XyloSweet. Cover and set aside for two hours or place in refrigerator overnight. After allowing mixture to sit, stir walnuts and orange juice. Melt butter and pour into 8x8 square baking pan. Spoon filling over melted butter in baking pan. To prepare batter, combine XyloSweet with flour and baking powder. Add egg and milk, and mix well. Pour batter over filling, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Best served warm. Source: Karen Edwards, PhD