Yes, Virginia. There is a Way to Eat Healthier During the Holidays.

By Carol Ritchie, celebrity chef and Participant in the Methodist Weight Management Institute’s To Life!™ Lifestyle Change Management Program

Heart healthy holiday recipesThe holidays are here, and so are all the temptations that come with them. A steady stream of pot luck gatherings, parties, holiday shopping (and eating), and food gifts can totally undo the hard work you’ve invested in your weight-loss or maintenance goals.

If visions of your favorite sweets, treats, and yes, sugarplums, are dancing in your head, don’t worry. You can still enjoy everything in moderation and make it through the holidays. Instead of thinking, “I’ll eat everything now and deal with it in January,” why not try a new approach? Plan ahead for special events by eating light during the day. Keep up your exercise plan. Remember portion sizes.

Better yet – make your own culinary contributions that are healthy and packed with flavor.

Here are a few of my favorite things for holiday parties:

Pork Tenderloin Canapés

Serves 8

With the holiday party scene in full swing, these easy and elegant appetizers will

be memorable.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon paprika

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 pound pork tenderloin, cut into 16 slices (about 1/4-inch thick)

1 tablespoon olive oil (for sautéing)

1/2 French bread loaf, cut into 16 slices (about 1/4-inch thick)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cranberries

1/2 cup orange marmalade

Combine olive oil, paprika, garlic, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and pork tenderloin in a self-sealing bag or shallow bowl, turning to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator (cover if using a bowl) for 1 to 12 hours. Drain and discard marinade. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and swirl to coat pan. Arrange the pork in a single layer in the skillet and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until browned on the outside and no longer pink in the center (do not overcook). On a decorative serving tray, place a slice of pork on each slice of French bread. In a small bowl, stir together cranberries and orange marmalade and spoon about 1/2 tablespoon of this mixture on top of each slice of pork. Makes about 16 canapés. Serving based on 2 canapés per person.

herb lime turkeyHerb-Lime Roasted Turkey Breast

Serves 8 to 12

This flavorful way to prepare turkey will save you a little time, and is perfect for novice cooks or those who don’t need to feed a crowd.

1 lime

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage (or 2 teaspoons dried sage)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried thyme)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

4- to 5-pound turkey breast, rinsed and patted dry

Using a zester, grate the entire surface of the lime (avoid getting too much of the white, pithy part of the peel, as it tends to be bitter). Place the lime zest (grated peel) into a small bowl. Squeeze the juice from the lime into the bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, except for turkey, and stir to combine. Place turkey breast in a roasting pan with a rack. Using your fingers or a rubber spatula, carefully separate the turkey skin from the breast meat (do not remove the skin). Spread the herb mixture between the skin and the breast meat. Spray the surface of the turkey breast with vegetable oil spray, if desired, to help with browning and to help keep it moist. Roast the turkey breast, uncovered, in a preheated 325°F oven for 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 hours, or until no longer pink in the middle (when juices run clear when pierced with a fork) or when it registers 170°F on a thermometer. Let turkey rest 15 minutes before slicing.

Notes: This recipe was inspired by my recent heart-healthy cooking demo for the Brave Heart Support Group which meets at Charlton Methodist Medical Center in Dallas. I presented recipes from the American Heart Association’s Low-Salt Cookbook, including a delicious Roasted Lemon-Herb Turkey Breast. Find this book at online sources, bookstores, or visit for more information.

carrot saladCarrot-Pineapple Salad with Golden Raisins

Serves 6; 1/2 cup per serving

2-1/2 cups matchstick-size carrot strips

1 8-ounce can pineapple tidbits in their own juice, drained, reserving 1 tablespoon juice

1/3 cup golden raisins

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons light mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon curry powder (optional)

In a medium bowl, stir together the carrots, pineapple, and raisins. In a small bowl, stir together the reserved pineapple juice, sugar, mayonnaise, and curry powder. Pour over the carrot mixture. Stir gently to coat and spoon into a serving bowl.

Tip: Even if you think you don’t like curry powder, you may want to give it a try in this recipe. The curry powder is subtle, yet really brings the flavors together.

New Year’s Texas Caviar

Serves 8 as an appetizer

Ring in the New Year with good luck when you serve this simple black-eyed pea appetizer.

1 14-ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1 15-ounce can yellow hominy, rinsed and drained

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 small red onion, chopped

2 Italian plum tomatoes, diced

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

1 cup salsa

Baked tortilla chips to serve

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Let mixture stand at least 15 minutes before serving. This will keep in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days. Serve with tortilla chips or corn bread, or serve as a side salad.

Mocha Cinnamon Macaroons

Makes about 3-1/2 dozen cookies

Try this chocolate-coffee-cinnamon treat to enjoy during the holiday season.

3 egg whites

1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups flaked, sweetened coconut

4 ounces dark chocolate, melted

3 tablespoons chopped pistachios

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray with vegetable oil spray. Using an electric hand or stand mixer, in a medium bowl beat egg whites, coffee granules, cinnamon, cream of tartar, and salt on medium speed until foamy. Set mixer on high speed and slowly add sugar (a tablespoon at a time) until mixture forms stiff peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the cocoa powder and coconut. Do not overmix. Using 2 spoons, drop teaspoon-size portions of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until center of cookies are set. Allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a rack to cool thoroughly. For final garnish, dip the top part of the cookies into melted chocolate, place chocolate-side-up on the cooling rack, and sprinkle a small amount of chopped pistachios on each chocolate-topped cookie. Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Store in a covered container for up to 2 weeks.

cranberry mousseFrozen Cranberry Mousse Dessert

Serves 4

An elegant, yet easy and delicious dessert for the holidays.

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar, divided use

1 cup cranberries

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups light whipped topping

Bring water and 1/4 cup of the sugar to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add cranberries and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes, or until cranberries are tender (they will burst slightly). Drain liquid from cranberries. You can reserve the liquid for another recipe, if desired. Place cranberries, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla in a food processor and process until puréed. Press the mixture through a sieve. Cool mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Fold the whipped topping into the cranberry mixture. Pour into pretty serving glasses (such as wine or martini glasses) and freeze for 1 to 2 hours (will keep up to 1 month in the freezer). You can garnish the top with a dollop of light whipped topping and more orange zest or dried cranberries, if desired.


Makes 20 sugarplums

These delightful, fruit confections are easy to make and wonderful to give as gifts. Interestingly, sugarplums are not often made with plums at all; however, you are welcome to add dried plums as desired. I’ve chosen not to use dried plums simply because they are darker in color and I prefer the gold and red colors of apricots, raisins, and cherries for presentation.

1/2 cup dried apricots, quartered

1/2 cup walnuts

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup dried cherries

1/4 cup sweetened coconut

2 tablespoons cherry brandy (or orange juice)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Finely chop apricots, walnuts, raisins, cherries, and coconut in a food processor (or by hand using a sharp knife). Add cherry brandy (or orange juice) and vanilla, and process for 5 seconds (or add fruit/nut combination to a bowl, then add liquids and stir). Using your hands, form mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in powdered sugar and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Notes: Try using different dried fruits such as figs, prunes (dried plums), apples, cranberries, etc. Also, use any liquor or liqueur you’d like or substitute any fruit juice if you prefer.

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