Holidays are stressful enough without the added stress of feeling not so great from eating lots of ‘bad for you’ food. So as we begin to cook the sweets n treats for our loved ones, here are three healthy cooking tips and recipes to lighten up one of today’s holiday favorites – pecan pie!

1) The Power of Oatmeal

Instead of using flour, get some healthy whole grains into your holiday pie by using oatmeal instead! The soluble fiber in oatmeal has been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol or “bad cholesterol” by 10-15%, particularly when consumed as part of a low fat diet. Fiber also decreases risk of high blood pressure and significantly reduces risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease.

2) Pecans

Antioxidant rich and full of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, pecans are receiving accolades from the American Heart Association for producing a simple way reduce the risk of heart disease this holiday season. Pecans provide that long-lasting energy because they contain heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. Plus, a handful of pecan halves contain the same amount of fiber as a medium-sized apple.

3) Use Non-Stick Cookware

So much unnecessary butter and oil goes into ensuring that our bakery masterpieces come out in one piece! By using cookware designed to keep things from sticking to the pan, you can use less oil or switch to a low-calorie vegetable spray instead. Then you can pat yourself on the back for saving yourself an average of 100 calories!

Check out this delightfully healthy Oatmeal Pecan Pie recipe!

These tiny cuties are almost too adorable to gift this season! Whether you make them to serve at your annual holdiay party, or just to give to friends and family, we know they will be a hit!

Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Gingersnap Crust

Ingredients

For the crust:

Oil for greasing the jars
3 cups gingersnaps, ground into crumbs
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted (“Mom” prefers organic)

For the cheesecake:

3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature (“Mom” prefers organic)
1½ cups pumpkin puree
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cardamom
3 large eggs (“Mom” prefers cage-free eggs)
1/3 cup sour cream or Greek-style yogurt (“Mom” prefers organic)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the topping:

1 cup heavy cream (“Mom” prefers organic)
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Cinnamon, for sprinkling

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Grease the bottoms and sides of sixteen 4-ounce jars or eight 8-ounce jars. Make the crust: In a medium-size bowl, mix together the gingersnap crumbs and melted butter until all of the crumbs are coated. Divide the crumb mixture evenly among the jars and use a wine cork or other small, flat-bottomed object to press down into the bottoms of the jars to form the crusts. Set aside.

2. Make the cheesecake: In a large bowl or in a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the pumpkin puree. Add in the sugar and spices, and beat for 1 minute until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla. Spoon or pour the cheesecake filling over the crusts in the jars to ½ inch from the top.

3. Arrange the jars 2 inches apart in high-sided baking pans, such as 9 × 13-inch cake pans, with each pan lined with a clean kitchen towel. Place the pans with the jars in the oven and carefully add hot water to the pans to come halfway up the sides of the jars.

4. Bake the cheesecakes for 25 to 30 minutes, or just until their centers are almost set. Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecakes and water to cool slowly in the oven for 20 minutes. When the cheesecake and water have cooled slightly, remove them carefully from the oven and remove the cheesecakes from the pans. Allow to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

5. Before serving, whip together the cream and confectioners’ sugar in a bowl until stiff peaks form. Spoon over the tops of the cheesecakes and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. Serve cold.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Desserts in Jars: 50 Sweet Treats That Shine By Shaina Olmanson.*

Serve this tasty pizzettas or “mini pizzas” at your holiday party, or just make them in minutes for a tasty & quick lunch on a busy weekend!

Roasted Tomato and Artichoke Flatbread Pizzettas

Ingredients

4 cups Pomì Chopped Tomatoes, drained
2 (13 3/4-ounce) cans artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
4 teaspoons olive oil
4 naan flatbreads
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation

While preheating the broiler, place the tomatoes and artichokes in a shallow baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. Broil for approximately 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 450°. Divide the broiled artichokes and tomatoes into four portions and pile onto each flatbread. Top with grated Parmesan and bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 10 minutes.

Once the pizzettas have cooled, cut each into small wedges.

Serves 8.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Pomi.*

We are big fans of Pomi Tomatoes at “Mom’s” house! This rich soup is chock full of goodies – beans, tomatoes, celery, butternut squash and more!

Hearty Tomato, Butternut Squash and Pinto Bean Soup

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
2 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained
2 cups Pomì Chopped Tomatoes
2 cups butternut squash cut into 1/2-inch pieces, peeled and seeded
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
6 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (optional)

Preparation

Heat olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and celery, sautéing until the onions are golden, approximately 7 minutes. Add minced garlic and stir for an additional minute.

Pour in vegetable broth, then add in pinto beans, Pomì Chopped Tomatoes, butternut squash, oregano and dried crushed red pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the butternut squash is tender. For a smoother consistency, allow 3 cups of soup to cool slightly, then puree in a blender. Once smooth, return to pot and simmer until thoroughly heated, approximately 5 minutes.

Once the soup is poured into bowls, garnish with fresh chopped basil, if desired.

Serves 6.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Pomi.*

Mom” was excited to take part in the DKNY Throw Décor Challenge this past month – we took a gorgeous, yummy DKNY Sweater Throw, and incorporated it into our décor at home! This neutral palate provided a background for natural, sea-inspired elements in the living room, and went from just a plain throw to an integral part of the décor!

Using the backdrop of a white coffee table, the sable DKNY sweater throw was twisted around a large piece of interesting driftwood, with large shells, a sand dollar, and a starfish placed in its folds. A colorful glass turtle sat gazing down at them all from the piece of driftwood!

While this lovely sweater throw is a warm and cozy blanket for chilly evenings, it can just as easily be used to decorate the home! What would you do with the throw, besides snuggle up in it, of course?!

You can check out the entire DKNY collection at Donna Karan Home Collections – the throw is available in ivory, charcoal and sable.

*A sample was provided for the DKNY Throw Décor Challenge. All thoughts expressed herein are from the author of the website.*

No one will believe this impressive appetizer is so easy to make. You can substitute dried cranberries or apricots for the cherries and apple juice for the brandy. — Kevin Phebus, Katy, Texas

Cherry-Brandy Baked Brie

Ingredients

1 round (8 ounces) Brie cheese
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup brandy or unsweetened apple juice
French bread baguette, sliced and toasted or assorted crackers

Preparation

1. Place cheese in a 9-in. pie plate. Combine cherries, walnuts, brown sugar and brandy; spoon over cheese.

2. Bake the Brie at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is softened. Serve with the baguette.

Yield: 8 servings
Prep/total time: 20 min.

*Recipe excerpted from Taste of Home: Best Loved Recipes: 1485 Favorites from the World’s #1 Food & Entertaining Magazine.*

Why serve cranberry sauce from the can when you can easily make your own! Chloe’s Cranberry Salad recipe is courtesy of the Big Mill Bed & Breakfast located in Williamston, NC.

Chloe’s Cranberry Salad

Ingredients

1 orange, washed

1/2 cup orange juice

12-ounce bag cranberries, washed and picked over

1 cup sugar (“Mom” prefers Stevia in the Raw)

1/2 cup celery, diced

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1 teaspoon key lime juice or lemon juice

3 packages unflavored gelatin (3 tablespoons)

1/2 cup cold water

1/2 cup boiling water

Preparation

Remove stems from orange. Cut into pieces, leaving peel on, and put into blender with orange juice. Pulverize. Add cranberries, sugar and mix thoroughly, but do not completely pulverize. (This part of the salad can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator).

Add celery and nuts and lemon juice. Blend again. Soften gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water. Add 1/2 cup boiling water. Add to cranberry mixture. Spray a four-cup mold with cooking spray. Pour cranberry mixture into mold and chill until set. Unmold onto a pretty dish.

Yield: 10-12 servings

*Recipe and image courtesy of BNBFinder.com.*

This Glasbern Sage Sausage and Pumpkin Rice Stuffing recipe is courtesy of the Glasbern Inn located in Fogelsville, PA. It incorporates pumpkin, coconut milk and more to create a lovely, unique dish!

Glasbern Sage Sausage and Pumpkin Rice Stuffing

Ingredients

1 Glasbern Sage Sausage (can be substituted with a vegetarian sausage)

1/2 cup Jasmine Rice

1 cup Chicken Stock

1/2 cup Pumpkin Puree

1/4 cup Coconut Milk

2 cup Baguette, cubed and toasted

1/4 cup Carrots, diced

1/4 cup Celery, diced

1/4 cup Onions, diced

1 cup Chicken Stock (“Mom” prefers vegetable stock)

Preparation

Brown sausage in pan until thoroughly cooked, reserve on the side. Cook Jasmine rice with Chicken Stock until al dente, add pumpkin puree and coconut milk. Sautee carrots, celery, onions until translucent, then add all ingredients to pan. Use additional chicken stock to control thickness. Will hold hot up to 2 hours in a crock pot.

*Recipe and image courtesy of BNBFinder.com.*

Listing link: http://www.bnbfinder.com/Pennsylvania/Fogelsville/Bed-and-Breakfast/Listing/16587/Glasbern_Inn

This French Toast recipe is chock full of seasonal spices and flavors – perfect for serving during a weekend brunch with the extended family during the holidays!

SoL Pumpkin Pie French Toast

Ingredients

2 eggs (“Mom” prefers organic, cage-free eggs)
¼ cup SoL, any flavor
¼ cup pumpkin
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp vanilla
Butter (“Mom” prefers Earth Balance Buttery Spread)
8 slices of bread
Maple Syrup

Preparation

In a bowl, beat eggs and SoL together. Stir in pumpkin, pie spice, cinnamon and vanilla.

Heat a griddle over medium heat. Dip the bread into the egg mixture, coating both sides. Add butter to hot griddle, place the bread on the griddle and cook until golden brown on both sides.

Serve with maple syrup.

*Recipe and image courtesy of SoL.*

SoL is an excellent source of Vitamin E, Phosphorus, Folic Acid, Calcium and Vitamin D. Available in three varieties – Original, Unsweetened and Vanilla – SoL is naturally free of the eight most common food allergens including milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy and wheat.

The Pasta Pot

Healthy and simple to make, pasta may be the ultimate staple for every family kitchen. Although many moms have a ‘love-hate relationship’ with carbohydrates, they may want to consider adding a hearty pasta meal to their family’s comfort food menu. The complex carbohydrates in pasta provide a great fuel source plus lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

The nutritional quality of pasta, along with its taste and texture, depend upon the flour. Those made with whole grain flours, such as whole wheat pasta, are naturally the most nutrient-rich because the bran and germ of the grain have been left in. Most pasta is made with durum wheat, a hard wheat high in protein and gluten. Many of the pastas we are used to eating are made with semolina or farina flours in which the germ and bran have been removed, thus lowering the fiber and nutrient content. Judge the ingredient list for pasta in the same way you judge the ingredients on bread labels. Because most pastas are made from refined flour, ounce-for-ounce or calorie-for-calorie, they are less nutritious in fiber, vitamin E, B-vitamins, zinc, and folic acid than a whole wheat pasta. Check if the main grain on the ingredient list is whole or refined.

Here are some more words to look for when reading the label on the next pasta you purchase:

• Whole wheat means what it says – the whole grain.

• Macaroni means the pasta is made with semolina, farina, and/or flour made from refined durum wheat (in other words “enriched white flour”). Macaroni comes in many shapes: spaghetti, elbow macaroni, shells, etc.

• Flavored pasta includes vegetables, such as spinach and tomato, to add taste, variety, and nutrition to plain old pasta.

Consider eating pasta at least twice a week. Because it reheats so easily, pasta makes a great leftover meal. Makeover one of your pasta recipes one step at a time. Start tonight by trying a tomato-based pasta recipe that your kids will love – a pasta pot full of fresh vegetables in the sauce mix and served over whole grain pasta. Your kids can help with the preparation by measuring ingredients and adding grated cheese before serving.

Garden Primavera Pasta

Ingredients

12 ounces whole grain spaghetti such as Barilla Whole Grain Angel Hair Pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
5 cups diced fresh tomatoes (3-4 medium tomatoes)
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation

Cook pasta according to package directions. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly until softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook just until they begin to soften about 3 minutes. Stir in parsley, basil, (optional salt and pepper). Turn off heat. Immediately add the cooked pasta and Parmesan cheese, and toss gently.

Makes 4-6 servings.

About the Author

Guest Post by Kindy Peaslee, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Coach for EverydayHealth.com and its calorie counter tool (http://www.my-calorie-counter.com). She also loves creating family-friendly recipes at her personal nutrition site. (http://www.healthy-kid-recipes.com)