The smell of cinnamon-spiked snickerdoodles fills the air. Hot chocolate heats on the stove. A rib roast bakes in the oven, warming the kitchen on a cold winter day.
Scents have a powerful way of triggering memories. And during the holidays, all the familiar food scents can help us recall happy family times.
But holiday foods can also be high in sugar and fat and loaded with not-so-healthy carbs. This year, make some easy substitutions that let you keep your family food traditions with a side of delicious and healthy.
Cut the Carbs
Holiday Classic: Mashed potatoes may be loaded with flavor, but it’s also loaded with carbohydrates.
Seasonal Substitution: Mashed cauliflower is also tasty, but it has fewer carbs. Frozen “riced” cauliflower bags are all the rage with the Paleo-friendly crowd, making them easy to find in the frozen food aisle.
2 10-ounce bags of frozen riced cauliflower (can substitute fresh riced cauliflower)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large minced clove of garlic
½ cup chicken broth (can substitute 2 percent milk or coconut milk)
Directions: Heat olive oil in a skillet over low heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes or until it starts to brown lightly. Add the cauliflower and increase heat slightly. Stir constantly until cauliflower sheds water or starts to lightly brown. Remove the garlic and cauliflower mixture from the heat and put it in a mixing or serving bowl.
Mash the mixture by hand or use an immersion blender. Mix in warm chicken broth and salt and pepper to taste. Top with chives, grated Parmesan or bacon for some extra zest. Serve immediately or keep it warm in the oven on low heat in a lightly greased baking dish.
Holiday Classic: Traditional stuffing is made with bread — lots of it. And whether you go with white or wheat, you’ll be making a dish full of carbs.
Seasonal Substitute: Swapping out the bread cubes for ground turkey and diced veggies like onion, butternut squash and kale will make a colorful, low-carb alternative for your table.
Stuffing with Meat and Vegetables
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ pounds ground turkey
2 cups cooked, cubed butternut squash (should still be firm)
1 large bunch of kale or spinach (stems removed)
1 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 minced garlic cloves
¾ cup diced onion
½ cup minced or julienned carrots
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
Directions: Heat oil in a skillet, add the onion and carrots, and cook until onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the turkey and sauté until it starts to brown. Then add the cumin, paprika, tomato paste, rosemary, squash and kale. Cook the mixture until turkey is lightly browned, leaving some pink if you’re planning to bake it in the oven.
Add the pine nuts before serving. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve on the side as dressing or inside poultry as stuffing. You can add a few tablespoons of chicken broth as needed to keep it moist.
Slow Down on the Sugar
Holiday Classic: Cranberry sauce is as simple as it is sweet.
Seasonal Substitution: Cranberry chutney uses half the sugar of a traditional cranberry sauce, and it packs in flavor and the healthy benefits of antioxidants with red wine.
2 cups fresh cranberries
½ cup red wine (can substitute orange juice)
¼ cup sugar
1 crisp apple, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook on low heat for 15 minutes or until cranberries are just cooked.
Holiday Classic: Store bought hot cocoa is often processed with extra ingredients you don’t need.
Seasonal Substitution: Dark chocolate has less added sugar and fats than milk chocolate. Try using coconut milk or almond milk for a different flavor.
Hot Cocoa with Whipped Cream
2 cups 2 percent milk (can substitute coconut or almond milk)
3 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent cacao) broken into small pieces
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or ¼ scraped vanilla bean
Directions: Heat milk on the stove at a low setting. Add the other ingredients and continue to whisk until the mixture is hot and well blended. Add a pinch of sugar if needed for more sweetness.
Try serving it with freshly whipped, cold coconut milk instead of whipped cream.