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Welcome the Holidays with Three Festive Recipes

It’s officially here – the cozy season of delicious food, special gatherings and cookie exchanges. A holiday centered around food can certainly pose challenges to health goals.

It’s difficult to say no to a second helping of your favorite food, but there are ways to help keep your hunger and desire for more in check:

  • Get enough sleep to keep hunger hormones at bay
  • Eat slowly and think about the flavors and textures of every bite to increase satisfaction
  • Wait 20 minutes before going back for seconds to let your brain register satiety

While it’s good to keep the above in mind, bringing along a healthy dish to pass around can help you stay in control of health goals. We’ve got you covered with a side dish, a flourless and butter-free cookie for an exchange and a crowd-pleasing appetizer:

  • Arugula Pesto Drizzled Roasted Acorn Squash
  • You Won’t Believe it’s Chickpeas Holiday Cookies
  • Blistered Shishito Peppers with Zesty and Creamy Tahini Sauce

Arugula Pesto Drizzled Roasted Acorn Squash – Serves 4

A variety of squashes are in season in the fall months and the fruit keeps well through the holidays. They offer antioxidants, plenty of fiber and vitamin C to name a few and are versatile for side dishes.

This recipe is an affordable crowd-pleaser using acorn squash and arugula for pesto. Substituting arugula for basil in this pesto along with using breadcrumbs instead of some pine nuts offer unique and delicious flavors but for less.

Arugula Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups arugula
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts (or substitute for all breadcrumbs)
  • ¼ cup parmesan, grated
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Add arugula, parmesan, pine nuts, parmesan, lemon juice and salt and pepper to a food processor or blender.
  2. Slowly add olive oil as you continue to blend. If the pesto is too thick, add 1 tbsp of water at a time, blending or processing in between to achieve the desired texture.

Acorn Squash

Ingredients

  • 2 acorn squash
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp parmesan, grated

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Half the acorn squashes, then remove seeds and strings. With the acorn halves faced down cut squash into ½ inch slices. Place squash slices onto a lined baking sheet.
  3. Mix olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a ramekin. Brush or gently drizzle the mixture onto the squash slices.
  4. Roast for 20 minutes on one side, then flip and bake for another 10 minutes, or until fork tender and caramelized.
  5. Transfer squash to a serving dish, then drizzle the arugula pesto over it. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top and serve. Enjoy!

You Won’t Believe it’s Chickpeas Holiday Cookies

Cookie exchanges are popular during the holidays, and this cookie recipe may just wow and surprise partygoers. Made with chickpeas instead of flour and cashew butter instead of butter, this vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe offers extra protein, fiber, folate, iron and B vitamins at a fraction of the saturated fat and refined carbohydrates.

These cookies come out with a crisp exterior and slightly soft interior with some chew. It’s best to eat them fresh to enjoy the crisp.

Ingredients

  • 1 15 oz can of chickpeas
  • ½ cup smooth cashew butter, unsalted
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (use vegan chocolate if desired)
  • ¼ cup crushed peppermint candy or chopped pecans
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Spray canola oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. For an especially smooth texture, peel the chickpeas by placing them between a towel and rubbing, then removing the peels.
  3. In a food processor or blender, add chickpeas, cashew butter, vanilla and brown sugar. Blend until texture is smooth. Add salt, baking soda and powder, then blend for about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips along with the nuts if using.
  4. Spray a lined baking sheet with canola oil. Using an ice cream scooper or spoon, place about 1 tbsp of cookie dough onto baking sheet leaving ~3 inches between cookies.
  5. Bake for 16-18 minutes until cookies have browned along the edges. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle crushed peppermint if using.

Blistered Shishito Peppers with Zesty and Creamy Tahini Sauce

Blistered shishito peppers are making an appearance on more hip restaurant menus, but they are very simple to make at home. Offering up vitamin A, C, fiber, shishito peppers are a healthier dipper than chips, but more complex than cut carrots and cucumbers. The dip in this recipe is made from the Mediterranean staple tahini, a paste made from toasted and ground sesame seeds. This creamy paste offers up healthy fats, fiber and copper which helps with blood clot formation and blood pressure.

Shishito Peppers

Ingredients

  • Shishito peppers, cleaned and dried
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, toss peppers with olive oil, salt and pepper
  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add peppers until it’s hot enough that a drop of water sizzles and evaporates quickly on contact. Add the peppers and allow to sear. Stir and turn every 1-2 minutes to allow the peppers to get small, charred spots. Cook for about 10 minutes or until tender.
  3. Move the peppers to a serving dish. Lightly drizzle lemon juice over the peppers then top with salt and pepper to taste if needed. Serve with creamy tahini sauce. Do not eat the pepper stems, but the seeds are fine to consume.

Creamy Tahini Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
  • 1/2 cup tahini (well-stirred)
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 5 tbsp ice cold water
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 5 chive sprigs, finely shopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a food processor or blender, add all ingredients except for water and chives. Add 1 tbsp of ice cold water at a time, blending in-between, until you have reached desired consistency for dipping.
  2. Add the mixture to a serving dish and top with chopped chives.

    Shanthi Appelö is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more health tips, visit AHealthierMichigan.org.