Heart of the Matter 9: Holiday Food (Round-Up)

Nearly everyone knows someone who has been affected by heart disease, including me. It is a product of both genetics and diet, and while it’s impossible (at this point in history anyhow) to control the genes we may or may not inherit from our parents or grandparents, one area where we can make a stand against this deadly disease is by watching what we eat. Losing someone you love (or almost losing them) to heart disease is scary enough, but consider the fact that it’s one of the leading causes of death among both men and women, and we’ve all got our work cut out for us.

The holiday season, that most formidable antagonist of healthy eating ambitions, is almost upon us. There’s a reason why one of the most common New Year’s Eve resolutions is to lose wait or diet after the first of the year and that it all begins after the holidays are over – most holiday foods are rich in saturated fat, cholesterol and sugar. Now, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t enjoy ourselves during the holidays, eat Christmas cookies or have that glass of eggnog spiked with rum when ‘tis the season, but our arteries (and waistlines) would be appreciative if we didn’t completely throw healthy eating to the wayside for the next two months. And some people don’t have the luxury of throwing it to the wayside, especially if they or someone they love has been affected by heart disease. So, when I asked for you for heart-healthy holiday recipes, many of you let your creativity go wild and sent me a suite of heart-healthy recipes that we can all use this holiday season - whether it’s to grace a Thanksgiving or Christmas table, to use as in-between meals before indulging in a holiday feast, give as healthy holiday gifts, or even to ring in and celebrate the New Year.

All of the recipes in this round-up would be fabulous served to family and friends this holiday season – for that’s really what the holidays are all about: spending time with the people we love. We can show them just how much we care by making this holiday season a healthier one for everyone. Thanks to all who particpated and stay tuned next month too, when Ilva hosts HotM 10 (how wonderful that you’ve been submitting recipes for 10 months now and this has translated to a database of delicious heart-healthy recipes we can use all year long!).

Since this was my first time hosting, I was thrilled to find so many new blogs just by the entries you sent in, and will definitely be visiting them again soon. I've organized the entries by course, so no matter what holiday you're celebrating, or what type of dish you need, you can find a heart healthy dish that fits the bill. Without further adieu, here’s the round-up of all the recipes for HotM 9: Holiday Food...

First Course: Soup

Abby, from North Carolina, has a blog called Confabulation in the Kitchen. She sent me a lovely entry for Creamy Sweet Potato Soup, and shared her own personal ambitions for eating healthy with us. She also reminded us that low calorie, low fat, good-for-you food should taste good too! With this soup, and her outlook on life, it looks like she's already off to a great start for the holidays. Stop by her blog and wish her luck to keep her going as she and her husband Brad embark on this adventure.

Main Dishes and Sides

Labelga, from Brussels, Belgium, shared her taste trials with four ways to cook scallops on her blog, Leafy Cooking, taking advantage of the open season (as she said: 'tis the season!) for this gorgeous little shellfish. This would be a great first course or light main dish for a special, elegant meal - just perfect for the holiday season. With scallops 1) steamed in an infusion of lemon grass and served with salad, 2) fried in sesame oil, with onion and leek, 3) à la nage in carrot juice with coriander, and 4) marinated and raw, with a crunch of red pepper corns and pistachio.

Ann, at Redacted Recipes, shares with us a stunning centerpiece that she created for her daughter, Sophie, who is a vegetarian: Sophie's Thanksgiving Pumpkin. This dish would wow any guest, vegetarian or otherwise, and I'm sure that Sophie will be both amazed and grateful for all the thought, love and preparation that went into making it both healthy and special. It would also add some serious pizzaz to a Thanksgiving turkey feast as a side dish for the omnivores out there.

Karyn is the author of Hot Potato, and shares with us a recipe for a heart-healthy lasagna, a Give-Thanks-for-My-Pie-Too Lasagna to be exact. Not only does she "pimp up the vegetables" but she reduces the fat significantly by limiting the cheese (and using mostly goat cheese, an already low fat cheese) since she is lactose intolerant. Not only is this a great recipe for vegetarians, but would also be great for those in-between holidays days or for Autumn entertaining.

If you're looking for a dish to ring in the New Year, Marta has the perfect dish for you: Lentil and Pasta with a Touch of Lime. Marta is An Italian in the US, and shares her take on an Italian tradition for bringing good luck to you the upcoming year, as well as a funny story about why some ingredients aren't exactly on the heart-healthy list! This is her first entry for HotM (and we hope there will be more, Marta!).

Carrie, from Ginger Lemon Girl (and also from North Carolina!), used the opportunity to work with a fellow blogger, Natalie, and posted a delcious sounding Sweet Potato-Apple Casserole. I love the idea of combining sweet potatoes and apple, all with a crispy, crunchy topping! Her entry does double duty as a gluten-free holiday dish too (as are many of the other recipes that people shared).

Joanna, of Joanna's Food, is used to creating delicious heart-healthy food and has been hosting HotM since it's inception. She's created the base for a myriad of festive dishes, by making Braised Red Cabbage that she can keep in her freezer and make several different dishes with over the holiday season. What a fabulous idea! Even better, she offers several ideas for seasonal additions to the cabbage, so you're sure to find something that works for you! With all the entertaining and things-to-do lists getting longer and longer, I only wish I was this prepared!

Smita, from Rochester, New York, and the blog Smita Serves You Right, shared her recipe for this elegant dish: Acorn Squash with Wild Rice and Quinoa. She first takes us on a beautifully written tour of Rochester that evokes a sense of actually being there, and ends with a warming, perfect dish for any vegetarian or health-conscious guests you may be having over the holiday season.

Tara is a nutrition student from Australia that has Type 1 Diabetes and is out to prove to the world that even with this disease, she can still make and eat delicious food just like everyone else. She's got a great outlook on dealing with diabetes (that it should fit into her life, and not the other way around) and didn't let it stop the foodie she was before her diagnosis. Plus, she's got lots of great tips and recipes for healthy eating. Check out her recipe for Ratatouille on her blog, Should You Eat That? This would be another great vegetarian main or side dish during the holidays.

Elizabeth hails from Canada, and we're lucky she happened upon the HotM challenge this month, because she offers us a savory and delicious sounding take on Roasted Sweet Potatoes on her blog, blog from OUR kitchen. As an added bonus, she even provides links to six of her other recipes that would be great additions to any holiday table, from appetizers to dessert!

Ilva, author of Lucullian Delights, is one of my long-time blog friends, as we started our blogs at nearly the same time. She and Joanna started HotM and have kept it going by posting both their own recipes and the round-up of your recipes for the last 10 months. She makes simple, beautiful food and shows us a bit of Italy through her camera lens nearly every day. She had two entries this month: the first is Quickly Sauteed Savoy Cabbage and Carrots with Ginger and Pine Nuts, the other, Gluten Free Rice Tarts with Christmassy Apple Filling is listed under Breads and Desserts.

Simona writes the informative blog, Briciole, where you can learn about and even hear her speak Italian words pertaining to food (how cool is that!?)! She shared with us her recipe for Pure di broccoli (my apologies, Simona, that I have yet to figure out how to put accents in my blog posts!), or pureed broccoli. After an unfortunate happenstance with her camera, which she details in her post, I'm glad to see that it's still taking beautiful pictures, such as this lovely green puree, which would even be a healthy and delcious alternative to mashed potatoes on any holiday table!

There's no food that says "holidays" to me like stuffing - often coated in butter, but oh so delcious. Catherine, at Wheatless Bay, introduces us to a unique and worldy take on stuffing, with Belarusian Buckwheat Mushroom Pilaf (or Stuffing) that is both healthy and gluten free. Even more touching, she has dedicated her dish to Dianne, another blogger who is near and dear to my heart, who is learning to live with heart disease after her husband recently experienced a heart attack. This is her first entry for HotM and we hope she (and all of you other first-timers) will continue to share recipes with us.

Katie, from Thyme for Cooking, took on a difficult challenge by taking a gratin recipe and making it healthier so that it can be enjoyed by all! Her recipe for Pumpkin Gratin would be a great, seasonal swap for cream-laden scalloped potatoes. While you're enjoying her post, you can also see the amazing thing that happened to her garden! On a side note, she's hosting a great event that should keep us all laughing through the holiday season - which is also, coincidently, great for the heart!

You may have already heard the plea on my site, The Accidental Scientist, to try Brussels sprouts with my entry for Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pecans and Mustard Seeds. These poor little green gems have been sorely misjudged in my opinon - they're delcious in so many ways. So, please, give sprouts a chance!

Breads and Desserts
A South African living in London, Jeanne is the author of Cook Sister! She presents us with a solid argument for giving bran muffins another try with her Cranberry Apple Bran Muffins...maybe you can tell she's had a career as a legal defender?! I hate to admit it, but she's got me convinced! These would be a lovely and healthy breakfast for holiday guests.

Another wonderful breakfast idea (or a light dessert after that heavy holiday meal) is the AppleSauce Spice Cake from Melody at FruitTart. This mom doesn't want anyone to have to miss out on great sweet treats and her site includes recipes that boast flavorful treats, some without eggs, without dairy or gluten-free - so you can find something for everyone!

Ilva's second entry for HotM is her cute little Rice Tarts with Christmassy Apple Filling. The great thing about these little beauties is that they are the perfect size for after a big, heavy meal, and that this crust would be wonderful for treats that are either sweet or savory.
Bee and Jai at Jugalbandi created an incredible looking Cranberry-Pecan Upside Down Cake for their entry and even give us a very informative history lesson about the ingredients they used. These two have dedicated their blog to the memory of their friend, whom they lost to Leukemia, another deadly disease. As vegetarians who "seek to foster a more conscious approach to the food we consume, the thoughts we harbour, and the environment that sustains us," they're already making huge strides towards the goal of healthy eating, and have a spirit that stands out in their writing and is truly inspiring.

Special Extras
Michelle is a woman after my own heart! Not only is her name the same as my own, she posted a recipe for Roasted Chesnuts as her entry, something I have always associated with the holidays and as we can see when she shares with us a memory from her childhood, she has too. Author of the blog Greedy Gourmet, she made me laugh when I was reading through her "About" section - her notes on microwave and brand-name cooking, and her questions about fridge raiding, had me both giggling and nodding in agreement!

Jill loves cranberries and shares this passion with us by sharing her recipe for Cranberry Orange Relish - a dish I can imagine would be perfect dolloped on top of turkey, with cream cheese on crackers as an appetizer or even on sandwhiches with leftovers! Jill's site, Hey, That Tastes Good! is full of gluten-free recipes and she is showing the world that "gluten-free doesn't mean taste free" through her take on delicious, gluten-free food. She's also got a great set of links to other gluten-free bloggers on her site, making her site another great resource for finding gluten-free recipes.

Dianne is the author of A Gluten Free Journey, a blog I've been enjoying for a long time, and she's also a woman near and dear to my heart because not only is she a total sweetheart, but we got married about the same time. Her entry is a sure-to-be-delectable Fruit Compote to enjoy with fat free greek yogurt (but oh, I bet it's good on lots of things too!). Dianne's husband recently had a heart attack and they're learning how to deal with heart disease - keep an eye on her blog for more heart-healthy (and gluten free to boot!) recipes, and if you feel so inclined, drop by and offer a note of support for their journey.

Laurie, the author of Tastes Like Home: Mediterranean Cooking Alaska (both the blog and the cookbook!) may be living in Alaska, but is gracing her table and cooking recipes from her second home, Greece. Her recipe for Beet-Yogurt Spread is a beautifully festive dish that would brighten up any holiday table. In her post, she takes us on a journey through Athens, Greece and the food she had there, before bringing us back home where she has recreated this dip to enjoy with her Thanksgiving meal.

Last, but certainly not least is the Sweet Potato Spread devised by Chris from Mele Cote. She gives us a savory, interesting take on this Thanksgiving standard, and offers up a few giggles about why this holiday beats out Christmas for her favorite, going all the way back to her childhood. It seems a love of food has turned this public education guru and previous journaling blogger into one of us - a food blogger for almost a year now! We're glad she's participating in events like ours!

Thanks to all who participated and for putting up with me peeping on your sites to see what else you write about and reading some of the stories you share...I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it! I'm looking forward to getting to know you better and seeing your entries for future HotM events!

9 comments from you:

Ilva said...

Wow, there are so many incredible entries! Thank you Michelle for a wonderful roundup and Thanks to all of you who are participating!

Laurie Constantino said...

Micelle, you did a beautiful job with this roundup, thank you so much! I really like the layout, and having the pictures large enough to see easily. Now I'm hungry! Thanks again to you and everyone who sent in recipes.

Ann said...

Great round-up! I'm finding so many good ideas for healthier holidays.

katiez said...

Maybe this will be the year that i get through the holidays without the usual extra 4 (or 5) lbs. That would be sooo nice! And there are sooo many good choices here!
Lovely job on the round-up - and great recipes!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

You done such a beautiful arrangement and excellent write up on so many entries. And great looking new blogs.
Sorry I missed again this time. You certainly got some excellent recipes.
Thank you! Happy Thanksgiving!

wheatlessbay said...

Wow, long post. Round-ups are a lot of work for the round-upper. Thank you!

michelle said...

Thank you everyone, for participating (next time, dear Tanna!), for your nice comments, and for coming by my little blog. It was so fun to come across so many new blogs (and bloggers) and I can't wait to see what you all have in store for next month! Happy holidays to everyone!

bee said...

thanks, michelle, for this painstaking, beautiful roundup.

michelle said...

Hi Bee! Thank YOU for participating! It was exciting to me to find your blog!