Since most traditional holiday fare is not exactly what you might call "low calorie" I've developed a few recipes to get my holiday fix without creating the need for an entirely new wardrobe that's several sizes larger!
Anyhow, I've found that what really gives something it's characteristic holiday flavor is more the spices than it is the fat and sugar. So my strategy is to take relatively simple things and doctor them up with holiday spices.
The holiday spice palate generally includes cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, vanilla, ginger, anise and peppermint. I avoid the anise because I'm allergic to it (well, and because I think it's one of the most foul tasting substances on the planet) but feel free to use it in any of these recipes if you happen to like it.
So here are some of my favorites this time of year:
Spiced Hot Tea
There are many recipes out there for hot spiced tea. I make mine very simply by brewing plain black tea with whole cloves and a cinnamon stick.
I generally put the cloves in a tea ball of some sort to keep them corralled, but you could always just toss them in and strain them out before serving.
Other spices you could use would include allspice, anise, vanilla, and ginger. Many recipes call for fruit juice like apple, orange, lemon or cranberry, but I'm not a big fan of fruity tea so I keep mine simple.
Hot Apple Compote
This is one of my favorite desserts this time of year. It's ridiculously simple, relatively healthy and gives me that nice holiday flavor. I just cut up one apple (I don't bother to peel it, but you could) add a spoonful of raisins, a sprinkling of cinnamon, and a tablespoon of whiskey (or two, or three, or four... depending on my mood).
I microwave it for 2-3 minutes stopping it every minute or so to give it a good stir, and eat it hot. This method gets the apples soft, but if you wanted it more thoroughly cooked and mushy you could do it on the stovetop on low heat with lots of stirring to be sure it doesn't stick.
I find it to be plenty sweet with just the apple and raisins, but you could always add a little sugar, honey or maple syrup if you want it a bit sweeter - or even a few spoonfuls of frozen juice concentrate. You could easily experiment with more spices from the holiday list above, though I think I'd avoid peppermint on this one. Another variation would be to use craisins instead of raisins.
Hot Milk with Nutmeg
I LOVES me some good hot cocoa this time of year, but after a cup or two those calories really start to add up. So one of my favorite ways to get that same nice hot creamy goodness with fewer calories is to skip the chocolate and sugar and just have the hot milk with a sprinkling of nutmeg on top.
The nutmeg makes it taste vaguely egg-nog-esque even though it's hot. I sometimes add a splash of vanilla for good measure. This one is particularly good in the evening just before bedtime.
Not So Sweet Pumpkin Bread
I love pumpkin bread, but most of the recipes out there should really be called "pumpkin cake" as far as I'm concerned. They're just WAAAAAY too sweet. But, I've come up with a nice variation that still has all the pumkin-y goodness, but is much healthier.
I have to confess that I don't really measure things - I just go by what "looks right" which, I realize, isn't terribly helpful when passing along recipes, but here goes:
- About 6-8 cups of pumpkin puree - I generally eyeball this... but err on the side of too much because it makes a nice moist bread (I've never used canned because I generally make this recipe to use up garden pumpkins, so I don't know how much that works out to)
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- about 2 cups whole wheat flour (this amount will vary with the amount of pumpkin you use)
- 2 tbsp baking powder
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
- 2 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp salt
Pre-heat oven to 350. Beat eggs, pumpkin, oil, salt and spices together until smooth (I use the immersion blender) mix in flour and baking soda adding more flour if it's too soupy. Fold in the rolled oats and pepitas. Pour batter into a greased and floured cake pan, or 2 loaf pans, or about 18 -24 muffin cups. Bake for about 45 minutes (keep in mind that I live a mile above sea level - if you're at sea level you probably only want to bake it 25 minutes or so) or until a toothpick comes out clean.
OK this one couldn't possibly get any simpler because no doctoring is required. But there's nothing like a steaming hot cup of peppermint tea to put me in the holiday mood. You could always stick a candy cane in it to make it a bit more festive... though that does sorta defeat the low calorie part!
So tell me, what are you're favorite ways to get holiday flavor without becoming a holiday fatty?