Monthly Archives: December 2017

Christmas & New Years Recipes

Festival of Lights, Brookings, Oregon. MHollander

Last week I shared healthier versions of recipes for Hanukkah. This week I will share healthier ideas for Christmas & New Years eve. A traditional Christmas menu depends on what part of the U.S. you are from & what your cultural roots are. Basically it is very similar to Thanksgiving. I am going write about other foods for your menu besides turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes & stuffing. New Years is a bit easier because it is traditionally a time to toast in the new year & eat lots of yummy hors d’oeuvres. 

Main courses instead of turkey or tofurkey 🙂 

  • MyRecipes: Chicken-Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon This is a lighter version. Only 2 slices of bacon for entire recipe & the minimal amount of cheese. Turmeric is used for flavor & color. 
  • MyRecipes: Cornbread Crab Cakes  Another lighter version of the original recipe. 
  • MyRecipes: Shrimp and Grits I lived in Kentucky & Georgia for a short time. I learned to love grits! This recipe has a low-fat creamy sauce.
  • MyRecipes: Smoky Pork Stir-Fry Instead of frying pork chops this is a healthy stir-fry. Use olive oil instead of canola.
  • Eating Well: Fennel & Meyer Lemon-Stuffed Salmon This is made with  fresh salmon. You could substitute frozen salmon fillets.
  • Minimalist Baker: GARLIC MAC ‘N’ CHEESE This is a vegan version of the classic mac & cheese. If you haven’t tried using Nutritional Yeast, you should. It makes everything creamy & cheesy. Try it on popcorn first.
  • Minimalist Baker: CREAMY VEGAN GARLIC PASTA WITH ROASTED TOMATOES Very simple & elegant for a dinner party. Your favorite nut milk can be used. 
  • Minimalist Baker: SWEET POTATO LASAGNA  This is a vegan recipe. Instead of lasagne noodles you layer with sweet potato. You can buy a vegan ricotta cheese rather than make it if it would be easier for you. Same with the pesto layer. You can buy vegan pesto, just check the labels. Victoria makes wonderful vegan sauces.
  • Food & Wine: Carrot Osso Buco No meat in this Osso Buco! I have marinated carrots before & they always turn out so tasty. 

Healthier side dishes. 

  • MyRecipes: Herbed Potato Salad  Potato salads are one of my favorite dishes. It is quick & easy to make. You can change the ingredients to reflect your own tastes & dietary needs. I use Veganaise rather than yogurt & sour cream. I also add shredded bright orange carrots to make it festive looking & it adds another healthy vegetable. Very versatile recipe.
  • MyRecipes: Cornbread Stuffing With Sweet Potato and Squash This is another recipe that you can tweak. It is a light version, but you can make it lighter by substituting ingredients. Take a look & see what you can do.
  • Better Homes & Garden: Roasted Root Vegetable and Wilted Romaine Salad I am a big fan of roasted vegetables. 
  • Better Homes & Garden: Cauliflower “Couscous” Couscous is a pasta, so substituting cauliflower is a great idea. I have made cauliflower rice before & it was very good. I would leave out the butter or cut down on how much you use. 
  • Minimalist Baker: CRISPY GARLIC BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH SRIRACHA AIOLI You can use frozen Brussels sprouts for this. They are easy to cut in half when frozen. 
  • Minimalist Baker: DILL ROASTED SWEET POTATOES + WARM SPINACH SALAD Anything served over a bed of spinach would make me happy 🙂
  • Food & Wine: Roasted Delicata Squash with Quinoa Salad This is a definite must try. Delicata squash is a winter staple in my house. Roasting it brings out the natural sweet flavor.
  • Food & Wine: Mixed Mushroom Ragout This can be put over anything from rice to fish. Switch out the chicken broth for a vegetarian version. My favorite are Edwards & Sons Natural Bullion Cubes These cubes make a great broth for a fast soup. Add scallions, mushrooms & grated carrots. Yum!

Ring in the New Year with some tasty hors d’oeuvres. 


  • Minimalist Baker: VEGAN GLUTEN-FREE GINGERBREAD MEN You can’t leave out the Gingerbread men!
  • I found this interesting cooking blog, The Big Man’s World 🙂 Somehow he doesn’t come across as a macho guy like the name of the blog suggests & his picture is of a cute young kid 🙂 Here is what he says about his website: THE BIG MAN’S WORLD ® is all about healthy, easy, quick, and simple sweet recipes. Every single recipe is 100% gluten-free and dairy free, with most having a vegan, paleo and sugar-free option. I believe that desserts and sweets should be a daily staple and part of an everyday diet. Take a look at all his recipes, but especially the Desserts for something new for your Christmas sweet tooth. 
  • My Blog post for last year at this time was for Christmas sweets. Healthy Holiday Recipes for Cookies, Candies & Nuts!

I am making only vegan Christmas cookies & Pralines this year. I started looking for vegan replacements for the recipes I usually use. They were so complicated & used ingredients I don’t ordinarily use. I went back to my old recipes & decided to experiment.

  • For the spiced nuts, I needed an egg white to coat them with before adding the spices. I substituted 2 tablespoons of aquafaba for each egg.~the name for the viscous water in which legume seeds such as chickpeas have been cooked. Wikipedia~  I used the liquid from a can of organic garbanzo beans. Aquafaba can be beaten stiff like egg whites. It worked perfectly & the flavor was the same!
  • For my cookies that required butter, I substituted Vegan Earth Balance. You can also use coconut oil, but I found that I preferred the buttery taste for one of the cookies. 
  • If it required an egg or two I used flax or chia eggs~ How to Make a Flax EggYou can use this recipe using chia rather than flax.

This was much easier than buying all those new ingredients & I could bake my favorite holiday recipes. I do love simple 🙂

OldWays Whole Grains Council: EXPERT SHARES TIPS FOR BAKING WITH WHOLE GRAINS, DECEMBER 6, 2017  “Convert your favorite recipes to whole grain! Get the tips you need, including which recipes can be substituted part-for-part, which ones might need extra liquid, and which whole grain flours have the sweetest flavor. Originally posted April 5, 2015; updated in 2017 to include additional tips.” Handy info-graph of these tips for you to download & put on your frig.

MOMables: Ingredient Substitution List For Baking Great information on how & with what to substitute eggs, dairy & flour.

VegKitchen: Vegan Substitutions Guide, POSTED BY ERIN PAVLINA Interesting guide. Remember when using this guide, the same dietary guidelines for vegans apply…eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains & omit the processed foods when possible. There are unhealthy vegans. 

One Green Planet: A Guide to 15 Types of Gluten-Free Flour Who knew their were so many! Take a look at the list.

Happy cooking & baking! Enjoy the Holidays with family & friends. The next post will be January 2nd, 2018.

Until next year!…Mary 🙂

Hanukkah Recipes

I decided to do this post in honor of Deborah Pomeranz. Deborah was not only a friend & colleague, she & her co-conspirator, Deb Snyder, were the driving forces behind the non-profit, NCCF, North County Cancer Fitness. Deborah would patiently explain the Jewish holidays to me & anyone else who asked. We discussed the traditional Hanukkah foods served & how they were prepared. Some were healthy & others could use some help to become a bit healthier.

No matter what holiday we are faced with, we can enjoy it with healthy variations of old favorites. Hanukkah, December 12th-20th this year, is no exception.


During the festival of Hanukkah children & adults play a game with a Dreidel. The coins they use, Hanukkah Gelt, are made of chocolate. Here is a link to one of our favorite sites, Elena’s Pantry. She has come up with an easy recipe for these coins that are dairy free. You use her Homemade Paleo Chocolate recipe to make the Homemade Hanukkah Gelt. This recipe can also be used in any mold for any holiday: Valentine hearts, Christmas trees, Thanksgiving turkeys & more!

An even easier recipe that can also be used in a mold is from another favorite, the Minimalist Baker, Easy Vegan Chocolate.

The traditional Hanukkah menu includes these favorites: brisket, short ribs, noodle kugel, latkes, doughnuts, apple sauce & Challah, a braided bread.

Martha Stewart has the traditional recipes with healthier variations here: Hanukkah Dinner Recipes That the Whole Family Will Love. For example, she has a recipe for roasted apples rather than sweetened applesauce. Sometimes to dress up my roasted mixed vegetables, I will mix in apple slices when roasting them. Easy to do & very tasty. You can also roast them separately sprinkled with your favorite apple pie spices minus the sugar. Take a look at her Potato Kugel Gratin. It uses 5 eggs but remember that you are only eating 1 (or 2 🙂 ) servings. 

AllRecipes: A Traditional Menu for Hanukkah By Anna Berman Another good site for traditional recipes. I especially liked the Roasted Green Bean  recipe. Simple. 

Now let’s look at some variations of these traditional recipes.

Elena’s Pantry has several good recipes: 

***Her recipes are mostly paleo, so she uses a lot of eggs.

Green Planet has 18 Vegan Hanukkah recipes Also take a look at their 8 Ways to Make Your Hanukkah Miraculously Delicious & 8 Tips for Having a Healthier Hanukkah. There are 2 Blintze recipes & a recipe for raw applesauce in there also. 

Another good site with some original ideas is: MAYIM BIALIK’S 7 VEGAN HANUKKAH RECIPES YOU MUST TRY THIS HOLIDAY Her recipes connect you to some of the sites I often use, Epicurious: Morrocan Vegetable Salad for one idea. I often serve a variation of this on a bed of raw, baby spinach. Looks pretty & tastes divine

My husband & I love potato latkes with home made applesauce. Here are a few recipes;

  • I Love Vegan: Potato Latkes Remember this is a holiday so frying doesn’t count if you use the minimum amount of oil & lots of love 🙂
  • Vegetarian Times: Potato Latkes I would use olive oil to fry with.
  • The Spruce: Vegan Baked Potato Latkes Recipe This is a good recipe to try. I would use parchment rather than grease a pan. Any flour would do & I would use a red or gold potato. 
  • my recipes: Root Vegetable Latkes Potatoes, parsnips & sweet potatoes make this an interesting combination. 

For the applesauce, all you need is a food processor or a blender. I just toss in a sweet variety of raw apples along with some cinnamon & nutmeg & blend until it is chunky or puree if you prefer. No need to cook those apples first. You know how much I like simple 🙂

“Kugel is a baked pudding or casserole, most commonly made from egg noodles or potato.”  Wikipedia  

This is an interesting article on Jamie Geller’s site: THE HISTORY OF KUGEL b When I searched the site for Kugel recipes, it brought up a wonderful list of Kugel ideas. Click here. Be sure to look at the Chilis Rellenos Kugel! The list seems endless 🙂 Take a look at her  Chanukah page for more recipe. I am loving this website!

This recipe for Kugel from ASWEATLIFE, sounds wonderful: NOODLE-FREE KUGEL RECIPE FOR A HEALTHY HANUKKAH  The author uses grated sweet potato, apple & pear. Healthy alternative.

If you just can’t bring yourself to make the traditional Kugel without the noodles & dairy, here is a low-fat version from ChowHound: Bubbe’s Luchen Kugel Recipe.

Brisket is the main dish. You don’t need to replace it with Tofurkey, tofu or seitan, although you could 🙂 Here are some ideas.

Sufganiyot are deep fried jelly doughnuts. They are part of the traditional meal. These can be baked!

Challah is a beautiful braided bread. Here is the traditional recipe from Leite’s Culinaria: Challah As the author say’s, “you could buy Challah but where is the fun in that!” If you prefer a healthier version, I found several.

Have a healthy & happy Hanukkah!

I am thinking about my Christmas menu. I will share any interesting ideas that I find. Email me if you have any ideas to share. Until next week…Mary 🙂

What Do the New Blood Pressure Guidelines Mean?

Why are the new blood pressure guidelines causing such a stir? Because they place 46% of Americans in the high blood pressure range. Lets look at what blood pressure is, how it is measured, what these new guidelines are & how we can bring our blood pressure down naturally. 

As your heart beats, it pushes the blood through your circulatory system to bring your body the oxygen it needs. As it moves through the blood vessels it exerts pressure on them. Blood pressure is measured on the arterial system. There are 2 numbers, for example, 120/76. The top number, systolic, is the pressure on the arterial wall as your heart beats. The bottom number, diastolic, is the pressure of the resting of the heart between beats. 

Here are some tips on how to make sure you get a correct reading when either you are taking it at home or having it taken in a medical setting.

  • Take your blood pressure at the same time every day. It is highest in the early morning, so choose a later time.
  • Make sure you are using the correct cuff size. This will effect the reading. There are cuffs for children, adults of normal weight & a cuff for larger arms.
  • Don’t eat or drink caffeine at least 30 minutes before a reading. And don’t smoke at least 30 minutes before a reading.
  • Empty your bladder 🙂
  • Take time to sit quietly for about 5 minutes before the reading. I know that in a medical setting it is usually rushed.
  • Make sure that the cuff is on bare skin. Don’t roll up a tight sleeve above the cuff. Wear something loose or if at home take off the shirt.
  • Sit with your back straight, with feet flat on the floor. DO NOT cross your legs.
  • Place your cuffed arm on a table at heart level with the other palm resting on your leg.
  • No talking during the reading!
  • If you or your medical team is not satisfied with the first reading then have it taken again after waiting for 5 minutes. It should not be taken immediately after the first reading. Some authorities recommend that you take it 3 times with a 5 minute break between times & average the last 2 reading for an accurate test.

What has been considered normal, high & low blood pressure has changed over the years due to new research & understanding of heart disease. Back in the 60’s I remember being told as a young nurse that you would take your age & add 100 & that would be your normal for the systolic. Once you aged past 60 years old you would use 160 as normal.

Take a look at this paper from the Journal of Clinical Hypertension: Historical Perspectives on the Management of Hypertension by Marvin Moser, MD The author uses the health of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940’s as an example of what was considered normal treatment. In the 1948 textbook, Cardiology, your blood pressure was high if over 180/110. This was based on the medical evidence at that time. In the 1950’s older patients were not treated when their blood pressure was between 160/80 – 200/110! He continues thru the years to show what was considered high & how it was treated. Good article.

 My summary of the new changes are as follows: 

  • Normal is now below 120/80. It was 140/90.
  • Elevated blood pressure is 120-129 systolic & a diastolic less than 80. This is a reading that is not considered hypertension.
  • A diagnosis of hypertension is called Stage 1: 130 – 139 systolic & 80-89 diastolic.
  • Stage 2 hypertension: above 140/90

The new guidelines include these lifestyle changes for all patients. These are recommended particularly for those with “elevated” blood pressure readings rather than medication.

  • Weight loss for overweight or obese people
  • Heart healthy diet like DASH
  • Salt restrictions
  • Increase potassium intake through diet..DASH diet is naturally high in potassium.
  • A diet low in sodium, saturated fat, and total fat with an increase in fruits, vegetables, and grains has the biggest impact in lowering the blood pressure 🙂
  • Exercise & a general increase of physical activity during your day.
  • Alcohol: Men no more than 2 servings per day & women no more than 1 per day. 

A plus for these guidelines is that they include recommendations for race, gender & age. Takes the guesswork out of what your normal should be. They also give the doctor better guidelines for what treatment a patient should receive & when to recommend lifestyle changes. These recommendations will now be at an earlier age which is why most doctors like these new guidelines. Catch potential heart disease earlier.

Harvard Health Publishing: New high blood pressure guidelines: Think your blood pressure is fine? Think again…,   NOVEMBER 17, 2017, by Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor  Good explanation of the guidelines. 

Nearly half of Americans now have high blood pressure, based on new guidelines  By Susan Scutti, CNN, November 14, 2017 This article is quite good. It explains the shortcomings of the new guidelines & what the physicians are worried about. 

From what I have read in several articles, the main concern is that many more people will be put on medications that in some physicians eyes are not needed. After looking over the guidelines I think they will cause physicians to evaluate patients more intently when it comes to earlier detection of heart disease. 

In the guidelines, adults 60 years or older will be diagnosed with hypertension if over 150/90 & medications will be given. Concern about raising this limit for older adults has been expressed because it is felt that this will increase heart disease in this age group if not medicated earlier. Proponents of this change state that these new numbers are based on the most up to date scientific information & research on this age group.

Lifestyle changes to lower blood pressure are not that different than the lifestyle changes to lower cancer risk. Relaxation techniques to decrease stress along with exercise can reduce your blood pressure effectively. Diet is extremely important. Just losing 10% of your current weight, if overweight or obese, will bring about significant changes in your blood pressure.

I am not going to list the foods you should & shouldn’t be eating, you should know that by heart from previous posts. Think DASH, MIND & Mediterranean diets 🙂 But I will point you in the right direction. 

If you want a scientific view of the DASH, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, diet & its effects on blood pressure, read this abstract from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Effects of Sodium Reduction and the DASH Diet in Relation to Baseline Blood Pressure

From Spectator Health: Low-salt diet ‘as effective as drugs’ for hypertension  Very good article about research with a low salt DASH diet & its effects on blood pressure. The bottom line is that it performed better than prescription drugs. Check out my post in 2015 on the DASH diet or from the NIH: Description of the DASH Eating Plan

High blood pressure: Could diet replace medication?  By November 24, 2017  Another good article about research on the low salt-DASH diet. 

One thing to remember is that the body does need sodium, salt, to function. So if you are going to limit your salt intake, use the recommendations given with the DASH diet. Too little salt can have the opposite effect by raising the risk of heart disease & stroke. It is all about BALANCE. Remove the salt shaker from the table & replace it with flavorful herbs. ***Braggs Organic Sprinkles: 24 Herbs & Spices  My favorite! 

This is not really off topic 🙂 I wanted to share this article that I came across. 17 tips to pick the freshest veggies and ripest fruit, Nov. 17, 2017, TODAY  Goes along with a healthy low-salt diet!

Until next week…Mary 🙂