Category Archives: Holidays

Healthy Hanukkah Recipes – Latkes and Toppings

I thought it would be fun to share a few healthy Hanukkah recipes that you could use for Hanukkah 2014. Hanukkah is filled with feasting and wonderful traditional foods. This is a great year to think about how to honor the traditions and serve healthier dishes at the same time.  These four recipes (two latkes and two toppings) are a great way to start.

Image by Misskoco
Image by Misskoco

Olive Oil Baked Potato Latkes


  • 2 pounds Russet (baking) potatoes
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F.
  2. Peel and grate potatoes.
  3. Place grated potatoes in a bowl and cover with cold water and let sit for 15 minutes.
  4. Drain and place in a cheesecloth-lined colander and let stand for another 15 minutes.
  5. Pour potatoes onto a clean towel and squeeze out all the water – place in a large bowl.
  6. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil to the potatoes along with the remaining ingredients and stir until blended well.
  7. Use remaining olive oil to grease a baking sheet.
  8. Drop mixture by the spoonful onto the greased baking sheet,
  9. Flatten slightly with spoon. (Leave some space between the latkes)
  10. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until browned; then, flip and bake another 10 minutes or until crispy and brown.
  11. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack slightly before serving.
  12. Top with applesauce topping and/or a creamy topping. (See recipes below)

Sweet Potato Zucchini Latkes


  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, grated
  • 2 medium baking potatoes, grated
  • 1 medium zucchini, grated
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 to 2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup whole wheat flour or panko
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Prepare all the veggies as noted above.
  2. Place the grated potatoes and zucchini in a cheesecloth-lined colander and let drain for 20 minutes.
  3. Pour potatoes and zucchini onto a clean towel and squeeze as much liquid out as you can.
  4. Place in a large bowl.
  5. Add the next 4 ingredients to the veggies and stir to combine well.
  6. Place a large heavy skillet over medium heat and add olive oil.
  7. When the oil is hot, drop latke mixture into the oil one small spoonful at a time, flattening each one slightly with the back of the spoon.
  8. Allow the latkes to fry in the olive oil until browned on the bottom, then carefully flip and let fry until the other side is brown and crispy.
  9. Remove carefully with a spatula and continue frying latkes until all the batter is used.
  10. Serve warm with toppings.

Yield: 10 to 12 latkes (depending on size)

Healthy Applesauce Latke Topping


  • 5 pounds semi-tart apples
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 2 drops vanilla extract
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Water
  • Natural honey or real maple syrup, to taste (optional)


  1. Peel and core the apples, cut in half, and place them in a large soup pot.
  2. Add the next 4 ingredients and stir.
  3. Cover with water half way up on the apples.
  4. Bring liquid to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, until apples are soft and liquid has reduced – stir frequently.
  6. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
  7. Remove cinnamon sticks and add honey or maple syrup to sweeten if desired – stir well.
  8. Mash the apples with a potato masher.
  9. Run the mixture through a sieve if you want to remove some of the pulp.
  10. Let cool and serve with hot latkes.

Yield: ~ 12 small portions

Creamy Caramelized Onion Latke Topping


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper


  1. Cut cream cheese into small chunks.
  2. Place a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add olive oil and onion.
  4. Fry, stirring often, just until onion starts to soften, then turn heat down to low and let cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until the onions are golden in color, soft, and “caramelized.”
  5. Add cream cheese chunks to the skillet with the onions, over low heat, and stir until the cream cheese melts.
  6. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the remaining ingredients, stirring well.
  7. Remove from heat; stir in mayonnaise and the remaining ingredients.
  8. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled as a topping for latkes

Note: Recipe can be easily doubled if needed.

Yield: ~ 6 topping size portions


Keep Little Ones Happy and Healthy This Holiday Season

Happy, Healthy Holiday Season for Little Ones

Image by MartaMaria Fontana
Image by MartaMaria Fontana

As the holiday season approaches, many of us think about our own need to stay healthy and active. As we think about the parties, the cookies, the candy, the eggnog and all the wonderful food … a small sigh escapes our lips …. There goes the diet!

Adults are not the only ones with sweet treats tempting us to dig in and enjoy. Our kids are also bombarded with goodies all season. From Thanksgiving to Hanukkah and Christmas – all the way through New Year’s, the availability of sweets, treats, and good food in abundance is difficult to resist.

We are celebrating the holidays, and food is certainly a big part of the festivities. As adults we can make some rational choices about our dietary intake (if we choose to), our kids do not have quite the same resolve. It is up to us to make healthy choices easier for them.

Let’s look at a few ideas for holiday fun without all the sweet temptations.

Play Outside

When a child is playing hard, there is little time to think about anything else. If you get your children away from the table, away from the kitchen, and away from the house, they will do what kids do – forget and focus on the here and now.

No matter where you live and what the climate is like, there are things to do outside during the holiday season. Depending on their ages, you may have to do some if not all of the work preparing, but it will be well worth it.

If you have leaves, rake them up and give them free reign to jump and play and scatter the leaves. Get out the sidewalk chalk and decorate for the season. If you have snow, build a fort or a snowman, or have a snowball fight. Your kids will forget that plate of cookies if they get to pelt pop square on the back with a snowball, I guarantee it.

Take a walk through the neighborhood to see the decorations. Sing songs. Window shop. Sit on a park bench and watch the people. Take turns making up stories about who the people are and where they are going. Feed the ducks. Remember – the goal is to take them away from the sweet temptations at home.

Play Inside

It can be more difficult to keep your little ones’ attention away from sweets when they are inside. The trick is to plan games that require some thought and even some action. The game Twister comes to mind for indoor action, but there are many games for all ages that are great for keeping kids busy.

Choose thoughtful games such as charades, drawing games, or word games. Games that make your kids think and give them some good belly-laughs are perfect for keeping their minds off the sweets. Treasure hunts are especially engaging and can be played by all ages, with a little help. Be sure to have the treasure a non-food related treat and something everyone will enjoy.

You can easily play I Spy games indoors, or hide-and-seek, or other easy games with a variety of ages. Card games are versatile, too. There are so many options it is hard to choose sometimes. Challenge your kids to create their own games – in fact, play with them and make up some of your own.

Don’t forget crafts. Get out the bin of odds and ends and let their imagination run wild. Or plan a specific craft to make a product to give as a gift to a relative or friend of the family. Of course, video games are fun and certainly an option for some families. But, remember, they must be engaging for the whole family and keep little fingers and minds busy. I am not an advocate of letting them sit alone and play video games all day under any circumstances.

After a day of fun activities both outdoors and indoors, when it comes time to enjoy a sweet treat, they will enjoy it even more.

Happy Holidays!

The Hanukkah Miracle – Celebrate in Good Health

Celebrate the Hanukkah Miracle and Good Health with Olive Oil

Image by AngelSimon
Image by AngelSimon

During Hanukkah we remember the miracle of the menorah, when one small flask of olive oil burned for eight days. One way to honor and celebrate this miracle is to use olive oil in many of the dishes that are prepared

It is common knowledge today that  olive oil is not only a delicious way to celebrate Hanukkah, it is also one of the healthiest oils available for cooking. Let’s take a look at this special oil to learn more.

What is Olive Oil

Simply stated, olive oil is derived from olives. It can be consumed without any processing at all; just pressed from the olive. If you took a handful of olives and squeezed them, you would get olive oil. No other vegetable oil can claim that distinction. In its most natural form, olive oil is resplendent in flavor and nutrition.

Of course, refining the process has created many other varieties of olive oil. We have listed some general categories of olive oil, but each category will also contain other variations. Here are the basics you would find in a grocery store:

  • Extra Virgin – This oil is from the first pressing of the olives and is not processed or refined, and is probably unfiltered. You will notice a very ‘olive’ taste and a rich color.
  • Virgin – This olive oil would be from the second pressing and is most likely filtered, and may be somewhat processed.
  • Pure – You will find this oil to have less flavor and will be lighter in color since it has been through more filtering and refining. If you don’t want an olive taste to your olive oil, this is probably what you would want to use.
  • Extra Light – This category encompasses a great deal of processing, refining, and blending. You will find most olive oil with this label to be a mix of highly processed olive oil and a vegetable oil. Some people like this variety for cooking.

Now that you are familiar with the varieties of olive oil, let’s take a look at some of the health benefits. This may give you even more reason to olive oil in celebration of Hanukkah.

Health Benefits of Olive Oil

All olive oil contains those desirable mono-unsaturated omega-9 fatty acids and are rich in antioxidants. However, if you want the greatest boost of antioxidants, choose extra virgin olive oil. This is the oil that is from the first pressing of the olives so it is loaded with the most concentrated amounts of phyto-nutrients, which are known for having anti-inflammatory properties.

Olive oil has been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) while raising HDL cholesterol (the good stuff). This benefit helps protect against heart disease by regulating cholesterol levels. In addition, further studies show the mono-unsaturated fatty acid of olive oil also helps lower blood pressure. Extra virgin olive oil provides high concentrations of vitamin E and beta-carotene, keeping the circulatory system healthy and pumping strong.

Although studies regarding the role of olive oil in reducing cancer are inconclusive, there are interesting data. Research has shown some effects of reducing risks in the development of cancers of the digestive tract, respiratory tract, and breasts when subjects use olive oil routinely in their diet. These regular olive oil eaters are compared to non-olive oil eaters and people who more often consume saturated fat and butter. There could be other risk factors involved so the results of the studies are still mixed, although promising.

Other benefits associated with consuming olive oil include naturally healing stomach ulcers, gastritis, and other digestive tract disorders. Still more studies are starting to uncover a possible connection between olive oil consumption and improved blood calcium levels. This could point to the eventual link between overall bone health and olive oil consumption.

Still more research has provoked interest in the link between cognitive health and the use of olive oil. In older adults, both visual and verbal responses improved after the subjects increased their olive oil intake aggressively throughout the day. Laboratory research is also being done which is showing increased cognitive activity when animals are fed olive oil. The ability to protect the brain during times of stress may be one of the most amazing benefits this delicious oil has to offer.

Which brings us back to Hanukkah and the tradition of olive oil. The health benefits of olive oil are so expansive, it is hard to believe that the use of olive oil during Hanukkah ever strayed so far from what most of us would consider healthy foods.

Now we have the wisdom to know better! You do not have to indulge in fat soaked donuts and latkes to celebrate the miracle of the oil. Instead, pay homage to the true miracle – the olive oil that has been revered through the ages is the same olive oil that is today known as one of the healthiest foods for your body, which is even more reason to celebrate.

Happy Hanukkah!

Christmas Time and Good Intentions

Make Your Good Intentions Your Reality This Christmas Season

Image by Adam Foster
Image by Adam Foster

Christmas Time and good intentions often go hand-in-hand. This is the holiday when we promise ourselves that we will focus on family, but somehow those good intentions get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season. It is busy. It is hectic. There is simply not enough time to get it all done no matter how hard we try.

If this sounds like you, it is time rebel and take back the season and make sure your good intentions become your reality. I promise – it is not impossible. It is not even that hard.

Let’s look at several issues we struggle with during Christmas and see if there may be a solution or two.


This issue makes the top of the list because it often colors the rest of the celebration before you can even get started. Everything seems to flow along smoothly until the money starts to disappear. The good intentions to stay focused on family and having fun begin to fade as the money gets tighter and tighter.

There is only one solution – budget and stick with it. I know – I know – a budget seems like a lot of work; but, it is the only way to keep the focus where it belongs. Yes – you will have to spend time with paper and pencil, and you will have to make some hard choices; but, if you are clear and committed, it will be worth it!

Create a budget that does not simply postpone the pain. Put a limit on ALL spending, including the credit cards. To avoid the January surprises. One good way to do this is to put together some envelopes with spending cash designated for gifts, food, drinks, decorations, donations, and anything else you need for your traditional Christmas celebration.

A budget specifically set for each individual item not only helps control spending, it also helps eliminate that last minute spending spree because you forgot if you took care of X, Y, or Z.

Plan your budget the way you plan your Christmas dinner menu. Be precise in your budgeting and you will find it relieves a lot of stress, and gives you time and energy to focus on what is really important – family and fun.


No, I am not talking about losing weight during Christmas. I am talking about activities that keep you moving for good health in a fun way – enjoy play time every day with your family and friends – even if it is just a short walk, a quick game of Frisbee, or dancing around the living room to happy Christmas music.

Some of the holiday stress comes from the fact that health is put on a back-burner. It is easy to eat many the wrong foods and skipping exercise because you are too busy. Whatever the reason, you should never omit exercise from your daily routine, especially during the holidays!

Don’t worry about making it to the gym or spending an hour on the treadmill, just stay active. Several short walks a day will help clear the mind and get the blood pumping. You will burn a few calories, but most importantly you will lift your spirits. It’s amazing what a little boost in those endorphins, the feel good hormones, will do for you.

And, don’t forget the family – include them! Make your physical activities part of the holiday celebration. If spending more time with your family is part of what Christmas is all about, then a little play goes a long way toward that goal.

Exercise is important to feel your best; but, make it fun by including your kids and grandkids. Before the day gets too busy, go outside and have a game of tag. Shoot some buckets. Get a game of field hockey going. Do somersaults. Rollerblade. Ride your bike. Snowshoe. Build a snowman. Whatever you can do to be active and have some laughs will get you well on the way to your goal of spending time enjoying your family this Christmas.


Now – you have set up your budget and a list of ideas to help you stay active and healthy – it is time to think about the quieter times.  Of course, you will be gathered around the table during the Christmas season enjoying delicious meals and sharing stories. This is all wonderful because your goal is to connect with your family, but how you spend other quiet family times is equally important.

Image by clkohan
Image by clkohan

Make your moments together count by planning activities that involve the whole family working together on projects. These can be simple crafts like creating handmade gifts or Christmas Cookies to share with friends, to larger scale projects like cooking and serving dinner at a community shelter or church.

If your family is musically inclined, you may want to join a caroling group, church choir, or band. Maybe you would like to help decorate the church. Your town may have a youth group that pitches in and decorates the store windows or city hall.

Give some thought to what you, your family, and your community needs and figure out a way to help get those needs met. Gift trees are popular for collecting gifts for families who can’t afford to buy gifts. Food drives are another easy to organize an event that your family could do. Plan a movie night at your local theatre and ask attendees to bring a new toy to give to kids spending Christmas in a hospital or away from home. There are lots of ways to do good deeds that will also be wonderful entertainment for your family.

Having a happy holiday often means finding a balance between a busy schedule, a tight budget, and family fun. You can do it all, but it takes planning, a few strategies, and lots of love.

It is early in the month of December, so make your days and activities count. Create a Christmas to remember.

Merry Christmas!

Enjoy a Healthy Christmas Work Party

Healthy Christmas Work Party

Image by neillangan
Image by neillangan

The annual Christmas Party notice is posted on the bulletin board. Your reaction is to cringe. Healthy eating was finally a habit! Your kitchen is stocked with all the foods your diet requires, and now THIS.

Take heart! There are ways you can enjoy a Christmas party and stay on track with your diet. Whether you are on a weight loss program, a heart health program, a diabetes program, or any other healthy nutrition program, there are ways you can enjoy the party. Here are a few ideas to bring that holiday spirit back while staying on track with your diet.

Sign Up

This is probably the single most important way to keep the Christmas party healthy and fun at the same time. Yes, it is extra work for you, but avoiding the problem is even harder work. If you leave the planning to others, you may not have a choice of healthy foods on the table. When you see that sign-up sheet on the bulletin board, put your name down as soon as possible. If you’re early in the planning stages, you may be able to direct the menu.

Bar Time

You will typically find a bar set up for a Christmas party. There may be soft drinks, wine, beer, or liquor for mixed drinks. Perhaps there is a punch bowl. If you are part of the planning committee, be sure to insist on plenty of water, juice, club soda, and sparkling water. Offer to make the punch using fresh juice and sparkling soda or water and skip the alcohol. If you are not on the committee, you will want to prepare yourself. Overindulging at the bar is often caused by thirst, so eliminate the thirst by filling your tummy with good fresh  juice and water before and during the party. Alternate any sugary or alcohol drinks you have with large glasses of water.

Eat Ahead

Trying to stay on a diet is difficult enough, but if you’re watching the clock tick at work, knowing that at a certain time there will be acres of food and drinks laid before you, it’s even harder. That’s why you want to plan to eat before you get to the party. Yes, it’s fun to look forward to all that food, but your empty stomach will make decisions you won’t find so fun in the long run. If your party starts after work, bring a good, big lunch with you that suits your dietary needs. If your party begins at mid-day, eat a hearty healthy breakfast and have a snack just before the party begins. You’re not being a ‘party pooper.’ You’re being smart.

Peruse Then Choose

When you walk into the party, stop and take a look around. Your senses may be overwhelmed at first, but if you slowly peruse the spread, you will begin to see what you need, and what you don’t need. Walk along the tables, go up to the bar, and make a few mental notes. The trouble with an over-loaded plate usually occurs when you start at the beginning of the table and just start scooping up servings. If you don’t know what’s ahead, how can you choose what you want to eat? So, take a look around, then go back and selectively serve up a plate that suits you and your diet.

Share Dessert

This is probably the easiest of all the strategies to stay on track with your diet. Most everyone at the party will get to the dessert table and let out a little sigh. They wish they could indulge, but can’t. That’s your cue to choose a ‘dessert buddy’ and divide one of those delicious treats between you. If you were vigilant with the other strategies, you have probably saved yourself some wiggle room for dessert. However, if sugar is forbidden, this table may be off limits. That takes us back to the first strategy – sign up. If you are part of the planning committee, make sure you propose an alternative for the usual sweet dessert.

The average Christmas party is full of dietary obstacles. Getting involved with the planning and taking a few steps to avoid the pitfalls will allow you to not only attend the party, but to enjoy it.

Merry Christmas!