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Healthier Holiday Treats

healthier holiday treatsThe annual holiday season, with all its abundance, joy and festivities, makes it easy to overeat. Sticking to the 80/20 rule can help you navigate temptation – picking nutritious foods 80 percent of the time, and allowing some treats 20 percent of the time – to stay on track without feeling deprived.

But trying to resist goodies like cookies, cakes, pies all the time may require superpowers, and can lead to an unhealthy binge. Instead, limit choices, practice portion control and replace some traditional recipes with these healthier holiday treats.

Healthier Holiday Treats

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake (Food Network)

Nonstick cooking spray

Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs, 8 whole sheets
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter

Filling:

  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 24 ounces 1 percent cottage cheese
  • 8 ounces 1/3 less fat cream cheese, (room temperature)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Fresh raspberries and mint sprigs (serving suggestion)

Position racks in the lower and upper thirds of oven. Put a small roasting pan on lower rack and fill about 1/3 full of water. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray and wrap the outside bottom of pan with aluminum foil to prevent leaks.

Crust: Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, water, and melted butter in a medium bowl until moistened. Press into bottom of the prepared pan. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes, while preparing filling.

Filling: Put the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium power until soft and melted, about 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Puree cottage cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add cream cheese, sugar, cocoa, and flour and continue to puree, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until smooth. Add egg, egg whites, espresso, and vanilla and puree until incorporated. Add melted chocolate and pulse until just combined. Pour over prepared crust.

Put pan on upper rack in oven and bake until just set and the center jiggles slightly, about 50 to 55 minutes. Turn off oven and let stand in the oven for 1 hour. Remove cheesecake to a cooling rack and run a knife around the edge of pan.

Let stand at room temperature until cooled, about 2 hours, and then refrigerate until well chilled, 8 hours or overnight. Let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour before serving. For easier serving, slice with a clean hot knife, wiped clean after each slice. Serve each slice with a few fresh raspberries and a sprig of mint.

Cranberry Dark Chocolate Biscotti (Pinch of Yum)

  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened slightly
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • zest of one orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans or whatever nuts you like (or omit)

Chocolate drizzle:

  • 2 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, honey, orange zest, and salt with an electric mixer. Add eggs and mix until well combined.

Add flour and baking powder. Chop chocolate into bite-sized pieces. Pulse cranberries through a food processor and toss with a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of flour. Chop nuts. Add all “extras” into the dough, stirring until just combined.

Flour your hands and the outside of the dough. Transfer to the prepared pan and shape into a long, skinny, flat loaf – about 13 inches by 3 inches. Bake for 35 minutes. After it’s cooled, cut loaf into thin slices with a serrated knife, staring on the short end, until the entire loaf has been sliced. Place the slices face down on the baking sheet and bake for another 15 minutes. Check for doneness – they should be getting browned and crispy. If not, bake another 15 minutes or until desired crispiness. Set aside and let cool.

In a double boiler, melt chocolate and honey. Drizzle over the biscotti (a little baggie with the corner snipped works). Serve with strong coffee, spicy tea, or steamed milk for dunking.

White Peppermint Snowballs (Health)

  • 1 (16.5-ounce) package refrigerated sugar cookie dough (room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons crushed hard peppermint candies
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar, divided

Preheat oven to 350°. Cut sugar cookie dough into 8 pieces. Combine dough pieces, 1/4 cup crushed hard peppermint candies, and 1/2 cup powdered sugar in a bowl or electric mixer. Let mixture chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Coat hands in flour, and roll chilled dough into 1/2-inch diameter balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on parchment paper–lined baking sheets. Bake for 9-10 minutes or until set. Cool cookies slightly on cooling rack. While cookies are still warm, sprinkle tops with 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons crushed hard peppermint candies.

Mile-High Coconut Cupcakes (MyRecipes.com)

  • 3/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 7 tablespoons flaked sweetened coconut, divided
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 75 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, divided
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Dash of salt
  • 3 large egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring coconut milk, 1/4 cup coconut, and vanilla bean to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Cover; let stand 20 minutes. Discard bean.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place remaining 3 tablespoons coconut on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 5 minutes or until toasted, stirring after 4 minutes.

Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; stir with a whisk. Place 3/4 cup sugar, butter, and oil in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Stir in cooled milk mixture. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed until combined.

Place 3 egg whites and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar in a large bowl. Using clean, dry beaters, beat at medium speed until foamy; beat at high speed until soft peaks form. Gently fold one-fourth of beaten egg whites into batter; gently fold in remaining beaten egg whites.

Divide batter among 12 muffin cups lined with cupcake liners. Bake at 350° for 17 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pans on wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on rack.

Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, and dash of salt in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring just until sugar dissolves. Cook, without stirring, to 230°. Place 3 egg whites and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar in a large bowl; beat with clean, dry beaters at medium speed until foamy. Beat at high speed until medium peaks form. With mixer at low speed, pour hot syrup in a thin stream down side of bowl. Gradually increase speed to high; beat 3 minutes or until thickened. Beat in extract.

Mound about 2 tablespoons icing onto each cupcake. Sprinkle with toasted coconut.

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