The Insanely Easy 15-Minute Dessert to Try This Holiday Season

Photograph by Becca Boyd

Photograph by Becca Boyd

When it comes to dessert, I’m a bit of a traditionalist (i.e. I don’t want bacon in my cookies, thank you very much), and what’s more traditional this time of a year than an apple pie? While I could attempt a low-fat or gluten-free pie crust to impress you, I’m sure I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a recipe that tastes as good as the real deal, and that just doesn’t work for me.

So in the vein of my crust-less pumpkin pie from last month, I decided that the most sensible route would be to forge on with the elemental ingredients; after all, the velvety smooth, sweet and tender filling in an apple pie is the best part. Agreed?

This dessert is quick and easy enough for a weekday after-school snack but elegant enough for company. Experiment with different spices or purchase some cinnamon gelato to really up the ante. Best part? You’re just 15 minutes away from this new, lightened up classic.

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The Only Holiday Appetizer Recipe You Need: Creamy Baked Feta Dip

Low-calorie baked feta dip | Photo by Becca Boyd

Low-calorie baked feta dip | Photo by Becca Boyd

This is the time of year when it feels like every weekend has a new kitchen assignment; you’re either making an appetizer or baking a dessert for the latest round of holiday parties. For those of us who are trying to keep their diet in check, consider this week’s recipe a wonderfully delicious opportunity for healthy eating.

Warm and creamy with a flavor punch from the tangy feta cheese, this dip seems wonderfully indulgent (but isn’t—really!) and presents beautifully with brightly colored veggies. It also comes together faster than you can say, “Where’s the punch?”

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Make: Gluten-Free Molasses Spice Mini Pumpkin Pies

Photograph by Becca Boyd

Photograph by Becca Boyd

You can put pumpkin in just about anything, but for me the classic pumpkin pie reigns supreme. While pumpkin pie is naturally packed with fiber, vitamin K and vitamin A (thank you, pumpkin!), the crust has always been a head-scratcher for me. I mean, when it comes to pie, there’s just no way around a buttery, fat-filled crust—or is there?

My latest creation was a revelation, you guys. I simply removed the crust all together, put my pies in ramekins, and topped them with a dollop of whipped cream. The outcome—a crustless, gluten-free mini pie—actually presents more elegantly than the regular kind, and no one will think you’re serving a “healthy” dessert. That can be our little secret.

If you’re hosting the Thanksgiving this year, feel free to make these up a day ahead (I like my pumpkin pie chilled). If not, offer to bring dessert. You’ll happily and guiltlessly nosh while accepting praise from your adoring public.

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Make: Protein-Packed Asian Chicken Salad with Ginger and Cilantro

Asian Chicken Salad | Photograph by Becca Boyd

Asian Chicken Salad | Photograph by Becca Boyd

Okay, you’ve made it past Halloween. Sure, you ate one too many Reese’s, but you’ve ditched the rest of the candy stash and are ready to get back on track. Of course, now Thanksgiving is around the corner, which could pose another looming threat by claiming what’s left of your self-discipline and leaving you helplessly shoving Christmas cookies in your mouth as you watch the scale tick upward.

Resist! Fight back! Do it by dialing up the health factor on every meal within your control. Soups, big salads and lean protein should be all that’s coming out of your kitchen until Thanksgiving Day, or what I like call “My Annual Excuse to Eat Lots of Pie Day.” This chicken salad will get you there. Flavorful and packed with protein, it’s great in a pita but one step healthier over mixed greens.

Hang in there—you can do it!

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Make: Tomato, White Bean and Rosemary Soup

Photo credit: Becca Boyd

Photo credit: Becca Boyd

A recent article by Mark Bittman in TIME magazine discussed how millenials’ obsession with food media—competition shows, Instagram, Pinterest, and so on—isn’t translating into our kitchens. Maybe we see the bar set so high that we figure anything we attempt will fail in comparison. On my blog, I try to make the recipes approachable for every skill level; food is a constant in our every day lives and, nine times out of 10, it won’t be glamorous.

This soup exemplifies those beliefs. Using canned tomatoes and beans, this beautifully healthy recipe comes together in about 30 minutes. It’s real, home-cooked food, and it’s simple enough for the most novice beginner. Dairy-free yet still creamy, thanks to the beans, it’s about as healthy, and I daresay tasty, as dinner can be.

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Make: 10-Minute White Bean and Tomato Chicken Salad

Photo by Becca Boyd

Photo by Becca Boyd

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on easy homemade salad dressings, and I mentioned that the Basic Vinaigrette is one that I use so often that the need for measuring is long forgotten. My family loves the flavor so much that it almost doesn’t matter what we toss it over—any dish we put it on instantly goes from being edible to being absolutely delicious.

Case in point: Though my very opinionated 3-year-old daughter had turned her nose up at the chopped tomatoes on her dinner plate just the night before, she happily noshed on a big dish of this chicken salad, chock-full of ripe farmers’ market tomatoes tossed with Basic Vinaigrette, the next day.

And speaking of tomatoes—did you know that the pulpy, seedy part is the most flavor-packed part of the tomato? After chopping the tomatoes for this dish up, scrape your cutting board into the bowl to get every last drop of flavor.

Now, to the recipe: Whether you’re going back to school this season or just settling into a new routine, fall can make dinnertime seem crunched. No need to call for takeout, though: You can have a mouth-watering (and uber-healthy) dinner on the table in just ten minutes with this salad. And cross your fingers there’s some leftover—the flavors are just as great, if not better, the next day.

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Make: Coconut-Maple Quinoa Granola

Photo by Becca Boyd

Photo by Becca Boyd

I have to admit that sometimes I can be a tad judge-y when it comes to omission diets. There are tons of books touting dairy, gluten or sugar avoidance with amazing results guaranteed. I’ve consistently maintained a solid position on team “everything in moderation.” But while I still stand by my position, I’ve recently made a major modification out of necessity: my exclusively breast-fed baby hates when I eat dairy.

So here’s my new stance: Omission diets can be a lifesaver for certain people, if and when they actually help you feel better (or they help your baby not to scream like a fighting raccoon). This quinoa granola is a wonderful, high protein start to your day whether you’re avoiding dairy (or gluten, if you use gluten-free oats) or not. Serve up about a third of a cup (granola is high calorie, so watch your portions, please) with fresh fruit and almond milk for a quick and naturally sweet meal.

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The Most Delicious Way Ever to Eat Beets

Photo by Becca Boyd

Photo by Becca Boyd

August and September are my favorite times of year to go to the farmers’ market. Tomatoes and peaches are still in their prime but those crisp, light green apples and hearty winter squash are beginning to appear. With so many goodies at your disposal, you might find yourself bypassing the beets—but don’t. That would be a mistake.

Perhaps it’s inexperience or a bad first impression (put down the pickled beets!), but beets are easy to work with and exactly what you need to shake up your diet.

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10 Healthy Homemade Salad Dressings You Can Whip Up in No Time

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

As I began writing out recipes for some of my favorite homemade salad dressings, I kept futzing with their names; I realized they all included phrases like “guilt-free” or “low-cal,” which is completely redundant because every single one of the recipes below is not only delicious, but totally healthy and light on calories. That’s a pretty good problem to have, right?

For the creamy dressings, you’ll need a blender or food processor; just put the ingredients in, turn it on, and let it go for 10 seconds or so until well combined. Store in a jar in the fridge.

For the vinaigrettes, a blender is useful to emulsify but it’s not required: All you really need for these is a mason jar. Place all ingredients inside and shake away. The mixture can be kept (lid on) in your fridge until you’re ready to use it. It might need a refresher shake but you should be good to go.

The Basic Italian Vinaigrette is the one I use several times per week, as it’s simple and comes together in a flash, but with the variety below you’re sure to find your favorite.

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Make: Zucchini Stuffed with Chickpeas, Tomato and Feta

Photo by Becca Boyd

Photo by Becca Boyd

There are plenty of months in the year when the fresh-produce options in our region are underwhelming at best; summer isn’t one of them.

This time of year, farmers’ markets are teeming with delicious fruits and veggies, and sometimes the problem isn’t how to get more vegetables onto your plate, but what to do with the surplus of greens bursting out of your refrigerator.

This is where these stuffed zucchini come in mighty handy. Chock-full of seasonal veggies—yes, its veggies on veggies for the ultimate fridge dump—it’s a hearty, nutrient-packed dinner you can whip up in less than 30 minutes. Serve it with a side salad for even more green goodness. What could be better?

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