Healthy holiday menu

One of the great things about being a grown up is that we can create our own traditions. On my to do list was to give Thanksgiving a healthy make over.Thanksgiving is a meal where everyone at the table has a strong opinion about what is the “best” part of the meal is.  Instead of the overIndulgence of carbohydrates and sugar putting the entire family into a food coma-  I looked to the experts for inspiration and favorite  recipes for you to try. This year I offer some healthy and less expensive  twists to a  classic holiday meal with  while giving your  family flavors they love!

This year, plan a walk after your meal   enjoy the beautiful afternoon, then head back to the house for some delicious dessert by a  fire pit or fire place w/ espresso or hot tea.  Enjoying smaller portions and not rushing through muitiple meal courses piled on your plate   is much healthier way to enjoy the flavors of your food and better for your digestion.

Today’s stuffing incorporates a grain called Farro commonly grown  in the Tuscany region of Italy, you may also know it as spelt, or emmer wheat. It is one of the oldest grown grains in the world, and is deliciously  filled with magnesium and antioxidants, phytonutrients, lignans and betaine.  Betaine, when combined with choline, has been shown to prevent or reduce stress-included inflammation
I like to add broken pecans and  dried cranberries to add additional antioxidants and Iron to our diet. 

 I hope you enjoy trying the recipes, special thanks to Martha Stewart Living, Food and Wine, Yummly, and Mrs Bini lovingly baking away at Pasticceria Bini in Siena since 1945  for your inspiration and recipe ideas which inspired me to find healthy ways  to play in the kitchen- and create new traditions that I can share with loved one’s, 
Buen Appetito!

Fall Fuel Holiday Menu

Cornish Game Hens-

 w/ Farro, Carmalized onion and  Mushroom stuffing

Roasted garlic brussel sprouts

Cranberry citrus salad

Pumpkin Granola Bars

Water (with dinner)  Espresso or  hot tea (with dessert)

In our menu each  hen is 2 servings. After cooking hens allow them to "sit" out of the oven for 10-15 minutes then transfer the birds to a cutting board,  cut the cooked hens in half, placing each half  on a serving plate resting on a bed of arugula. Fill the empty 1/2 cavity with the Farro stuffing and garnish with pecorino and a thyme sprig, followed by guests each getting a scoop of veggies, citrus salad and a dollop of homemade apple sauce.  Finish veggies with a light drizzle of Extra Virgin olive oil( EVOO)  and balsamic reduction.

CORNISH GAME HENS w/ Farro carmalized onion and  mushroom stuffing
Directions        serves 8 

     Cornish game hens (1 pound each)
1/2 tspCracked black pepper  ( I like to add a handful of fennel seed in w/ whole peppercorns to add a extra flavor to ground pepper)
1 tsp kosher salt
.        EVOO- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
.        1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
.        1/4 cup chopped celery or fennel root
.        1/4 cup   chopped fresh sage
.        1 bag of dried porcini mushrooms
.        12 small brown button mushrooms
Preheat oven to 375°. Remove and discard game hen necks and giblets; rinse and pat dry. In a small ramekin add 4 crushed cloves of garlic (w/ skin removed)  cover generously with EVOO,  (enough to cover the number of birds you are cooking) salt & pepper. Put ramekin of garlic and oil in  the microwave for 20-30 seconds to “roast garlic”. Place hens, with  space between them, in a  baking dish that will capture drippings. Drizzle hen  w/ roasted garlic and oil, Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Stuff 1/2 the broken cloves of garlic inside bird cavity.
Bake :45-60 minutes  basting occasionally.

To make Farro Porcini- stuffing: In a small bowl, soak the porcini mushrooms in one cup of water for 25 minutes. Strain mushrooms and liquid through a coffee filter placed in a strainer over a bowl. Reserve liquid (about 2/3 cup).  chop mushrooms; set aside.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add 3 tbsp of  EVOO. When the oil is hot add onions,  celery and fresh and reserved chopped mushrooms. Stir until onions are soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add farro, herbs, salt and pepper. Moisten  with most of the reserved mushroom water, simmer covered for 15 min, then transfer to 9” baking dish stirring in a couple of handfuls of broken pecans and dried cranberries, mix together,  shread pecorino cheese lightly on top, cover and cook for additional 20-30 minutes,  Makes 41/2 cups stuffing.

*I substituted Farro for wild rice to bump up the nutrient level of this  simular recipe at:


Fresh garden sage, and the carmelized veggies take this dish to the next level! I like to keep the skin on the potatoes they are filled with vitamins!

2 cups Celery root- 3/4 lb celery root peeled and cut into 1/2” pieces
2 cups Yukon gold potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2” pieces
2 cups Sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2” pieces
1/4cup exra-virgin olive oil
1 onion diced
4 cloves of garlic smashed unpeeled
2 small firm sweet apples
1/4 c fresh sage roughly chopped 
1.    Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, and generously season with salt. Add celery root and simmer 3 minutes. Add potatoes and sweet potatoes, and simmer vegetables 2 minutes more. Drain well, and spread vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet. Let cool 15 minutes.
2.    Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large (preferably cast-iron) skillet over medium-high heat, and cook onions until translucent and just beginning to color, about 4 minutes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the apples, and vegetables & garlic; season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine, then press into a single layer using a spatula. Cook, undisturbed, 2 minutes. Stir, and repeat process until vegetables are very tender and beginning to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in sage, and season with salt and pepper.
 SOURCE: Martha Stewart Living, November 2012


.        2 
 cups  fresh  cranberries, rinsed
.        1/2 cup dried cranberries
.        4 
.        1 ruby red grapefruit
.        2 
 stalks of fennel, thinly sliced (1 cup)
.        2 tsp
 local honey
.        2 
 tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
.        1 
 teaspoon  grated fresh ginger
.        1 
5  ounce package  baby arugula
.        1/4
 cup  fresh mint leaves, chopped
.        2 
 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
.        Salt & Pepper & fresh fennel seeds (to top salad)

In Nutribullet or food processor coursly chop 2 handfuls of fresh cranberries w/ honey lemon juice, grated fresh ginger & oil and set mixture aside

Transfer fresh cranberries  to mixing bowl.
 peel  oranges & grapefruit Slice in thin 1/4” slices over bowl to catch juice. Add sections and juice to cranberries. Stir in sliced fennel, onion, Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Toss on top of  arugula with crushed mint and EVO oil Top with cranberry mixture w/ salt, crushed pepper & fennel seed to taste   Serves 8.

Source:   Tamra Engle © 2010


Picture of Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts Recipe
Photo credit Christopher Tessini 
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat; add 2 chopped garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon each cumin seeds and kosher salt and cook 2 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon brown sugar, the juice of 1/2 lemon and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Toss with 1 1/4 pounds halved Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet. Roast at 450 degrees F until tender, 18 to 24 minutes. Toss with torn cilantro.

Read more at:

3 cups old fashioned oats- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup applesauce (sweetened or unsweetened, your choice)
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, shelled


  1.  In a large bowl, combine oats, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together brown sugar, pumpkin puree, applesauce, honey, and vanilla until smooth. Pour over oats and stir until oats are moistened. Stir in cranberries, white chocolate chips, pecans and pumpkin seeds.
3.. Evenly press oat mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Be sure not to under bake. Remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.
4. You can whip cream w/ 3 tbs of cream cheese whip with mixer until you have whipped sweet cream – Use a sharp knife to cut into bars.      place a dollop on a pumpkin bar and serve with a cup of hot tea or espresso!
The pumpkin puree  and apple sauce add moisture to the recipe, You want to make sure you bake the bars long enough so they'll hold their shape.
- This recipe is easily adapted to suite your taste - get creative with different nuts, toasted coconut, chocolates, and dried fruits.
Do you have a healthy favorite holiday recipe that you want would like to share? email me at 

Links for this article:
Martha Stewart Living, November 2012
Tamra Engle © 2010
Photo credits: Christopher Tessini, Tamra Engle, Martha Stewart Living

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