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December 2010

Mascarpone Stuffed Dates

Dates are one of my favorites, especially when they’re extra fresh and soft. The maroonish ovals are one of those prime examples of nature’s candies, with an extra sweet, almost molassesy richness to them. Stuff them with a little mascarpone, and the fiber-filled fruit becomes even more decadent. The toasted pecans in this recipe add in a flavorful crunch, pairing perfectly with the creamy, lemony filling. Another great party hors d’oeuvre, packing in a lot of taste in just one portable bite.

Lemon-Pecan-Mascarpone Stuffed Dates

-25 dates (about 1 lb.)
-3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
-Zest of one lemon (plus more for garnish, if desired)
-2 tsp. lemon juice
-2 tsp. honey
-25 pecans (about 1/2 cup)

Make a lengthwise split in each date and remove pits.

Over medium-high heat, toast pecans in a skillet until browned. Remove from heat. Cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together mascarpone, lemon zest, lemon juice, and honey, until throughly combined.

Place one toasted pecan at the bottom of each open date. Add 1-2 tsp. of mascarpone mixture on top. Garnish with extra zest, if desired.

Keeping It Light During and Post Holidays

The holidays are surrounded with family, fun, and FOOD. It’s a hearty combination that makes the holiday season the special time of year that it is.

However, the food part of this combo. almost always tends to be in excess, with heavy and unhealthy choices seemingly everywhere you go. With cookies always at your fingertips, it can be challenging to keep your belly from looking like Santa’s.

So if you want to keep your figure looking more like the Sugar Plum Fairy’s rather than Santa’s or Frosty’s, then it’s extra important that you consciously make healthy food choices during and after the holidays. The best time to start making these choices? Right when you wake up of course!

Eating a healthy breakfast will start you off on the right foot and help you set a pattern for the remainder of your day. Plus, with family gatherings and holiday parties often filling up afternoons and evenings, breakfast is that one meal where you can fully control its makeup. So keep it light, and don’t let a fatty breakfast be just another meal that weighs you down.

Fruit plates are always one of my favorites. Fruit is naturally light, so you can eat a ton of it without packing in too many calories. Plus, fruit’s full of color. Taking just a few minutes to slice it up and arrange it on your plate can turn your morning meal into a breakfast that really can’t be beat. Make sure to pair your fruit plate with some yogurt and/or a few nuts. The added protein will help hold your appetite till lunch, keeping those cookies from sabotaging you mid-morning.

What’s your favorite light and healthy breakfast (other than oatmeal…we all know oats are a great morning starter!)?

Chickpea Olive Tapenade

Christmas is over, but that means it’s just a week till New Years. Which also means tons of holiday parties are still on their way! Appetizers are one of my favorite items to make, and they work perfectly for social gatherings. Tapenade is one of these┬áhors d’oeuvres that I’ll be setting out this year.

I’m not a huge olive fan, but there’s something about tapenade that I absolutely love. And in a few chick peas, and this salty, olivey spread somehow turns me into an olive’s biggest promoter.

Smear the spread on your favorite cracker or small piece of bread, and you’ve got a compact finger food packed full of flavor. Enjoy.

Chickpea Olive Tapenade

-2 garlic cloves, peeled
-1 1/2 cups oil-cured olives (I like to use a mix of black and green)
-2 Tbsp. capers
-2 Tbsp. lemon or lime
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
-1 cup chick peas, plus 1/2 cup set aside
-1/4 cup pimentos or chopped roasted red peppers
-Freshly ground pepper

Process garlic cloves in food processor. Add olives, capers, lemon/lime, thyme, and 1 tbsp. olive oil. Puree into a smooth paste. Add 1 cup chickpeas, and puree while drizzling in remaining olive oil. Remove paste from food processor. Stir in remaining chick peas and pimentos. Season with freshly ground pepper. Serve with crackers, crudites, pita, or crusty bread.

Holiday Almond Balls

Almond Balls

These are one of my family’s signature holiday treats. Come Christmas time, and you’ll be sure to find a tin filled with these…although that tin certainly won’t stay full for long! Sweet, fragrant, and extra buttery, what’s not to like about these edible snowballs?

Now, I wouldn’t exactly classify this as one of my healthy recipes. (Okay, so it could be worse. These do have that vitamin E-rich almond-base going for them.) But sometimes a girl’s got to indulge, right? I’m a chocoholic and also happen to have a fairly big sweet tooth. My philosophy: Everything in moderation. Which means every year, I always cease the holidays as a time to pull out the sugar and flour and get baking. Nothing beats the warm smells that flow from the oven or the mouth-watering tastes that ensue! And with that, I’m off…a dinging timer and some cookies in the oven are so sweetly calling my name.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

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