Gearing up for the holidays? Check out these recipes

Cathryn Arndt

We all want to know how to eat well during the seasonal festivities don’t we?

Regardless of how your 2020 Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities may look this year, the reality is the food is at the center of the celebrations. It is the hub around which we gather (and that’s not a bad thing!).

We just need to surround ourselves with what is both delicious AND nourishing in a season of busyness and stress.

Below are some holiday recipes my family and I have tested and enjoyed. They offer better-for-you options as you cook and eat with family and friends this holiday season. Included are dip, an appetizer, a side and a decadent dessert! Enjoy and stay healthy and safe!


Better-For-You Ranch Dip

(Recipe originally from Linsay Brin at Momsintofitness.)

Everyone loves ranch and this version is much better than the store-bought kind filled with preservatives and oils that promote inflammation. Serve these with a BIG plate of sliced veggies and everyone will start their meal with extra protein and antioxidants!


1 lb. container cottage cheese

1/2 cup sour cream or

PLAIN Greek yogurt

1 tbsp. dried chives

1 tbsp. dried parsley

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. sea salt


Mix all ingredients and serve with vegetables.

Turkey/Chicken/ Tuna Burgers

Appetizer (or Main)

(Recipe from

These burgers can be made out of whatever poultry or fish you want (or have on hand!) They are very flexible so if you don’t have all of the seasonings, don’t worry! (Hint: I would double or triple the recipe… you will want to have more of these on hand!)

Make these into small burgers for appetizers or into regular size burgers for a more substantial holiday luncheon or brunch. Serve open-faced on toasted buns or on butter lettuce leaves with a toothpick holding them together. Serve with cheese and condiments on the top or the side.


1 can (6 oz.) Tuna, chicken or turkey

2 eggs

½ cup seasoned bread crumbs OR gluten free substitute if you are gluten- free. ( I prefer almond or oat flour but you could use anything you wanted.)

½ of an onion, minced

¼ cup minced celery

¼ cup minced bell pepper (any color!)

¼ cup mayo (or sour cream works too!)

2 “squirts” prepared mustard

2 tbsp. chili sauce ( I normally omit)

½ tsp. Dill (or your favorite dried herb)

¼ tsp. salt ( I prefer sea salt)

1/8 to ¼ tsp. black papper

Dash each of Worchestershire sauce and hot sauce

Preheat an electric skillet to 300F or heat a fry pan on the stove top until water splashed on it “dances and scatters.” Grease or butter the hot skillet ONLY right before you add the burgers.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir together with a fork until well mixed. Mixture will look fairly “goopy.”

As best you can, use your clean hands to form “burgers” out of the mixture and place onto the skillet (it will be messy! You can just grab a handful of mixture and put it on the pan and press it flat-ish).

Cook and leave alone for a minimum of 5-8 minutes. Don’t mess with it or move it around much. These burgers are delicate and you NEED to let a good crust form on the first side before flipping it or it will fall apart!

Once a medium brown crust forms on one side, flip burgers to the other side and flatten slightly with a spatula. Cook for an additional 4-5 min or until desired doneness is achieved.


Sweet Potato Kugel (Koo-gel)

(Recipe from Meghan Telpner & the Academy of Culinary Nutrition)

This has all the right taste of a traditional sweet potato casserole but with all the goodness of whole foods and no refined sugar (other than a paltry amount of maple syrup in the topping)!

The grated yams and apples put a twist on the texture. All of my family of Taste Testers liked the flavor although all were surprised that the texture came from yams (not carrots). Overall, there were no complaints. I found the pecans essential in the topping to add the buttery, full flavor that made it perfect.

Feel free to toast them before you chop them up. This recipe is worth a try! If your guests don’t polish it off (which would be a surprise!) then you can eat leftovers for breakfast the next day! (ask me how I know….)


7-8 cups grated sweet potato (about 4-6 sweet potatoes depending on how big they are)

2 apples, grated

1 cup raisins or dates or goji berries (optional. )

1 cup almond meal (or brown rice flour)

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. sea salt

pinch each of clove and nutmeg

1 cup water


1 cup pecans, chopped (toasting is optional but adds GREAT flavor!)

1 cup slivered almonds

2 tbsp. maple syrup (or coconut syrup)

pinch of sea salt

pinch each of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg


Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl (omit topping).

Place in 13×9 baking dish and flatten firmly with the back of a spatula. This will help it hold together.

Bake for 30 minutes.

While baking, mix together topping ingredients.

At the 30-minute mark, remove kugle from the oven and sprinkle with pecan mix.

Bake for another 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving so it will keep together.


Chocolate Cream Pie

(Recipe by Megahn Telpner at the Academy of Culinary Nutrition)

This is a delicious and decadent chocolate cream pie. Your guests won’t even know it is gluten-free and dairy-free (my taste-testing group sure didn’t!)



1 cup medjool dates

½ cup almonds, coarsely chopped

½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped

¼ cup unsweetened shredded, dried coconut

1 tbsp. coconut oil

pinch of salt


¾ cup coconut milk

½ cup water

2 cups raw cashews (unsalted and unroasted)

½ cup maple syrup

⅓ cup coconut oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup cacao powder



In your food processor, combine dates, almonds, pecans, coconut, coconut oil, salt and process until it’s a crumbly texture that sticks together between your fingers.

Transfer to a 9 inch round pie dish and press down evenly and firmly around the bottom and up the sides. Set aside while you make the filling.


In your high speed blender, blend together coconut milk, water, cashews, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Blend until smooth. If using a food processor, pause every so often to clean down the sides and then process until smooth.

Reserve 2 tbsp. of mixture and set aside.

Add cacao to the blender and mix until fully integrated.

Pour cacao mix into your pie crust.

Drizzle on the reserved white mixture and then using a knife, gently swirl it around to create the white and brown pattern. Once swirled, give the pie a little jiggle to level out the filling.

Transfer to freezer to set.


Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving.

Optional: Drizzle on melted chocolate

– Cathryn Arndt is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and owns a nutrition counseling business called The Pantry Lab LLC. She lives in the McDowell Creek area with her husband and daughter. Find her blog at or on Facebook by searching under “Dietitian Cathryn.”