Clean Eating Holiday Recipes: Hold the Gluten, Sugar, and Preservatives

The foods served at holiday meals  are often influenced by traditions shared among families.  The meals and snacks served for holidays are often made with sugar, corn syrup, and  processed ingredients, none of which are good for health. However, you can still prepare many traditional holiday foods, but use a healthier recipe that includes natural, whole ingredients. Also, it can be exciting to try new things and possibly add new foods or new traditions to your family’s table.

What’s the Background Behind These Recipes?

Below are several recipes I have been serving my family for years. I created some of the recipes in response to requests from patients I was working with in cardiac rehab, weight loss, and autoimmune clinics who wanted a healthier way to enjoy their family’s favorites. Also, my son is on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet as a treatment for his Crohn’s disease, so I created some of these recipes to find new ways that he could still enjoy some of our own family’s traditional holiday foods.  When he first started the diet I would make the old and new versions of many of the menu items.  Over time, our entire family has learned to enjoy my recipe re-makes.  Now, our holiday table is all SCD legal, which means we are all eating the same healthy, whole foods together.

Whether you are on a special gluten-free or grain-free diet, or just want to nourish your body with clean whole foods, I hope you enjoy my recipe remakes! The best news is many of these recipes can be prepared in advance, which makes cooking on the holiday a little easier.

Holiday Meal Menu:

Appetizers: Savory Roasted Pine Nuts, Cinnamon Walnuts, Stuffed Mushrooms, & Kiwi Appi

Dinner: Gluten-free biscuits, Delicata Squash with Pine Nuts, Garlic Mashed Cauliflower, Nature’s Green Bean Casserole, PLUS your favorite entree

Dessert: Crustless Pumpkin Pie with Coconut Whipped Cream, & Nutty Snack Bars

Savory Roasted Pine Nuts                                                                                                      2 T. avocado oil

2 c. pine nuts

Organic sea salt

Organic paprika

Organic cumin

Sauté pine nuts and avocado oil in a pan over a medium-low heat for approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent burning. You want to remove from heat when they turn a light brown on one side.  Season to taste with sea salt, organic cumin, and organic paprika. Note a little seasoning goes a long ways.

Cinnamon Walnuts                                                                     

2 tsp avocado oil or coconut oil

2 tsp honey

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp cloves

¼ tsp sea salt

1/8 tsp nutmeg

2 c. walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Pour coconut oil and honey into a bowl and stir to combine. Add the spices to the bowl and stir until well blended.  Then add the walnuts and continue to stir until the nuts are evenly coated. Spread nut mixture onto the parchment lined pan and spread until evenly distributed.  Bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes. They will become aromatic as they roast, but be sure you don’t let them burn, as nuts continue to cook as they cool. Cinnamon Walnuts can be stored in a covered dish in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Stuffed Mushrooms                                                                  

1 pound white mushrooms

4 oz. chopped, fresh spinach

3 oz. dry curd cottage cheese

4 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 egg

¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese

¼ tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Clean the mushrooms and separate caps and stems. Place the mushroom caps onto a parchment lined jelly roll pan, with the bowl shaped opening facing up. Chop up the stems. Add the chopped stems to a bowl with the other ingredients. Evenly distribute the mixture from the bowl into the mushroom caps, heaping and gently pressing as needed. Bake on the top oven shelf for about 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Kiwi Appi            

3 kiwifruit

½ large cucumber

8 thin slices prosciutto

1 lime

Peel the kiwi and then cut into round slices approximately ¼ inch thick. From the 3 kiwi, you should net about 16 slices. Peel the cucumber and slice into round slices about ¼ inch thick. From the cucumber, you need 8 slices. Sandwich the cucumber between two slices of kiwi. Then wrap each sandwich with a piece of prosciutto and fasten with a toothpick. Gently squeeze lime juice over the 8 wrapped sandwiches before serving.

Gluten-Free Biscuits

2 ½ c. almond flour

2 eggs, beaten

¼ c. grass fed butter or avocado oil

1 T. honey

½ tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place all ingredients in a bowl and combine until a soft dough forms. Roll the dough into a ball and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Then, remove the dough form the freezer and place between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough until it is uniformly about 1 inch thick. Next, cut the biscuits using the rim on a water glass. Return the biscuits to the refrigerator for 15 minutes prior to baking, so they hold their shape better. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm for best results.

Sweet and Savory Delicata Squash with Pine Nuts

1 medium delicata squash, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 stalks organic kale, chopped into 1 inch pieces

¼ c. pine nuts

2 cloves garlic

4 T. avocado oil

1 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice

½ tsp honey

1/8 tsp red chili pepper flakes

1/4 tsp Sea salt, divided

Heat 2 T. oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and sauté (stirring frequently) for about 5 minutes, until a light brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the other 2 T. oil to the pan, and add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 1 minute. Add the squash and a 1/8 tsp. sea salt to the pan, cover with a large lid and cook 6 minutes. Remove the lid and stir, and continue to cook without the lid until the squash is tender (about 5 more minutes). Add the kale to the pan and 1/8 tsp. more sea salt. Sauté until the kale begins to wilt and turns a vivid green color (about 4-6 minutes). Drizzle the honey and lemon juice in the pan and gently stir to coat the squash and kale.  Taste, and add a little more salt, honey or lemon juice to attain the desired taste of saltiness, sweet, or sour.

Serve warm.

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower                                      

Large head organic cauliflower

2 cloves garlic, minced (roasting it will really bring out the garlic flavor)

2 T. grass fed butter or avocado oil

1 tsp sea salt (more to taste)

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

½ tsp chopped fresh or dried chives or rosemary for garnish (optional)

Clean the cauliflower and chop into small pieces. Microwave for 4 minutes, until soft. Place the cauliflower, butter/oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and cheese (if you are using it) in a food processor or immersion blender. Blend until smooth and creamy.  Serve warm with the chives or rosemary for garnish.

Not Your Mama’s Green Bean Casserole (4 parts)

Part 1: Homemade Mushroom Soup

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 T. avocado oil or coconut oil

¼ pound crimini mushrooms, chopped

5 c. chicken broth

½ c. coconut milk

4 T. coconut flour or tapioca flour

1 ½ tsp. sea salt

½ tsp. dried thyme

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

Place a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the oil, onion, mushrooms, salt, pepper, and thyme. Sauté for about 3-5 minutes, until the onions are clear. Add the chicken broth and simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour the contents into a blender, adding the coconut milk and flour also.

Blend until smooth. Can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Part 2: Fried Onions

1 large onion, peeled and sliced into strips

1 c. coconut oil or avocado oil

2 T. coconut flour or tapioca flour

¼ tsp. sea salt

1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

In a bowl, combine the tapioca flour, sea salt, and pepper until well mixed. Add the onions and toss until they are evenly dusted with flour.  Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Drop the onions, in small servings, into the hot oil and cook until crisp and light brown (about 3-4 minutes).  Carefully remove from the onions from the hot oil and drain on paper towels. Continue making in batches until all the onions are cooked.

Part 3: Fresh Green Beans

1 ½ pounds fresh organic green beans

1 c. water

3 strips bacon, cooked crisp & diced (optional)

Wash and trim the green beans. Add 1c. water to a saucepan, and heat until gently boiling. Then, add a steamer basket to the pan and place green beans into the steamer basket. Cover the pan with a lid and steam the green beans 10-15 minutes, until slightly soft but not mushy.  Remove green beans from the steamer and place into a large serving bowl. Toss with the bacon if desired.

Part 4: Casserole Assembly

Add the green beans (and bacon if desired) to a large casserole dish. Next, add 4 c. of the mushroom soup and stir until well mixed. Then, top with the fried onions you prepared. Finally, bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes.

Serve warm.

Crustless Pumpkin Pie (make at least 1 day ahead)

3 large organic eggs

1 ½ c. organic pumpkin puree

1 c. coconut milk

½ c. honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp ground ginger

¾ tsp ground allspice

Coconut oil (to grease pan)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 9-inch pie pan with coconut oil. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs until light yellow and frothy. Add pumpkin and coconut milk. Mix on low until well combined. Add honey, vanilla, sea salt, and spices and mix on low again until well combined. Pour into the prepared pie pan and bake for one hour, until the custard has set and the top is a golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool on counter for 30 minutes. Then cover and place in refrigerator overnight.  Must be chilled at least 8 hours, or the center will be gooey.

Coconut Whipped Cream

1 can full fat coconut milk (chilled in the fridge overnight)

1/8 tsp. vanilla

Chill the coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the coconut milk from the fridge. Scoop out the fat from the top of the can and place into a bowl. Add the vanilla to the bowl and whisk until it thickens. Serve on top of Crustless Pumpkin Pie.  (Tip: you can use the remaining coconut water from the can in a smoothie or drink in a glass.)

Nutty Snack Bars

1 c. cashews

2 c. almond slivers

2 c. walnuts

1 c. pecans

1 c. pistachios

1 c. honey

2/3 c. coconut oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper and evenly distribute nuts on the pan. Bake until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. In a large saucepan, heat honey until it simmers, then add coconut oil and whisk until the mixture is well blended (about 5 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat and add the nuts to the pan with the honey sauce.  Stir the nuts until they are thoroughly coated. Pour the mixture into a parchment lined 9X13 pan, and then place in the freezer for at least 1 hour. Remove pan from freezer and cut into individual bars.  Wrap each bar in parchment paper and return to freezer for storage.  These tasty treats will soften quickly at room temperature, so don’t get them out until you are ready to eat them. Don’t worry, they won’t last long!

Written by Dr. Marci L. Hardy, PhD

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Photo Credit: Table scene -Copyright: <a href=’’>subbotina / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
                            Dr. Marci Hardy image – Ben Bender