Have a Healthy Holiday

Remember that New Years resolution you made last December? Well, if you’re like the rest of America, it probably had something to do with losing weight or being healthy. Just because the year is almost over, there’s no excuse to forget your goals.

The holidays are an easy time to lose sight of the fact that although the delicious food will soon be gone, you’re stuck with the extra calories. Luckily there are multiple ways to enjoy those sweet, seasonal dishes without the guilt that tends to arrive shortly after.

Here are a few tips on how to stay healthy during the holidays:

1. Stuffing is something you do to a turkey, not your face.
Holiday food is delicious; there’s no denying that. Because of this, it is often difficult to stop eating because of the conflict between taste buds and stomach capacity. When you are full, put down the fork. Don’t eat until it hurts.

2. Keep your hands busy, not your mouth.
Holiday activities tend to be centered on food. Instead of decorating cookies or building gingerbread houses, try decorating stockings and ornaments, make red and green construction paper wreaths, put Christmas lights up outside or try making your own season’s greetings cards to give to friends, family and even professors. See if you can make better paper snowflakes than you could ten years ago. Pinterest is full of other great ideas!

Christmas ornaments
Photo credit: Joe Buckingham

3. Eat your calories, don’t drink them.
You might be surprised by how many calories are hidden in holiday drinks. If you really want to make your calories count, go for that slice of cheesecake but skip the Starbucks Caramel Brulée Latte. Water isn’t hiding calories, so drink up!

More tips:
• Don’t go for seconds.
• Don’t linger by the appetizer table.
• Instead of driving your car to see Christmas lights, walk through the neighborhood with friends or family.
• Volunteer!
• 25 more ideas!

Enjoy the holidays. It’s okay to indulge in yummy food, but family and friends are a much more rewarding indulgence. Cheers!

Holiday Bark Recipe

The winter holiday baking season is among us! I have an ideal Holiday Bark recipe for those who are not particularly inclined in the culinary department, but want to share an easy and yummy dessert. Bark recipes can differ depending on the chocolate and toppings chosen. For December, I traditionally make bark with white chocolate, dark chocolate and crushed peppermint topping.

For the month of November, and for this blog, I will be using orange-dyed white chocolate and milk chocolate with pretzel and festive sprinkle toppings inspired by fall colors. You can make this to consume by yourself or share with family and friends. Here are some wrapping ideas that go beyond basic cellophane bags.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes per melting (2x)
30 minutes per cooling (2x)
Total Time:1 hour, 25 minutes

baking items

You will need:
• Cookie sheet
• Wax paper
• Rubber spatula
• Pot and smaller pot/glass bowl for double boiling chocolate
• Room in refrigerator for cookie sheet
• Two packages of two kinds of chocolate made for melting and molding (white and milk chocolate)
• Topping of choice (pretzels and sprinkles)

Other options include:
• Peanut butter M&Ms
• Yellow sprinkles
• Candy corn

1. Set up the double boiler on stove top. If you haven’t mastered the art of double boiling, visit this site to learn all the tricks for perfectly melted chocolate. Turn the burner on high and add desired chocolate. The first batch of melted chocolate will be the bottom part of the bark. Some brands of chocolate can be microwaved. However, I use the double boiling method because it sets the cooking mood and makes me feel like a top chef. Don’t judge me. Okay go ahead, but don’t knock it until you try it.

double boiling method

wax papered cookie sheet

2. While you wait for your chocolate to melt, set up wax paper on your cookie sheet. It takes seconds. Just make sure the cookie sheet is completely covered by the wax paper. Doing so allows easy clean-up at the end. Be sure to babysit the chocolate and stir continually using folding motions.

melted chocolate

3. Once the chocolate has completely melted turn off the stove top and remove from heat. Carefully take the bowl of melted chocolate (preferably with pot holders) and use a spatula to pour and distribute chocolate on the wax papered cookie sheet. Work diligently with the spatula because chocolate firms quickly when taken off heat. Once you are happy with an even spread, place in the refrigerator to set. This took me 30 minutes, but it can vary. Check back every 10 minutes in case yours sets faster.

bark toppings

4. Use the first round of set time to wash your bowl and spatula. Don’t start melting the second round of chocolate until the first round has fully hardened. Be sure to have the toppings readily available at this stage. I crunched up some pretzels in the remaining chocolate to use later.

orange-colored white chocolate

5. Once the first round of chocolate hardens, place cookie sheet on the counter and begin melting the second round of chocolate (I used orange-colored white chocolate). Repeat the steps for double boiling. Stir continually with folding motions.

bark toppings

6. Pour melted chocolate on top of the hardened chocolate. Spread quickly. Put desired toppings on now. To assure they will stick to top chocolate coat, take additional waxed paper and press down. Use a gentle hand with smaller toppings (sprinkles), and a rolling pin for larger items (pretzel pieces). Put back in refrigerator one more time for final set.

removing holiday bark from cookie sheet

7. After the entire bark has set, take corners of the wax paper and pull to separate from the cookie sheet. Separate the wax paper from the hardened bark. Once the wax paper is removed start breaking the chocolate into chunks with your hands or with the help of a large knife. Break into desired sizes.

fall-themed holiday bark
All photo credit: Halie Nachbaur

8. Now it’s time to enjoy your hard work! When you realize it’s so delicious you need to give it away as proof of your quality cooking skills, use the link above for wrapping ideas.