6 guilt-free gourmet recipes to try this holiday season – MDJOnline.com

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A mix of clouds and sun. High 68F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph..
Partly cloudy. Low 44F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: December 1, 2021 @ 1:35 pm
A mix of clouds and sun. High 68F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph..
Partly cloudy. Low 44F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: December 1, 2021 @ 1:35 pm
Zucchini Carpaccio
Roasted Butternut Squash & Farro Salad with Cranberries, Arugula & Goat Cheese
Chicken Paillards
Cranberry Pomegranate Crostini
Strawberries and Oranges in Minted Honey Syrup
Strawberry Chocolate Tart
Deborah Johnson is a personal chef, baker, culinary instructor and food stylist at Lake Oconee. She lived in France for many years while training and instructing at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram @frenchforawhile or visit chefdeborahjohnson.com.
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Roasted Butternut Squash & Farro Salad with Cranberries, Arugula & Goat Cheese
Chicken Paillards
Strawberries and Oranges in Minted Honey Syrup
Deborah Johnson is a personal chef, baker, culinary instructor and food stylist at Lake Oconee. She lived in France for many years while training and instructing at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram @frenchforawhile or visit chefdeborahjohnson.com.
Fast, healthy recipes with none of the guilt? You bet! After the excesses of the festive season, guilt-free dishes, desserts and snacks are on the top of everyone’s mind.
These recipes are loaded with holiday flavors you can bring to your own table or to your next festive gathering.
With a little bit of planning, you can prepare colorful, delicious, and festive dishes at home, without the guilty indulgence.
So go ahead and enjoy gourmet cuisine without all the guilt!
~*Editor’s note: Please use this as a sidebar.*~
Top Tips for enjoying a quilt-free Holiday Season
⦁ Don’t arrive to the party starving.
⦁ Focus on the most nutrient foods first, then indulge in the sweet treats. You won’t be as tempted.
⦁ Eat your food with loved ones. Food is to be shared with family, friends and over conversation. Don’t indulge alone which can lead to overeating.
⦁ Be careful and mindful about alcohol consumption. If you are like me, then you love a good cocktail or a great glass of wine, but over two drinks does not set one up for success!
⦁ Make a plan to move your body the next day. I am not talking about a workout punishment, but a walk, run, stretch to simply move and get your digestion flowing again.
⦁ Resist the urge to skip meals or day long fasting. Instead opt for a light dish like this Zucchini Carpaccio which is fresh, light and easy to prepare, not to mention very low in calories.
⦁ Remember to be kind to yourself. Your body, mind and soul deserves to be nourished.
Everyone loves a good paillard, which is a French term for a piece of meat (chicken or veal) that has been sliced and pounded thin then cooked quickly. This technique makes for a tender piece of meat that is luxurious to eat. Great for a lunch or dinner dish for any occasion, any time of the year.
⦁ 2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
⦁ 1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced
⦁ 1 bunch asparagus
⦁ ¼ cup frozen peas
⦁ 1 avocado (optional), sliced thin
⦁ 1 lemon, ½ sliced thin for garnish, and ½ juiced
⦁ Arugula, drizzled with olive oil (for garnish)
⦁ Parsley, chopped (for garnish)
⦁ Salt and pepper to taste
⦁ Slice each breast into 2-3 very thin escallops, horizontally. It helps to press down on the breast with your non-cutting hand while slicing through. You can opt for only two per breast, depending on your knife skills. Place paillards between parchment paper and pound thin with a meat tenderizer or bottom of a small heavy saucepan. Set aside.
⦁ Thinly slice the asparagus spears on a bias, set aside. Quarter, seed and finely dice the tomato. Pull the desired amount of frozen peas and set aside in a small bowl. Halve, pit, peel and slice avocado and drizzle with a bit of lemon juice to keep from browning.
⦁ In a shallow baking dish, layer the chicken paillards and drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, season with salt and pepper. Keep at room temperature while you light the grill or heat a grill pan on the stove top. Quickly grill the paillards, turning just once, about 3-4 minutes until just done in the center. Do not overcook as they become rubbery. Remove from the heat and cover with foil while you cook the vegetables.
⦁ In a shallow sauté pan, add about an inch of water, salt and teaspoon of butter and bring to a simmer. Add the asparagus and cook about 5-8 minutes until al dente. Remove from pan and set aside while you prepare plates.
⦁ Arrange a single layer of the avocado slices on the plate. Top with two paillards, overlapping slightly and top with a mound of asparagus tips. Garnish with fresh chopped herbs, diced tomatoes, arugula, cracked pepper and an extra drizzle of olive oil and lemon slice.
This Roasted Butternut Squash Farro Salad with Arugula, Cranberries and Goat Cheese is loaded with holiday flavors. Healthy, whole grain and vegan optional, it’s the perfect side dish to add to your Christmas table or a hearty luncheon salad on its own. Farro, an ancient grain, is high in protein with cashew notes and undertones of cinnamon. Slightly chewy and cooked just al dente, farro has become my go-to grain for dishes ranging from salads to breakfast cereals.
⦁ 1 cup cooked Farro *
⦁ Butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced (about 3 cups)
⦁ Salt and pepper
⦁ 1/3 cup dried cranberries
⦁ 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese **
⦁ ¼ cup pepitas, roasted (lightly salted is fine)***
⦁ 3 cups arugula
⦁ Pomegranate arils
⦁ 1 TBS olive oil
⦁ 2 TBS apple cider vinegar
⦁ 1 TBS water
⦁ 1 TBS honey
⦁ 2-3 TBS minced shallot
⦁ Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
⦁ Cook 1 cup of farro according to package instructions and cool. Reserve 1 cup of cooked farro for salad and save the rest for another dish.
⦁ Preheat oven to 400ºF, line sheet pan with parchment, spread out butternut squash, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-40 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
⦁ Whisk together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette and let sit while preparing the rest of the salad. You can also shake this all up in a sealed plastic container until emulsified.
⦁ Combine squash, farro and all other salad ingredients in a large bowl, mix gently.
⦁ Toss lightly with vinaigrette, garnish with a sprinkle of pomegranate arils and serve.
You can make this salad in advance, just wait to add the arugula, pepitas and vinaigrette just before serving to avoid a soggy salad.
* I like to cook extra farro to have some on hand in the fridge to toss into soups and other salads.
** Buy large logs of goat cheese and crumble it yourself to have on hand. It’s less expensive this way!
***Pepitas are tiny pumpkin seeds. You can substitute regular pumpkin seeds or pine nuts, toasted.
These fruit cups are perfect to serve as a brunch side dish or luncheon dessert. Although honey is a sugar, which isn’t exactly your body’s best friend, honey is packed with anti-inflammatories. So swap out refined sugar in your syrups and teas for honey.
⦁ Zest of 1 navel orange
⦁ 6 navel oranges (2 cups)
⦁ 1 lb. fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered (4 cups)
⦁ 3 TBS honey
⦁ 2 TBS chopped fresh mint
⦁ 1 TBS. Sugar
⦁ 1 TBS. fresh lemon juice
⦁ Pinch of salt
⦁ Mince zest of 1 orange or use a microplane to zest; set aside.
⦁ Suprême oranges by slicing off tops and bottoms, then slicing around the oranges to remove the peel and pith. Cut segments from between membranes over a bowl to catch the juice, then squeeze remaining juice from membranes and reserve.
⦁ Combine orange segments and strawberries.
⦁ Whisk together honey, mint, sugar, lemon juice, salt, reserved orange zest, and reserved orange juice; toss with oranges and strawberries.
⦁ Serve in clear Verrines or small bowls as a side dish or dessert.
Strawberry Chocolate Tart
Believe it or not, this tart is naturally gluten-free, vegan and Paleo. While chocolate is more often associated with indulgence than nutrition, chocolate contains plant nutrients called flavonoids. The antioxidant properties of flavonoids are what stimulates health benefits from chocolate, such as helping with blood flow and decreasing cholesterol. Chocolate also has been found to increase moods and overall happiness. Another slice please!
Makes 2 – 6” tarts or 4 – 4” tarts
For the crust:
⦁ 1¾ cups blanched almond flour
⦁ ¼ cup cacao powder
⦁ ¼ tsp salt
⦁ ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
⦁ 2 TBS maple syrup
For the filling:
⦁ 8 oz. dark chocolate chopped, I used 80%
⦁ 1 cup canned full-fat coconut milk (or heavy cream)
For the topping:
⦁ 1½ cups fresh strawberries sliced, or raspberries
⦁ 1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional for glaze)
⦁ Preheat oven to 350ºF.
⦁ In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, cacao powder and salt. Stir in the melted coconut oil and maple syrup and mix until fully combined.
⦁ Transfer dough to a greased 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
⦁ Using a measuring cup or your fingers, evenly press dough in the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake in center of oven until golden and firm, about 12-15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
⦁ Place the dark chocolate in a bowl. Microwave the canned coconut milk for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until steaming (you can also do this over the stove). Pour the hot coconut milk over the chocolate and let stand for a few minutes. Stir until fully melted and combined. Pour into the cooled crust and transfer to the refrigerator to cool completely, about 1 hour.
⦁ In a separate bowl, combine the strawberries and maple syrup. Let macerate.
⦁ Top with the strawberries, arranging however you desire. Serve immediately. This tart can also be made a day or two ahead of time. If you’re planning on making it more than a few hours before needed, wait to add the berries until just before serving.
Zucchini Carpaccio
A light, fresh, low-calorie starter that’s ready in minutes! I love the brightness in flavors, due to the lemon juice and zest, and the simplicity of it, yet how beautiful and appetizing this dish is. With the addition of pomegranate arils, in seconds you have a holiday salad. Add more color with shaved carrots and serve as a side dish with fish, shrimp, even chicken. I love the fresh crisp taste of this and, most of all, the low-calorie count.
⦁ 4-6 small green and yellow zucchinis
⦁ 1/3 cup olive oil
⦁ 2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
⦁ 2 TBS lemon juice
⦁ Handful of arugula
⦁ Pomegranate arils
⦁ Salt and pepper
⦁ Using a vegetable peeler, peel or pull “ribbons” of zucchini lengthwise and arrange on a serving platter.
⦁ Whisk the oil, lemon zest and juice in a bowl and season with salt.
⦁ Scatter arugula over the zucchini, drizzle with dressing and season with a pinch of ground black pepper.
⦁ Sprinkle with pomegranate arils and microgreens (optional).
Cranberry Pomegranate Crostini
A bright, fresh, healthy appetizer for the holidays and beyond. Serve as a relish to pair with roast poultry, or grilled shrimp. It is excellent on top of a thinly sliced baguette with a swish of light cream cheese. Add to cheese and Charcuterie boards as an appetizer course.
⦁ 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries, washed
⦁ 1 tsp ground ginger
⦁ 1 TBS sugar
⦁ ¼ cup fresh orange juice
⦁ ¼ cup honey
⦁ 1 tsp Sriracha sauce
⦁ ½ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
⦁ Zest from one orange, reserve some for garnish
⦁ 1 cup pomegranate arils reserve a few for garnish
⦁ Finely chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish
For the Crostini:
⦁ 1 good quality baguette, sliced thin
⦁ ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
⦁ Kosher salt
⦁ Freshly ground black pepper
⦁ 8 ounces light cream cheese, softened
⦁ Place the cranberries, ginger, sugar, honey, orange juice and Sriracha in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse on and off several times till cranberries are coarsely chopped. Don’t process too much. Add cilantro or parsley and pulse a few more times. Not too much, you want cilantro bits to be visible and mixture to be a bit chunky. Transfer to a bowl and add pomegranate arils and orange zest. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or till ready to use.
⦁ For the crostini, preheat oven to 350˚F. Line 2 sheet pans parchment paper, if desired for easy clean up. Place baguette slices on prepared pans. Brush lightly with oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and a grind of pepper. Bake for 14-18 minutes or until golden.
⦁ To assemble bruschetta, spread about 1 teaspoon each crostini. Top with a spoon of the cranberry relish. Garnish with a bit of orange zest and pinch of fresh chopped cilantro or parsley. Serve.
Notes: This relish can be made in advance and stored air-tight in the refrigerator for up to two days. You can also freeze it and warm slightly in the microwave just prior to serving.

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