10 Healthy Habits for Holiday Parties


This time of year can be a wonderfully festive time of connection and celebration. It is also full of opportunities to over-indulge and get off track with our wellness goals. Below are 10 tips to survive holiday parties while keeping your health and vitality as a priority.

  1. Do not arrive to parties on an empty stomach. Eat a cup of vegetable soup or a small salad 30-60 minutes beforehand. Especially on big holidays, make sure to eat breakfast and a balanced snack with fiber and protein earlier in the day.
  2. Make sure you get a physical activity in. Workout before attending holiday parties, or rally everyone to go for a walk after a big meal.
  3. Stay well hydrated. Thirst signals can be mistaken for hunger signals. Make sure you’re drinking at least half your body weight in ounces daily. Also, drink alcohol lightly, and alternate alcoholic and sugary beverages with glasses of water at get-togethers.
  4. Bring a healthy dish to share- quinoa salad, smoked salmon, bean dip, fresh veggies, hummus and lean meats, shrimp cocktail.
  5. Mingle with guests away from the food table. Don’t make it easy to snack mindlessly.
  6. Use a small plate at the buffet and choose just a few of the dishes to try. Moderation is key.
  7. Do not dress for bloat. No baggy pants at holiday parties. Wear that slimming dress that hugs your figure or a nice suit that fits perfectly.
  8. Eat slowly. Take the time to sit and savor your food. Pace yourself and try to be the last person to finish each course.  Take small bites and chew slowly and thoroughly. It takes about 20 minutes for you brain to get the message that your stomach is full.
  9. Ask the host of the party what you can do to help. Keeping yourself occupied and social will cut down on the time you are standing around munching.
  10. Plan your calendar to include holidays as higher calorie days. Eat lightly the rest of the week and avoid excess sugar and simple carbohydrates.

In conclusion, enjoy the holidays! Take time to be present with those around you, focus on non-food related activities and relax! Your body will thank you!



Birthday Cake(s)!!


Usually by this time of year I am completely sick of birthday cake. Blasphemy, I know. It starts with Katie’s birthday mid July, in peak cherry season and our tradition of the homemade, from scratch, lattice top cherry pie. I call it the 3-day cherry pie since the cherries get picked and pitted one day, the dough gets made and put in the fridge in hard little butter lumps on the second day, and on the third the dough gets rolled out and the pie gets baked to perfection. I guess I could call it 4-day pie since we always save a slice for breakfast the next day. It’s a wonderful tradition and kicks birthday season off just right!

After that is my nephew Teagan’s birthday, Jasson’s is August 22nd, Titus’ starts off September, my nephew Gavin’s is a week later, then my brother-in-law’s and a few other extended friends celebrate over the next couple of weeks. So, by the end of September (especially if I’ve been in California with family) I’ve pretty much made or at least consumed more variations of cake, pie and other elaborate desserts over the previous 2 months than one should for the whole year. And it’s not even the holiday season yet! You’d be surprised how ready for a sugar detox I usually feel right about now.

This year has been different, however, for a variety of reasons. Some birthdays were missed. Friends were out of town. There were dual celebrations so the desserts were consolidated. I had all sorts of cake recipes saved up, excited to try them out, and birthday season was flying by without my test kitchen getting any consistent action. And then my birthday came along. Having just finished reading my favorite book for the third time (Molly Wizenberg’s “A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table) I couldn’t resist the temptation to make 2 cakes. That’s right! Her recipes for French Style Lemon Cake (to which she credits meeting her husband and kicking of their culinary love story) and Pistachio Cake (in which she cleverly hides ripe apricots and honey in her original version) both sounded so completely delectable I just couldn’t exclude either one from my birthday invitation. Since the flavors were complimentary, I doubled it into a 2-layer cake and it came out truly fantastic! Made with completely gluten-free ingredients, complete with a layer of lemon drizzle between the two moist crumply cakes, and topped with a cashew date frosting, it blew the original plan of chocolate cupcakes right out of the water! Good thing there was a smaller group than I had expected. There was plenty left over for breakfast! Enjoy!



** I do realize that last picture could be much more aesthetically pleasing. It’s hideous really, but I like the two-toned cake presentation and wanted to share it with you. In my defense, I had about 20 hungry friends and children waiting to dig in and that’s the one photo I could capture before it got swept up for serving. Okay, carry on.**

—French Style Lemon Yogurt Cake—

1 ½ cups gluten-free all purpose flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill)

2 tsp. baking powder

Pinch of salt

2 tsp. grated lemon zest

½ cup full fat/ Greek yogurt

¾ cup sugar

3 large eggs

½ cup coconut oil

Lemon Drizzle

½ cup powdered sugar, sifted

¼ cup fresh lemon juice


1) Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9” round cake pan with coconut oil

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add lemon zest and mix thoroughly.

3) In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar and eggs, stirring to mix well. Add the flour mixture and stir just to combine. Add the oil and stir well.

4) Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 25-35 minutes until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

5) Let cool for 15 minutes, then invert onto a cake plate.

6) In a small bowl, combine the syrup ingredients. Drizzle over the cake.

—Pistachio Cake—

¾ cup shelled raw pistachios

1 cup gluten-free all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup coconut milk

¼ tsp. vanilla extract

1 stick of butter at room temperature

½ cup sugar

3 large eggs


1) Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9” round cake pan with coconut oil

2) In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the pistachios until finely ground. Add the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt, pulse once or twice to mix

3) In a measuring cup, combine the coconut milk and vanilla

4) In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

5) Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk, mixing at low speed to just combine.

6) Pour the batter into the cake pan. Bake 35-40 minutes

Cashew Date Frosting

1 ½ cups raw cashews

½ medjool dates, pitted

¾ cup water

¾ cup melted coconut oil

1 Tbls vanilla extract

pinch of sea salt

1) Soak cashews and dates in water for 3 hours

2) Blend on high until very smooth. Add melted coconut oil, vanilla and salt. Blend for another 20-30 seconds to incorporate.

3) Smooth over yummy cake! (Or dip fresh strawberries into it.)