Healthy Holiday Menu Planning: Desserts

by Susan on December 18, 2011

I can’t imagine I’m the only one busily plotting out their holiday menus. While Christmas Day itself will be a laid-back affair for me, I’m hosting my family for a Christmas Eve brunch. The plan, thus, is for kid-friendly finger food with a festive touch. I plan to post the results after the fact, but I thought it might be helpful to share the menu and some of my ideas now, for anyone looking for a little inspiration themselves.

And since it’s the holidays, why not be fun and start with the sweet stuff?

Since I am the queen of all things internet, first I wanted to introduce Pinterest**, a virtual pin-board that I’m using to visualize my menu. You can use it to virtually “pin” just about anything you find while bopping around online. Pinterest was really helpful when I was redecorating the girl’s room, and wanted to try to visualize everything all together. You can also follow friends’ boards and interests, as well as simply look up terms (such as specific recipe ingredients, websites, etc.) to find other cool things to check out.

Thanks to Pinterest, I discovered this adorable idea for Santa hat brownies. They are ridiculously cute and easy! You can use whatever brownie recipe your heart desires; I am making them grain-free with this recipe from BakerGal.

For the white fluffy part, the possibilities are endless as well. I stumbled upon one blogger who simply used whipped cream. Another made a cream cheese buttercream with powder sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla. I think I will go with either the mascarpone buttercream from Daisy’s World or this more virtuous option using Greek yogurt:

Greek Yogurt Frosting

2 cups plain Greek yogurt
2 tbs vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar

1. Place a fine strainer over a small bowl. Place yogurt in strainer. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to drain overnight (you really have to follow this step, or else the yogurt will be too moist to whip up).

2. Beat all ingredients with an electric hand mixer on medium speed until desired consistency is reached, about 2 minutes.

The Santa hat brownies are a first for me, but the other treat I’m serving up has become something of a tradition of ours over the last few years: Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle. I love trifles, as they don’t have to require too much work, yet look so fancy once layered in the right bowl.

Over the years I have tweaked the original recipe here and there. This year I will make a batch of the zucchini gingerbread I introduced the other day (though I will likely retool it to make it gluten-free, so I can eat some too). You can certainly use a mix if you don’t want to bake from scratch; Hodgson Mills make a whole wheat one that I’ve picked up in the past at mainstream supermarkets.

For the pudding, I steer clear of sugar-free varieties loaded with junk. For example, the most popular brand of pudding’s sugar-free butterscotch pudding labels reads like this: Modified Food Starch, Maltodextrin (From Corn), Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate and Disodium Phosphate (For Thickening), Contains less than 2% of Skim Milk, Artificial Flavor, Salt, Calcium Sulfate, Xanthan Gum (For Smooth Texture), Mono- and Diglycerides (Prevent Foaming), Aspartame.

Instead, I use Dr. Oetker organic pudding mix, which you can find at most grocery stores. It contains only sugar, corn starch, salt and natural flavor and coloring. You can also obviously use whatever milk your family drinks to make the pudding (this year I’ll go with unsweetened almond).

Finally, for the whipped cream I also use an organic option (I picked one up at Whole Foods). If this isn’t an option for you, you could employ some sweetened, whipped up Greek yogurt again. If you do go with one of the more mainstream whipped topping varieties, just look out for high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils.


**I’m posting this invitation link, but if it doesn’t work please send me an email at and I can send you one.

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