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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

Four Unique Ingredients for Better Holiday Treats

Whether you’re looking for an out-of-the-box dessert idea or trying to incorporate more natural ingredients in your party table spread, consider using these four nutrient-rich ingredients to wow your guests this holiday season!

►Dates: Fat-free and fiber-rich, pitted dates can help bind and add natural sweetness to many holiday treats. Substitute for some added sugar in nut-based bars and pies or make date caramel sauce and drizzle over ice cream, apple slices or other holiday baked goods.

▪ Date Caramel Sauce: Soak 1 cup pitted dates in 2 cups water for 2 hours to soften. Drain and puree with ¼-½ cup milk (any variety), 1 tsp. vanilla, and 1 Tbsp. coconut oil until smooth.

►Chia Seeds: Full of fiber and heart-healthy omega-3’s, chia seeds add a fun, nutrition-rich crunch to granola or cereal-based bars. Or use in pudding-like desserts, as chia seeds swell in liquid to form a gel.

▪ Maple Cinnamon Chia Pudding: Whisk together ½ cup chia seeds, 2 ¼ cups milk (any variety), 1 tsp. vanilla, 2 Tbsp. maple syrup, and ¼ tsp. cinnamon. Divide into dessert cups and chill until pudding forms, about 3 hours.

►Black Beans: Adding neutral-flavored black beans to chocolate cakes or brownies is a delicious way to get a little more nutrition. Packed with protein and fiber, this sneaky legume addition will help keep hunger at bay this holiday season.

▪ “Better” Peppermint Brownies: Puree 15 oz. canned black beans (drained and rinsed) with ⅓ cup water until smooth. Mix puree into 1 box dry brownie mix and add 1 tsp. peppermint extract.  Bake according to package instructions.

►Greek Yogurt: A protein and calcium powerhouse, Greek yogurt is a great nutritional trade-up in recipes calling for sour cream or cream cheese, like frosting or cheesecake.

▪ Yogurt Cream Cheese Frosting:  Beat 8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese, 2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt and 1 cup powdered sugar together until smooth. Spread evenly over your favorite dessert.

Vanilla Yogurt Cheesecake

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs ¾ cup sugar + 2 Tbsp., divided ½ cup salted butter, melted 8 oz. low fat cream cheese, room temperature 4 large eggs 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract 2 Tbsp. flour 2 cups nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt

Directions: Preheat oven to 350°F. 1. Combine crumbs, 2 Tbsp. sugar and butter in a small bowl.  Press into the bottom of a lightly greased 9” spring form pan.  Set aside. 2. Beat cream cheese until very smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, and ¾ cup sugar until mixture is smooth.  Add vanilla and flour; mix to blend thoroughl.  Gently whisk in yogurt. 3. Pour batter over crust. Bake 42-50 minutes or until barely set in the center.  Turn oven off and cool cake in oven for 20 minutes.  Remove and bring cake to room temperature on countertop. Then, refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.  Remove spring form pan sides, slice, and serve with cranberry sauce, chocolate, or other favorite toppings.

Yield: 12 servings

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