Celebrating the Holidays – Recipe Favourites

Holidays this year are likely to look a little different as we keep our distance to keep each other healthy.  Even with smaller gatherings, food – both making and eating it – can be a large part of holiday traditions. Wherever home is for you during the holidays, here are some tips to help you celebrate them in a heart healthy way.  

  1. Have a variety of different foods. Enjoy some of your family classics but try to include a salad or a vegetable tray to munch on.  
  2. Aim to stick to your regular schedule for meals.  Don’t skip meals trying to “save up” for a big meal.  
  3. Be aware of how much food you’re eating. Pay attention to your own hunger and fullness. When you do eat your favourite foods, savour the taste and flavour.
  4. Consider creating new holiday traditions.  Weather dependent, go for a walk in the afternoon with your family or friends or lace up your skates and head over to an outdoor rink.   Find some new heart healthy recipes to include in your meal planning. 
  5. Stay hydrated.  It’s important to keep hydrated even during the colder months.  Choose water infused with freshly squeezed lemon or lime. Add a spoonful of cranberries or your favourite fruit to your glass of bubbly water for a festive twist.
  6. Enjoy the special times with friends and family sharing in the foods you love! 

For more ideas on managing the holidays, see the University of Ottawa Heart Institute’s 10 Tips for Managing the Holidays.

Holidays are one of those times when I like to pull out a special family recipe or two.  Here are a few of them and I hope you will enjoy.   Happy holidays to you!

Roasted & Herbed Cornish Hens


8 cloves garlic, peeled
8 lemon wedges
4 small Cornish hens (about 1lb/500g each)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1 Teaspoon, dried
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage or 1 Teaspoon, dried
1 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 Teaspoon, dried
1 Teaspoon sea salt
½ Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups homemade chicken stock or low sodium organic chicken broth
1 Tablespoon soya sauce (optional)
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon organic butter


  1. Place one whole garlic clove and one lemon wedge in each Cornish hen.
  2. In a small bowl combine the olive oil, the rosemary, sage, thyme, salt and pepper.  Gently separate skin from the breast of the hen and thigh of each hen.  Rub the meat with the herb mixture on each hen.  Rub any extra over the skin.  Arrange the hens on a parchment-lined baking sheet(s).
  3. Roast the birds at a preheated oven of 400F for 45 minutes or until well browned and cooked through.  Baste occasionally.  Place birds on a platter and transfer the juices to a measuring cup.
  4. To make the sauce, spoon off the fat from the pan juices.  Place juices in a saucepan with the 2 cups of stock, soy sauce (if using) and bring to a boil.  Cook for 2 minutes on medium heat.  In a small bowl, combine the flour and butter and whisk.  Add this to the sauce and continue whisking and stirring constantly until just slightly thickened.  Adjust seasonings and serve hens with sauce on the side. 

Notes:  Bring the birds to the table on a large platter.  Serve on a bed of fresh sage or a mixture of fresh rosemary and flat leaf parsley.  Garnish with lemon slices or dried figs.  The birds can be prepared and assembled the day before and placed in the refrigerator on a baking sheet.  Serves 4 but this recipe can be doubled.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts


2 pounds brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves fresh garlic finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional)
¼ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  
  2. Place the Brussels sprouts in a large bowl and add all remaining ingredients.  Toss well to coat.  Spread the mixture in the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.  
  3. Place sheet in oven and roast for 15 minutes.  Stir and flip the sprouts and roast for 10 to 20 more minutes until lightly browned in some spots and fork-tender.  Watch closely so they don’t burn.  Spoon the Brussels sprouts into a serving dish and serve immediately.  
  4. These can be re-heated.  Serves 4.  This recipe can be doubled.


Almond Shortbread Cookies


1 cup blanched almond flour (not almond meal)
2 and 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar 
2 tablespoons of butter or canola oil
1 tablespoon cold water
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients, stirring to combine (be sure to break up any lumps in the flour and/or sugar).
  3. Shape dough into twelve 1-inch (2.5 cm) balls. Space balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Flatten halfway with a fork.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes until golden (the cookies will seem somewhat soft while hot; they will firm up as they cool).
  5. Remove from oven and cool on sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

Note:  These cookies are best stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  You can make these ahead and freeze them in layers by adding wax paper or parchment paper to separate the layers in an airtight container for up to 3 months.