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Holiday Potlucks 101 – What I Bring and How I Eat to Enjoy

Posted Dec 23 2011 8:04pm

Hello from my comfy set on the Amtrak. Although, this is not my beloved Jetblue Airlines, which was not a financially viable option this year, I am very pleased with the train so far. Granted, I’ve only been on the train for 1 hour. After 5.5, I might be singing a different tune. Train travel though sure blows the bus out of the water. There is so much room in the seats, you can get up and walk around, and the wifi actually seems to be working. But in the case that this ride starts to go downhill, I can always go hit up the snack car for some alcohol : ).

I hope everyone is getting ready for their holiday get togethers, and planning what they are going to make. Last week, I got together with some of my medical student friends and we had a very impromptu holiday potluck and game night.

On the menu was a lot of carbs….we had herb roasted potatoes, a squash and wild rice stuffing, a vegetable primavera type pasta dish. And of course an assortment of holiday cookies from TJ’s. I recommend the Pfeffernusse cookies. Yummmm

The best dish was my roommate’s wild rice stuffing, which also included acorn and butternut squash, pears, and dried cranberries.

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After seeing what everyone else was making bb and I decided on a vegetable side of brussel sprouts, but I wanted do something a little more special than just roasting them. And we did a little recipe redux on one of his favorite party dishes: deviled eggs.

Lemony Spiced Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25-30 minutes

Serves: Small group of 6; easily doubled to serve more

I remember hearing a chef somewhere saying they like to add a little nutmeg to their brussel sprouts before roasting. I decided to add this and some lemon juice to my normal roasting method to add a little something special to one of my favorite vegetables. It is beyond me why so many people don’t like these little guys, so I thought adding a little more flavor and spice might help win some people over. I hope it worked.

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  • 1 pound brussel sprouts, washed, outer layers peeled, and sliced in half (or quarters if extra large)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt + pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • .5- 1 tsp nutmeg, depending on taste preference (I go more)


  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Wash sprouts, remove the outer leaves, and slice in half or quarters.
  3. Place sprouts in a bowl and toss with all remaining ingredients
  4. Place on sprayed baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes.

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Saintly Deviled Eggs – Two ways

Inspired by Fannetastic Food’s Healthy Deviled Eggs

Yields – 18 Deviled Egg Halfs

Prep Time – Approx 20-25 minutes

Cook Time – 15-20 depending on how long it takes your water to boil

For the deviled eggs, I omitted all mayo from the traditional recipe and in one version omitted all egg yolks as well. In the other version half the amount of yolks we added to the healthy no-mayo mix. Both versions are a little more saintly than devilish, but still completely delish! Add the yolks if you want a recipe a little closer to the traditional. Personally I like them better without.

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  • 9 eggs, hard boiled
  • 1/2 cup traditional or garlic hummus,
  • 1/3 cup of non-fat, or low-fat, plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard (not in picture)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more, for more kick)
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 4 yolks if adding to the mixture, otherwise omit
  • garnish with paprika and fresh chives, chopped (both optional)


  1. Hard boil eggs by bringing eggs and water to a boil, turn off heat, cover, and let sit for 12-15 minutes.
  2. While eggs are cooking and all ingredients except paprika and chives to a bowl and mix.
  3. Run eggs under cold water, tap on the counter on all sides to crack, and peel off shell
  4. Slice eggs in half and scoop out yolk.
  5. Discard the yolks if omitting from recipe, or add 4 yolks to hummus-yogurt mixture and stir.
  6. Spoon mixture into eggs, or I made a pipping bag out a sandwich ziploc by cutting off the tip.
  7. Garnish with paprika and fresh chives

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Bet you can’t even tell the couple that are yolk-less : ). We even had a guest try his first deviled egg, because he doesn’t like mayo or yolks. I say that was a success!

Many people seem to be in agreement this year that we don’t want to read anymore articles about how to avoid the food you love at the holidays. The purpose of my blog and my life really is finding a healthy balance. Not always saying yes, but not always saying no either. If you deprive yourself, especially at the holidays, you will never stay on a permit lifestyle change. And what kind of life would you be living without a little indulgence every once and awhile?

So here are the Freckles & Spice tips for eating what you love over the holidays without the guilt, and the extra pounds! These are simple and easy to follow. Nothing complicated or stressful here and definitely no deprivation. I have developed these guidelines over practice on what works for me. They have come in handy for any holiday or event I attend.

  1. First, on the day of parties please eat before! Don’t starve all day to “save calories.” That really will not help you. It throws off your blood sugar levels and makes you more likely to ravage everything in site at the party. So eat a normal for you breakfast and lunch, and maybe opt out of your snacks.
  2. I always take a small plate, and make the first plate one of just tastings. I try everything I want to try and then decide on 2 or 3 favorites to have a bit more of.
  3. And those 2 plates are my limit. I do not refill my plate again, unless I know for sure I am still hungry not just eating because it is still out.
  4. And don’t feel like you have to try every dish on your sample plate. Skip something you aren’t in the mood for, or that you can make yourself, or eat often.
  5. On to dessert! If you want dessert, than have it! And really what are the holiday’s without your crazy Aunt Georgie’s famous brownies, or favorite holiday cookie? Christmas is only once a year so indulge in the season, but just don’t over indulge. Pick one or two of your favorites or something you are dying to try and stop there. Remember how good that first bit on the cookie is. Does the 12th, or 20th, bite taste the same? Definitely not, and those are the bites that start to make you feel bad. So embrace those few bites and then move one to spending time with your loved ones.
  6. After you have time to digest, if you feel the need to occupy your mouth have coffee or tea, or sip on one glass of wine. This usually ends my day and signifies no more eating for me.

I hope some of these work for you, and you can enjoy your holiday parties the next couple days without feeling like you are falling off the bandwagon.

Finally, I still haven’t done any baking this year – I know I’m running out of time! Tomorrow will be a busy day. But here are some cookie recipes that were big hits at a my work party last year.

Giada’s Lemon Ricotta Cookies - so soft and fluffy. They are like little cakes and something unexpected to bring.

Lauren Conrad’s Eggnog Cookies – I found this recipe in People magazine last year. I wanted to try them out for bb since he loves eggnog. I’m not a fan of the drink, but these cookies were fantastic and everyone loved them.

Yields 2 Dozen cookies


  • 2 1/4 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp + 1 tbsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar (I did half splenda/sugar so Dadtractor could enjoy them)
  • 3/4 cup salted butter
  • 1/2 cup eggnog (I did the lighter Holiday Nog)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg yolks


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and 1/2 tsp nutmeg. Mix well with a wire whisk and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter with an electric mixer to form a grainy paste. Add eggnog, vanilla, and egg yolks. Beat at medium speed until smooth.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the eggnog mixture, and beat at low-speed until just combined. Do not over mix.
  5. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto un-greased baking sheets, 1 inch apart. Sprinkle the cookies lightly with 1 tbsp nutmeg. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until bottoms turn light brown.
  6. Transfer to cool.

What are your go to holiday recipes?

Do you have your own holiday/parties guidelines to stay sane while enjoying yourself at the same time?

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