Sunday , November 28 2021

Healthy Eating – A Year For New Holiday Traditions


By Betsy Bruns

A holiday tradition in our family has been to create narrative poems that weave in the events of the year. The following poem from me to you is an ode to creating new holiday traditions on the heels of a transformative year.

One of the ways we transformed in 2020 is that we cooked more. Americans got back into the kitchen and plant-based eating grew over 400%. Will these trends become more traditional? Only time will tell, but here is some food for thought.

We are drawing a close to a most unbelievable year

And the holiday season is finally here!

We withstood being told to change how we live,

And while we’re in our discomfort zone,

Why not change for good?

As we were nesting all in our homes,

We found ourselves eating differently with less choice
and freedoms.

When going out to eat was taken off the table,

Americans started cooking at home more, and that’s not a fable.

We continue to do so at levels not seen before

And the trend is expected to continue beyond this year,

While these adjustments have been wildly inconvenient,

Changing our habits can take on a new meaning.

A more intentional, conscious way of living can emerge,

Allowing us to shift from rituals that no longer serve.

A time for fresh traditions to be formed

That become comfortable, the unexpected “new norm.”


Makes 4 to 6 Servings

In our family, my mom’s “Serbian Spinach” was a traditional holiday dish. It was gooey and full of cottage cheese, egg and Velveeta. It also was full of cholesterol, chemicals and hormones. But to us, it was as festive as the lights on the Christmas tree. This version is much healthier, yet keeps an old tradition alive.


1 package firm tofu

Juice of 1 lemon

3 cloves garlic or 3 teaspoons minced

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

2 tablespoons whole wheat flour or gluten-free flour

¼ cup nutritional yeast

2 cups chopped onion, approximately 1 large

1 pound frozen spinach, thawed

1 cup cubed or shredded vegan cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut tofu into cubes. Add tofu, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, flour, nutritional yeast to a food processor and blend until creamy. Set aside.

In a large skillet, dry sauté onion for
four to five minutes. Add water, if needed, one tablespoon at a time to prevent sticking. Add spinach and
mix thoroughly. Add the cream sauce and mix again. Adjust seasonings to taste. If desired, mix in the optional vegan cheese at this time. Transfer to
a casserole dish and bake for 35
to 40 minutes.


Makes 20 Servings

Gingerbread houses and cookies have long been a Christmas tradition. Their popularity grew when the Brothers Grimm published the story of Hansel and Gretel, in which the main characters stumble upon a house made entirely of treats deep in the forest. These treats are not scary in any way, and can ring in notes of tradition in a healthier manner.


1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons rolled oats

1/3 cup almond meal (or unsweetened shredded coconut)

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon sea salt

2 cups pitted dates, lightly packed

¼ cup raisins

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup coconut butter

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 ½ tablespoons non-dairy milk

A couple of pinches of sea salt

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest, optional

To make the bars:

In a food processor, combine the oats, almond meal, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Pulse a few times to get the oats crumbly. Add the dates, raisins and vanilla and pulse a few times to start to incorporate. Then begin to purée steadily, continuing until the mixture becomes cohesive. It will form a large ball on the blade. Remove the dough and press it evenly into the prepared pan.

To prepare the icing:

Combine the coconut butter, maple syrup, non-dairy milk and salt and gently warm. You can do this in a bowl set over a hot water bath or in an oven-proof bowl in the oven/toaster oven set to low heat. Be careful not to scorch the coconut butter, just warm it until it softens. Once softened, mix it until smooth and add the lemon zest, if using.

Pour the icing over the dough and spread to distribute. Chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, and then cut into bars.

* Recipe and photo credit: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)

Betsy Bruns is a plant-based health coach, “Food for Life” instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (, and an Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) practitioner. When she isn’t making healing food taste like comfort food, or helping clients tap away stress and cravings with EFT, she’s soaking up nature and dreaming of ways to make life more delicious for all beings. Visit


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