Holiday Series Finale: Healthy Cooking Part One

By Maisha Ahmed

NY Project Hope is a crisis counseling program that provides support and resources to help people cope with the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic

family dinner illustration

Now that we got all the serious topics out of the way, we’d like to end the holiday series on a rather fun and flavorful note. I’d like to begin by addressing that every year my resolution is the same: losing a certain amount weight by the end of the year. And every single year, during and after the holidays, I tend to gain back that weight or become stagnant. Once I’m in that stagnated mode, I find myself making various excuses to keep my unhealthy diet going whether I convince myself that I should just start over the next day since I already messed up for the day or use the weekend or special events as an excuse to continue to my unhealthy habits. To prevent the same situation for our readers, this blog will address some tips to resist the temptation to over-eat junk food as well as provide healthy recipes to make in the future.

Tips on Eating Healthy During the Holidays

  • Shifting focus: I know that one of the main focus of holidays are the food and as glorious and mouth-watering as it may look, try to shift that focus somewhere else. Make a point to spend more time with friends or family. If you decided to celebrate the holidays alone, pick up an activity such as watching a movie to keep yourself from over-eating.
  • Packing your own food: If you’re the guest or heading over to a relative’s house for a few days, it is recommended to pack at least a few healthy snacks such as nuts and dried fruits in the case that healthy options are not available. Or perhaps, you could even eat a fruit before leaving the house to lessen the hunger a little bit.
  • Think it over before taking seconds: My mom often tells me that I have what she deemed to be “hungry eyes”. Despite being full, I often have the desire to get seconds or try new dishes based on the visual experience. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful and really listen to what your body is telling you. If you feel bloated or full, walk away from the meals and dessert and keep yourself occupied. If you’d still like to take seconds, give yourself an ample amount of time to digest the first plate before heading over for more.

Healthy Recipes to Try in the Future

  1. Cucumber cups with creamy salmon whip


1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese

1 tablespoon nonfat or 1% milk

4 scallions, white parts only, sliced

4 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon

1/4 cup whipped cream cheese

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Freshly ground white pepper

2 large English cucumbers

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives


  • Process the cottage cheese and milk in a food processor until smooth. Add the scallions, salmon, cream cheese, lemon juice and a pinch of white pepper and process until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
  • Cut the cucumbers into 3/4-inch-thick rounds, discarding the ends. Using a small spoon, scoop the seeds and some of the flesh out of each round to form a small cup.
  • Fill each cup with about 2 teaspoons of the salmon whip and sprinkle with the chives. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 1 hour.
  1. Shrimp cocktail with tomatillo-horseradish sauce


2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

2 lemons, quartered

1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Tomatillo-Horseradish Sauce ingredients:

12 tomatillos, husked, washed, and cut in 1/2

1 large red onion, coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, chopped

2 tablespoons canola oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 to 3 tablespoons honey

1/4 cup prepared horseradish, drained

1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves


  • Fill a medium saucepan with 2 quarts cold water. Add the salt, coriander, peppercorns and lemon wedges, squeezing the juice into the pot first, and bring to a boil. Let boil for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the shrimp, and simmer for about 4 minutes, or until just cooked through. Drain the shrimp in a colander, transfer to a bowl, cover and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  • When shrimp is chilled, serve with dipping sauce.
  • Horseradish sauce
    • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
    • Place tomatillos, onion, garlic, and jalapeno on a half-sheet pan, toss with the oil, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the mixture is soft, but do not allow it to color, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and process until smooth. Add the vinegar, honey, horseradish, and cilantro and pulse just to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Scrape into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

 3.Winter Fruit Salad


1/2 cup sugar

1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out

1 lemon

5 large navel or blood oranges

2 mangoes, peeled and diced

2 firm bananas, peeled and diced

5 kiwis, peeled and diced

12 kumquats, very thinly sliced crosswise, seeds removed

1 cup pomegranate seeds (from 1 pomegranate)


  • Combine the sugar, 2 cups water, the ginger and vanilla seeds and pod in a saucepan. Use a vegetable peeler to remove wide strips of zest from the lemon and 1 orange, add to the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes. Refrigerate until cold.
  • Meanwhile, peel the remaining oranges with a paring knife, cutting along the natural curve of the fruit. Hold an orange over a large bowl and cut along both sides of each membrane to free the segments, letting them fall into the bowl. Squeeze each empty membrane to release the juices. Repeat with the remaining oranges. Add the mangoes, bananas, kiwis, kumquats and pomegranate seeds and gently toss. Pour the syrup over the fruit and chill overnight.
  • Before serving, remove the citrus zest, ginger and vanilla pod. Spoon the fruit and syrup into bowls
  • To remove pomegranate seeds, cut the fruit into quarters, then break apart in a bowl of water. Skim off the pith that floats to the top and drain the seeds.

Our next blog will be our final blog for the holiday series. It will be a continuation of healthy food but next time we will focus on healthy and delicious desserts instead. Keep your eyes out! As always, Project Hope is also here to help you. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk to someone you don’t know. Want to know more about how we can help? Give us a call at 845-762-2275. Talking to us is always free, anonymous, and confidential.

Maisha Ahmed is a crisis counselor from Independent Living, Inc. working on with the NY Project Hope program. 

Further Reading and References: