The Gingerbread Man Gets Healthy (and no he is not lifting weights!)

I am sure you are all in the thick of it, you know, the holiday rush. Shopping, baking, cleaning for guests, decorating and traveling. When Texas Oncology asked me to share their Healthy Granola recipe with my readers I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately there are very sick adults and children out there all year long, not just with cancer but heart problems and a host of other illnesses. The holidays are especially difficult for their families and the ones affected.

A good friend of ours has a toddler who has Leukemia and has been in the hospital for almost two months. You may feel helpless if you have a family member or friend who is sick, so what can you do? A phone call, an offer of making food or school lunches for their other children or just a card. You can make this recipe and share it with their family or the great doctors and nurses who work so hard.

Every year Texas Oncology shares healthy recipes with its families and this year they asked me to share their Gingerbread Granola recipe with a larger audience.

I took the statement below off their site, now I know some cancer, especially in children does not fall in to the category of nutrition. As adults we can think about what we are feeding our kids and ourselves, we need to stay healthy for our kids, it’s our responsibility.

Just like millions already know, Nearly a third of cancer deaths in 2010 could be prevented because they are related to poor nutrition, obesity, and physical inactivity, according to the American Cancer Society. The organization also states: “There is strong scientific evidence that healthy dietary patterns, in combination with regular physical activity, are needed to maintain a healthy body weight and to reduce cancer risk.” “Nutrition plays a major role in promoting good health,” said Dr. Arvind Bhandari, medical oncologist at Texas Oncology–Sugar Land. “A healthy lifestyle and proper dietary habits can lower the risk of disease and contribute to overall well-being.”

Granola is great but some store bought granola can be fatty and over sugared, so make some at home, it easy!

Gingerbread Granola


2 ½ cups rolled oats

¾ cup raw slivered almonds

¼ cup raw sunflower seeds

2 teaspoons flax seeds

¾ teaspoon ground ginger powder

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon salt

Pinch nutmeg

1/3 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon molasses

1/3 cup brown sugar

¼ cup chopped dried apricots

¼ cup golden raisins


Preheat oven to 300˚F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and spices. In a separate bowl, whisk together the agave nectar, brown sugar, and molasses. Pour over dry mixture and stir until incorporated thoroughly. Evenly spread the granola mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until dry, stirring occasionally, for about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool slightly before adding apricots and raisins. Once cooled completely, store in an airtight jar or sealed bag.

I like to put it in a large mason jar with a tag, the jar can be reused and no plastic bags are wasted.

Here is a link to a very cute recipe card with the recipe to attach to the jar!

Here are some ideas on how to use your creation…

Combine it with milk, almond or soy milk for a healthy start to the morning.

Sprinkle it over yogurt with fresh fruit.

Put it on top of ice cream for a sweet treat with a drizzle of honey.

Serve it as a nutritious afternoon snack.

For seasonal color, add dried cherries, which are rich in Vitamin C.

Slice apple, add almond butter, dip apples in granola for a crunchy after school snack.

Sweeten it up with bits of dark chocolate for antioxidant power.

Add chopped pecans or walnuts for a nutty dose of protein.

Mix in sesame seeds for a calcium boost.

Put it inside apples and bake for a healthy dessert

Here are some other very simple ideas from Texas Oncology for a healthier holiday

When planning holiday menus, select foods that represent a rainbow of colors, like dark, leafy greens and seasonal fruits and vegetables, including berries.

Prepare holiday meals rich in fresh and seasonal fruits, vegetables, and legumes, such as cranberries, pumpkins, clementines, beets, sweet potatoes, and lentils.

Limit sugary drinks, like eggnog, and serve sparkling cider for toasting.

Vegetables in the cabbage family are rich in fiber and protective vitamins, so load up on Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and turnip greens.

Instead of buying a frozen turkey, try a natural, fresh one free of artificial ingredients.

Skip the mashed potatoes in favor of cauliflower, celery root, or turnip purees.

Review favorite holiday recipes to substitute butter or lard with healthy oils such as olive, canola, and other vegetable oils.

Add fiber, “good fats,” and a host of phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals with chopped nuts such as pecans, walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts.

Serve whole grain bread with holiday meals, which contains fiber, folic acid, and iron, or use whole wheat bread in stuffing.

For the table, dress up water for the holidays with cranberry ice cubes

For more from Texas Oncology sign up for their newsletter here.

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Going Against the Grain - Healthier Gingerbread House * Recycled*

Here we are again...It is winter and the holiday season is in full swing. I bet you are all as busy as I am so I know you will understand when I tell you that I am recycling an old post I wrote for Edible Magazine. Things around here are great and I have a few projects up my sleeve. I am not quite ready to share all the details with you. So I figured it is better to re-share than post nothing, enjoy and if this is old news to you then chime in with some new ideas for the perfect gingerbread house!! I promise that after the break I will get back to posting more healthy recipes for your little ones. Until then enjoy your time and don't stress out too much, remember to have fun and take a breath this holiday season!

With the holidays coming, kids have two things on the brain—presents and sweets! When I think of the holidays I always think of a gingerbread house. We made one every year when I was growing up, and we always looked forward to it. It was an elaborate plan of blueprints and time. This year I am thinking of making a much healthier and simpler version—a rustic gingerbread cabin, if you will.

Are the kids sighing in the background? (Just wait kids, this can be fun.) I understand that the thought of a gingerbread house conjures up visions of candy canes, sugary gumdrops and gobs of frosting, but why not build one with some healthier, but still tasty, ingredients?

Remember, a gingerbread house can be any kind of house—a tiki hut, a ski lodge, a trailer, a mouse house or a train. When you make a traditional gingerbread house you end up with bags of sweets left over and, let’s face it, no kid wants to get old, stale candy for Halloween next year and tossing it out is so wasteful. Go against the grain and forgo the candy this year! Challenge the kids to use items you already have in your cupboards and try not to go out and buy a ton of new ingredients. The great thing about this project is that the “decorations”—foods such as nuts, cereals, and crackers— are healthier, easy to use, and you could make a fun cereal trail mix with your leftovers. This gingerbread house will be different, and still just as fun to look at and eat.

An easy way to make a small gingerbread house is to use graham crackers. If you are more adventurous or want to make a larger structure, you can purchase a readily available gingerbread house kit or bake your own.

You will need:

· Graham crackers: 10 per house to allow for mistakes!

· Royal icing for mortar (see recipe below)

· Piping bags and tips or gallon size freezer bags (make sure your bags have a nice square corner, not a pleated one)

· Decorative items such as: nuts, seeds, dried fruits, chocolate-dipped dried fruits, candied ginger slices, banana chips, marshmallows, pretzels, crackers, cereal of any kind, and cookies


· To color your royal icing “mortar” for a more rustic look, add a drop of black food coloring during mixing.

· To fill a zip top bag with the royal icing, stand the bag up in a tall glass before filling.

· Cut a tiny hole in one corner of the zip top bag after filling it. You can always cut a bigger hole, but you can’t make a big one smaller!

· Keep your icing bag in the refrigerator for touch ups or other projects during the holidays.

To build the house:

Use a large plate or sheet pan as a base so you can also create an amazing landscape around your house. Attach the graham crackers to each other with the royal icing by piping a line of frosting along the edge of one piece, pressing it against the adjoining piece, and holding them in place just until the icing sets. Prop up the pieces with cans of food or other heavy objects, if necessary, while they dry. Allow the house to dry for several hours before decorating. A graham cracker cut in half diagonally works well for the sides of the roof, or make yours a flat-roof house.

Royal Icing

3 egg whites *

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 (16 oz) box confectioner’s or powdered sugar Yield: 2 cups Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth and thick, about 7 minutes. When a knife blade drawn through the icing leaves a clean cut, it is ready. Chill in a tightly sealed container if you are not using it right away.

· Purchase pasteurized egg whites if you are concerned about using raw eggs.


Firewood pile: mini Tootsie Rolls

Shutters: sticks of gum

Rustic stone siding: chocolate cereal

Sand: brown sugar

Roofs: Oreo thins, Wheat Thins or Shredded Wheat cereal

Fences: pretzel sticks

Lamp Posts: pretzel sticks with marshmallows on top

Trees: green gum drops shaped like leaves (sold as “Spearmint Leaves”)

Pile of presents in a sleigh: decorated sugar cubes

Barnyard: animal crackers

Walkways: flat cookies or dried fruit

Snowmen: marshmallows with pretzel sticks for arms

Bamboo siding: pretzel sticks

Chimneys: sugar cubes or marshmallows

Snow: shredded coconut (can be sprinkled on for a snowy look on roofs and trees)

Photos: Matthew Carden—www.350degrees.com

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