Have Your Cake and Eat it too this Holiday Season

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Dr. Michael Fenster, MD, F.A.C.C., FSCA&I, PEMBA, and chef, says the holidays do not have to be a culinary wasteland of depravation.

To eat or not to eat … that is the question we ask the most during the holidays. Is it better to stick to our diets or to allow ourselves a few morsels of culinary delights? Dr. Michael Fenster, chef and practicing cardiologist, says absolutely not! He says studies have shown that we do better on a diet or healthy eating program when we allow ourselves a bit of a treat.

“What makes the holiday season so difficult for so many people is that it is not just a weekend event like a Memorial Day backyard grill, but a non-stop barrage from October through January,” explains Fenster. “We are inundated with offerings everywhere; in the media, at workplace and every point in between. If we are not careful we can find ourselves caught back into a sugar-salt-fat vicious cycle.”

To allow for some culinary holiday cheer without falling into the abyss, Dr. Fenster recommends adapting some of Grassroots Gourmet principles to combat the holiday treat temptation:

  •     Timing and Proportion: If you are attending holiday parties and plan to sample the wares, mark that time and place. Once you arrive and see what is offered, make your decision and pace yourself. Think of the treats the way you would a wine tasting; a little sample of this and a little sample of that spaced out over the course of the event. Allowing at least 15-20 minutes between samplings will allow time for your stomach to signal the brain you’ve eaten some yummies. Before you know it, you’ll feel satiated with a lot less than if you had come in and sampled everything all at once.
  •     Be Fresh: Don’t be tempted by the pre-packaged offerings. These are not only often higher in calories but loaded with food and flavor modifiers. If you’re going indulge, hold out for that fresh, handmade treat--make it count!
  •     Limit Your Exposure: There are plenty of enticements all around. Do not purchase pre-packaged treats to keep around the house. If it isn’t there, you can’t eat it.

During the holidays, Dr. Fenster also recommends that we plan to maintain our current weight, whatever that is, and not try to lose weight. “Enjoy the holidays in a guilt free fashion--that’s food for the soul! Consider not gaining excessive weight during the holidays as your goal and getting back to the exercise and weight loss after the New Year will be much easier.”

To add to your holiday cheer, Dr. Fenster offers up this delicious dessert.

Eggnog Crème Brûlée topped with Rum Caramel
Makes 6 – 4 ounce servings
360 calories per serving; 29g fat; 22g carbohydrate

Here is a fantastic holiday dessert. The comforting flavors of a classic eggnog delivered in the sumptuous form of a velvety smooth crème brûlée. Straining the liquid ensures a smooth creamy texture; the definition of the crème brûlée. The natural organic sugar, a 1:1 replacement for white refined sugar, has subtle molasses notes that give the brûlée some additional depth and merge seamlessly into the topping. The dark rum caramel compliments the brûlée’s spice notes and adds a dark rich, caramel toffee taste along with a satisfying crunch.

Crème Brûlée:

  •     1 ¾ cups heavy cream
  •     ¼ cup brandy
  •     ½ cup organic sugar (divided into two ¼ cup portions)
  •     8 egg yolks
  •     1 vanilla bean
  •     ¼ teaspoon fresh ground cinnamon
  •     ¼ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place six 4 to 6 ounce ramekins in a roasting pan, and fill the pan with water so that the water comes up halfway to the tops of the ramekins. In a medium saucepan over medium heat bring ¼ cup of sugar, cream, brandy and the contents of the vanilla bean (add the bean as well, you will remove it later) to a simmer. In a stand mixer, or other bowl whip the egg yolks with the remaining ¼ cup of sugar until the yolks turn a lighter, paler yellow. Add in the cinnamon and nutmeg. Remove the vanilla bean from the heated cream. Slowly, a little at a time, add ½ of the hot cream mixture to temper the egg yolk mixture. Add the remaining cream and strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer. Divide the liquid among the ramekins. Place in the oven for 40 to 45 minutes until set, but the middle still trembles slightly. Remove and chill at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, or overnight. Prior to serving, remove the brûlées and top with the rum caramel (recipe follows). To top the dessert, place a little hot caramel in the middle then swirl the ramekins until the caramel coats the edges.

Rum Caramel:

  •     ¼ cup dark rum
  •     1 cup organic sugar (1:1 replacement for refined granulated white sugar)

Be extremely careful when cooking with melted sugar; it is hot and sticky. Keep an ice bath close by in case the sugar splatters onto you. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat and add the sugar rum mixture. The alcohol will cook out leaving the flavored sugar. The sugar will then start to liquefy, gently stir so that it does not burn in any one place. The sugar will turn a deep rich brown and start to smoke. Heat for one more minute then remove and top the desserts.

Recipes may be reprinted with the following credit:
Copyright Michael Fenster


Michael Fenster combines his culinary talents and Asian philosophy with medical expertise, creating winning recipes for healthy eating. He is frequently asked to present live cooking demonstrations as well as giving numerous radio interviews on health and food shows both nationally and internationally. Michael is a certified wine professional and chef, receiving his culinary degree from Ashworth University where he graduated with honors. He has worked professionally in kitchens prior to entering medical school and maintained his passion for food and wine throughout his medical career. Mike helped manage the award winning Napa Alley in Roanoke, Virginia, and hosted a local cable TV cooking show, “What’s Cookin’ with Doc” in Dublin, GA. He has written columns for SheKnows.com, is a regular columnist for the culinary magazine Basil, as well as a member of their Council of Chefs and a monthly health and fitness contributor to The Tampa Tribune. He recently cooked up heart healthy fall soup on the nationally syndicated television show “Daytime.”

Michael Fenster, MD, is a Board Certified Interventional Cardiologist, currently on staff with the Cardiology Specialists of Florida at Hernando Heart Clinic. He has participated in numerous clinical trials and spoken nationally on a variety of cardiovascular topics to audiences ranging from lay public to peer presentations at the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology meetings. He has also published numerous professional peer reviewed articles and served as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at North East Ohio University College of Medicine (NEOUCOM). Michael recently graduated summa cum laude from Auburn University’s Physician’s Executive MBA program.

Michael holds a JuDan (10th degree black belt) ranking in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, which he has studied over the last three decades. He lives in Spring Hill, Florida, with his wife Jennifer.

To see cooking demonstrations with Michael Fenster and more recipes, visit http://www.WhatsCookingWithDoc.com.

Trina Kaye – The Trina Kaye Organization

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