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Food For and From the Heart: Emily's Festive Holiday Recipes

Friday, December 11, 2020

By Emily Earhart

Happy December! 

The holidays aren’t going to look or feel typical this year. But that doesn’t mean holiday cheer has to disappear. With the colder weather and a return to stay-at-home orders in some parts of the country, many of us are hunkering down and staying in more than usual this year. Which I think is the perfect excuse to fire up the stove, try new recipes and comfort yourself with gastronomic delights!

So I’m doing some extra holiday cooking and baking this year to generate as much holiday cheer and glad-tidings as possible. Here’s what I’m making to feel festive, cozy and heart-healthy this holiday season. What are you making? 

Hearty Three-Bean Vegetable Chili
Serves 8-10

This is my go-to chili. Don’t let the long list of ingredients put you off. It’s simple to make, super hearty and comforting, and it’s also heart-healthy!


¾ c. quinoa

1 c. fresh orange or grapefruit juice

1/3 c. olive oil

4 medium yellow onions, finely chopped (4 c.)

8 cloves garlic, finely chopped

¼ c. mild red chili powder (not a blend)

3 Tbsp. ground cumin

3 Tbsp. dried oregano

1 ½ Tbsp. dried thyme

½ tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

28 oz. canned tomatoes

¾ c. water

3 c. no-salt vegetable broth

Kosher salt, to taste

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced

2 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels

8 oz. fresh or frozen green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces

15 oz. dark red kidney beans, no-salt-added, drained

15 oz. chickpeas, no-salt-added, drained

Optional topping: 1 small zucchini, grated

Optional topping: 2 medium tomatoes, diced

Optional topping: a bunch of green onions, diced

Optional topping: sour cream


-Combine citrus juice and quinoa in a small bowl and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

-Meanwhile, combine all of your spices in a small bowl and set aside.

-Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to coat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until onions have softened.

-Stir in the spices (chili powder, cumin, oregano, thyme, cayenne pepper and cinnamon). Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often so the spices do not scorch. It should get really fragrant!

-Add the can of tomatoes with their juices and stir in the water, broth and salt to taste.

-Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring once or twice.

-Add the bell peppers and citrus juice-soaked quinoa and cook for 20-25 minutes. Chili will start to thicken; add a little more water if it gets too thick for your liking.

-Add the green beans, corn, kidney beans and chickpeas and continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes or until everything is heated through.

-Serve with the toppings of your choice alongside some cornbread!

This recipe can be halved or doubled easily, and the chili freezes well for future meals. Like most chili, this tastes even better the second day, so feel free to make in advance! Enjoy!

Thumbprint Cookies with Toasted Nuts and Whole Grains
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

This is a riff on the classic jam thumbprint cookie which is a beautiful, bejeweled holiday cookie that is perfect for gift giving. This version adds a healthy (and delicious) twist by using nuts and whole grains. You can use any type of toasted nut or whole-grain flour: cashews, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts; barley, brown rice or oat flour. Fill with your favorite artisan jam, marmalade or curd!


1 ½ c. dark rye flour (or whole-grain flour of choice)

1 ½ c. pecans (or nut/seed of choice)

2/3 c. granulated sugar

¼ tsp. fine sea salt

9 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature

Jam, marmalade or lemon curd for filling


-Preheat oven to 350 °F.  Spread nuts on a baking sheet and toast until golden and fragrant (about 8-10 minutes, depending on the nut). Let them cool completely.

-In a food processor, combine nuts, flour, sugar and salt and pulse until finely ground (about 1 minute). Transfer to a large bowl and add butter by hand, massaging the butter into the dry ingredients until it forms a shaggy dough.

-Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and bring it together with your hands until it comes fully together. Add a tsp of water if it isn’t coming together on its own.

-Divide and roll the dough into walnut-sized balls (about 2 inches in diameter). Transfer balls to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about ½ inch apart.

-Use your pinkie, thumb or end of a wooden spoon to press into the top of each ball, making a well. Use your other hand to help shape the balls into flat-bottomed cups that have even thickness throughout the cookie. Chill sheet pan with cookies in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.

-Bake cookies at 350 °F for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are golden around the edges. Let cookies cool completely. 

-When ready to serve, use a pastry bag or a small spoon to fill the cookies with the jam, marmalade or preserve of choice!

You can store the unfilled cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Spiced Nuts

Makes 1 lb.

This is my grandma’s spiced nut recipe that I make every year for gift giving (and snacking). It satisfies both my sweet and salty teeth while not letting me feel (too) guilty about holiday snacking. This also ships in the mail well!


1 lb. pecans or walnuts

1 egg white

1 Tbsp. cold water

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 c. sugar


-Whisk together egg white and cold water until foamy but not stiff.

-Stir nuts into foam and stir until well coated.

-Mix together salt, cinnamon, sugar (and any other spices you want). Pour spice mixture over nuts and stir until evenly coated.

-Spread nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 300F for 45 minutes, stirring and rotating nuts every 15 minutes. Remove to cool completely. Be careful not to burn them!

Keeps in airtight container for 2 weeks. 


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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.

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