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Sarasota Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020 1 month ago

Yule eat it and yule like it

An attempt was made to make healthy alternatives to a traditional Christmas dinner. How did it go? Well …
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Reporter

It's the final month of what has been an unprecedented year in almost all respects. 

If you're anything like me, you've been coping with the state of the world through a slight lowering of the bar in terms of diet. Or maybe the bar is fully on the ground now. It hasn't been great, is what I'm saying. 

That's OK. I love eating junk as much as anyone. But at some point we all need to rebound, to act like things are typical even when they aren't just yet.

You know that speech Harry (Billy Crystal) makes at the end of "When Harry Met Sally …" about how when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible? Well, in that ethos (but about food) I — a sports reporter with no professional cooking skills and close to zero amateur cooking skills either — have created a video walking you through healthy alternatives for each course of a five-course Christmas dinner. That's in, like, a week! You still have time to do it! 

Against all odds, Ryan's healthy alternatives turned out … tasty? Photo by Brynn Mechem.

For the video, I made a cauliflower soup, a lemony Brussels sprout salad, a chickpea and kale rigatoni, a low-on-fat bread pudding and a secret mixed drink because we all deserve something for working hard in the kitchen. You'll have to watch the video to see the whole process, but: Did I forget the words "Brussels sprouts" multiple times? Yes. Did I do battle with a blender full of hot soup, a pot lid acting as my last line of defense against the soup's scalding droplets? Yes. Did I end up making (at least) two dishes that I will make again because they actually tasted good? Somehow, yes. 

Check out some photos from the shoot, and then watch the full (hectic, entertaining) video on 

Cauliflower Soup

Yields: 4

Total time: 40 minutes


  • Cauliflower Soup
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 leek (white and light green parts), chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cored and sliced
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Cracked pepper, for serving
  • Chive Oil
  • 1 bunch chives
  • 1/2 cup canola or grapeseed oil


  1. Heat butter and oil in large pot on medium. Add onion, leek and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until very tender (but not brown), 10-12 minutes.
  2. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute. Add cauliflower, broth and cream, and simmer until cauliflower is tender, 15-18 minutes.
  3. Using handheld blender (or standard blender, in batches), puree until smooth.
  4. Make chive oil: In blender, puree chives and 1⁄2 cup canola or grapeseed oil until smooth. Transfer to small saucepan, and cook on medium until mixture begins to simmer, about 3 minutes. Pour through a coffee filter set over a measuring cup.
  5. Serve drizzled with chive oil and cracked pepper, if desired.


Brussels Sprout Salad

Yields: 8

Total time: 25 minutes


  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and very thinly sliced
  • 1 small head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1/3 cup packed grated ricotta salata or pecorino cheese
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries or golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup smoked almonds, chopped


  1. In large bowl, whisk lemon juice, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add sprouts, and toss until well-coated. Let stand at least 10 minutes or up to 2 hours.
  2. When ready to serve, to bowl with sprouts, add romaine, ricotta salata, cranberries and almonds; toss to combine.


Chickpea and Kale Rigatoni

Yields: 6

Total time: 35 minutes


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 8 oz. fresh chorizo (or hot Italian sausage), casings removed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 large bunches kale (about 1 1/4 pounds total), stemmed and chopped (about 20 cups)
  • 12 oz. rigatoni
  • 2 oz. Manchego cheese, finely grated, plus more for serving


  1. In large skillet on medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add smoked paprika and cook, stirring often, 30 seconds. Add panko and pinch salt and cook, stirring, until toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer crumbs to plate.
  2. Wipe out skillet, and heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil on medium-high. Add chorizo; cook, breaking up with spoon, until browned, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add broth and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced by one-third, 4-6 minutes.
  4. Add chickpeas and cook until heated through, 2 minutes. Stir in kale and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook until tender, 2-3 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cook rigatoni as label directs. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid, then drain pasta, and return to pot. Toss with chickpea mixture and manchego, adding some of reserved cooking liquid if pasta seems dry. Serve sprinkled with bread crumbs and more cheese, if desired.


Bread Pudding


Total time: 


  • 1 3/4 cups (1/2-inch) cubed Hawaiian sweet bread
  • 2/3 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon Kahlúa (coffee-flavored liqueur)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 ounce semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Arrange bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes or until toasted. Remove bread from oven; decrease oven temperature to 325 degrees.
  3. Combine milk and next five ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add bread, tossing gently to coat. Cover and chill 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.
  4. Divide half of bread mixture evenly between two (6-ounce) ramekins or custard cups coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with half of chocolate. Divide remaining bread mixture between ramekins; top with remaining chocolate.
  5. Place ramekins in an 8-inch square baking pan; add hot water to pan to a depth of 1 inch. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes or until set. Serve each pudding warm with 1 tablespoon whipped topping.

I’m the sports reporter for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. I was born and raised in Olney, MD. My biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. My strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

See All Articles by Ryan

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