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HellaWella’s 2012 Advent calendar: 24 days of healthy holiday recipes

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Holidays are best celebrated with food. And Christmas shouldn’t just be celebrated on the 25th. Celebrate the holiday season from Dec. 1 up until the big day with a daily, yummy, healthy recipe sure to bring some Christmas cheer to even the surliest Scrooge. Each day, we’ll update this post with a new holiday recipe — don’t forget to come back for more!

Menorahs and dreidels more your kind of thing than Christmas trees and Santa Claus? We promise these recipes are for you too — but we’ve also rounded up healthier recipes for traditional Hanakkuh dishes that you can find here.

Dec. 1: Date-sweetened gingerbread men

Dec. 1: Date-sweetened gingerbread men

Holiday cookies with protein and minimal sugar: It's a Christmas miracle! These delicious gingerbread men were made with almonds, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and sweetened with date sugar. No gumdrop buttons here — dried currants are used to decorate the little guys.

Dec. 2: Roasted chestnuts

Dec. 2: Roasted chestnuts

You don't actually need an open fire to roast chestnuts — even an electric stove will do. This recipe from the Washington Post walks you through it, even providing Nutrition Facts so you can factor it into your holiday diet goals. A good source of vitamin C, copper and manganese, chestnuts make for a nutritious, festive snack.

Dec. 3: Burrata with warm figs and pecans

Dec. 3: Burrata with warm figs and pecans

Don't forget the greens over the holidays! If you're looking for an elegant way to put salad on the table, it doesn't get much better than this recipe from Yummy Mummy Kitchen. Burrata — fresh mozzarella containing an unbelievably good creamy center — and figs are one of our favorite food combinations. Throw in pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts, and you've got a beautiful salad you'll enjoy almost as much as the Christmas cookies.

Dec. 4: Holiday Sangria

Dec. 4: Holiday Sangria

Every Christmas party needs a good festive drink. For your next holiday get-together, whip up some of this holiday Sangria from Sprouted Kitchen. The fruity concoction contains apple, orange, persimmon, pear, ginger, cinnamon and cloves (in addition to the booze). Pairs well with ugly sweaters and mistletoe.

Dec. 5: Curried deviled eggs

Dec. 5: Curried deviled eggs

Deviled eggs deserve a spot on the Christmas hors d'oeuvres table just as much as any dip. Give them a makeover this year with this recipe from Style At Home. You'll wonder why you never once thought to add curry to your traditional deviled eggs recipe — match made in heaven.

Dec. 6: Rudolph the Red Velvet Cupcake

Dec. 6: Rudolph the Red Velvet Cupcake

For a healthy dose of Christmas cuteness, try this recipe from Skinnytaste. Not only are the cupcakes ridiculously adorable and tasty, but they're also incredibly easy to make, using just red velvet cake mix, fat-free Chobani yogurt, egg whites and water for the red velvet cake. Oh, and by the way, they only contain 169 calories per cupcake!

Dec. 7: Kabocha (pumpkin) spice popcorn

Dec. 7: Kabocha (pumpkin) spice popcorn

Our pumpkin obsession did not end after October — and neither should yours. This pumpkin spice popcorn is a perfect snack for when you're curled up with your loved ones over holiday break watching "Elf" on the couch. All you need is a bag of microwave popcorn (not the slathered-in-butter kind!), some brown sugar, powdered pumpkin, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt.

Dec. 8: Brussels sprouts with balsamic and cranberries

Dec. 8: Brussels sprouts with balsamic and cranberries

Make Brussels sprouts a little more Christmas-y — and hopefully more appetizing to picky kids — with this recipe from The Pioneer Woman, which throws in cranberries with the veggie and drizzles it all with balsamic glaze. To cut back on the dish's sugar, don't add the sweet stuff to the glaze — the site says it's optional but adds a nice sweetness to this nutritious side.

Dec. 9: Spiced pear cider

Dec. 9: Spiced pear cider

If you feel like you ate enough fall apples to keep the doctor away for the next few years, try something different over the holidays, like this spiced pear cider from Oxmoor House. With pear juice, pear nectar, allspice, cloves and cinnamon sticks, it's the perfect mix of spices and sweetness to warm you up after braving the December air.

Dec. 10: Grilled shrimp cocktail

Dec. 10: Grilled shrimp cocktail

Argue with us all you want, but we're confident there's no appetizer more popular than the shrimp cocktail. Give the classic hors d'oeuvre a flavor boost by grilling them this year. Yes, this recipe from Smitten Kitchen requires actually going outside and using the grill — unless you want to settle for the grill pan inside — but your guests will thank you for it. Plus, we've got plenty of hot cocktails to thaw you out afterward.

Dec. 11: Roasted Grand Marnier clementines with vanilla

Dec. 11: Roasted Grand Marnier clementines with vanilla

Treat yourself to a dessert that isn't just empty calories with this recipe from BBC Good Food. The sweet treat combines the fruit with finely chopped vanilla pods, some sugar, a little butter and your choice of either Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Curacao — and then throws it on the grill for 10 to 15 minutes. Not only is it a cure for your sweet tooth, but clementines are a good source of thiamin, folate and potassium, and a very good source of vitamin C.

Dec. 12: Butternut squash soup with pear, cider and vanilla bean

Dec. 12: Butternut squash soup with pear, cider and vanilla bean

We love the idea of starting off Christmas dinner with a soup — and it doesn't get much more seasonal than this butternut squash soup with pear, cider and vanilla bean. How are we not tired of butternut squash soup, you ask? Because we keep finding ingenious twists on the traditional recipe like this one from Roost. We also love that the recipe used yogurt instead of heavy cream so we can feel less guilty about all that heavy holiday food we're eating after the soup.

Dec. 13: Strawberry Santas

Dec. 13: Strawberry Santas

We'll give you a moment to finish your Awww-ing. … Good? These absolutely adorable mini Santas — found at Just A Pinch Recipes — are made with strawberries, cream cheese (use low-fat!), powdered sugar (or sugar substitute) and pure vanilla extract. Use chocolate sprinkles or raisins for the eyes.

Dec. 14: Healthy makeover eggnog

Dec. 14: Healthy makeover eggnog

As you may have seen on our Periodic Table of Cocktails infographic, eggnog can be a hazard to your waistline if you overdo it — 343 calories of hazard per drink to be exact. Substitute your usual holiday eggnog with Good Housekeeping's healthier substitute, which uses low-fat milk and nixes the heavy cream.

Dec. 15: Crudo on the half shell

Dec. 15: Crudo on the half shell

If you're from the East Coast, Christmas appetizers usually include some kind of seafood. We've found the perfect holiday hors d'oeuvre in the Food Network's crudo on the half shell, which is comprised of sea scallops and littleneck clams. Warning: "Crudo" means raw in Italian. So if you're not down for raw seafood, try one of our other many Advent calendar recipes. For those out there who like raw seafood, it's extremely important to buy the highest-quality, freshest ingredients; you can't just buy any scallops or clams you find. Definitely ask your local seafood market if the shellfish is suitable and fresh enough for raw consumption before you buy it.

Dec. 16: Pumpkin mashed potatoes with fennel and spinach

Dec. 16: Pumpkin mashed potatoes with fennel and spinach

No one asked us, but in our opinion, Christmas is a time for special food you wouldn't normally eat. And how many times a year do you eat mashed potatoes? Make mashed potatoes more exciting for the holidays with this recipe from Food 52, which mashes together red potatoes, fennel, garlic, pumpkin puree and spinach. Now that's something to get excited about every year!

Dec. 17: Makeover breakfast sausage and mushroom strata

Dec. 17: Makeover breakfast sausage and mushroom strata

Christmas mornings shouldn't be spent in the kitchen — you've probably spent more than enough time in the kitchen throughout the week anyway. Make this breakfast casserole from Skinnytaste a day or two before so you can just heat it up Christmas morning while everyone's opening presents. While many breakfast stratas can be high in fat, this one is lightened up by using fewer eggs, turkey sausage instead of pork sausage, fat-free milk, reduced-fat cheese and whole-wheat ciabatta bread.

Dec. 18: Peppermint tea

Dec. 18: Peppermint tea

We'll set the scene for you: You're curled up on the couch next to the Christmas tree in your pajamas, reading the latest best-seller, imagining you are also lucky enough to have a fireplace, and sipping … peppermint tea. This "sleepy tea" from Nourished Kitchen is the perfect way to finish up the day before crawling in bed, and that peppermint just makes everything seem a tiny bit more Christmas-y.

Dec. 19: Lightened up green bean casserole with shallot crumb topping

Dec. 19: Lightened up green bean casserole with shallot crumb topping

The green bean casserole, with its creamy mushroom soup and French's fried onions, is a Christmas classic. But while it's tasty, it's far from good for you. This lighter version of the dish from Skinnytaste gets the calorie count down to 160 per serving, using fresh green beans rather than canned, fresh mushrooms and a homemade creamy mixture that doesn't come from a Campbell's can. It does nix the fried onions, but the topping of shallots, breadcrumbs, Romano cheese, thyme and olive oil works just fine.

Dec. 20: Healthier crab dip

Dec. 20: Healthier crab dip

Marylanders already know how holidays aren't the same without a crab dip — and once you try it, you'll realize why. That said, the typical crab dip is usually packed with high-fat ingredients. So thankfully, Jeanette's Healthy Living took the time to create a lighter — note that we're using "lighter," not "light" — version of the Eastern Shore appetizer, using nonfat Greek yogurt and significantly less mayo. Not a fan of crab? Use shrimp instead!

Dec. 21: Flourless oatmeal cookie

Dec. 21: Flourless oatmeal cookie

It's not Christmas quite yet — you still have time to make cookies! These oatmeal cookies from Eating Well Living Thin use butter, eggs, oatmeal, Splenda, salt, cinnamon and vanilla, and zero flour. They're ridiculously easy to make and factor in at only 69 calories per cookie, which might be a Christmas cookie record.

Dec. 22: Christmas chutney

Dec. 22: Christmas chutney

Instead of that cranberry sauce you just had a month ago at Thanksgiving, make this Christmas chutney from the Food Network for your big holiday dinner. You'll still get your cranberries — the chutney contains dried cranberries, Granny Smith apples, onion, apple cider vinegar, sugar and the perfect combination of spices.

Dec. 23: Sweet potatoes with pecans and goat cheese

Dec. 23: Sweet potatoes with pecans and goat cheese

Still trying to figure out what appetizer to bring to the holiday party? We've got you covered. These sweet potatoes with pecans and goat cheese from Smitten Kitchen are sure to impress. Not only do they look beautiful and colorful, but the fusing of those three main ingredients creates a phenomenal combo of tastes and textures.

Dec. 24: Pomegranate-key lime vodka cocktail

Dec. 24: Pomegranate-key lime vodka cocktail

Presents are bought, cookies are made, decorations are hung — sit back, relax and toast to Christmas (and to yourself for handling all the stress that comes with it) with this pomegranate-key lime vodka cocktail from Cooking Light. Fizzy and festive, this drink combines water, club soda, pomegranate juice, vodka, key lime juice, sugar and some key lime slices to add a touch of green to a red drink for Christmas in a glass. Happy holidays!

Dec. 1: Date-sweetened gingerbread menDec. 2: Roasted chestnutsDec. 3: Burrata with warm figs and pecansDec. 4: Holiday SangriaDec. 5: Curried deviled eggsDec. 6: Rudolph the Red Velvet CupcakeDec. 7: Kabocha (pumpkin) spice popcornDec. 8: Brussels sprouts with balsamic and cranberriesDec. 9: Spiced pear ciderDec. 10: Grilled shrimp cocktailDec. 11: Roasted Grand Marnier clementines with vanillaDec. 12: Butternut squash soup with pear, cider and vanilla beanDec. 13: Strawberry SantasDec. 14: Healthy makeover eggnogDec. 15: Crudo on the half shellDec. 16: Pumpkin mashed potatoes with fennel and spinachDec. 17: Makeover breakfast sausage and mushroom strataDec. 18: Peppermint teaDec. 19: Lightened up green bean casserole with shallot crumb toppingDec. 20: Healthier crab dipDec. 21: Flourless oatmeal cookieDec. 22: Christmas chutneyDec. 23: Sweet potatoes with pecans and goat cheeseDec. 24: Pomegranate-key lime vodka cocktail

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