'Tis the season for holiday parties, and despite the trays of pigs-in-a-blanket and bowls of cheesy spinach dip you'll encounter, there's no need to fear. The key to feeling good this holiday season (and to avoid packing on the pounds) is simple: eat your vegetables! If you're eating a balanced diet with plenty of veggies–and making sure to get in some exercise–then you can enjoy your holiday treats guilt-free. Of course moderation is key. (I just wrote a piece on healthy holiday eating in the Huffington Post if you're interested in reading more!)

Personally, when I'm throwing a Christmas party I like to throw in some healthy options. I especially love making flavorful dips with veggies, beans, and herbs like Tuscan White Bean and Lemony Fava Bean with Mint. They are easy to whip together in a blender or food processor, and can be made completely in advance–which makes serving a breeze. I like putting out a few bowls of homemade dips (other favorites are Fig-Olive Tapenade, Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, and Roasted Eggplant Dip) and serving them with an assortment of flatbreads, pita chips, and crackers.

In the coming weeks, I'll be featuring several of my favorite holiday nibbles–some healthy, some not-so-much (bacon-wrapped dates!), but all ultra-flavorful and simple to prepare. Because–as I've said before and I'll continue to say–why throw a party if you can't enjoy it?! So pop open some (budget) bubbly and get out that blender...you'll have two fabulous dips ready in no time at all!


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans

1 cup vegetable (or chicken) broth

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves*

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Salt and pepper, to taste

Extra virgin olive oil for garnish

Chopped sun-dried tomatoes for garnish (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened and fragrant (do not let the garlic brown). Add the beans and the stock and bring to a boil. Let simmer until thickened, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and red pepper flakes.

Pour the mixture (carefully!) into a blender or food processor. Add the Parmesan and pulse several times to until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool to room temperature before serving.

Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and some chopped sun-dried tomatoes (optional) and serve with whole wheat pita chips, whole grain flatbread, or grainy crackers.

*In the summertime, I like to substitute 1/4 fresh basil for the thyme.


2 1/2 cups frozen fava beans, thawed*

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the fava beans and garlic cloves and let simmer for 4 to 5 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, prepare a bowl of ice water.

Save 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the beans and garlic. Place the beans in the ice water to stop cooking. Remove and discard the white outer skins from the fava beans, saving the bright green beans inside.

Place the peeled fava beans and garlic in a blender or food processor. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, olive oil, and mint and pulse to combine. The mixture shouldn't be completely smooth–it's nice to leave some texture. If it's too thick, add in a bit of the reserved cooking liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Also feel free to adjust the flavorings to suit your palate–if you like more lemon or more spice from the red pepper flakes, feel free to add more of either!).

Serve with whole wheat pita chips, whole grain flatbread, or grainy crackers.

*In the spring and summertime, by all means make this with fresh fava beans! There will be more peeling involved, but it will be even more flavorful. If you can't find frozen fava beans in your grocery store (I usually buy mine at a Middle Eastern store) feel free to substitute frozen peas or even peeled edamame. The taste will be slightly different, but still delicious.