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Holiday family recipes (and alternatives) from doctors

The holidays are an opportunity to pause, look back over the year and reflect on everything there is to be grateful for. But we all know it’s what comes after the blessing that many look forward to most – the food! 

While the doctors at Tryon Medical Partners work with patients to recommend healthy food choices to achieve wellness goals, they tend to make the holidays more about thoughtful balance.

“It is pretty hard to adhere to a strict calorie or macronutrient-restricted diet when it comes to a traditional holiday dinner,” says Tryon gastroenterologist Dr. Eric Hilgenfeldt. “I tend to wave the white flag.”

With that in mind, Dr. Hilgenfeldt and his colleagues are sharing their own holiday recipes. 

Going gluten-free with a crust for any pie

At Dr. Anne Barnard’s house, the holidays mean football. “Lifetime. Cowboys. Fans,” she says. To fuel their fandom, this internal medicine physician from Tryon Uptown makes family-favorite recipes that focus on gluten-free. 

“As someone with celiac disease, the holidays can be a challenging time to ‘find something I can eat,’ particularly at parties and gatherings,” Dr. Barnard says. “But since GF bread tends to be slightly dry and more porous than regular white/wheat breads, it is perfectly suited to go into the stuffing, as it readily absorbs the broth and seasonings. I promise, you will never know the difference!”

With a few key substitutions, it is not that difficult to recreate favorite holiday foods as gluten-free options. In lieu of regular flour, Dr. Barnard substitutes almond, quinoa or rice flour at a one-to-one ratio.

One of Dr. Barnard’s favorites is a gluten-free crust that is equally delicious for pumpkin pie and quiche. Add Dr. Barnard’s crust recipe to your cookbook:

Gluten-Free Crust

  • 2 cups blanched almond flour (NOT almond meal)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 large egg


  1. Place almond flour and salt in the food processor and pulse briefly
  2. Add coconut oil and egg and pulse until mixture forms a ball
  3. Press dough into a 9-inch pie dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-12 minutes
  4. Add filling of choice and bake as needed

Introducing Korean heritage to the menu

During a holiday steeped in family tradition, bringing heritage food to the menu makes the day even more special. Dr. Caroline Wilds’ parents immigrated from Korea in the 1970s, and adapted their holiday traditions to include American dishes.

“When my mother started making turkeys, she stuffed them with kimchee fried rice,” says the Tryon Matthews internal medicine specialist. “My sister and I still remember this being the most delicious thing we had ever eaten! While we no longer stuff our turkey with it, kimchee fried rice is a staple at our table every year as we celebrate the holidays with our children. We are teaching another generation the love of ‘fusion food’ and to embrace being both American and Korean.”

Kimchee Fried Rice

  • 3 cups cooked rice (preferably dry or day old), short grain Korean or Japanese (1 cup uncooked)
  • 1.5 cups kimchee
  • 6 ounces skinless pork belly, thinly sliced (can substitute bacon)
  • ½ small sweet onion (Vidalia)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped chives or scallions
  • Roasted seasoned seaweed, shredded or Nori Fume Furikake Rice Seasoning (optional) 


  1. Chop kimchee into bite sizes, setting aside kimchee juice
  2. Slice pork into similar bite sizes
  3. Heat butter in large frying pan over medium/high heat
  4. Add pork and brown on both sides, then add kimchee with juice and sweet onion, stir-frying together until liquid is incorporated
  5. Add rice and stir-fry all ingredients together until tossed evenly
  6. Add sesame oil and sesame seeds, then toss together
  7. Garnish with chives/scallions and add roasted seaweed or Nori Rice Seasoning as desired

For a less spicy dish, rinse the kimchee with water before chopping and omit the kimchee juice.

Add fiber with a gastroenterologists’ bran muffins

Even though we know Dr. Hilgenfeldt is the “go for it” type when it comes to holiday foods, the gastroenterologist can’t help but use an opportunity to recommend getting more fiber in your diet. 

“Most Americans consume less than half the amount of fiber they need each day, setting themselves up for GI distress,” Dr. Hilgenfeldt says. “Our ‘good’ bacteria need the prebiotic (bacteria food) that fiber is. Without it, the good bacteria will starve and the bad ones will thrive.”

His bran muffins make a delicious and fiber-packed complement to your meal. Plus, they are great on-the-go snacks. Slice in half, toast, add a little cream cheese and your leftover muffins become a great stand-alone breakfast. 

Bran Muffins

  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 2 cups bran cereal, spit into ½ cup and 1 ½ cups
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
  • ¼ cup brown sugar


  1. Pour boiling water over ½ cup cereal and, once cool, add vegetable oil and egg
  2. While water/bran mixture cools, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl, then stir in raisins
  3. Combine buttermilk and brown sugar, and stir into the dry ingredients
  4. Stir in remaining cereal, then the softened bran mixture and cover the batter to refrigerate overnight
  5. While preheating oven to 375°F, grease cups of muffin tin
  6. Stir batter, then scoop into each of the tin’s cups
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes
  8. Cool 10 minutes before removing muffins from pan

For those trying to cut down on sugar this holiday season, Tryon endocrinologist Dr. Harold Springs recommends resources like the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Food Hub, particularly their recipe for pumpkin pie with maple-ginger crust!

These Tryon physicians look forward to hearing how you incorporate recipes into your holiday celebration. Let them know at your next appointment, whether with your trusted primary care clinician or a specialist like Dr. Hilgenfeldt on the gastroenterology team. With a focus on the patient-doctor relationship, our independent practice relishes getting to know you and your family better.

No matter what you put on the table this holiday, we hope you gather around it with the ones you love. Happy Holidays from the Tryon family to yours!