Sign up to receive a weekly peek inside our kitchen.

Wholefood Winter Sweets

Debra Redalia


Starfruit and pomegranate drizzled with honey and sprinkled with fresh mint leaves is a quick and easy healthy dessert for a festive winter meal.


I know that the holidays are a time when we have many food temptations that are not so whole. While they taste good and may be associated with traditions and feelings of love, they are probably not so good for our bodies.

Some years ago I began to examine holiday foods in my own life and find healthier versions.

Here I’d like to offer you my strategies for having satisfying sweets to eat for the holidays that are also whole and good for you.

Fruits that are in season include:

  • Dates (September through early December)
  • Citrus fruits (harvest begins in December)
  • Pomegranates(September through early December)
  • Star Fruit (December through February)

During the winter I primarily eat all kinds of citrus fruits and as much pomegranate as I possibly can. I just sprinkle those ruby arils on everything—sweet and savory.

Star fruits don’t taste like much, but I love them simply because they are stars that reflect the long, dark nights. You can eat them fresh or slice them and dry them at a low temperature in your oven or in a dehydrator. They are delightfully sweet and starry. I just let Larry and his 89-year-old Mom eat the plate pictured at the top of this post and they both loved the star fruit drizzled with a bit of honey.

I’m not putting apples on this list because they actually are not a winter fruit, even though we eat them through the winter. I used to think that apples were a winter fruit until I starting living in a region where apples are grown and I experienced the harvest at our local farmer’s market. Our local apples begin in September and various varieties continue through early November and then they are done. We also have apple trees on our property and they all produce during autumn months. Not only are there no apples on the trees, the leaves have fallen as well.

Here are some ways to prepare these fruits in festive ways.

Make a Special Presentation of Holiday Fruits

In the image at the top of this post, I’ve taken star fruit, pomegranate, and mint leaves and just arranged them artfully on a plate with a drizzle of light star thistle honey. The beautiful presentation turns plain fruits into a dessert you could serve even at a dinner party, perhaps a welcome change from all the holiday sweets eaten elsewhere.

Start with starfruits or citrus cut crosswise to show the segments and lay them on a white plate. Sprinkle with pomegranate, drizzle with honey, and garnish with fresh mint leaves. I just pulled a spring off the mint plant I have growing in my garden, but fresh mint is sold in the produce section of most stores today.

Make Citrus Supremes

A “supreme” is just the center part of the citrus segment, with no membrane or pith (the white stuff between the fruit and the peel). It is great technique for oranges and grapefruits and makes any citrus dish look beautiful. It’s called a supreme because it’s just the most supreme way to eat the citrus fruits the size off oranges and larger.

It takes a little practice, but not that much. See these instructions from Martha Stewart

Tangerines and Stuffed Dates

I came up with this combination when I was living in Florida and had a tangerine tree with more tangerines than we could eat. We were just giving them away to everyone we knew.

The combination of the richness of dates with the refreshing tang of the citrus is delicious.

At that time I stuffed the dates with a combination of cream cheese and nuts with honey and cinnamon. Today I would make a paste of almond flour and honey and add a more unusual spice such as ground cardamom.


Literally translated, ambrosia means “immortal.” It is the food eaten by the Greek and Roman gods. It is also a simple dessert made with oranges, that is very popular in traditional Southern cooking.
Ambrosia is one of those recipes that is more a method–a basic idea that can be and is personalized in many different variations.

The traditional “purist” ambrosia contains only navel oranges, powdered sugar, and coconut. I use honey instead, but you can use any sweetener you like.

Freshly grated coconut would be best, but you could also use unsweetened dried shredded coconut.

The method is to toss the cut fruit with sweetener, then layer the fruit with coconut, preferably in a glass bowl. Cover and chill for two hours, then spoon into glass bowls to serve.

Now, many other things have been known to be added, such as:

pineapple chunks
grapefruit or tangerine sections
sliced bananas
pistachios or pecans
dried cranberries or raisins

I would add pomegranate arils, but I love pomegranates and add them to everything.

However you make it, ambrosia is a lovely, easy, dessert for a winter’s day, that brings the freshness of the season to your table. I would add an extra sprinkle of coconut on top right before serving.