So, it’s that time of year again…where we justify gorging on savory meats, indulgent side dishes, buttery rolls and a million sweet delicacies…the HOLIDAYS ARE HERE!! Each time we go through one of these feasts, we try and preempt it by some random workout, then eat, then feel guilty, try and work out the day after and eventually give in and just say that we’ll get back to it on Jan 1st. For most of us, who don’t own their fitness lifestyle, it’s more than true…just admit it. Even though I do workout, I do worry about eating too much, the salt intake, the fattening dessert and even the time constraints to work out. The holidays wreak havoc on EVERYONE. Not to waste any more time, here are some of my tips and tricks that can make your holidays just a little healthier.
Ok, keep these simple and fresh. Stop with the cream dips and fondues…why are you distracting your guests from the main event??? Oh wait…because you dried out the turkey and burned the rolls??? Come on now…! Your guests will eat anything, so stop fretting about apps and making them a cesspool concoction of cheese!! Make a crostini with fresh tomatoes and herbs or smoked meat and pickles…what’s with the bean dips, sour cream crap and other crap fillers???!!! You aren’t fooling anyone!! Also, just because the cheeseball has almonds and red wine doesn’t make it healthy or boozy…duh. Again, keep your apps sustainable enough as your guests arrive, but not to the point where they are already disgusted.
This is my favorite part of my meal…any meal…and the most important, in my life. Nothing makes a meal more than the sides…potatoes, spinach, carrots, stuffing, gravy, green beans…seriously?? In theory, veggies are great for you and are a healthy side…which kids and even adults hate on a daily basis…except holidays. Hmmm…there must be something to that. Potatoes are drowned in butter, spinach in cream, sweet potatoes in brown sugar, carrots in sweet glaze and green beans in canned soup and fried onions. Ok, just stop drowning amazingness in crap…not necessary. Here’s why….
Listen, it’s a staple…I get it, I love it too. However, why always drown it in butter and milk????!!! Use russets and Greek yogurt for a creamy version without tons of fat…Vegans, use silken tofu and veggie broth, you won’t even miss dairy. Paleo…coconut milk and beef broth, it’s to die for. If you ever use those potato flakes…just do your thing, because you can’t be helped. No.
SWEET POTATOES, YAMS…WHATEVER
Ok, so while we are on the topic of spuds…let’s talk about the mistreated sweet variety. Marshmallows and brown sugar…so let’s add more sugar to an already sweet substance…unless this is a dessert, you’ve failed. What I don’t get is if it’s a masking agent trying to make sweet potatoes tolerable or a sweet potato pie filling reused because something went wrong…so it was scraped off the pie shell into a casserole dish and then covered in white fluffy sugar pillows.
Nonetheless, I have a huge obsession with white sweet potatoes this year that just refine the dish and surprise the palate. Add some herbs and butter and you have an amazing dish that has a hint of sweetness, freshness and comfort. If you are partial to the Trump colored variety…cut them in wedges, season with salt, pepper and garlic…serve with fresh herbs and lemon. Whatever you do, stop making dessert into a baby food and passing it off as a side dish, it’s disgusting.
I hate cooked carrots…I hate them in a bourbon glaze…just because you cut them on a bias angle doesn’t change how they taste…because they are always too sweet and overcooked. Are you guys making up for over-salting something??? I can’t figure out why carrots are always obliterated with a faux glaze that is burnt and overused. Roast those carrots, keep the texture, add a vinaigrette with olive oil, red wine vinegar, parsley and shallot. Why not showcase the vegetable as is? Did you ever think that the as much as you doctor a veggie with sugars, it actually makes someone wants to eat it less?? Showcase it, play up its colors and textures! Add flavors that compliment and not hide its true beauty.
Ok, here’s the deal…spinach itself is healthy…amazingly so. I’m also a huge fan of creamed spinach…just LOVE it. However, it’s not so healthy as soon as you add cream, milk and cheese to it. I don’t know how to make this perfect dish healthier other than use kale, mustard greens or chard. To be honest, when I first thought about switching out the green, I was not happy…but it’s so much better. Here’s why…when you blanch kale, mustard greens or chard and add them to the cream mixture, they retain their color and texture. It’s an awesome balance between healthy and not so much. As much as I want to tell you there is an equally delicious substitute for cream, cheese, flour rue and shallot…there isn’t. Just change up the greens and tell yourself that it’s better in some way. Just consider it your veggie “cheat” dish.
Listen, there so many other side dishes that I can tear apart, but you get my point. Just remember to showcase that vegetable because they are beautiful and perfect without being doctored. Season them, don’t drown them. Take a moment and look around and veer from the usual. Make a shaved brussels sprouts salad with brown butter vinaigrette or char them with lemon and anchovy butter. Just make sure you cook them to perfection, not obliteration. Green beans don’t need mushroom soup and fried onions…just lemon, garlic and a few red chili flakes if you are up to the challenge. My whole point, don’t ruin nature’s gift with so much of the unnatural.
Whether you make turkey, duck, ham, turducken, roast beef or even some tofu shaped object…just don’t dry it out. As much as you have the best sides, no one is going to forget that your turkey tastes like rawhide. Sorry. Now, here’s the deal…white wine, champagne and butter. Bathe it, baste it, braise it. Alcohol might dehydrate you, but your meat needs it. The acidity you get from wine works wonders beyond just broth and lemon. Now, stuffing…for those paleo friends of mine…make polenta croutons by cutting those readymade rolls of polenta, baking them and then adding the usual carrots, onions and celery. Take it up a notch and add cubed sausage or ham and dried cranberries…gluten free, protein packed, it’s perfect. For my vegan fans, your tofurkey is just that, just make sure that there is plenty of flavor because tofu is a sponge. The world is literally your oyster because your “turkey” can be any flavor profile you want it to be, it’s that easy. Don’t be shy and experiment! Worst case, order Chinese food…they have tofu.
This is my cheat. I know the difference between a real dessert and one that’s been altered to be healthy. Not anymore…I recently had brownies made from coconut sugar, almond flour and cashew butter and was confused for a week! There are amazing substitutions for flour, sugar, butter and eggs that take desserts to a whole new level. I use avocado in chocolate mousse to keep it vegan and paleo, it’s genius and has a healthy fat content! I think the best thing anyone can do to make desserts a LITTLE bit better is to use real fruit and not canned crap…I’m talking pies with pumpkin, apple, cranberry…etc. Just use the real thing, it’s so much better for you and it makes your dessert that much better. I get that there are few shortcuts to make desserts healthy without altering the taste and texture. I am a purist, so even I will call you out if you mess with my chocolate chip cookies. Just sayin’.
Here’s the deal, you don’t have to make the ENTIRE meal healthy to validate yourself. Pick and choose the things you think you can hide from your family and they won’t know the difference! LOL! As much as that’s funny, it’s kind of true. You aren’t cooking for yourself, so the rest of the clan wants the works without fuss. I hope I have given you some options that range from subtle substitutions to a complete revamp of already expected favorites. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to what works, but also nothing wrong with changing the status quo. Let me know what you think…also, if you have additional questions, suggestions and even ideas…LET ME KNOW!! I’m still learning like the rest of you!
Next week, as we all scramble…I hope to have some last-minute fixes for when stuff starts to fall apart! Until then, make sure your turkeys are thawing, otherwise my blog will be exceptionally important ;)!