As we approach the holidays, I wanted to share some of my favorite indulgences with you. I love this time of year. It’s an opportunity to be with family and friends and spend time with people whom we just don’t get to see enough during the rest of the year. It’s a chance to reflect on our lives, to be grateful and set new intentions.
I know that a lot of people struggle with food at holiday time. From Thanksgiving through New Years can seem like a constant invitation to eat foods that we try to avoid the rest of the year. People often ask me “how do I get through the holidays without eating too much junk?”
I’m sure that I get this question because I coach people on how to make healthier food choices consistently. And, as a food lover and trained chef, I want to say am not a fan of deprivation. I believe that food should give us pleasure, nourish us and be easy to prepare. I know that this approach, allows us to eat well permanently. I am a fan of eating great tasting, real food and that is why I prefer to look at it differently.
Rather than focusing on what you think you “shouldn’t” be eating or prefer not to eat, have delicious, decadent food around that you will want to eat and happens to be better for you. It’s much easier to avoid overly-processed foods and eating tons of sugar, if you have other things around that you really enjoy. If I’m entertaining, I will typically include one or all of these things during the holidays and if I’m invited somewhere, I’ll sometimes ask my host if I can bring something to contribute to the buffet. Everything here is really easy to prepare, can be made in between 5 and 30 minutes and pairs well with Champagne.
Here are some of my favorite indulgences:
- Russian Oysters: I first had a version of these in Cape Cod several years ago at a restaurant that has since closed and I immediately fell in love with them. I get shucked oysters on the half shell at Freeman’s Fish Market and top them with a dollop of sour cream (or crème fraiche) and a dollop of caviar. I usually use wild whitefish roe which is relatively affordable at about $7.00 for a 2 oz. jar (you are welcome to use whatever caviar you choose). The briny oyster combined with the other flavors and textures is so luxurious and delicious.
- Tuna Tartare: This is sort of a cross between a tartare and a poke and it’s really good. Start with sashimi quality tuna and cut it into bite-sized pieces (don’t use any stringy pieces). Dice some avocado the same size and place together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, make a dressing of the juice of an orange, organic soy sauce (start with about ½ the amount of soy as juice; you can add more gradually), toasted sesame oil and a splash or 2 of unseasoned rice wine vinegar. Play around with the amounts so that it is balanced to your liking and then dress the tuna and avocado with it. If you like it spicy, use some hot sesame oil or add a bit of sriracha in the dressing. I like to serve this in martini glasses for a festive and fun presentation on the table or in spoons if you’re passing food around the room.
- Shrimp Cocktail: I know it’s been around forever, and still, everyone loves it. If you are using cocktail sauce I suggest making your own with organic ketchup and horseradish to avoid high fructose corn syrup that is usually in conventional ketchup. You can add a dash or 2 of sriracha for some extra kick. If you want something different. Marinate the shrimp in extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and crushed garlic for about 15 minutes and then cook them on the grill. Squeeze some fresh lime over them and serve with mashed avocado seasoned with fresh lime juice and sea salt for dipping instead of cocktail sauce.
- St. Andre Stuffed Dates: Of course, you’ll want something sweet on the table and this has so much going for it. It’s sweet and savory, chewy and creamy. Honestly, I’d rather eat this than a cupcake (I must admit, at this point in my life, I don’t have a huge sweet tooth). You may be thinking no way but once you try it we can talk. Cut dates in half and remove the pit, spread a small amount of St. Andre that you’ve allowed to come to room temperature so that it’s soft and buttery and ENJOY!!!
- Fresh Ricotta Laced with White Truffle Honey: This is so good and so simple. Buy fresh ricotta cheese and a jar of white truffle honey (I get it at the Wine Library). Stir honey to taste into the ricotta. Serve with really good bread. My recommendation, if you can get it, would be the bread from Arturo’s in Maplewood. With just the right amount of chew to crust and incredible flavor, it’s the best bread that I’ve ever eaten.
These are just some ideas for holiday recipes and one idea of how to enjoy the holidays without packing on the pounds and/or compromising your health. If you’re looking for more recipes or ideas on how to thrive during the holiday season visit www.TheConsciousPlate.com