Healthy Bodies, Happy Minds
As you are aware, we are moving into a season that revolves around gratitude, love, celebration, family, and food.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, I have provided a few healthy and simple side dishes (and one ‘leftover’ recipe) to consider in lieu of the creamier, more decadent sides to which we may be accustomed.
The fact is, the few, special meals you may have with your family and friends throughout the holidays are often flanked with tradition–a big part of which includes certain foods. There are some things that you just cannot mess with when it comes to these far-reaching rituals. Altering or removing a certain dish could be the “Et tu, Brute” that puts the family over the edge (the lime jello-pineapple- ‘mold’ incident of 1997).
Most of the time I can find a healthy alternative to recipes but the truth is, sometimes there is just not a good substitute (i.e. the pie-crust incident of 2009 ). My philosophy for the holidays is to make that special dish–the one you just cannot live without–the way you like it. Enjoy a bit of that special dish during your holiday meal (just not the entire pan/tray), and most of all, enjoy the time with your family and friends! In the meantime, give one of these sides a try and let me know what you think!
Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic: A nice alternative to Green Bean Casserole
1 pounds fresh green beans, ends removed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, small chop
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1.) Blanch the string beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for @ 3minutes (if using French green beans, haricots verts, blanch for half the time).
2.) Drain immediately and immerse in a bowl of ice water (this sets the beans and keeps their bright green color).
3.) Drain beans after a few minutes and dry with paper towels, if necessary. You can do this step a day in advance and store the green beans in a Zip-loc bag with a damp paper towel in the refrigerator.
4.) Heat the olive oil on medium high in a large sauté pan. After oil has heated, add green beans. Sauté for about one minute and then add chopped garlic. Season beans with salt and pepper, to taste. Lower heat to medium and sauté @ 5 more minutes, tossing occasionally, to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn (if it gets brown and crisp, that is okay).
Serve warm or at room temperature, top with toasted almond slivers if you are looking for something crunchy!
Mashed Potatoes and Parsnips A creamy way to round out potatoes with far less butter than most recipes!
8 medium red or white new potatoes (see Tips below), washed and cubed
4 parsnips, peeled and cubed
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Dash cayenne pepper
Several grindings of black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1.) Put the potatoes and parsnips in a large pot with water, making sure that the water completely covers them. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium, then cover and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally with a spoon.
2.) Test the tenderness of the potatoes with a fork; they should pierce easily and be tender, yet firm. Drain any remaining liquid and mash the potatoes with a potato masher until there are no visible lumps.
3.) Add the milk and butter and continue to mash until the potatoes are smooth and creamy. Stir in the parsley, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt, and beat thoroughly with a wooden spoon until all the seasonings are completely mixed in. Cover and serve warm.
Simple Roasted Cauliflower ‘Steaks’
2 (2 1/2-to 3-pounds) head cauliflower
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1.) Preheat oven to 425°F
2.) Cut cauliflower lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Divide among 2 sheet pans and toss with @ 1 ½ tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper (on each pan).
3.) Roast, turning once or twice, until golden and just tender, about 25-35 minutes.
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette
Recipe courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics 2008
1 (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and 3/4-inch) diced
Good olive oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
1/2 cup walnuts halves, toasted
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1.) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2.) Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes.
3.) While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
*4.) Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
* I often serve this on a large platter with all of the ingredients lined up individually; first the arugula, then the squash mixture. I have the nuts, parmesan and dressing in individual ramekins on the platter so people can serve themselves—this prevents the arugula from wilting under the warm squash mixture prematurely and also looks really pretty!
Don’t forget about the leftovers!!!!
This salad is a tasty and healthy change from your usual mayonnaise-laden turkey leftovers. Substitute poached or grilled chicken and serve over greens or on toasted whole-grain bread for a wonderful fall meal!
Walnut Turkey (Chicken) Salad with Green Apple Vinaigrette
Photo courtesy of Taste of Home
*1 pound chopped/pulled cooked turkey
2 1/2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon mild honey
2 Tablespoons finely chopped shallot
5 Tablespoons good olive oil
1/3 cup finely diced Granny Smith apple
1 cup dried cranberries
**½ cup toasted walnuts
1 celery rib, diced
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 small head Boston or Bibb lettuce (I like arugula)
In a medium bowl combine vinegar, honey, shallot and whisk in olive oil. Add cranberries, apples, walnuts and celery. Drizzle mixture over prepared turkey and carefully combine. Serve over greens or on toasted whole-grain pane with greens.
* to poach chicken, bring 2 cups of chicken stock (or water) to a boil, add 2 pounds of boneless chicken breast and simmer until just cooked through, about 12-14 minutes
** heat walnuts in a pan over medium heat for 5-7 minutes; stir occasionally
Holiday meals are a time to spend with family, give thanks and celebrate. Give yourself permission to enjoy the meals with your family and friends. If you focus on eating healthfully the rest of November and December, splurging a little on the holidays is okay. Splurging for two entire months, however, is another story! Be aware of using the entire holiday season as an excuse to eat mindlessly. Plan your events carefully. Don’t eat food just because it is there. Ask yourself if you are truly hungry. How are you feeling after eating a certain food? If you are full but tempted by the dessert table, find a friend to talk to or grab a glass of water. Be aware of using the entire holiday season as an excuse to eat mindlessly, but do enjoy those special, traditional foods, without guilt!