5 Ways to Lighten up the Holidays (that you haven't thought of)
1. If you can eat it in the middle of March, don't do it now. The holidays are not the time to indulge your Snickers habit or binge on Trader Jo's brownie bites. Those are hardly festive foods - they are really just junk! There are so many delicious homemade treats this time of year - wait for those to come along.
2. Only eat food that's passed around at parties. Seriously. "I will only eat that if you hand it to me." If you only eat the little nibbles passed around on trays you are sure to get some yummy food and eat a lot less than if you guard the buffet. Also, use a napkin. You can't pile food on a napkin.
3. Keep mints handy. I do not support chewing gum in public but popping a potent peppermint throughout the evening can stave of mega eating binges and keep your breath fresh for unexpected holiday kisses. Pucker up.
4. Beware of the baker. If you make a bunch of cookies and pies every year, keep one days worth of treats and give away the rest. Received a food gift? Love it? Share it. Don't love it? Re-gift it. Really.
5. Lean out the middle. In other words keep your sides clean. Go ahead and chow down on your yearly turkey leg and save room for pumpkin pie by making the side dishes healthy.
Speaking of side dishes, here are a couple of my favorites....
This simple gem comes from Wolfgang Puck and makes a traditionally calorie laden side dish (think bacon, butter and sugar) just as delicious. Your jeans will be grateful.
LOW-FAT CARAMELIZED BRUSSELS SPROUTS Serves 4
Kosher salt 1-1/2 pounds (750 g) medium to large Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise Nonstick cooking spray 1/2 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar Freshly ground black pepper 1/4 cup (60 ml) organic, low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley Half-fill a large saucepan with water and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, place a colander in the sink. Partially fill a large bowl with ice cubes and water and place it near the sink.
When the water in the saucepan is boiling, salt the water, if you like. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook them just until they turn bright green, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain the Brussels sprouts and immediately but carefully transfer them from the colander to the bowl of ice water. Leave them to cool for several minutes. Drain thoroughly, and then pat the Brussels sprouts completely dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels.
Over medium heat, heat a cast-iron skillet or saute pan large enough to hold all the Brussels sprouts in a single layer; or if necessary, use 2 or more smaller pans. Spray the bottom of the pan or pans evenly with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle the bottoms evenly with the brown sugar and quickly place the Brussels sprouts cut sides down in the pan or pans.
Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper to taste.
Cook until the undersides of the Brussels sprouts are caramelized and a deep brown color, 5 to 7 minutes. Drizzle them with the broth and continue to cook, stirring, to dissolve the caramel-brown glaze on the bottom of the pans and lightly glaze the sprouts with the liquid, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
Serve the Brussels sprouts directly from the skillet or skillets, or transfer them to a serving bowl. Garnish with the parsley. Serve immediately.
SAUTEED GREEN BEANS WITH SPICED PECANS
Serves a bunch
1.5 TBSP Sugar
1 TBSP Water
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 pounds green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper.
Bring sugar, 1 tablespoon water, cumin, and red pepper to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Remove pan from heat; stir in pecans, rosemary, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread pecan mixture in an even layer on prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until fragrant and browned. Cool in pan, stirring occasionally.
Place green beans in a large saucepan of boiling water; cook 4 minutes. Drain and plunge green beans into ice water; drain.
Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add beans; sauté 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper over green beans; toss. Place beans on a serving platter; sprinkle with pecan mixture. Serve immediately.
FARRO STUFFING WITH SQUASH AND ALMONDS
4 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
2 cups uncooked farro
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced peeled butternut squash
1 cup chopped red onion
1 cup thinly sliced carrot
3/4 cup thinly sliced celery
3/4 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring stock and farro to a boil in a large saucepan; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until farro is al dente. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving cooking liquid.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add squash, onion, carrot, and celery; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook 7 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir squash mixture into farro mixture. Stir in almonds, parsley, thyme, sage, salt, and pepper. Spoon into an 11 x 7-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.