"How did it get so late so soon?"
- Dr. Seuss
December’s blog has to be my favourite! As a huge Christmas fan myself, I love (with the exception of eggnog) all that surrounds the season in terms of food and drink. This did, however, make for a tricky blog to write, wondering what to leave out rather than what to put in.
And yet somehow that is precisely where it all goes wrong and why so many of us are left feeling uncomfortably heavy, sluggish and unhealthy come January the 1st. SO MUCH CHOICE ON OFFER! So, whilst I’m not here to be a killjoy and I, as much as any of you out there, LOVE a Christmas feast, I’m suggesting that perhaps this Christmas we think a little differently about what and how we eat and, first and foremost, how we shop.
For many, the festive period is a frenzy of buying food - some that we like, some that we don’t, some healthy, much of it not, but we buy it nonetheless and we stuff our cupboards full of it. Sometimes, we have guests to feed and therefore do need to buy more food, but we are all guilty of overdoing it at Christmas. We forget that Christmas is actually just 1 day and, most importantly, the shops tend to only shut for 1 day too! Yes, extra food, drink and snacks might be wise to have in case of unexpected drop-in guests, and yes, perhaps we do need to stock up our wine rack a little, but I would suggest that most of us buy FAR more than we need and end up eating it, not because we need to or want to, but simply because it is there.
So, this December let's reign in the Christmas food shop. You will be doing yourself and your family a favour, not to mention saving money, which could perhaps then be spent on a lovely family present, or used to fill some food boxes for families who will struggle to feed themselves this Christmas.
Choose some really special foods, perhaps a favourite box of chocolates or a special bottle of wine, and then really enjoy and savour them mindfully. Huge buckets of confectionary, nibbles or large platters of food, ‘just in case’, are probably going to be eaten mindlessly, offer very little in terms of enjoyment and hence are a waste of money.
Let's change how we approach eating this Christmas and think about how much better we will feel if we don’t enter the new year heavier, sluggish and feeling unhealthy.
As for the rest of our Christmas eating habits, I would just suggest 2 things to keep an eye on; these will make a big difference to your weight and health:
Watching portions means that you can enjoy all that Christmas meals have to offer… just not too much of it! Keep in mind the hand guide:
- Meat should be the size of the palm of your hand;
- Carbohydrates (roast potatoes!) the size of your fist;
- Load your plate up to cover ½ of it, with all types of veggies;
2) AWARENESS (specifically of snacking/picking)
This is hard at Christmas, because everywhere you turn there seems to be a bowl of nuts, crisps, chocolates, olives or sweets staring back at you. This can lead to mindless eating and the consumption of large amounts of calories, without your brain really registering that you have consumed them, or your body really feeling full, despite having eaten a lot. Unless it is happening in your house (in which case get rid of these little bowls!), then the trick is awareness. Be aware of these snacks; don’t stand near to the bowl and recognize when you are starting to just eat mindlessly whilst chatting to someone over a glass of wine.
So, with less food in the house, an eye on portion control and an increased awareness of what is going into our bodies, we might all enter January feeling lighter, healthier and more energetic than we ever have done before.
I would like to share with you some of my favourite festive dishes, which all make the most of our amazing seasonal ingredients. These dishes are all festive and taste delicious, and are super-healthy too. So, if you are hosting a dinner and want to offer something lighter, then why not give one or all of these recipes a try? You might be surprised! Over the next few weeks we shall also be adding plenty more festive food ideas onto the website for you to try, so do keep checking and, as always, send us your pics!
No December food blog would be complete without a sprout recipe! Sprouts are rich in vitamin C, K and B, not to mention high in healthy fibre. They are essentially mini cabbages, which grow like small buds, wrapped around a thick central stem. Sometimes you can buy them like this in the shops, but usually they are harvested and sold in nets.
Love them or hate them, sprouts are an inherent part of Christmas! I happen to love them and therefore try to find as many different ways of using them while they are plentiful and in season. So, without further delay, here's my new favourite way of using sprouts - it goes really well with hot grilled mackerel fillets. Alternatively, just buy some smoked mackerel fillets and flake them up into the finished salad.
This recipe serves 4 as a main, with some fish or more as a vegetable accompaniment:
Sprout Salad With Creamy Lemon Dressing
300g sprouts, stalks cut and outer leaves peeled and then cut in half
150ml Greek yoghurt
zest and the juice of 1 small lemon
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
½ tsp Dijon mayonnaise
1 small bunch fresh dill, finely chopped
2 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
Prepare sprouts and pop them in a saucepan of boiling water for 4-5 minutes until tender, but still a little crunchy. Drain and set aside to cool.
Tip the rest of the ingredients (minus the pine nuts) into a jug and whisk until thoroughly combined.
Tip the sprouts into a serving bowl and pour over the dressing, mixing well to coat the sprouts.
Sprinkle the pine nuts over the top and season with loads of black pepper.
Simple! This also keeps really well in the fridge for a day so can be made in advance.
The second festive favourite is the red cabbage; the beautiful purple-reddish colour of this vegetable is always a welcome sight on our Christmas dinner table. Like the sprout, red cabbage is a rich source fibre as well as vitamin C, A and Potassium. There are so many ways to enjoy red cabbage, both raw and cooked, but whilst we tend to have cooked red cabbage most of the time, I thought I would share with you one of my favourite seasonal sides...
This makes enough for 6 generous ‘spoons’...
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp cider vinegar
¼ head of red cabbage, finely sliced
1 carrot, finely sliced into strips (julienned if you have a machine) or even grated is fine
½ red onion, finely diced
1 stick celery, thinly sliced
Start by preparing the vegetables and mix them all together in a large bowl.
Now whisk all the remaining sauce ingredients together well and then tip this over the vegetable mixture and stir to coat lightly.
The last recipe is the perfect festive pudding, because it is simple to make, inexpensive, tasty and the ideal antidote to a heavy, high-calorie meal. A light way to end a Christmas meal and, what’s more, it can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for 2-3 days. Pears are full of fibre, low in calories and in season right now, so let's make the most of this wonderful fruit.
Poached Pears in Red Wine
1 bottle of red wine
zest and Juice of 1 large orange
zest and Juice of 1 large lemon
125g caster sugar
6 ripe but firm pears – peel these, but leave them totally intact with stalks (looks better, but also important for transporting them from pan to bow!)
Add the bottle of wine to a large lidded saucepan and tip in an additional 600mls water.
Tip in all other ingredients, except the pears, and bring to the boil, stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved.
Simmer the wine mixture for 5 mins and then pop the lid on, take off the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes. You can peel the pears at this point whilst you wait.
Now put the pan back on the heat, gently place in the pears and simmer for 30-40mins.
You need to move the pears around a few times during cooking to ensure that all of the pear becomes pink and tender.
Remove the pears carefully, set aside and leave to cool.
Bring the poaching liquid up to the boil and reduce it down to about ½ (I aim to be left with between 400-500mls fluid and this will take you 10 mins or so - you will be left with a syrupy mixture).
Let this cool and then serve alongside the poached pears. I like a spoonful of crème fraiche with my pears, but they are just delicious served alone with the poaching juice.
So, that’s it for the December blog – have a really happy and healthy Christmas and see you on the other side!