This is it. The weekend that launches my season of Christmas hospitality. It's fast and furious, with a dinner for four Friday night and hosting a neighbourhood potluck brunch on Sunday.
This is a "world-away" contrast to a former chapter of my life. When December was a flurry of celebrations: from the get-go birthday party on the 2nd for my daughter - to a host of Christmas parties connected to all the life-circles of my husband and I and our two children- to our son's birthday on the 23rd. And this event was the starting gun for the marathon of Christmas celebrations that revolved around a community of family - going from house to house - which would wrap up sometime around the New Year. Just recording this makes me breathless. But it was wonderful: a time of sharing, laughter and fun, and of course, eating.
Coming from a heritage of accomplished cooks, the food was plentiful and delicious. Taste memories range from the traditional Swedish lutefish and lefse, to the stuffed turkey, a myriad of salads and vegetable dishes - and a "stretch buffet" of sweets and desserts.
But just like the jam-packed holiday schedule has changed, so have many of the food choices that are now on our feast menus.
Generally, we now have: more fresh vegetables and fruits, more whole grains, less animal fats, more natural sweets, less refined sugar.
The following recipes I've made this weekend are some healthy holiday eating suggestions you may want to serve at your holiday feasts.
Begin with "A Starter"
Curry Pumpkin Hummus
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. maple syrup
1/4 cup tahini
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup solid-pack pumpkin puree
3 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. sea salt (or Herbamare)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
garnish: chopped pistachios or toasted pumpkin seeds
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, cayenne, and maple syrup. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring well.
Stir in tahini and chick peas; remove from heat.
Stir in the pumpkin, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth.
Spoon into a shallow serving bowl and sprinkle with garnish.
(Nutrition notes: these flavorful curry seasonings improve circulation - good "flu-fighters". Tahini and chick peas are protein sources - pumpkin supplies vitamin A.)
Recipe adapted from "Quick-Fix Vegan: Healthy Homestyle Meals in 30 Minutes or Less" by Robin Robertson
Home-Made Pita Chips - one version GF, one not
Cut whole-wheat pitas (or for gluten free use corn tortillas) into wedges and arrange on large baking pan. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a wee bit of sea salt. Bake in 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until crisp: flipping them over half-way through. Not gluten free, but a healthy alternative to nachos cooked in oil.
Quinoa and Roasted Squash Salad - delicious make-ahead salad
1.5 cup quinoa
2 3/4 cups water
pinch sea salt
3 Tbsp.extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. Herbamare
1 cup pecans
1 1/2 cups red onion, cut into slivers
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. orange zest
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
optional: crumbled feta cheese
Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and place in 2-quart pot with the water and sea salt. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool completely. (Can be made ahead 1-2 days before you need it and kept in the fridge.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash into quarters, scoop out seeds and cut into equal bite-sized chunks, about 1-inch squares. Place into baking dish, toss with the olive oil, Herbamare and cinnamon. Roast for 35-40 minutes. Stir once halfway through - let cool on the pan.
Place the pecans in a separate small baking dish and slide them in the oven along with the squash. Roast for 10-12 minutes - don't forget them in there!
Saute the slivered red onions in a wee bit of olive oil - for about 5 minutes, just until soft and beginning to change colour. Remove from heat.
Place cooled quinoa into a large bowl, add the roasted squash, roasted and chopped pecans, sautéed onions, dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley.
Put dressing ingredients into small jar with tight-fitting lid. Shake well and pour over salad. If desired, sprinkle crumbled feta cheese on top before refrigerating until serving.
One favorite has not changed - that's our holiday fruitcake. Gloriously good and gluten free.
Many years ago my Mom found a recipe for this fruit cake which has become an annual Christmas standby - and sometimes shows up during other times of the year too!
Over the years I've tweaked it to suit my family; it has evolved into a delicious gluten free version.
This is not the traditional candied fruit, butter-rich kind of fruitcake. It's made with dried fruits, nuts, eggs, flour (I use a GF mix, as mentioned), baking powder, bit of honey or maple syrup and vanilla. You know it's good when even the grandkids say, "it won't be Christmas without Nana's fruitcake."
This cake doesn't have to be aged - it'll be a hit (and so will you!) if you squeeze it into your schedule this week.
Happy healthy holiday eating!!