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12.24.2011

A Healthy Fat Holiday Season

During my hiatus, one of the many posts I composed in my head and never followed through on was about eating healthy during the holidays.  Let's all take a moment to remember what "eating healthy" means to me:
  • Healthy fats: lard, butter, cream, chicken fat, bacon fat, coconut oil, and some olive oil.
  • Full fat dairy.
  • Cultured foods.
  • Pastured meats and eggs.
  • Organic vegetables (always served with the aforementioned fat)
  • Properly prepared whole grains, nuts, and legumes.
  • Small amounts of natural sugars: maple syrup and honey mostly, with some organic evaporated cane juice.
I am so used to the traditional foods way of eating that I forget that this can be shocking to newcomers, so if you, as you read that list, found yourself thinking "this lady is off her rocker" do a little research.  Decide for yourself.  It's Christmas Eve so I don't feel like looking up links, but for more direction might I direct you to the Weston A. Price foundation (they have a website), the book "Nourishing Traditions," and the blogs "Nourishing Days," "The Nourished Kitchen," "Kitchen Stewardship," "Kelly the Kitchen Kop," and "Keeper of the Home" (just for starters).  If you're really turned on by research I suggest starting with Kitchen Stewardship, especially the "start here" and "the lists" links at the top of the page (under the header).  Anyway...

Many people face the holiday eating season, from Thanksgiving to the New Year, with a mix of love and dread.  Not I: I praise God that Halloween is over (I love dressing up, I hate the onslaught of candy) and plan the delicious dishes I am going to prepare for each get together.  Because I am not worried about fat, calories, and am only slightly anxious about sugar.

Then again, I am fortunate to not be dealing with any food allergies or sensitivities in my family at the moment.  That adds anxiety no matter what your nutritional philosophy.

But back to my point: the way I eat is so easy and so healthful that I don't have to worry at the holidays.  I cook the special foods of the season the same way I cook the rest of the year.  I don't gain weight (not the last two holidays, since I've been doing this), I don't get run down or frazzled, I don't get down or depressed (I actually did a little this year... immediately after I ate a bunch of caramel bars I made... more on cookies in a minute).  And I most especially don't stress about what I'm eating.  Because even when I'm not at my own home I find myself attracted to simple, wholesome foods with just a few ingredients, and it's usually easy to pass up processed food-like substances that I know will make me feel poopy later.

Yes, I just said poopy.  But I digress.

As an illustration, here were/are our holiday meals this season.
Thanskgiving prep: Cranberry compote, twice baked sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, and sourdough hearth bread.
 The twice baked sweet potatoes had a touch of maple syrup in them plus cream cheese and cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.  I braised the brussels sprouts on the stovetop with onion and bacon and a little chicken stock.

On the top left is frozen homemade stock thawing, while I saute celery and onion for the stuffing.  The small pan on the right contains hot spiced apple cider.  And the large red pot actually holds beef stock that I stupidly started making the morning before Thanksgiving, forgetting that it needs to cook for at least 36 hours and that I might need that burner....

The main attraction- Turkey roasted with lemon herb butter under the skin and a butter soaked cheesecloth draped over the top.  It tasted even better than it looked, and as soon as the beef stock was done my stock pot was making turkey stock.
The whole feast, completed by Izzy's place cards :)  And wine, of course.

I obviously don't have pictures of our Christmas feast(s).  We're actually taking it pretty easy.  I made clam chowder with lots of cream and bacon along with bread tonight- a very loose spin off of my family's tradition of oyster soup on Christmas eve.  Tomorrow we're having cinnamon rolls and bacon for breakfast and for lunch we're going to just eat appetizers- hummus, artichoke dip, cured olives, organic ham, three or four raw cheeses, raw veggies, sliced bread, crackers, and pita chips.  And for dinner we're having steak and potatoes, mostly because I thawed the steak to use earlier this week and didn't get around to it.

I mentioned cookies, didn't I?  No?  I make a HUGE concession for Christmas cookies, and this year was no exception.  I made cookies the first weekend in December- in total I think I made 7 kinds of cookies over several days.  We gave most away, but we (I) still ate WAY too many of them, and I coincidentally felt like crap and lost all motivation for about a week.  One of these years maybe I'll learn to stop making this concession... but they're so. darn. good.  I still use real ingredients, but I also use more sugar and white flour than I'm happy to admit.  And, since I almost always burn out on cookies early in the month, I have no desire to have sweets by the time the actual holiday roles around.  So tomorrow the only sweet thing we're having is a bag of chocolate dipped popcorn a neighbor dropped off a few days ago.

And obviously there are other concessions- the crackers and pita chips are obvious ones.  Oh, and the cinnamon rolls (whole wheat and soaked, but there is some sugar in them).  But life's made more exciting when one allows occasional concessions to normally hard and fast rules.  And like the cookies, I'll likely regret it.  What can I say- either join me in the occasional transgression, or learn from my mistakes.  It's your choice.

Merry Christmas!

1 comment:

Nadia said...

Zowie! Can I join you... oh, I guess it's too late now ;)
Seriously, I was salivating as you were describing your menus. Especially the twice baked sweet potatoes... recipe please?

And, I'm totally with you on the not worrying about what you eat as long as it's real whole food. I haven't gained an ounce in 2 years (after I lost the baby weight, of course).

I make cookies with rolled oats and whole oat flour and LOTS of butter. I add a small amount of brown sugar, but when you consider how little is in each cookie in the end, I can really say I consider home made cookies rather healthy. Even with the sugar.

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