It’s a busy week.
All the preparation, the shoveling of food into your mouth, the white lines on the highway, the biting of your tongue at the dinner table. This is what we do this week. Save an afternoon nap after the imaginary tryptophan hangover kicks in, you will not rest until the Thanksgiving china is put up and the Christmas decorations are put out.
Perhaps you have a long drive home (like me) and a new crease in your belt (well …), but who can blame you? It’s so good. And the Yeti cooler full of leftovers certainly will not eat itself. Go ahead and power through it, but we need a reboot. We need to start fresh and get on a healthier track without losing the mood of the season. Why? So we can do it all over again Christmas.
Here are a few ideas to stay in the holiday spirit while eating fresh and healthy.
Eat the centerpiece
Whether it’s a cornucopia or a simple bowl of fruit, I don’t believe in food as decoration only. If it’s there and edible, eat it. We have a centerpiece of fresh satsumas lucky to have come from our tree. Bright red pomegranates flank the orange fruit, and persimmons provide a different shade. Some of the squashes are only for looks, I guess, but others, like acorn, are going to be devoured.
Seed the pomegranate by scoring the top and breaking it open underwater in a large bowl. The seeds fall out easily. They will pair with sweet or savory dishes, but excel at cutting through bitterness in things such as shaved brussels sprouts salads. A little red onion, oil, vinegar and lemon juice coat the sprouts while pomegranate seeds and toasted walnuts sweeten the pot.
Much like our wild-caught shrimp, we are fortunate to have plenty of fresh satsumas in our area. My boys can eat themselves sick on them. I love them because they’re easy to peel, are sweet and have plenty of juice. We learned at Red or White a couple of weeks ago that fresh-squeezed satsuma juice makes a fantastic gelatin dessert paired with whipped cream. They’re great layered on protein or in salads, but their juice is perfect for sauces, dressings and glazes.
If you’ve ever had an unripened persimmon (I have), you’ve made the pucker puss worse than any sour candy on the market. But once they ripen, they are lovely. These sweet fruits borderline being on the superfoods list with plenty of health benefits including tons of vitamins, potassium, copper and manganese. Shop local fruit stands for the less-sour Fuyu variety, which grow well in Alabama. They look like an orange tomato.
When ripe, they’re super sweet, but can be eaten firm when the consistency of an apple. The Hachiya variety are the sour ones, but once ripened completely are actually sweeter than the Fuyu. Don’t think about eating these until they’re soft. You can roast thin slices in the oven or wrap thick slices in bacon. Persimmon salsa makes a great side for chips or as a garnish on greens or peas, and is fantastic with brie.
I promised myself this would be about healthy foods and not a rehashing of leftovers, but maybe I can cross-pollinate a bit. Fall is full of fantastic greens and root vegetables, so it makes sense for seasonal eating to include such. One healthy option is a variety of soup. Of course you are doing turkey gumbo at some point, but I don’t consider it all that healthy.
Make the most of your post-Thanksgiving diet with a soup of turkey, kale, garlic and some type of smaller-sized pasta such as acini de pepe, or even alphabet pasta. Spinach can work in place of the kale and chicken stock could sub for the turkey stock you may have used up when making the gumbo.
If you’ve eaten all of the turkey in sandwiches and tetrazzini, stay festive with store-bought ground turkey for a Mexican meatball or albondigas soup. The meatballs deserve a decent amount of cumin and generous amounts of cilantro.
Health doesn’t just include weight loss. Many of you are in the grasp of colds, flu, bronchitis or perhaps hand, foot and mouth disease. Appetizing, isn’t it? Explore the wonderful flavors and healing power of fresh ginger. You’ll immediately feel better. Garlic and ginger are two of my favorites when feeling under the weather.
Root veggies rock
Sweet potatoes aren’t just for marshmallows. Gasp! Talk about carbs all you wish, but sweet potatoes are a rich source of B vitamins and vitamin C. The biggest benefit, and why you see them in so many health-conscious bowls at places like our own FOY, is that sweet potatoes are high in the antioxidant beta-carotene. To get the most out of them, don’t peel the potato. Simply scrub them well before cooking.
I love them roasted in the oven with other roots like rutabaga, golden beets, radishes and carrots. A drizzle of olive oil and some coarse salt is all you need. If you feel you have gone a little too far into the healthy side of the menu, a Parmesan aioli should right the ship.
We can tackle this together. Slimming down after the November frenzy doesn’t have to be a month of salads and alcohol abstinence. You can make it delicious by finding the seasonal crops and citrus so you don’t get bored with it. I am already planning my Monday menu today. I guess that means I have three days to rid the fridge of all the leftovers. I’m confident I can do it.
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