Healthy Holiday Favorites
I love to remind myself of home by recreating the holiday dishes that I grew up with. Unfortunately, those decadent treats aren’t always the healthiest and we all know how indulgences can add up during the holidays. To keep our meals balanced, I try to add in some healthy, seasonal dishes with lots of flavor that take advantage of ingredients that I’ve been able to find all over the world. Parsnips are a very affordable root vegetable (they look like white carrots) that we substitute for mashed potatoes. My two-year-old loves Brussels sprouts (she calls them baby vegetables) and no one seems to miss the green bean casserole when this dish is on the table. These portable pumpkin treats are a hit at parties--people have a hard time believing it’s a “healthy dessert!”
Creamy Mashed Parsnips
4-6 large parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
dash nutmeg, or more to taste
Fresh parsley, for garnish
Add cubed parsnips to a large stockpot and add water until parsnips are just covered. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Let parsnips boil for 20 minutes or until they can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain. Using a food processor, immersion blender, or food mill, process until parsnips are pureed and few lumps remain. Add olive oil (or butter), salt, pepper, and nutmeg and mix well. Adjust seasonings to taste, if desired. Garnish with parsley.
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Pork Belly and Leeks
1 medium to large leek, rinsed and trimmed
⅓ cup pork belly (or pancetta), diced small
5 tablespoons olive oil (or fat or your choice), divided
2 pounds of Brussels sprouts, trimmed and tough outer leaves removed
2 tablespoons plus 1 ½ teaspoons salt, divided
¾ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme)
Cut the trimmed leek crosswise once. Slice both sections lengthwise (you should now have 4 semicircular pieces of roughly the same length). Using a sharp knife, thinly slice the leeks lengthwise. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, deep skillet (I used a large Dutch oven) over low to medium heat. Add sliced leeks and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until leeks are lightly browned. Using a slotted spoon, remove leeks to a small bowl. Fill a large stockpot with water and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Bring water to a boil and add Brussels sprouts. Let boil for 5 minutes and remove sprouts to a plate covered with a dishtowel. Pat dry and slice each sprout lengthwise. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet and add sprouts, cut side down. Add pork belly and cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the sprouts begin to caramelize and turn brown, remove from heat and add leeks back to the pan. Then add 1 ½ teaspoons salt, pepper and thyme and stir to combine.
Pumpkin Spice Truffles
A great treat to make with kids!
Servings: 18-24 truffles
¼ cup melted coconut butter (see tips below)
⅔ cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons raw honey
¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
a dash of ground cloves
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Cocoa powder or powdered sugar, for rolling truffles in
Coconut butter is sometimes called coconut manna or coconut cream concentrate. If you can’t find coconut butter in your local market, you can make your own using unsweetened shredded coconut and a food processor. I was able to make do with an immersion blender. Instructions here.
Editor’s Note: I made these with Orchids Brand Coconut Cream from the commissary and they didn’t set. Next, I made my own coconut butter and all was well.
Add coconut butter and pumpkin to a medium bowl and mix well. Mixture should be slightly stiff. If it feels too wet or runny, add coconut butter 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved. Add honey, pumpkin pie spice, cloves and vanilla and mix well. (Adjust honey to taste if more coconut butter was added). Cover and chill for 2 to 4 hours. Roll tablespoon sized amounts of mixture into balls between hands and then roll in cocoa powder or powdered sugar. Enjoy immediately or store in the refrigerator.