Thanksgiving and Hanakkah are on their way. For those of us with special diets or food sensitivities, holiday dinners can become rather stressful and depriving. But the holidays are a time for everyone to enjoy life, family, friends, and food. There is no reason that diet-friendly dishes cannot be both healthy and extravagantly delicious. To prove this, I’ve includes a little something for everyone in this basic guide — a gluten-free stuffing, a vegan dessert, a paleo-prepared turkey, a meat/dairy-free potato dish, and nutrient-packed, dairy-free greens. These dishes may not constitute your entire meal, but they are an excellent start and can all be tweaked to fit your family’s diet/lifestyle habits. If you don’t know anyone with a special diet, I hope these ideas will inspire you to expand your holiday menu repetoire and explore something a little more creative this holiday season — enjoy!
Turkey. After roasting a turkey year after year, maybe it’s time to try something different? Deep-frying may be tempting, but it is dangerous, expensive, and unkind to your waistline. Instead, try smoked turkey, which is an out of this world delight. It seriously tastes like bacon’s less greasy cousin — what’s not to love? Try opting for a sustainably farmed, local turkey if you can afford it.
Dressing/Stuffing. Be kind to yourself or your gluten sensitive guests — make a gluten-free dressing! Bob’s Red Mill makes a delightful gluten-free bread mix, or you could try your hand at making your own. From there, just cube and toast the bread, and continue as you normally would! I personally like a mix of uncured sausage (chicken works), roasted chestnuts, carrots, celery, and onions. Yum yum!
Potatoes. Forgo the plain ol’ whipped potatoes with cream and butter. Instead, prepare for a flavor explosion with sweet potato, or, if you want to be adventurous, give pale-fleshed boniato a go. These sweet tubers have more antioxidants per serving than white potatoes, and boast way more flavor and texture. Boil and mash them as you normally would, and add a little coconut milk instead of cream and butter for a paleo, dairy-free dish.Celebrating Hanakkah? Perhaps a sweet potato kugel is in order.
If you want to get even more creative, try yuca (cassava) root instead of potatoes. These roots are excellent boiled or mashed, but especially delicious pan-fried. Soak the peeled root for about 30 minutes, cut into strips, boil until soft, and pan-fry in a high-heat oil, turning until crispy. Spread on a towel and sprinkle lightly with salt. Warning: these are highly addictive and a brilliant addition to your post-feast smoked turkey sandwich.
Greens. Brussels sprouts with dates, shallots, and uncured (turkey) bacon (regular bacon or omitting it is always an option) — talk about luxurious. But this dish dos have nutritionally merit. Brussels sprouts are little bundles of nutrition, with high levels of vitamins and antioxidants. Feel free to use olive oil instead of grass-fed butter if you are avoiding dairy.
Dessert. No need to pass up this vegan chocolate cake. This is my all-time favorite chocolate recipe. Unfortunately, I am unable to eat gluten, so I plan on trying this recipe using Pamela’s Baking Mix instead of white flour, as I have had great success with this mix in the past. If you try this, please share the results! Additionally, feel free to use alternative sweeteners like dates, raw honey, coconut palm sugar, and stevia to curb the post-meal sugar crash.
That should cover the basics for a health-concious feast that can potentially accommodate ANY of your friends and family. Feel free to share any of your personal health-minded recipes for the holiday season. Just because you are vegan/paleo/gluten-free/dairy-free/low-sugar — and even if you’re not — it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy delicious, healthy, homemade food over the holidays!