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Cook up a holiday feast

It seems that at Christmas time, the more food on the table, the better. The more food in your belly, the better. When did celebration equal gluttony? After all, there’s a problem with eating too much. There’s a cost to your body. When insulin levels skyrocket to four and five times normal from gorging, the pounds are packed on.

Chemicals known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs) circulate through the body, creating damage worse than that from free radicals. AGEs are associated with rapid ageing, diabetes, dementia, heart disease and cancer. Gorging is nothing but a seed planted in the body for future disease because AGEs aren’t flushed out of the body with the next beer. They stay entwined in your DNA with one purpose: to bring you to an early grave.

The good news is now you can celebrate like there is a tomorrow knowing there will be consequences if you overindulge. You can make a change to sumptuous, sustainable, SLOW Christmas foods, the types that affect body, mind and spirit positively and leave you satisfied on all levels.

A SLOW Christmas

Imagine it right now. You make it through the holidays without gaining weight and without getting a cold around New Year’s Eve. You are so satisfied that you say no to second helpings simply because you don’t need them. Your relationships become the focal point of the meal. Sure, you still talk about the great new recipes, but they’re secondary to the real meaning of Christmas: love and good cheer spread to family, friends and others you meet. You sleep soundly at night and wake up refreshed.

How does all this happen? By eating sumptuous, sustainable, SLOW Christmas foods that are closer to nature. SLOW means when buying and planning menus with a few indulgences sprinkled into Christmas eating, you choose foods that are seasonal (S), local (L), organic (O) and whole (W). You eat less because they fill you up. That means the menu contains Virgin Pomegranate & Berry Daiquiris instead of the types filled with preservatives and alcohol. Sip the goodness of nature from the daiquiri glass. It means the entrée could be silky corn cakes with avocado salsa followed by a main course of organic, traditionally stuffed chicken. It means after the meal you lounge around with a mug of warm or chilled almond milk eggnog that is filled with natural flavours of real almonds, real vanilla and a touch of real cinnamon. It’s heaven when you experience this.

Why go SLOW?

The pleasure of sourcing and eating locally and sustainably comes from knowing where your food is from. You know your food has come to your table with minimal impact on the planet, minimal stress on animals and with a bonus reward: it tastes superior. The tastebud stimulation from real, honest, nutrient-rich food sends a signal to your brain to not eat as much; there’s no need to do so. So automatically and without a battle of your own willpower, you eat just enough. A sense of wellbeing comes over you and you relish that. Your soul tells you to pay attention to the people at the table and you reconnect with them on a heartfelt level.

Even your intellect is at ease because you realise the cost to the environment of overeating is too great to bear any more. If you choose foods that are highly processed and packaged, that impacts on the entire planet. The World Wildlife’s Living Planet Report commented that, if the densely populated China, which is developing a taste for Western living, decided to live like Europeans, it would require three planets of resources to do so! If they wanted to live like Americans, then add another two planets’ worth.

Being conscious there is a tomorrow means understanding that what you eat for Christmas dinner (and other meals) has an impact on the environment, your body and the animals and farmers involved in the food production. Your holiday meal choices can contribute to either a better tomorrow or one filled with problems for your children and grandchildren.

Eating the SLOW way means eating according to Nature’s Principle™. Nature tells us what to eat and what quantities by how easily and when it is obtained in nature, so that which is most abundant in nature we are meant to have most of; harder to obtain in nature we are meant to have less of; and if you cannot get it in nature, not only do we not need it, but it is harmful to the body. This is the hallmark of how the healthiest cultures on the planet have eaten. It’s the most sustainable way to eat.

There’s no deprivation here

This doesn’t mean no dessert. You see, that Raspberry & Cashew Cream Cheesecake and Raw Cocoa & Macadamia Slice fill a certain need that the tastebuds have that you just don’t have satisfied by a chocolate cake loaded with chemicals and preservatives. Your mind becomes more and more at ease with each morsel. You feel differently about it.

This Christmas you can have it all, but get it all in a different way. Get your physiological needs met, your social needs met and your spiritual needs met — all at the dinner table just by eating according to the SLOW method. Connect at the table in a spirit of love on all levels and see how different and memorable this Christmas really will be.

SLOW Christmas menu

Drinks

  • Virgin Pomegranate & Berry Daiquiris
  • Mint Apple Spritzers

Starter

Silky Corn Cakes with Avocado Salsa

Buffet

  • Organic Traditionally Stuffed Chicken
  • Warm Nicola Potato Salad
  • Pistachio & Prune Quinoa Pilaf
  • Baked Vegetable Salad
  • Grilled Asparagus & Coconut Mayonnaise

Dessert

  • Raspberry & Cashew Cheesecakes
  • Raw Cocoa & Macadamia Slice

Evening

Warm or Chilled Almond Milk Eggnog

SLOW Christmas recipes

DRINKS:

VIRGIN POMEGRANATE & BERRY DAIQUIRIS

  • 50ml POM pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup frozen organic berries
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Blend in blender and pour into martini glasses.

MINT APPLE SPRITZERS

  • 2 cups freshly pressed apple juice
  • 20 mint leaves
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 litre sparkling mineral water
  • Combine in a pitcher, stirring gently.

STARTERS:

SILKY CORN CAKES WITH AVOCADO SALSA

This corn cake mix can be made the night before to save work on the day.

  • ¼ cup polenta/cornmeal
  • 1 cup water
  • 60gm organic butter
  • ¼ cup organic sour cream
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup organic milk
  • 2 eggs

Cook polenta in water until thick and porridge like, add butter, sour cream, salt and milk and lightly whisk in eggs.

  • ¼ cup chopped chives
  • corn kernels from 2 cobs
  • ¼ birdseye chilli, finely chopped
  • Fold ingredients into the polenta mixture.
  • ¾ cup spelt flour
  • 1 tsp aluminium-free baking powder

Fold gently into mixture and cook as you would pikelet pancakes on a lightly buttered hotplate or griddle pan and turn over once bubbles form on top. Cook another 3 minutes and place on a warm plate until serving them with avocado salsa.


AVOCADO SALSA

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 large or 7 smallish spring onions, finely chopped
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Mash avocado flesh roughly so you end up with a mix of chunks and mash, then add half the lemon juice, salt and pepper and spring onions and lightly mix through. Adjust according to taste, only using the whole lemon if necessary.
Serve with good bread, as a dip, with vegies or instead of mayonnaise.

ORGANIC TRADITIONALLY STUFFED CHICKEN

If you are going to eat a bird for Christmas, nothing can compare to the taste and texture of an organic chook and knowing the chicken had a half-decent life, ate proper food (for a chicken), wasn’t given antibiotics and was processed without chemicals. This should not be a luxury, but the norm — for you, the chicken, the farmer and environment. Serves 6, ready in 2 hours 45 mins

  • butter
  • 1 large freerange organic chicken, about 2kg
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed & peeled
  • 2 tsp cold-pressed olive oil

APPLE & HERB STUFFING

  • 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped thyme
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp sea salt and a few good cracks ground black pepper
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored & grated
  • 1 cup fresh cubes of best-quality organic artisan bread
  • 1 small egg, beaten

GRAVY

  • 1 tbsp plain flour, whisked into 3 tbsp water
  • 300 chicken stock

Preheat oven to 220°C.

To make the stuffing, gently heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan over a moderate heat and sauté the onion, garlic, celery and herbs for 10 minutes until soft. Remove from the heat and tip into a bowl. Allow to cool slightly. Add egg, apple, bread, lemon zest, egg and salt and pepper and mix thoroughly by hand.

Rinse the chicken inside and out, allow to dry in the fridge for an hour and remove 1 hour before cooking. Rub chicken with lemon halves inside and out. Then rub with garlic, placing the smashed cloves under the skin and in the cavity.

Loosely stuff the chicken — any excess stuffing can be baked in a separate dish. Place chicken in a large baking dish with a heavy bottom, breast side down. Place roasting dish in centre of 220°C oven for 20 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn chicken over to breast side up. Baste occasionally with pan juices.

Reduce oven temperature to 160°C and allow to cook for 10 minutes and turn off oven, leaving the door slightly ajar, allowing heat to escape and chicken to rest for 15 minutes.

Remove the fat from the juices and deglaze over heat with a little water and make gravy with the stock and flour, stirring constantly until thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

WARM NICOLA POTATO SALAD

  • 6 potatoes
  • 100g wild rocket
  • 100g semidried tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • sea salt & cracked pepper

Wash potatoes and prick lightly about 10 times with the tip of a knife. Bake in the over at 180°C until a skewer is easily inserted. Dice potato into 2cm chunks and set aside. Toss with rocket and semidried tomatoes, squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

PISTACHIO & PRUNE QUINOA PILAF

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp celery salt

Bring ingredients to a boil, turn down to a low simmer, cover and cook for 25 minutes.

  • 1 leek, washed & finely sliced
  • 1 cup raw pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 10 pitted organic prunes, diced
  • 2 tbsp cold-pressed olive oil
  • 1 tsp celery salt

Sauté leek in olive oil until soft and add pistachios, prunes and celery salt, then fold mixture through cooked quinoa.

CELERY SALT

Dehydrate the leaves of one head of celery by placing in trays of a dehydrator for 8 hours or until crispy. Blend in spice grinder with one cup of course sea salt. Dry in the oven or dehydrator on trays for 2 hours at the lowest setting (80°C). Place in glass jars. (If you can get lovage, this is a brilliant herb for the salt.)

BAKED VEGETABLE SALAD

  • Carrot
  • Beetroot
  • Dark field mushrooms
  • Pumpkin
  • Tamari
  • Olive oil
  • Pepper

Cut vegetables into chunks and coat in olive oil, tamari and cracked pepper. Bake in hot oven 200°C until golden edges appear and carrots are tender. You probably need to remove the pumpkin and mushrooms before the carrots. Reserve and keep warm to serve on quinoa.

Tip: Use two trays rather than crowd one tray and, if you wish, make hours ahead to be warmed in the oven while the chicken is resting.

GRILLED ASPARAGUS & COCONUT MAYONNAISE

3 bunches asparagus, ends snapped off, lightly coated in olive oil and sea salt

Grill on barbeque until char marks show on two sides of the spears. Remove from heat. Lay spears on a white plate with a small bowl of coconut mayo.

  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup cold extracted virgin coconut Oil (gently warmed to a liquid)
  • ½ cup cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil

Place eggs, mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper into food processor or blender. With processor or blender running on low speed, begin by adding a few drops of oil and then working up to a light drizzle. Take your time adding the oil. Blend until a thick mayonnaise is formed.

DESSERT

INDIVIDUAL RASPBERRY & CASHEW CHEESECAKES

Crust

  • 1 cup almonds, ground
  • ¼ cup ground fresh walnuts
  • seeds of 1 plump vanilla pod
  • pitted dates

In a food processor, add nuts, vanilla seeds and pitted dates to just bring the nut mix together as you would an unbaked crust mix. Press a tablespoon of the mixture into individual shot glasses or small ramekins.

Filling

  • 1 cup soaked cashews
  • â…“ cup filtered water
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lime
  • ½ cup fresh raspberries
  • 2 tbsp agave nectar or raw unpasteurised honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup cacao butter or cold-pressed coconut oil, lightly warmed to a soft, pliable consistency
  • Blend ingredients until smooth. Pour into glasses and refrigerate until set. Top with a raspberry.

RAW COCOA FRUIT & NUT SLICE

  • 1 cup raw macadamia nuts
  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • ½ cup almonds, raw
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbsp (ground) of each: flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, linseeds
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 16 prunes, pitted
  • 6 dates, pitted
  • seeds of 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 cup raw cacao
  • 2 tbsp cold-pressed coconut oil

Place macadamias, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, flax, hemp, chia and linseeds, sultanas and coconut in food processor and process until sultanas are broken up into a crumb size. Add rest of ingredients and process until well mixed. Press mixture evenly into a plastic container 30cm x 20cm, cut lines for squares and refrigerate. when set, remove, break into squares and place in airtight container.

WARM OR CHILLED ALMOND MILK EGGNOG

Soak 2 cups of raw almonds in 5 cups of filtered water overnight. Soak 4 dates in 1 cup of water. Drain almonds and add 3 cups of water plus fresh dates along with the water the dates were soaked in and blend until homogenous. Strain over a fine mesh strainer and squeeze milk out of pulp. Discard pulp or use in smoothies or slices. For a creamier version, use half almonds, half cashew nuts.

Warm 2 tbsp raw honey with 2 tbsp water, sprinkle with cinnamon, grate fresh nutmeg into it and add seeds of 1 vanilla pod. Gently warm almond milk in the mix but do not boil or allow it to heat over 118°C. Froth with a latte whisk until foamy and serve in warm cups.

This also makes a great chilled blended drink with the addition of a few ice cubes or blend with chunks of frozen peeled banana.

Sherry Strong is a food philosopher and nutritional strategist. She talks and writes about her favourite subject, food, and its connection to our wellbeing, conducting workshops, seminars and consulting to businesses about workplace wellbeing, helping them turn their workplaces into wellplaces. Sherry can be contacted at
sherry@sherrystrong.com

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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