Are you worried about over-indulging when Christmas comes knocking?
Thinking that it is too hard to eat well and enjoy your food? Sick of that all-too-familiar icky feeling after your Christmas celebration?
As the Festive Season is often about sharing meals with loved ones, it also provides a great opportunity to inspire healthy eating in others as well!
Living in Australia, my family and I always feel spoilt for choice when it comes to planning our Christmas meal and this year is no exception.
So where to start…
Depending on the time of the day that the meal is to be served; the heat of the day or perhaps a cooler afternoon soiree; consider the temperature of your dishes and what works best. Hot food is not the be all and end all and cold food need not be boring. Think fresh seafood & luscious, filling salads served alongside chilled wine (and music!)
Should you wish to include hot dishes as part of your celebration, look towards using the best quality meat that you can afford; ideally free-range & organic from your local butcher. Our family always value spending our $$ on great ingredients as opposed to gifts for each other, preferring instead to spend and enjoy the experience and planning of the meal together. So whether turkey, ham, chicken, or any other meat is your part of your ideal spread; consider easy and low-maintenance preparation where the quality of the meat is allowed to shine. Minimal interference often results in a better, easier and cleaner dish as well! Jamie Oliver is someone that I have often looked to in the past for such inspiration and if all else fails, try a simple herb/spice rub on your meat. Dukkah & Za’atar are among my favourites and add an exotic (gourmet) element for limited effort.
Minted lamb leg from Donna Hay
The same theory can be applied to fish that you may want to prepare. Simple herbs like dill, tarragon, thyme & oregano work well with many different types of fish, just add fresh lemon, salt, pepper & olive oil before baking or BBQ’ing and you are set!
Spanish inspired fish from La Tartine Gourmande
For those plant-lovers among us (even if you do still enjoy meat) perhaps you could include some heartier and more filling options such as frittatas, grain-based salads and classic roast vegetables which are always a crowd pleaser. Mostly, these dishes; or their main elements; can be prepared prior to the day, saving you time and stress.
Quiche heaven from Dagmars Kitchen
Classics here are green beans which you can dress up by lightly tossing in good-quality butter (Lurpak or Pepe Saya rock!), crushed raw almonds and some sunflower seeds OR a simple rocket, pear, parmesan salad with a mustard vinaigrette. Lettuce on the table is not so appealing…. Fruit can add a whole new dimension to side dishes so think outside the square here.
If you (or your loved ones) are bread lovers be sure to include a wonderful & fresh grain sourdough or a gluten-free seed loaf for the table served with either olive oil/balsamic or butter as above.
Taking into account that between the above and below, you may indeed already have a whole lot of food to go around. Should you still want to arrange some appetisers think simple & quality. Good cheese, cured meats, seafood, olives + home-made dips. Skewers offer endless variety and easy preparation as another option.
Now THIS is Christmas!!
My New Roots shows us Haloumi & Peach Skewers
Perhaps you could be brave and experiment with a delicious raw cake – I assure you no one will complain!! This one from the I Quit Sugar (IQS) website looks pretty special! Another option is home-made ice cream, not quite as hard as you think! This is a great, clean version which has been enjoyed previously in our house!
Fail-safe. Look for seasonal fruit so in Australia this could be tropical fruit like mangoes or stone fruit such as cherries, peaches & nectarines.
Should dessert not really be your thing, you can never go wrong with fruit. If you want to jazz it up, serve fresh figs on Greek yoghurt and enjoy the heaven that ensues.
Champagne cocktails are immensely popular (and pretty) to serve alongside your appetisers before heading to the wine cellar for the main attraction. There is certainly no shortage of good quality available to you in Australia so select your favourite drop and drink to the festive season, together. A wonderfully light, and subsequently non-alcoholic option is to subtly and beautifully flavour sparkling water. You could use a gorgeous glass jug (the one that normally hides in the cupboard) or serve individually in whichever glasses you prefer. Think mint, blueberries, lime, lemon, raspberries, edible flowers + loads of ice for those summery days and nights.
Light & refreshing
You may no longer be a child, though Christmas is still special and a chance to come together with those that you love.
I say mark the occasion and make it special. Enjoy the process as well, coordinating with your friends and family what each of you can contribute to the occasion. Use that “special” linen and your wedding china because if you can’t use it at Christmas, well when can you?
Table setting inspiration. Photo by Kristy N Hogan
- Cured meats, cheese, crackers, olives & dips (hummus & coriander pesto)
- Aperol Spritz cocktail
- Grilled watermelon topped with cheese & herbs
- Trout baked in herbs & lemon
- Quinoa & pomegranate salad
- Cabbage & broad bean salad
- Roast vegetables
- Vegetable & goats cheese frittata
- Quinoa/Soy sourdough bread
- Chilled dry Pinot Grigo & Pinot Noir
- Sparkling water with mint & lemon
- Fresh cherries
- Fig cherry, lavender & honey cake – recipe from Ascension Kitchen
- Pfeffernüsse – spicy ginger cookies as a traditional & indulgent homage to our European heritage
- Mint tea
- Leftover cheese (if there is any!)
Almost too pretty to eat!
As you can see, to us Christmas is all about fresh & simple. In Australia at this time of year, produce is at its’ absolute prime and there are endless varieties of meat, seafood, fruit & vegetables to choose from!
Keeping it simple means less fuss, less waste, less $$ and most importantly MORE time spent enjoying the company of the people who mean the most to you.
Article by Nadia Felsch.