tonyinthegreatoutdoors

Growing up in a free-spirited Northern California household, my family celebrates the holidays a little differently. Out is the normally rich holiday fare and in with the simple, healthy, vegetable based holiday feast.

My family tends to go fairly light in the appetizers department, focusing on smaller amounts of tasty and simple dishes. A recent favorite has been my father’s carrot purée for dipping raw vegetables such as cucumber, broccoli and cauliflower. Carrot purée is quick and easy to make; all it takes is a blender or food processor, fresh carrots and a dollop of Greek yogurt. Carrots are full of naturally occurring sugar and are a fantastic way to add sweetness to dishes without adding calories or processed ingredients.

Kale chips are another quick and easy favorite. They are flavorful and a low-sodium alternative to potato chips and taste wonderful with a splash of olive oil and a pinch of freshly ground pepper.

My sister frequently prepares artichokes or a butternut squash salad, dressed with minced garlic and a nip of olive oil, which are both family favorites.

For the main course my mother likes to serve a West Coast meatloaf. She makes it healthier by cooking a fairly small quantity and using lean ground turkey instead of red meat. She uses carrots to add a little sweetness along with large hunks of garlic and a crumbled bleu cheese. All of us enjoy asparagus, dribbling some of our favorite, olive oil, and sprinkling some pink Himalayan salt on top and broiling until the stalks are al dente and haven’t lost their deep green.

Salads are a wholesome way to express your creativity while adding fruits and vegetables to your California-type feast. I am often charged with making another salad to compliment the meatloaf. Instead of using calorie-laden dressings let your ingredients add flavor. I dress salads with a light dusting of olive oil mixed with balsamic vinegar (often with some fresh herbs like basil or thyme and a touch of lemon juice) and add any combination of apple, pear, avocado, capers, tuna (if I’m making a niçoise salad), carrot shavings or diced tomatoes to make a flavorful and very healthy salad.

My family’s holiday feast may be far from traditional but it is always fun and memorable. The holidays are more about the people you are with so don’t worry about mixing things up with an alternative menu. Try out a new healthy, holiday tradition and ring in the New Year like us “down-to-earth” Californians.