Tips and Recipes to Make it Easy and Enjoyable

The cooler weather not only brings football games and tailgate parties, it also heralds the start of the
holiday season. This time of year means there will be plenty of social gatherings with indulgent food choices. With so many opportunities to enjoy holiday treats, the temptations to abandon your healthy diet will be plentiful. There are ways to maintain a clean diet and still enjoy this special time of year. Remember to leverage the season’s bountiful produce — pumpkins,cranberries, pomegranates, citrus, dark leafy greens, root vegetables — for healthier whole food dishes.

7 Tips To Avoid Regret Come January:
1) Keep the focus on fun activities, not food. So many get-togethers use food as the centerpiece — think of the classic dishes on a Thanksgiving or Hanukkah table. Instead, try to focus on the time you will spend with family and friends.

2) Choose your indulgences wisely. Think of the calories represented by each food choice much like the choices you make while shopping on a budget. Instead of “wasting” calories on foods that are readily available any time of the year, select those items that are unique to the season, like your child’s first batch of holiday cookies.

3) Eat before going to a party, shopping or holiday event. Your will power is much like a muscle, becoming exhausted the more you need to exercise it. This is why grocery shopping while hungry is so challenging.

4) Make mindful choices in holiday drinks. Ever notice how voracious your appetite can be when drinking alcohol? Alcohol often lessens inhibitions, leading to poor eating choices, and drinks contain lots of calories, compounding the challenge. Choose low- to no-sugar drinks like a wine spritzer that dilutes wine with club soda.

5) Stock the refrigerator and freezer with healthy food choices. This time of year can be a busy one, with less time for grocery shopping, meal preparation and cooking. Try to double up on healthy meal prep during the weekends and freeze extra portions for easy reheating on harried days.

6) Pop a sugar-free mint or gum in your mouth. When you have eaten enough and don’t want to eat more, the feeling of a fresh mouth can help curb snacking.

7) Finally, bring your own healthy food to potlucks and parties. The best way to ensure there will be healthy, yet enticing food to eat at a holiday gathering is to bring it yourself!

Roman Roasted Grape and Olive Crostini


An ancient Roman recipe, this oven-roasted appetizer is easy to make and is both flavorful and healthy. A splash of olive oil and vinegar and some thyme give this crostini topping a sweet and savory flavor. This yields 12 2-ounce servings of crostini topping.

Ingredients:
• 2 cups halved seedless red grapes
• 1 cup halved pitted black Kalamata olives
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped fine
(can substitute dried)
• Salt and black pepper to taste
• 1 large loaf bread (baguette, ciabatta, etc.),
sliced to 1/2-inch thickness

*Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the ingredients to an ovenproof dish and toss to mix evenly. Roast for about 20-25 minutes, then serve alongside the sliced bread.

Holiday Roasted Butternut Squash


The recipe is a forgiving one, so feel free to play with the spices and amounts for your family. I prefer using a mild New Mexican red chile powder for its flavor and low heat. Sweet paprika is a good substitute. If you use smoky or hot paprika or a hot chile powder instead, be sure to add ¼ teaspoon at first. You can always add more heat, but removing it is next to impossible.

Ingredients:
• 1 bag of cubed, peeled butternut squash,
10 ounces
• 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon ground New Mexican
red chile (mild or spicy) or paprika (sweet, smoky, or spicy)
• Salt and black pepper to taste
• 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
• 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
• Optimal: pomegranate seeds as garnish

*Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Add all ingredients except the pomegranate seeds to an ovenproof dish and toss to mix evenly. Roast for 55-60 minutes or until squash can be pierced with a fork. Scatter pomegranate seeds on squash and serve.

Story and Photography by Iris Gonzalez