Posted Dec 15, 2010
The holidays are the perfect storm of high stress and low immunity.
Since you’ve got a long list of chores to do and not enough time to sleep or eat right, it’s easy to fall prey to a winter sniffle and miss out on all the fun.
But if you plan ahead for the meals and take care of your daily diet, you can run the marathon of card-writing, cookie-baking and gift-wrapping without dropping out of the race early.
“People hit the holidays and don’t know what to do,” said Lia Huber of Healdsburg, founder and CEO of The Nourish Network website. “You can make healthier decisions by balancing your meal plan, incorporating lighter meals and leftovers.”
With a bit of planning, you can even spin your leftovers into a second meal, without anyone even noticing.
“Make your meals work twice,” she said. “You don’t have to eat the same thing in the same way.”
For example, Huber likes to roast a chicken and serve just the legs and thighs. As a side dish, she will throw together a seasonal salad, such as a Fennel and Granny Smith Salad with Blue Cheese.
The next day, she will recycle the chicken breast in a flavorful Asian Chicken Salad, topped with a bright, tangy dressing.
To feed a big crowd, she gets out a Dutch oven and braises her Super-Succulent, Five-Spice Pork Shoulder, an amazingly simple dish that calls for just five ingredients. The first night, she serves the fork-tender meat with tortillas, a sauce and a simple cucumber salad.
The next day, she tosses the leftover pork on top of some rice noodles or throws it into a Simple Udon Soup, made with the flavorful, dashi broth of Japan.
“Dashi is the unsung hero of broths,” she said. “It’s so simple and so good for you. The kelp has phytonutrients and the fish flakes have Omega-3s.”
Another simply yet elegant dish is her recipe for Orecchiette with Broccoli, Kale and Sausage. The sausage, pasta and sauce are cooked in one pot, which saves time during clean-up.
“It’s a really good, easy, go-to meal,” she said. “Even if you have eight people, you still only have one pot to clean.”
Through Nourish Network, Huber tries to change people’s relationship with food and teaches them to eat in a way that’s both healthy and enjoyable.
Starting Dec. 13, the website is offering a Holiday Challenge, with daily kitchen tips for surviving the holidays.
One of Huber’s recommendations is to make a planning grid, so that you can look at the big picture of what meals you’re going have to make down the road.
“If you’ve got house guests, it’s the small meals that will often sink you,” she said. “It’s the breakfasts and the lunches.”
One of her survival tips is to cook and prepare dishes ahead of time. You can mix up a Sausage and Mushroom Strata (a savory casserole) the night before Christmas, for example, then bake it off in the morning while you’re opening gifts.
If you’re trying to lighten up your diet, she suggests making a vinaigrette and storing it in the refrigerator, to serve on salads throughout the week.
For unexpected, drop-in guests, Huber likes to make and freeze a batch of Manchego and Nutmeg Gougeres, a festive appetizer that goes well with sparkling wine.
“You pop them into the oven when guests drop in,” she said. “It’s really simple. You just need a pastry bag to make the little balls.”
If you’re having guests over for dinner, Huber said, don’t be afraid to put them to work in the kitchen.
“Think up some tasks ahead of time for people to do,” she said. “They could peel carrots or de-seed pomegranates.”
Finally, don’t forget to find time for yourself, amid the whirlwind of parties and socializing. Go for a walk, make a cup of tea and find some time to exercise.
“For me, it’s yoga, pilates and hiking,” she said. “I like to be outside.”
Huber, who turns 40 this month, started her career as a travel and food writer. She served as a contributing editor of Cooking Light magazine for 10 years.
Then, about 10 years ago, she had a major health scare that changed her approach to eating. She was first diagnosed with lupus, then with fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that causes pain in muscles, ligaments and tendons.
In an effort to get herself healthy again, Huber started to research nutrition. Most of the studies at that time touted the time-tested Mediterranean diet, with its fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, and moderate approach to the table.
“It’s a way of living that has sustained cultures for millennia,” she said. “I had lived in Greece and France, and I saw that people were enjoying food, and it wasn’t just about nutrition.”
About a year ago, Huber launched Nourish Network as a way to teach people about what she’s learned, including the principals of sound nutrition, choosing eco-clean meat and produce, and paying more attention to the art of eating.
“Food is more than what we put in our mouths,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to connect, with the earth and the farmer and yourself, through the preparation of the meal.”
She also tries to empower people in the kitchen by teaching basic cooking skills and techniques, such as high-heat roasting of vegetables.
“You peel butternut squash and stick it in the oven,” she said.
“You don’t have to be a foodie, and it doesn’t take much more time than getting into the car to pick up a pizza.”
This holiday, Huber suggests taking a hard look at your own holiday traditions in an effort to simplify your to-do list.
“Look at what you love, what you don’t like, what’s expected and how you want to change it,” she said. “Then add or subtract.”
If your kids really do want that green-bean casserole, then go with it. If not, let it go.
“Why waste time in the kitchen with food you don’t like?” she said.
The following recipes are from Lia Huber of Nourish Network (nourishnetwork.com.)
“This dish is the epitome of comfort for me and is a tradition for Christopher and me upon returning from the road,” Huber wrote.
“For us, any season of the year really, this bowl says welcome home.” This recipe can also be made with broccoli rabe, a bitter green.
Orechiette with Broccoli, Kale and Sausage
Makes 4 servings
3 spicy Italian sausages, removed from casing
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chicken stock
1/2 pound orecchiette pasta
4 cups broccoli, cut into bite sized florets
4 cups kale, “zipped,” cleaned and chopped
Sea salt or Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnish
Saute sausage in a large pot over medium heat until browned, breaking up into pieces with the edge of a spatula. Set sausage aside to drain on paper towel and wipe out the pot. Fill the pot with water and bring to a boil with a generous pinch of salt.
While waiting for water to boil, mash the garlic to a paste in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of kosher salt. Whisk in chile flakes, olive oil and chicken stock and set aside.
When the water comes to a rapid boil, pour the pasta into the pot. Cook for 8 minutes and add broccoli and kale to pot. Cook another 3 minutes, until pasta is al dente. Drain pasta and vegetables, add back to the pot and toss with the garlic and olive oil over low heat. Add sausage and toss well.
Top with an extra dose of sea salt (Maldon is our favorite) or a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Asian Chicken Salad
Makes 4 servings
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
> 2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 serrano pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
> For salad:
2 cups skinned, de-boned and shredded chicken (or turkey)
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
4 cups finely shredded Napa cabbage
1 cup red pepper, cored, seededa dn thinly sliced
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup scallion, sliced
To prepare dressing, combine vinegar, garlic adn ginger in a blender or food procesor and pulse until minced. Add rest of dressing ingredientsand blend until smooth.
To prepare salad, toss turkey, cilantro, cabbage, pepper and red onion in a large bowl. Mix well with dressing. Divide among four plates and garnish wtih peanuts, scallions and additional cilantro.
“Gougeres — little, mini-cheese-puffs about as light as air — are the classic nibble with Champagne,” Huber said. “Here, we give them a Spanish spin with manchego cheese. Try this with a glass of cava.
Manchego and Nutmeg Gougeres
Makes 18 servings
4 ounces butter, cut into small cubes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups manchego cheese, grated
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine butter, salt, pepper and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and remove from heat immediately.
Pour in flour and stir with a mixing spoon (mixture will be stiff) for 3-5 minutes, until the dough becomes smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Stir in eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition, then stir in 1 cup cheese and nutmeg.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Trnasfer dough to a pastry bag and pipe 2-inch mounds 2 inches apart onto both sheets. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top and bake for 25 minutes, switching pans halfway through.
Serve warm or at room temperature, or cool completely and freeze in a freezer-safe zip-top storage bag.
Reheat frozen gougeres in a 375 degree oven for five minutes.
You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat .com.
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Copyright © 2010, The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.