Recipes for a Holiday Feast - Paleo Style
The holidays are one of the best parts of the year, but for some it can pose tough kitchen challenges and fear. Fear not! It is actually possible to enjoy your holidays and stick to a healthy eating plan. Consider it an opportunity to expand your culinary horizons - one of my favorite things to do is to take a cherished family recipe and transform it into paleo perfection. True, this doesn't always work, but trial and error is a great way to learn!
To get you started and help alleviate your food anxiety through the holidays, I've put together these recipes for a complete paleo feast. Figuring out a main dish for a paleo sit-down dinner is easy; from roasts, to steaks you can easily find something delicious and healthy. That being the case I've set out to give you more options for the harder parts of figuring out a paleo meal; an appetizer, two side dishes and two desserts.
When I first started eating paleo-style I was afraid I wouldn't be able to enjoy Thanksgiving. It's a bit silly really, considering all of the paleo options that are usually on the table, but I was having a hard time coming to grips with the fact I couldn't eat my favorite dish - stuffing. Although Thanksgiving is behind us now, I would absolutely recommend this paleo stuffing side dish as an addition to your holiday dinner menu. It's even easy to take to a party (and your guests won't even know it's paleo!)
APPETIZER - Bacon Wrapped Pecan Stuffed Dates
This one is a no brainer. Anytime I have friends over or am asked to bring a dish to a gathering I ALWAYS make this. It is one of the most completely delightful treats you will ever put in your mouth. Seriously. And this one comes, surprisingly enough, from Ms. Paula Deen
- Uncured uncooked bacon
- Wooden toothpicks
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice each date down one side and slip a halved pecan inside. Slice bacon into thirds and wrap around each date, securing with a toothpick. Place wrapped dates on parchment paper or foil and bake for 12 minutes. Check them as it gets closer so they don't burn. The bacon should be crisp-ish.
This is ALWAYS a crowd pleaser - even people who (think they) don't like dates love these.
SIDE DISHES - Cauliflower Rice Stuffing or Brussels Sprouts and Leeks
Much to my deilght, I discovered a cookbook from 1955 at a rummage sale for 25 cents. It is absolutely full of amazing meat and vegetable dishes so I thought I'd check out the stuffing recipes. I found one for Rice Stuffing. Something clicked! I had posted on my blog a few months before about cauliflower "rice" and how easy it was to make and really felt like eating rice - which is something I admit I missed at the time. Long story short, I took the recipe in hand and substituted cauliflower rice and doubled the recipe. While it was cooking, I couldn't believe how much it smelled like real stuffing! The real test was in the taste, it was successful in tasting just like stuffing!
Cauliflower Rice Stuffing Ingredients:
- 1/4 cup oil - I always prefer coconut, but olive will do as well
- 2 heads of cauliflower
- 1 chopped onion
- 3 chopped carrots
- 1 package of mushrooms chopped (optional)
- 2 cups diced celery
- 1/2 cup snipped celery leaves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1/8 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
- (if you're into rosemary, that would be a nice addition/substitution as well)
- 2/3 cup chopped pecans
- *water if necessary - the original recipe calls for it but the vegetables should provide enough
In a stock pot or dutch oven, warm up the oil. Add all ingredients except the pecans and water. Sauté everything and keep stirring so it doesn't stick. Continue until the onions are golden. Add water if necessary. Bring to boil over high heat. Simmer for 2 minutes, remove from heat. Add pecans. Serve!
Feeds 5 with leftovers. If you want to make less, halve the vegetables, salt, and pepper in the recipe and keep the seasoning the same.
Another great side dish during the winter season utilizes two winter vegetables and is one of my all time favorites. It's simple and incredibly delicious. My non-paleo practicing roommate fell in love with this recipe and makes it once a week!
Brussels Sprouts and Leeks Ingredients:
- Brussels sprouts washed, trimmed and halved (or quartered if they're large)
- 1 Leek washed, trimmed and diced
- Coconut oil
- Bacon, if desired
Warm the oil in a pan, drop in the leeks and sauté a bit. Drop in the Brussels sprouts and cook until slightly glassy. I prefer them with brown "grill" marks from the pan. (roughly 10-15 minutes)
If you are using bacon, you can either add pre-cooked bacon to the mix or you can cook the bacon first, crumble it up and using the same pan, cook the sprouts and leek in the bacon fat.
Serve and enjoy!
DESSERT - Baked Maple Pears or Baked Apples
Dessert may be a bit more tricky if you don't already have paleo dessert recipes on hand. Two easy recipes I enjoy making, sharing and eating are Baked Maple Pears with Toasted Pecans and Walnuts, and the traditional Baked Apple.
Baked Maple Pears Ingredients:
- Pears (1/2 per person)
- 100% Grade A Maple syrup or honey
- Sea salt
- Pure vanilla extract
- Chopped nuts of your choice
- Optional spices: allspice, clove, ginger etc
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking pan with foil or parchment paper. Wash and halve the pears. Lay them in the pan with the cut side up. Sprinkle with sea salt, spices, and nuts. Drizzle with a bit of vanilla and then the syrup or honey. Bake 25-40 minutes depending on doneness. The skin will curl a little and the flesh should be soft. These will make your kitchen smell as wonderful as they taste!
Baked Apples Ingredients:
- 4 medium apples, washed and cored (use a single corer)
- 4 thin strips of lemon rind
- 1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
- 1 whole vanilla bean cut into 4 pieces (or use some vanilla extract for a budget friendly alternative)
- 4 cinnamon sticks (or ground cinnamon)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place apples in large glass oven proof bowl with lid. Place a strip of lemon rind, currants or raisins, vanilla and cinnamon inside each apple. Drizzle apples with lemon juice and scatter remainder of currants around them. Bake covered for 60-70 minutes.
These are just a few of my favorite winter recipes. I hope you try them, but more importantly I want you to challenge yourself by coming up with your own variations of your favorite holiday dish. It can be anything from a soup to a dessert. It's much easier than you think. Don't be afraid to try something new; whether its a new cooking method, a new spice or a new ingredient you'll be glad you took the extra effort to open up a new realm of paleo possibilities!
When Laura started college, she began to fall into bad habits of constantly refilling her Coke at the soda machines and eating the corn dogs, macaroni, and ramen that seem to be the staples of a college diet. The combination of bad eating habits and little to no exercise led her to an overweight, but more importantly, unhealthy existence. Then, her brother introduced her to CrossFit and the paleo diet. Shortley thereafter, she and a friend decided to go to the Nutrition Certification... Read More