How to Eat During the Holidays and Festive Appetizers! 12/04/2012

First Up!

Yep, I'm late a day! I cooked a big Christmas feast, yesterday. I had planned to send the blog later in the day, but more people read it, if I send it in the morning. I really wanted to include the following "coming attractions" in this post, as it's the kick off into the holiday season. These images are SUPER hot off the presses. My kitchen is STILL dirty from this mess!


Coming Attractions

Cranberry Spinach Stuffed Pork Loin

Mixed Greens with Blackberries, Walnuts and Goats Cheese

Rootin' Tootin' Underground Hash (you know ... 'cause they're roots ... from under the ground)

Mini White Chocolate & Hazelnut Pumpkin Muffins



Happy Holiday Season!

As you can see, this post is about the holidays. We are officially deep within the holiday season. Halloween has passed. Thanksgiving was mere days ago. Shopping frenzies have begun. All kinds of festivities are upon us, whether it's at work, with extended family, in the home, at the kids' school events, invitations to friends, etc. Everything is just a bit ... more ... complicated ... than usual.

If you're focused on a way of life that tends to be different than "the norm", this can present all kinds of interesting challenges. How does one navigate the end-of-the-year company party? What should I bring to my mother-in-law's house at the end of the month? How do I keep from pulling my hair out and devouring every last Pumpkin Pie at CostCo?

WHAT DO I DO?!!?

Well ... for starters ... you shouldn't eat all the pumpkin pies at CostCo, delicious as they may be. Just stop right there. Don't do it. You and I both know that's ... just bad thinking.


Tips for dealing with the upcoming holiday season!

It's my belief that the key is in knowing your own personal limitations and being honest with yourself about it. Once you're clear with your limits, make a plan. Stick to the plan.

    • Wherever possible, host gatherings at home

      • You can control the foods and drinks. You can surround yourself with delicious foods that are safe for you to eat

      • As long as the food is quality and varied, people aren't likely to even notice! There's a huge array of dishes you can make (7 of them are at the bottom of this post, millions on the web and many more from me to come!

      • Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you're hosting, you can ask people to contribute, but you still set the rules

      • Have a selection of sugar free beverage options and mixers. There are all kinds of interesting sugar free mixers and syrups out there

    • When you go somewhere else, bring something safe to eat and share it, potluck style

      • You'll have something to eat, and won't be forced into the sugar laden meals that everyone else brought

      • Consider eating a big meal before you go. It will limit temptation

      • Drink lots of water, to increase the feeling of satiety

      • If "Grandma Pearl" is pushing her tasty apple pie on you, don't be afraid to say, "No". Be strong, and do whatever it takes to keep from eating it ... even just a taste. Lie, if you have to. Say, "Doctor's orders!" You can get involved in the conversation about your eating habits, but I've read that this can backfire with families ganging up. Low calorie and low fat are still "common sense" (I just rolled my eyes ... as I typed that). Fat, drunk Uncle Eddie isn't going to budge, no matter how well armed you are with scientific info. Go for the quick "shut down" and stop the topic, dead in its tracks. Confront the issue one-on-one, at a later date. Having the "low carb is going to kill you" debate over marshmallow drenched sweet potatoes is ... not the time

      • If you drink, drink with sugar free mixers, or a dry wine. Drink responsibly

      • When you arrive, look to see what's available and eat appropriately. Just because there's a big pile of cookies doesn't mean you're required to eat them. Stick with the meats, cheeses, cream and cheese dips, veggie sticks, salads, etc.

      • Bring some pepperoni sticks, a bag of macadamias, pumpkin seeds, pork rinds, jerky, string cheese or even some nice sugar free candies. Have them in a bag, in the car, or somewhere close by, just so you can eat something ... anything ... should the need arise. It sounds silly or excessive, but ... it's preventative. Better to have it and not need it, than need it ... and not have it!

In all cases ... have a plan, and stick to it. Yes, you can change and adjust the plan, if the surroundings differ from what you've anticipated. However, don't use a change in scenery as an excuse to just inhale everything in sight. Stick as close to your plan as possible, without ever losing sight of your goals.

"Be the ball, Danny."

I keep reading about people that gave in over the holidays. They let tradition take hold and didn't adjust for the holidays. They never got back on track, and went on to gain back all their weight ... and then some! Go into the holidays with the clear knowledge that ... this won't be you. It won't be. Not you. Your conviction is MUCH stronger. Locked, in fact!

If you DO decide to throw caution to the wind and eat "whatever, whenever", that's ok. Risky, but ... ok. If you plan to cheat ... it's not cheating, right? It's planned! Just get back on track, the next day. Don't let a carb filled romp throw off the next day's game. Wake up the next morning, shake off of the carb hangover and jump deep into a plate of eggs and bacon! With stubborn determination, start clean and very low carb. Get back on track and nip those impending cravings in the bud!


Share the LCve

I learned how to build websites back in the mid-90's. I worked in the Internet world until about 2000, then ... went back into cooking. My experience with the online world pre-dates social media. I'm getting into it and watch people, places and things pass through my newsfeed on Facebook. It's pretty cool! I see all sorts of interesting things float by.

Lately, I've been noticing a woman named Karen, who has REALLY been hitting all the right notes, in my opinion. Her food looks amazing, festive, delicious and ... is seasonally appropriate! Just today, literally at the same time I was cooking my own brussel sprouts, she sent "Brussel Sprouts with Cranberry Brown Butter" (skip the maple syrup) out into the world. Anything with "Brown Butter" in the title just gets me all giddy. This time, they didn't belong to Karen, but she passed them through my newsfeed. Social media is fun!

If you're working on a low carb, gluten free lifestyle, pop into Karen's website or her Facebook page. Give her support, just as she'll support you ... as we all live low carb ... one day at a time.


Side Dish

I'm always tinkering with my website, moving things around, tweaking, tuning and pruning. Four nice changes have taken place, since last week. The first is ... SEARCH! I added Google's Custom Search to my website. That was desperately needed! Now you can look for things, without needing to learn how "I" think! I also added an easier-to-spot "HOME" option, in the menu. I've also increased the size of the font and made it a shade darker. Finally, I've added a "New" category to the home page. This way, you can always go to the website and clearly see this week's new recipes. I think that should help!

I'm always trying to make things a little better, a little easier and a little friendlier. Let me know how I'm doing!


This Week's Recipes

This week, in anticipation of the holidays, I've got a collection of low carb appetizers, which can be used at home, or to bring with you to a party. Some are hot and some are cold. I wanted to give a nice set of variety. Next week, I'm doing a full dinner!

This week, we've got 2 different nuts, which can just lie around and be eaten. The macadamias, in particular, were outstanding! There is a fresh, surprisingly light and absolutely delicious Shrimp Salad, on Endive Spears. There's also just a really fun Turkey-Sage Meatballs and BBQ Sauce I made out of fresh cranberries. There's a VERY simple Prosciutto Wrapped Mozzarella, and finally ... Baked Pita Wedges and ... Not Pistou! Check out the Not Pistou recipe. It's a game changer!

Enjoy the middle of this year's holiday season!

~ DJ


ALL NEW Weekly Recipes!
Turkey-Sage Meatballs with Cranberry BBQ Sauce
These were something I cooked up for a holiday party. I got the idea from something my mother used to do, when I was a kid. She would bring these AWESOME BBQ'd meatballs to holiday functions. She had some kind of electric pan she's bring and plug in, fill with meatballs and set some toothpicks off to the side. If I had to guess, I'd guess they were store bought meatballs and the sauce was grape jelly mixed with ketchup, but ... memories of those little meaty orbs are fond, to say the least.

Moms rock.
Prosciutto Wrapped Mozzarella
This is a very simple appetizer or finger food. It consists of only 3 ingredients and requires zero cooking. The only tricky part is finding the ingredients!

These came about while thinking about parties and entertaining. These would be great as a minimalist's appetizer. They would also look lovely spread on a tray, ...
Hot and Spicy Macadamias
These hot and spicy macadamias came to be because I was trying to think of safe tasty treats to have lying around for a festive get together. This really fit the bill!

They don't need refrigeration, so they can just "sit around". They don't need sticks or toothpicks. They're not particularly sloppy (although napkins would help, the red spices do stick to finger tips), ...
Shrimp Salad Endive Spears with Celery Leaf Salad
This is an elegant little appetizer. These could also serve well on a platter for a party in your home. They're attractive, delicious AND low carb! This is the kind of dish that I love. It's completely low carb, but no one would ever second guess it. It just looks light and delicious!
Baked Cocoa Nuts
What's better than a big bowl of sweet chocolaty nuts? Ok, I admit it ... lots of things, but ... that doesn't mean that this tasty assorted nuts mix is bad. They're awesome!

These are perfect for any social gathering. Just lie them out there for people to eat! I'm a big fan of "the twist" and tend to throw a slightly outlandish ingredient into things. I like to surprise! If you want to keep these nuts more traditional, simply omit the cayenne and you'll have a sweet tasty bowl of nuts!
Not Pistou
This is the best flavor combination on earth. Shockingly, it doesn't involve bacon or ketchup, either!

It's a wall of tomato and garlic flavor, punctuated with the unctuous cheese, the bright notes of the basil and the texture of the toasted pine nuts. This is the stuff you'll find on the grilled bread at Italian restaurants. It's usually called "Bruschetta".
Baked Pita Wedges
Whenever you need to dip something into something else, you need something with which to dip. This can be cookies, crackers, bread, veggie sticks, meat slices, cheese planks, etc. Even a finger can be used ... but you might get a few dirty looks.

One of the most simple, quick, low carb solutions are these crispity delights. Baked pita wedges!
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