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Surviving Holiday Parties

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I know sticking to your meal plan is hard during the holidays, but it can be done.

Stay strict during the week and use your cheat day for that holiday party you are going to.

If you don’t want to use your cheat day, then make sure you eat before you go.

Another thing to help you survive the holiday parties is, do not hover around the food area at the party.

Stay away from it!!

In an effort to keep your holidays healthy and bright, here are some mouth-watering recipes sure to please the palate.

Offering optimum flavor, presentation and nutritional value, these dishes are so delicious you will probably adopt them as part of a new, healthy holiday tradition.


Appealing Appetizers

The abundance of holiday get-togethers makes mindless snacking a common pitfall. What better way to prevent overeating of the wrong foods than by BYOD (bringing your own dish). Following are some fabulous-tasting recipes that won’t leave you feeling deprived!

Bite-Size Bruschetta Baskets (vegan, gluten-free)

Quick and easy to prepare, this flavorful combo is yummy over pasta, tempeh, fish, grilled veggies . . . or whatever you can imagine.

Note: This appetizer stores well in the refrigerator for 4–5 days, so prepare ahead if your schedule is busy, or double the recipe for use later in the week.

1 long, thin artisan loaf or baguette, cut into 1½-inch-thick rounds,    soft centers scooped out or pressed to create a small hollow
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (tbs) freshly grated Parmesan cheese cayenne    pepper, freshly ground, to taste
½ cup organic sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), snipped into thin    slices
3 tbs balsamic vinegar
¼ cup spicy tomato sauce or sun-dried tomato pesto
1 ripe avocado, diced
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons (tsp) fresh garlic, minced
1 vine-ripened tomato, seeded, drained and chopped fine
2 tbs Kalamata olives and/or capers (optional)
freshly ground pepper, sea salt
¼ cup basil pesto sauce
fresh basil for garnish

VGF Option:
Instead of bread, use 30 endive leaves or try mushrooms or cucumbers (centers hollowed out). Omit Parmesan cheese.

Brush bread “baskets” lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and cayenne. Toast lightly in hot oven or under broiler for a few minutes. Set aside to cool. In glass serving bowl, mix together all remaining items except basil. Adjust seasonings to taste. Spoon topping into bread baskets, endive leaves, cucumbers or mushroom caps. Garnish with basil. Serves four to six.

Black-Bean Salsa Dip (vegan, gluten-free)

To avoid high-calorie creamy dips and cheese trays full of saturated fats, try this delicious, high-fiber, antioxidant-dense dip. Easy to prepare, it will keep for 3 days in the fridge. This is a perfect make-in-advance dip.

1–2 tsp minced garlic
1 (15-ounce, oz) can organic black beans, drained and rinsed well
½ cup fresh salsa
2 tbs fresh lime juice
½ cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1½ tsp ground cumin
chili pepper, fresh or dried, to taste
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
fresh cilantro for garnish

Measure all ingredients into food processor, except sea salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Season to taste and transfer to serving bowl.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with veggie crudités, organic tortilla chips or Mary’s Gone Crackers. Makes about 2 cups.

Oh-Wow! Holiday Sweets

Of all the holiday food challenges, nothing can kill willpower for most people like nutritionally void sweets. Following are some amazing treats that address the cookie and calorie conundrum. These goodies can also serve as a perfect host/hostess gift.

Nut–Butter Dates With Macadamia Nuts (vegan, gluten-free)

24 pitted fresh medjool dates or boxed soft dates (found in produce    section)
¼ cup raw cacao nibs
¼ cup raw almond or macadamia butter
cayenne pepper, to taste
macadamia nuts for garnish

Halve each date, fill each with sprinkling of cacao nibs and top with small spoonful of almond butter. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper as desired.

Arrange on serving platter garnished with macadamia nuts. Makes 48 date halves.

Sweet ’n’ Spicy Maple Nuggets (vegan, gluten-free)

These fantastic little gems are super-easy to make, and the spices will boost your immune system. Double the recipe, buy some decorative glass jars and ribbon, and fill them for delectable “made with love” gifts. Store nuggets in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

4 cups raw nuts (combine almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc. . . . your    favorites)
½ cup unhulled sesame seeds
1/3–1/2 cup maple syrup or unprocessed natural honey
1/2–3/4 tsp sea salt
3/4–1 tsp each of ground cinnamon, ginger and cardamom powder
½–3/4 tsp cayenne or crushed chili pepper flakes, to taste

Preheat oven to 300–325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line large baking sheet with 1- to 2-inch-high sides with parchment paper.

Combine nuts, sesame seeds, maple syrup or honey, and seasonings in large bowl, stirring well. Spread out evenly onto baking sheet, place into oven and bake 15–20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When finished baking, stir nuts again and let cool. Makes 14–16 ¼-cup servings.

Note: Sesame seeds not used in the photo shown.

Organic Cocoa-Coconut Gem Truffles (vegan, gluten-free)

2/3 cup organic cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder)
1 cup almonds, ground
¼ cup organic coconut, small flakes
3/4 cup pitted fresh medjool dates or boxed soft dates (found in    produce section)
3 tbs extra-virgin organic coconut butter, gently warmed to melt
¼ tsp sea salt
soft hemp seeds, to roll balls in or to sprinkle on bars, if desired

Combine cocoa powder, ground almonds and coconut flakes in large food processor.

Add dates, coconut butter and sea salt; purée until mixture sticks together. If needed, add a little more melted coconut butter or dates to adjust texture to desired stickiness and level of sweetness.

Roll into 1-inch balls or 2-inch patties, or press into 8- x 8-inch square baking dish and cut into bars. Roll balls/patties in hemp seeds, or sprinkle seeds over bars. Chill for minimum of 1 hour.

Store in refrigerator or freezer for up to 2–3 weeks—if they last that long!

Tip: Soaking/sprouting the almonds for 8 hours removes some of the enzymes that inhibit nutrient absorption. Makes approximately 24 truffles (or if bars are preferred, fills one 8- x 8-inch baking dish).

Stay Motivated and Happy Holidays,

Sgt Rians

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