Living the WELL Life

Your Holiday Survival Guide

Friday, November 30, 2012

It’s h-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-r-e! The holiday season is in full swing. Shopping, partying and feasting have begun in earnest.

You can find lots of recipes here at Christina Cooks to create a healthy holiday feast that is as good for you as it is yummy, but I wanted to share a few dishes with you that are a tradition in our house at Christmas and the New Year. They are said to bring prosperity and luck to those who enjoy them…and being the superstitious Italian that I am, well, you can see why they have become traditions!

Lentil Timbales with Greens
Prosecco and Pomegranate Sparklers with Grapes 

Lentil Timbales
Timbales are an Italian tradition of meat, eggs, pasta, and cheese all cooked together in molds. Mine is ridiculously delicious with the texture of a rich pate. And since this recipe has no saturated fat and is lower in calories than meat and dairy dishes, you can enjoy it without guilt.

In Italy, they enjoy dishes made with lentils as they represent coins and are said to bring prosperity!

Makes 6 servings

Extra- virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper
1 cup thinly sliced cremini mushrooms (about 10 large mushrooms)
3 tablespoon mirin or sweet white wine
½ cup whole- wheat bread crumbs
½ cup silken tofu
1 cup cooked lentils
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
½ teaspoon rubbed dried sage
2–3 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 cup cooked wild rice
Sautéed mushrooms:
Extra- virgin olive oil
1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
Sea salt
3–4 sprigs fresh chives, minced, for garnish
Juice of ¼ fresh lemon

2-3 leaves collard greens, left whole, steamed

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil 6 ramekins and place them in a shallow baking dish.

Place a small amount of oil, onion, and garlic in a skillet over medium heat. When the onions begin to sizzle, add a pinch of salt and pepper and sauté for 2–3 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, a pinch of salt, and mirin or /wine. Sauté for 2–3 minutes.

Transfer mushroom mixture to a food processor and add bread crumbs, tofu, lentils, and tomato paste. 
Puree until smooth. Add herbs, arrowroot, and salt and pepper to taste and puree until smooth.

Transfer to a mixing bowl and fold in cooked rice. Spoon the mixture evenly into ramekins, filling completely to the tops. Set the ramekins back in the baking dish with water to half cover the dishes. 

Bake, uncovered, until the tops are browned and crispy at the edges and the centers are firm to the touch. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the rims and invert the ramekins onto serving plates or onto a platter.

While the timbales cool, sauté the mushrooms. Place oil and mushrooms in a skillet over medium heat and sauté until golden, about 7–10 minutes. Season lightly with salt and sauté for 1 minute more. 

Remove from heat and stir in chives and lemon juice.

To serve, lay the timbales on a bed of steamed collard greens;  spoon sautéed mushrooms over top and serve hot.

Baked for Christmas and the New Year for luck, these little ‘honey balls’ are some of the yummiest cookies you will ever taste. A tradition that comes to us from Southern Italy, it will make you sad they are only served once a year. But the good news is that they are served to make your guests feel welcome!

Makes 8-10 servings

1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons brown rice syrup
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup semolina flour
Pinch sea salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 orange
¼ cup sparkling wine or water
Oil, for frying

1 cup brown rice syrup
1 tablespoon orange juice
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Make the dough. Bring the water, syrup and oil to a boil. Whisk together flours, salt, baking powder and soda and zests. Mix in boiling water mixture and stir well. Add wine or sparkling water and mix well. Add wine/water as needed to create a soft dough, but not sticky. 

Oil a cutting board and turn dough onto it.  Pat down flat and fold dough to create 3 layers. Flatten it and repeat this process 3 more times.

Cut off 1/3 of the dough and roll out into a thin cylinder, about ¼-inch thick. Pinch off  grape-size pieces ands fry in hot oil until golden and puffy. Drain on paper.

Once all the struffoli are fried, make the glaze. Heat the brown rice syrup gently until it thins a bit. Remove from heat and stir in orange juice. Toss the struffoli with the glaze and mound onto a plate in the shape of a wreath. Sprinkle with coconut and serve. 

Prosecco and Pomegranate Sparklers
I love this drink for the New Year. It’s crisp, fresh flavor keeps things light with all the partying ahead. And the pomegranate juice provides lots of nutrients to assuage your guilt. 

Pomegranate is traditionally served as it is believed to cleanse us of longing, leaving us open and fresh for the New Year. We also serve this drink with grapes dropped into the glass since Italians believe grapes bring luck.

1 bottle prosecco, chilled
1 bottle unsweetened pomegranate juice, chilled
2 limes
12 grapes

Pour equal amounts of prosecco and pomegranate juice into champagne flutes. Add a squeeze of lime juice to each glass and garnish each with a thin wedge of lime. Drop a  few grapes into each glass as you serve. Serve cold. Makes about 8-10 servings.

Note: You can make this drink with sparkling apple juice or sparkling water if you choose not to consume alcohol.


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