two anti-diet menus for a stress-free holiday season December 09 2019, 0 Comments
Words and recipes by Jennifer Bravo
The holidays can be a stressful time of year. There are so many different dishes to prepare, events to attend, travel to be had, and family dynamics to navigate. Not to mention the pressure to “stay healthy” or not “blow the diet”; two annoying and unnecessary messages that get so heavily imposed upon us this time of year by diet culture. As if there isn’t already enough to navigate during the holiday season.
The thing most of us really want to do is worry less and enjoy more, right? So, in an attempt to help eliminate a big area of distress for most, Wildcraft and I teamed up to bring you a stress-and-diet-culture-free holiday menu.
What is Diet Culture?
Diet culture is a $67 billion and growing industry that, as Christy Harrison explains, “is a system of beliefs that: Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you're irreparably broken just because you don't look like the impossibly thin “ideal.””.
Simply put, diet culture profits off of “not enough-ness” and creates a moral imperative to make diverse body shapes look a single, specific way. It shows up in many different areas of life and does more harm than good.
At this point you may be asking, “but isn’t it true that we need to watch what we eat around the holidays?”. The short answer is simply, no.
To illustrate using a diet culture frame of thought, a person would have to eat above maintenance calories (or the calories your body needs to survive and thrive daily) every single day for a full week to gain just 1 pound. If it happens a few days here and there? Nothing to worry about.
Our bodies are smart and resilient. We need energy to survive. My advice to you is, enjoy the holidays and the cultural aspects, enjoy the quality time and the delicious food. This all comes but once a year.
So, what exactly is “Anti-Diet”?
Well, let me start by explaining my food and cooking philosophy. I am an intuitive eating coach and trained chef in health supportive culinary arts. I encourage my audience to find peace with food by tapping into internal cues to honor what sounds and feels good to mind, body, and soul.
This can only happen when diet mentality is rejected because we must ignore the external cues that keep us out of the driver’s seat of our own wellness. Diet culture is all around, after all. It is the air we breathe and how we are taught to pursue wellness. In order to avoid it, we must actively acknowledge it. Thus, the term anti-diet.
The results of rejecting diet culture/mentality are to gain the ability to tap into our own true needs, to find more enjoyment in health promoting lifestyle choices, and to feel no shame for living life the way we want.
At the end of the day, my goal is for you to enjoy food more, and obsess over it less.
On to the menus
This time of year can be extremely difficult to navigate from an Intuitive Eating/Cooking standpoint.
There are many different reasons for this, but the most common I see is the relentless diet culture messages coming from friends, family, and the industry itself. It’s hard to actively reject something so ingrained in the culture all around us (hello, “healthy” holiday swap ideas inundating Pinterest, Instagram and most media outlets!).
Additionally, we find ourselves cooking and eating with so many different people during the holidays. Cooking intuitively, or to cook with your own needs in mind, can be difficult because well, not everyone is super comfortable preparing meals for a crowd, and that’s okay. I’m here to help.
I’ve designed two menus for you to use as you wish. One for a dinner party and one for a potluck. The recipes on each menu are designed to be easy to follow, can be mostly prepped ahead of time, require minimal ingredients, and ask for only 1 big cooking technique. These recipes feel special and are truly lovely, nourishing meals. Oh and, each recipe can be modified to swap out any allergens.
Nothing on either menu should take more than 30-ish minutes of active cooking time. This means less time in the kitchen and more time to take a breather before socializing, or more time to be with the people you’re breaking bread with.
The best part? Everything is served without a lick of diet culture. How refreshing! Welcome 2020 and a new kind of wellness. The kind that honors self-preservation, quality time with loved ones, and a healthy relationship with food. Bye-bye to the ever elusive thin-ideal and pursuit of perfection.
Click on each of the recipes below to view ingredients and instructions.
Menu #1: The Dinner Party
- Appetizer: Autumnal Poached Pears with Ricotta Salata and Walnuts
- Entrée: Mushroom and Artichoke Chicken
- Side Dish: Roasted Garlic Root Vegetable Mash
- Dessert: The easiest and yet most impressive Lemon Tart with Graham Cracker Crust
Menu #2: The Potluck
- Appetizer: Warmed Fig Salad with Balsamic Glaze
- Entrée: Classic Chicken (or Turkey) Pot Pie
- Side Dish: Sweet & Salty Winter Salad
- Dessert: Poppy seed Cake with a Simple Orange Glaze
- Bonus Dessert: Allergy Friendly No Bake Vegan Yummies
Autumnal Poached Pears with Ricotta Salata and Walnuts
Prep time: 10 mins. | Cook time: 30 mins. | Total time: 45 mins.
Yield: 4-8 servings
- 1 bottle white table wine
- 2/3 cup sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 20 black peppercorns, whole
- 5 cloves, whole
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 4 bosc or bartlett pears, peeled, halved and cored
- 1 wedge Ricotta Salata
- 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
- Combine wine, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, peppercorns, cloves, and cinnamon in a medium sauce pan. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise to reveal the seeds. Using the tip of a paring knife, scrape seeds out and add seeds and pod to wine mixture.
- Mix with a wooden spoon, and bring mixture to a strong simmer over medium-low heat.
- Using a slotted spoon, one by one slide pear halves into simmering mixture. Cook for 10 minutes, and turn the pears over. Continue to cook for 10 minutes, or until a toothpick can be inserted into the pears with little resistance.
- Using slotted spoon, carefully remove pears from mixture and set aside.
- Turn up the heat to medium-high, and boil wine mixture for 10 minutes, or until reduced by half. Strain mixture into a bowl, and discard spent spices.
- Serve pears in a shallow bowl or a cheese board, and spoon the reduced and strained wine mixture lightly over top. Add a small wedge of Ricotta Salata and chopped walnuts. Enjoy!
Mushroom and Artichoke Chicken
Prep time: 15 mins. | Cook time: 35 mins. | Total time: 50 mins.
Yield: 4-6 servings
- 4 lbs. chicken legs and thighs, w/ skin (or breasts, if that's your preference)
- 1 can artichoke hearts, or approx. 1 cup frozen
- 1 medium onion, chopped large to match artichokes
- 1 lb. cremini mushrooms, halved and quartered to match artichokes
- 1 tbsp. dijon mustard
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup white wine (or sub. chicken stock)
- 1/4 tsp. dried basil
- 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp. dried tarragon
- 2 bay leaves
- Heavy sprinkle flaked salt over top
- For garnish: 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
- Optional: In a cast iron pan over medium heat, sear salted chicken thighs until a nice brown color is achieved, but chicken is not cooked through.
- Preheat oven to 375. In a large baking dish layer browned chicken with artichokes, mushrooms, and onions.
- Mix remaining ingredients in a liquid measuring cup and pour over chicken and vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with flaked salt.
- Bake for about 35 minutes, mixing and basting twice. Chicken is ready when it is firm to the touch and the internal temperature reads 165 degrees.
- Garnish with parsley and serve with your favorite side!
Roasted Garlic Root Vegetable Mash
Prep time: 5 mins. | Cook time: 30 mins. | Total time: 35 mins
Yield: 4-6 servings
- 3 potatoes
- 3 small turnips
- 1 small head cauliflower
- 15 thyme, destemmed
- 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. white pepper
- 3 heads roasted garlic
- Peel then chop potatoes, turnips, and cauliflower into 2 inch pieces, yielding about 10 cups total. Add vegetables to large pot and fill with water to just cover. Bring to a boil and continue to cook for 10 minutes, or until vegetables slide off of a fork easily when tested.
- While your vegetables are boiling, in a small pan heat 2 tbsp. butter over medium heat until just melted. Add thyme leaves and cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until aromatic. Remove from heat.
- Pour boiled vegetables into a colander to drain, and immediately add remaining butter and heavy cream to the warm pot and melt slightly. Add vegetables, thyme with remaining butter, salt and white pepper. Squeeze garlic pods out of each roasted head, and into the mixture. Mash until smooth. Serve warm.
Lemon Tart with Graham Cracker Crust
Prep time: 20 mins. + chill time | Cook time: 25 mins. | Total active cooking time: 45 mins.
Yield: 1 tart
- 18 graham crackers (roughly 2 sleeves)
- 14 tablespoons salted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/3 cup honey
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers about 20-30 times. The chop should be fine, but course. Remove the blade and pour melted butter, 1/4 cup honey, and salt into the food processor with the graham crackers. Pulse a few more time until combined and a sticky dough forms when pressed between two fingers. Add more melted butter or honey if necessary. Press into a tart or cake pan with a removable bottom. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is a dark golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
- While the crust bakes. Bring heavy cream, honey and lemon zest to a boil in a large sauce pot. Watch the pot carefully, the cream will easily boil over. Keep the mixture at a manageable boil for about 7 minutes. If you have a hard time keeping it from over-flowing, don't be afraid to turn off the heat to lower the boil then immediately turn it back on, just add a few more minutes of cook time to about 10 minutes.
- Once the mixture has boiled, remove it from the heat and slowly whisk in the lemon juice and a pinch of salt.
- Place the tart crust on an easy-to-transport surface, like a cookie tray, and pour the filling in slowly. Gently bang the tart against the counter a few times to help any air bubbles escape.
- Place the tart in the fridge, and cool over night to 24 hours. Garnish with fruit like berries or golden currents and enjoy!
Warmed Fig Salad with Balsamic Glaze
Prep time: 5 mins. | Cook time: 25 mins. | Total time: 30 mins.
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp. warm water
- 1 pint figs
- 2 cups arugula
- 1/4 lb. blue cheese
- 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
To make balsamic glaze:
- In a small saucepan, bring balsamic vinegar to a simmer over medium low heat, stirring frequently, until reduced by half. About 20 minutes. The glaze should be thick, but easy to stir. Mix in warm water, and remove from heat.
To make salad:
- Preheat oven to 350. Cut an X into your figs from the stem down, careful not to cut all the way through to the bottom of the fig. Squeeze to open slightly. Arrange on a baking sheet.
- Scoop a small portion of blue cheese, and lightly press into open fig. Continue until each fig is filled. Place baking sheet in the oven and bake for 5-7 minutes, until just warmed through and cheese is beginning to soften.
- Arrange arugula followed by warmed figs on individual plates. Carefully sprinkle walnuts over salad. Use a spoon to pour balsamic glaze over top.
Classic Chicken (or Turkey Pot Pie)
Recipe by Jennifer Bravo and originally shared in the Inspired Home journal
For the crust:
- 2 cups unbleached AP flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup flavorless vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup cold whole milk
- Wax Paper + Rolling Pin
For the filling:
- 1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thigh or breasts, trimmed
- 2 cups free range chicken stock
- 7 tbsp. cultured butter
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
- 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into half-moons
- 3 large celery ribs, sliced to match thickness of carrots
- 1/2 tsp. finely ground Himalayan salt
- 1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
- 1/2 cup unbleached AP flour
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 9x12 Baking Dish
To make crust:
- Mix together flour and salt.
- Measure the cold milk and vegetable oil together in one liquid measuring cup, do not stir. Pour into the flour mixture.
- Using a fork mix until just barely combined. Use your hands to pat in the last flour-y crumbs.
- Place wax paper on a slightly damp counter to create a seal. Empty barely formed crust onto parchment and using your hands form an even disc. Cut into two and set one half aside.
- Using a second piece of parchment paper as a barrier, roll 1/2 of crust into roughly 1/4" thick piece to match your cooking vessel.
To make filling:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a heavy bottom pot or enameled cast iron pan, bring chicken breasts and chicken broth to a simmer and cook covered for about 10 minutes, or until chicken breasts are cooked through. Transfer chicken to a plate and save cooking liquid.
- Without washing, bring the same cooking vessel to medium heat and melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Cook onions, carrots, celery, and salt until soft. About 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, using a fork or your fingers, shred or chop chicken into small pieces and place into a large bowl. If there are any remaining juices from the chicken, add it to the reserved broth. Pour cooked vegetables into the same bowl as the shredded chicken.
- Return the vessel to medium heat and melt remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Add flour and stir constantly for 1 minute, or until flour has cooked into butter. Whisk in reserved chicken stock, milk, and thyme. Bring to a slow simmer and cook for about 1-2 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and stir in chicken, vegetables, peas, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour mixture into a rectangular bake dish, about 9x12, and roll crust over top. Tuck or crimp any excess dough along the sides. Cut vents into the dough to avoid cracking the top during baking.
- Place pot pie on baking sheet to catch any overflow, and cook for about 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Cool before serving.
Sweet & Salty Winter Salad
Prep time: 20 mins. | Total time: 25 mins.
- 1/2 bag shredded brussel sprouts, blanched and shocked (how-to below)
- 1 small bunch lacinato kale, destemmed, chopped and cleaned
- 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 tbsp. water
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 apple, sliced and submerged in a water and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar mixture to keep from browning
- 1/4 cup gorgonzola crumbles, or more to taste
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries, or more to taste
- Balsamic vinaigrette of choice
To make candied pecans:
- Combine pecans, sugar, butter, cinnamon, and water in a non-stick pan. Cook and stir over medium heat for 5-10 minutes until sugar butter mixture thickens and pecans start to brown. Pour onto parchment paper to cool.
To make salad:
- To blanch and shock the brussel sprouts, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the brussel sprouts. Cook for 2-3 minutes until bright green. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Dry and set aside.
- Place kale in a serving bowl and add a tablespoon of balsamic vinaigrette. Massage the kale gently for about 5 minutes, until kale is tender.
- Add shredded brussels and evenly layer in candied pecans, apple (drained from vinegar mixture), gorgonzola, and cranberries. Lightly pour balsamic over salad to taste. Enjoy!
Poppyseed Cake with a Simple Orange Glaze
Prep time: 10 mins. | Cook time: 30-40 mins. | Total time: 40-50 mins
Yield: Makes 2 cakes worth
For the cake:
- 3 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp. poppy seeds
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 1/8 cups flavorless oil, such as canola oil
- 1 1/2 tsp. butter extract
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
For the glaze:
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp. butter extract
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. almond extract
To make cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cake pans or muffin tins with parchment paper.
- Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and wet ingredients together in a large liquid measuring cup. Pour wet into dry and mix until incorporated, about 2 minutes.
- Pour the cake batter into prepared pans and bake until the top rises and crack, roughly 30 to 40 minutes.
To make glaze:
- Bring to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves.
- Generously drizzle hot glaze onto the hot cake.
Bonus Dessert: Allergy Friendly No-Bake Yummies
Prep time: 10 mins. | Total time: 15 mins.
Yield: 10 - 12 servings
- 3 cups raw walnuts or sunflower seeds
- Pinch of salt
- 24 dates, pitted and chopped
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 6 tbsp. maple syrup
- Optional: raspberries and flaked salt for garnish
- Place walnuts and salt in a food processor fitted with the "S" blade and process until finely ground. Add the dates, cocoa, vanilla, and maple syrup. Process until mixture creates a sticky dough.
- Press into either one 8" or four 2" tart pans with removable bottoms, or in a glass storage container, and chill thoroughly. If serving immediately, press raspberries into the top for garnish.
- Cover tightly with plastic wrap, yummies will keep for 3 days in the fridge, for 2 weeks in the freezer.
My name is Jennifer Bravo (call me Jenny or Jenn, please!) and I help people heal their relationships with food. I am a trained chef in health supportive culinary arts, and a certified health coach with a Health at Every Size (HAES) and Intuitive Eating (IE) approach. I am a mother of 2 daughters, a self taught photographer, the owner of Portland Health Coaching at the Integrative Health Center of Maine, a recipe contributor to The Inspired Home Journal, and a co-host of The Food Confidence Podcast.