Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Holidays to You!

Oops -- I forgot to put out the veggie tray!

We hosted our Christmas party on Saturday night. Do you have a Christmas party or are you a happy attendee to others' joyful holiday hootenannies?

We used to host an annual party, and even in our smallest one bedroom apartment, our friends would pile in and we’d toast the season while flopped on the floor with pillows and blankets. Life hasn’t changed much. We’ve graduated to a two-bedroom apartment, but the whopping 200 square feet of additional space is mostly office and our living areas have remained distressingly small. Here’s to residing in the city!

Two years ago my father passed away unexpectedly, and for the last couple of seasons I just haven’t had it in me to throw a holiday party. Sure, we’ve hosted birthdays and barbeques and graduation parties, but nothing around the holidays. If you ask me what I’ve done for the last two Thanksgivings and Christmases, I really couldn’t tell you.

Well, not this year. This year we are celebrating in style! I’m not religious but I LOVE the holidays. I love singing carols and creating a magical festival of lights to chase away the mid-winter blues. I’m sure I’m not the only Seattleite to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder!

Other than stringing lights over every available surface, my favorite thing about throwing a holiday party is the food. Tiny plates of hors d' oeuvres, dollops of dip and itty-bitty sweet morsels. Perhaps I love parties because of the cute cuisine?

At my parties, as I do every day, I cook full-fat, full flavor. No lowfat egg-nog or reduced-sugar cookies grace my table. Ever. In a culture seeped in the non-fat myths of the ‘80s, the concept of smaller portions of full-fat food seems novel and challenging. I always work with my clients on food choice and eating out, but around the holidays eating away from home becomes especially difficult... and it's precisely because of holiday parties like mine!

So here's what I tell my clients: Make a choice. You have a choice to eat or not eat something. You have a choice to eat a little healthier throughout the day so you can indulge a bit at the party. Take a plate, choose what you want to eat and how much, and then WALK AWAY FROM THE TABLE. If you want seconds, choose to have seconds. The food does not have control of you, you have control of the food. We live in America; there will always be more cookies than you can reasonably eat. So have one. Then stop.

Of course, deciding to limit yourself and following through on that decision are two very separate acts. This is why I still have a job. My job is to counsel you on how to live and eat for your health, not just tell you what to do or eat.

But I digress… So what did I serve at my party?

This picture was shot as guests were arriving and does not do these cookies justice!

First on my list was GF snickerdoodles.  I adore snickerdoodles and haven't had them since I stopped eating gluten.  In high school we had a snack bar that baked cookies from scratch.  Their chocolate chip cookie was fabulous but their snickerdoodle, as big as a saucer, melted in my mouth like butter.  Yes, I have considered the possibility that butter was the main ingredient in said snickerdoodles.

In my quest for a GF snickerdoodle, I remembered that the Gluten Free Girl was doing a month of holiday cookies and lo, I found a recipe!  She directed me to Irvin Lin.  I followed his recipe exactly, except I used only butter, no shortening.  Oh. My. Goodness.  These are bliss!  Even three days later they are still moist and tender and hold together well.  I've haven't cooked much with millet flour and I believe the millet adds to the chewy goodness.  Finally, I can barely taste the xanthum gum, which is a miracle.  I ALWAYS taste the gums and I find their flavor difficult to tolerate.

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Cranberry Pumpkin Bread
Next on my list was pumpkin bread.  I used the recipe I posted a few weeks ago with only two modifications: I used 2/3 can of pumpkin and added 1/2 cup of dried cranberries.  It turned out lovely, with the slightly spicy bread playing counterpoint to the sweet and tart cranberries.  For the recipe, click here.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Mint Bars

Next on my list were Chocolate Mint Bars.  I tried to make these last Christmas and utterly failed, though not because of the recipe (it's perfect).  No, I tried to double the recipe, and in the process I quadrupled the chocolate.  The entire mess ended up a mass of dense, dark, bitter grossness that was impossible to cut.  I was visiting Michigan at the time and during the holidays we store extra food on the porch when we run out of room in the fridge.  After a night outside in the cold, trying to cut these bars was like trying to chop frozen clay.

Not so this time around!  This time, they were perfectly wonderful and delicious!  The recipe is from Gluten-Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly.  I followed the recipe exactly.  

Goat Cheese Stuffed Mild Peppadews
Peppadews are the brand name of pickled sweet piquante peppers.  Piquante actually means sweet, slightly spicy and pungent.  I stuffed these peppers with goat cheese and displayed them on a bed of lettuce.  It thought they resembled Christmas ornaments!

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

My final creation was bacon-wrapped dates.  Yes, you heard me right -- your dietitian served bacon-wrapped dates at her party!  This was my husband's idea, but I got on board mighty quick and so did everyone else.  This was the only dish that was gone without a trace by the end of the night.  The recipe is insanely simple, but what I learned from the first batch is that you should wrap the bacon so it goes around the date about 1 1/2 times because it (the bacon) shrinks during cooking.  The shrinkage doesn't change the flavor one bit, but does make the final product less cute.  And as I said, I'm all about the cute cuisine.

Bacon Wrapped Dates
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Wrap the dates in bacon so the edges are overlapping
  3. Place the dates crease side down on a baking sheet
  4. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the bacon is crisp


These weren't the only dishes we served, but they're really the only ones worth mentioning.  We had a selection of cheese and crackers (gluten-free of course), bread and olive oil, veggies and hummus, and chips and salsa.  Whew!  We had enough food.  

What are you serving at your party this year?  What have you had at friends' and relatives' parties?

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