Despite the COVID pandemic, Christmas is the holiday season that every individual, be it young or old, is looking forward to. It used to be a very busy time for everyone, most especially among Filipino communities everywhere and much more in the Philippines, where families, friends and co-workers get together to celebrate. You see a buffet of a variety of dishes displayed on the table like lechon (roasted pig), pancit (noodles), pasta like spaghetti or lasagna, salads like chicken macaroni and fruit salad, ice cream and all other food laden with a lot of sugar, oil and salt. You add the unwanted calories in all the wrong places. Thus, majority gain weight which may be difficult to remove later on. But now, with a very tight budget and the strict observation of social distancing, this may no longer be possible. However, look at your circumstances in a positive light.
For a change, why not celebrate Christmas in a healthy way?
OPEN YOUR MIND
Think about what you want to achieve during the holidays like lose a few pounds. Have a healthy glow. Be sprightly on your feet. Then write your objective on paper to make it concrete. What you think about will manifest if it is written in black and white or use colored pencil or pen to give more life to your note. Think of a half empty glass, there is a limit to how much you can fill it up. If you choose to spill the contents and empty it, you have more space to fill it up anew. The same thing happens in your mind. If you remove the negative thoughts and nourish your mind with the belief that you can have a healthy mind, body, soul and spirit, it can happen. What you focus on grows. Keep an open mind. Starting a new diet may not be easy and can even be a shock to your senses, especially to your palate. Some say that a healthy food or a vegan diet can be very bland and you need an acquired taste just like any gourmet dish. Start with baby steps. Remove one unhealthy drink like a bottle of soda and replace it with a glass of fresh lemon water mixed with a pinch of stevia or a teaspoonful of raw honey. You can even try the turmeric brew. (see recipe below). It will take about 2 weeks for your taste buds to adjust. If you start now, you'll get used to it by Christmas day.
ORGANIZE AN EVENT
No one wants to spend the holiday season alone, more so during the COVID 19 pandemic which affected not just our country but the whole world as well. If you can find like-minded people or better yet family and friends who want to make a change in their lifestyle, organize an event through a zoom meeting or use other apps to bring people together virtually. Each of your household will prepare and serve healthy food and drink. One of you will serve as the host who will ask the people to participate in the fun and games. Sometimes, it may be difficult to enjoy parties with healthy choices which you will partake of later. But then, what better time to be conscious of one's health and enjoy the benefits of eating an anti-inflammatory diet that will increase your resistance and protect you against the dreaded virus. Enjoy the camaraderie even in different time zones by embracing a healthy lifestyle.
OFFER HEALTHY OPTIONS
When you decide to hold a party for Christmas, make a menu plan by looking for recipes on line on how to prepare healthy food. You can try the recipes below.
For your main dish, you can add each of the sauce to your favorite pasta like spaghetti for the tomato and basil sauce and penne for the pesto sauce. You can also add healthy proteins like cooked beans or tofu provided you don't have G6PD deficiency for the latter, in your tomato and basil sauce instead of animal meat like chicken, pork or beef. Add a cheese alternative on top for added flavor and pesto bread on the side. If you like something spicy like buffalo wings, you can enjoy them using substitutes for chicken. Likewise, you can also have healthy desserts, salads and drinks.
HEALTHY RECIPES FOR THE HOLIDAYS
TOMATO BASIL SAUCE
TOMATO AND BASIL SAUCE
PREPARATION TIME: 5 minutes
COOKING TIME: 10 MINUTES SERVES: 6-8
INGREDIENTS: 3 tablespoons water or 1 tablespoon oil 1 medium onion, finely diced 3 cloves of garlic, crushed 2 x 14.5 oz/400 g cans chopped or crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf 1 tablespoon honey or coconut nectar/syrup (optional) 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional) 10 leaves fresh basil, shredded finely
PROCEDURE: 1. Heat water or oil in a medium saucepan. Add onion and garlic, and saute for 3-5 minutes until onion is transparent. 2. Add tomatoes and bay leaf, and cook for 3-5 more minutes. 3. Add honey and salt (optional), and stir through. 4. Take sauce off the stove, remove bay leaf and blend with a stick blender or in blender. Hold lid firmly in place while processing hot liquids. 5. Add basil and stir through.
1 & 1/2 cups fresh basil
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup raw cashew nuts
5 cloves garlic
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp lemon/calamansi juice
To a food processor or small blender, add the basil, nuts, garlic, lemon/calamansi juice, nutritional yeast, sea salt and black pepper and blend/mix on high until a loose paste is formed.
Add olive oil a little at a time (streaming in while the machine is on if possible) and scrape down sides as needed. Then add 1 tbsp (15 ml) water at a time until the desired consistency is reached - a thick but pourable sauce. (If avoiding oil altogether, substitute the oil with vegetable broth or just use all water).
Perfect for adding to sauces, dressings, breads.
Store leftovers covered in refrigerator, and store up to 1 week. After that, pour into ice cube molds, freeze and store up to 1 month or more.
Spread pesto sauce on the bread.
Place in a low heated pan for 2-3 minutes.
SAVORY CASHEW CREAM
PREPARATION TIME: 10 minutes
Makes: 3/4 cup
INGREDIENTS: 1 cup raw cashews 3/4 cup water 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
PROCEDURE: Place cashews, water and salt (optional) in blender, and blend until very smooth consistency.
VEGAN PARMESAN CHEESE
1/2 cup cashew nuts, unsalted
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
pinch of garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
In a food processor, add all ingredients until a fine meal consistency is reached.
BUFFALO WINGS SUBSTITUTE
1 head cauliflower
1 cup flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp chili pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp chili pepper
3/4 cup soy milk
1 tsp salt (optional)
1/4 cup buffalo sauce or hot sauce (70 gm)
2 tbsp coconut oil or pomace olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar or honey or coconut nectar/syrup
In a large bowl, add all ingredients for the breading and stir until well-combined.
in another bowl, add all ingredients for the batter and stir well.
Break the head of the cauliflower into florets., about 1& 1/2 inches wide. Add the cauliflower florets to the batter, making sure each piece is evenly coated. Then put them in the breading. Make sure it is fully coated. Then put them back again into the batter and lastly roll it over into the bread crumbs. Deep fry until golden brown.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the hot sauce, coconut oil and coconut syrup and stir until evenly combined. Brush the buffalo sauce mixture on the cooked cauliflower. Enjoy!
BUFFALO STYLE TOFU STICKS
1 block (450 gm) extra firm tofu, cut into sticks about 5 cm long and 1 cm thick
1/4 cup (30 gm) corn starch (or substitute for arrowroot starch)
1/2 cup (120 ml) unsweetened plant-based milk
1/2 cup (55 gm) bread crumbs
1 tsp (2 gm) paprika powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup (120 ml) cayenne pepper hot sauce
3 tbsp (40 gm) vegan butter/margarine
1/2 tsp onion powder
VEGAN RANCH DIP
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegan mayo (see recipe below)
1 tbsp (15 gm) ranch spice mix
2 tbsp (30 ml) unsweetened plant-based milk
1/2 tbsp (8 ml) lemon /calamansi juice
1. Preheat the oven to 430 F (220 C)
2. Press the tofu to drain off as much liquid as possible.
3. Prepare the 3 large shallow bowl: the first one with corn starch; the second with milk; and the third with the mixture of bread crumbs, paprika powder, cumin, garlic powder and pepper.
4. Dip the tofu sticks in cornstarch first. Make sure to evenly coat. Use your hands to brush off any clumps of cornstarch to produce a thin layer coating strips.
5. Then dunk the strips into the milk, letting any excess liquid drip off, before transferring the strips to the breadcrumb mixture. Roll to evenly coat.
6. Transfer the coated strips to a parchment lined baking tray. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the sticks are golden, flipping once halfway.
7. Next, make the buffalo sauce. To a saucepan on medium-high heat, add the hot sauce, butter, and onion powder. Stir and cook until the butter has melted, then remove from the heat.
8. When the tofu sticks are finished baking, remove them from the oven. When they are still warm, but cool enough to handle, dip them into the buffalo sauce. Let any excess sauce drip off, before transferring the sticks to a serving plate.
9. TO make the vegan ranch dip: mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
10. Serve the buffalo sticks with the vegan ranch, and enjoy them on their own, or serve them on a mini tortillas with some avocado, lettuce, and ranch mix drizzled overtop. Enjoy!
Storage: Tofu can be stored in an air0tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
CLASSIC FRUIT AND VEGGIE SALAD
3 cups thinly sliced cabbage
3 cups thinly sliced apple
3 cups sliced carrots
2 cups thinly sliced green mango
1 lemon (juice)
1 tsp salt
Just mix all ingredients and serve fresh.
VEGAN MAYO DRESSING
1 cup cashew
1 cup soy milk
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp plain mustard
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp lemon/calamansi juice
1/2 tsp salt
Dash of black pepper
Place all ingredients in the blender, process until smooth. Serve
CABBAGE AND PINEAPPLE SALAD
Preparation Time: 15-20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
1 & 1/2 cups pineapple pieces (tidbits/chunks)
5 cups shredded red or white cabbage
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 red bell pepper/capsicum, diced
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely sliced
1 tablespoon lemon /calamansi juice
2 tablespoons pineapple juice
4 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon honey/coconut syrup or nectar
1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)
1. Drain juice from canned pineapple into a separate container, and set aside for use in dressing.
2. Place cabbage, pineapple pieces, carrot, red pepper and parsley in a bowl. Mix well to combine.
3. Place lemon juice, pineapple juice, sesame seeds, sesame oil, honey or coconut syrup/nectar and salt (optional) in a small sealed container. Shake well to combine.
4. Just before serving, coat salad with dressing and toss gently to combine.
TIP: Can be made ahead and kept in fridge. Add dressing when ready to serve.
VEGAN MANGO GRAHAM
1 ripe banana
1 ripe mango
1 cup almond/soy milk or any plant-based milk
crushed graham/ graham crackers
Slice 1 ripe banana and place in blender.
Add 1 cup almond milk.
Blend until smooth in consistency.
Put crushed graham in a glass pan
Put diced mango on top
Pour banana and almond milk mixture to cover the mango and graham.
Repeat the same process to make 2 layers.
Put in freezer.
1 liter soy/almond milk
1 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup honey/brown sugar or muscovado/coconut syrup or nectar
Soak chia in plant-based milk for at least 2 hours then add sweetener. Place in the fridge. Add mixed fruits on top and serve cold.
! cup mint
1 tbsp tarragon
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 thumb size fresh turmeric
3 liters water
honey or coconut syrup/nectar to taste
Lemon juice/calamansi juice
In a pot, place the water and turmeric then boil for 5 minutes.
Then add mint and tarragon, simmer for another 2 minutes
Add honey or coconut syrup/nectar to taste.
Let cool and add lemon as desired.
KALE AND BANANA BOOST
PREPARATION TIME: 10 minutes
1 &1/2 cups crushed pineapple in natural juice
4 frozen medium bananas
1 cup ice
1 & 1/2 cups shredded kale (or any mixed greens)
3/4 cup water
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 lemon/calamansi, juiced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons honey or coconut nectar/syrup
Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Serve chilled.
SOURCES OF RECIPES:
1. CULINARY MEDICINE WORKSHOP, by REMNANT INSTITUTE INC, 26 Huervana St, Lapaz, Iloilio City
2. EAT MORE COOKBOOK, Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP)
However, don’t fret if you find yourself giving in to temptation especially when you smell the other delicious dishes served before you. What is more important is the Spirit of Christmas. i.e., when you spend the time with your family and friends which may be virtual to celebrate the real reason for the season, the birthday of our Savior, Jesus Christ who was born to save us from sin because of the unconditional love of God, our Father.
Stay safe. God bless.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!