Fun Holiday Flavours

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. A good example of this is the New Year’s resolution. I have made essentially the same resolutions every year for the past decade. Eat healthier food. Lose a few pounds. Exercise. Be a better person. I agonize between strategies for achieving these annual goals. I’ll give up everything I consider a favourite food. I’ll eat all my favourite foods, but only in moderation. I’ll only eat foods that are dark green and orange, the healthy colours. I’ll exercise eight times a week, or six times a week, or three times a week. By February 6, the times a week I intend to exercise: 27.

Ever notice how Resolutions tend to seesaw back and forth between the twin concepts of less and more? Less junk food, more vegetables. Less cholesterol, more exercise. Spend less. Save more. Watch less TV. Write more. Sleep more. Work less.

One definition of resolution is to come to a decision and act on it. To be “resolute” is to carry on with a combination of fearlessness and fortitude. But resolution also means “how it all works out in the end”. The practice of making a resolution, of acting on it and seeing it through until you come to the desired outcome—is really quite a journey. It may, in the end, look a lot like revolution.

So after much thought, I’ve decided to try a new approach to resolutions. I resolve to look after my needs first, and my wants second. I need to eat better, so I’ll have the energy to get through my days and the stamina to live long enough to get wise. I need to spend more time with friends, to nourish my soul, and more time writing to nourish that creative spark.

Less guilt. More gratitude. Less whining. More laughter. More patience, with myself and others. Less tolerance of the day-to-day obstacles that keep me from getting to where I want to go. Wherever that is.

This approach may just lead to a good resolution. Eventually. And in the meantime, here are some holiday party foods, to ring in that New Year with treats that are both delicious as well as healthy, and that won’t blow your resolutions before they’re even made.

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From Steven Raichlen’s High-Flavor, Low-Fat Vegetarian Cooking (Penguin, New York, 1995)

Nutritious, delicious snack and a great party food. Change the spice mix to make them Cajun or Southwestern. Makes about 1 1/4 cup, serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (16 oz can), drained well and blotted dry
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

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From Steven Raichlen’s High-Flavor, Low-Fat Vegetarian Cooking (Penguin, New York, 1995)

The combination of the tangy taste of the classic “eggplant caviar” dip with the texture of quinoa whispers hints of luxurious real caviar, with no fish eggs. (Makes 4-1/2 cups.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups salted water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
  • 3 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp tamari soy sauce (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (or to taste)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

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From Eating Light, Eating Right – Simple Recipes for a Healthy Life (Whitecap Books, Vancouver, 2001).

Pair Quinoa Caviar up with this Smoked Salmon Dip for a delicious dipping duo. (Makes 1-1/2 cups.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup low fat ricotta cheese
  • 2 oz smoked salmon
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 2 Tbsp capers, rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp horseradish

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Don’t leave your hummus stuck in a rut – try this unusual interpretation from The Organic Gourmet Feast of Fields* cookbook. Makes 2 cups.

*Another winner published by Robert Rose, Toronto, 1998. Written and compiled by Tracy Kett, with recipes from many of Canada’s top chefs in support of organic products and sustainable agriculture.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste

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To make your own pita chips for dipping:

Ingredients:

  • 4 six-inch whole wheat pita pockets
  • Spoonful of olive oil or non-stick spray or oil in a mister
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional seasonings: sesame seeds, cayenne, ground cumin, black pepper, or rosemary

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Courtesy of Foodland Ontario

This is a cross between Skordalia, a Greek potato and garlic dip, and a Middle Eastern Hummus made with soybeans instead of the traditional chick peas. Soybeans are a good source of protein and calcium. Makes 3 cups.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Ontario Potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, about 3 medium, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (19 oz) soybeans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 tsp each salt and dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Crusty bread, pita bread, bagel chips or crackers

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Courtesy of Foodland Ontario

This version uses egg roll or wonton wrappers and the samosas are baked rather than fried. Serve warm with mango or coriander chutney. Be sure to dice vegetables fairly small. Makes about 36 using wonton wrappers (or 20 eggroll wrappers).

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Ontario Onion, finely diced
  • 1 Ontario Carrot, finely diced
  • 2 medium Ontario Yukon Gold Potatoes, about 12 oz, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 tsp each finely chopped gingerroot and curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp each cayenne and black pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • 36 egg roll or wonton wrappers

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This recipe comes from the 2003 edition of Becoming Vegetarian: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Vegetarian Diet, by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis (John Wiley & Sons, Toronto, 2003)

This is an innovative way to take advantage of the full flavour of hazelnuts and mushrooms. Serve it on crackers or sliced French bread, or use it as a sandwich filling. For festive occasions, form into a ball on a plate, decorate with parsley, chives, or basil leaves and flowers, or chopped hazelnuts, and surround by crackers. (Makes 2 cups.)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sliced onion
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 cup roasted hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
  • pinch of pepper
  • lemon juice or water

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