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Dressing up, a little bit naughty and very nice

Christmas can be a stodgy affair…but it doesn’t have to be!

Its like wearing that very expensive little something with bargain basement everything else and the whole ensemble looking super chic – if you aren’t careful it can go the other way; it is a question of thinking, balance and taste.

(Obviously I am not talking here about allergies regimes for illness, be aware and take care of your situation).

We don’t want to feel horribly deprived or be the boring one who says “Oh no, I can’t eat that, I am not eating XYZ” to the person who has slaved over a hot stove for weeks (yourself included) neither should we throw all caution to the wind and end up feeling ill.

There are lots of ways, but here are a few ways, to have a healthier Christmas:

Firstly drink lots of water, take your apple cider vinegar, and enjoy the satsumers and fresh nuts!

If you are having people over for drinks make a platter of delectable nibbles that will suit everyone – mix pumpkin and sunflower seeds with sea salt and a drop of olive oil in place of roast salted nuts, a creamy humus without lots of oil, recipe here Here, and with lots of crudites – radish, carrot and cellery sticks, cauliflower florets, chunks of avocado tossed in tomatoe salas (so easy to make, why do people buy the stuff?!), olives, bake small mushrooms and serve with a dollop of pesto on top, the list is endless really, you just need a bit of imagination and a lot less time than making cheese straws and endless bruschettas!

Simple things like loading your dinner plate with more veggies and less of the heavy stuff, not filling up on bread, snacking on more olives, radishes, cherry tomatoes and fewer vol au vents, nibbling some really good chocolate rather than mindlessly gorging on piles of sweet stuff will make your Christmas get togethers enjoyable rather than destroyable.

Try melting some good chocolate (even better make some raw tempered chocolate if you have the ingredients) and dip cherries, bananas or clementine segments into it. Store them in the fridge, not least to stop you eating them all, yum!


peppermint cr on slat

Think about it, that’s all, you know what is best and at this time of year it is lovely to enjoy the indulgencies but not to the point of feeling bloated, guilty, even sick. You can make good choices and avoid anything you simply can not eat because there are usually so many alternatives.

Mex bits n bobs

If you are the chef look at the balance of the meal. A traditional Christmas meal is actually very healthy if done well. The danger zones are the nibbles, patés, sauces and stuffing’s.

To start how about keeping it lighter maybe a mushroom paté, green pepper corns, oatcakes and some sliced figs made rich and sticky by heating in the oven with a spoonful of honey and splash of balsamic for about 20 mins. Pop them in as it heats up for your turkey then remove and mix up to serve later. Have small portions for taste not filling up, rather to chat and pull crackers over.

mushroom pate on cracker

There is the meat. I would choose a higher welfare bird or organic – it has had a better life, is more nutritious and provides more meat. It is a good buy. Use the bones for stock. Serve less of it and more of the accompaniments.

Fill your stuffing with lots of chestnuts, onions, prunes, nuts, mushrooms and herbs for scrumptious flavour and texture. I make a meat based one for meat eaters with a small amount of organic pork (about 300gm for enough for 8 people), lots of chestnuts, mushrooms, prunes, onions, pecan nuts, garlic, sage, thyme, salt and pepper and an egg to bind it all together. Full of gorgeous flavours. Quantities below.

For my vegetarian one I use similar ingredients but in place of the pork I use more mushrooms and chestnuts and some chopped olives. I usually change the fruit and use figs, probably some walnuts and cashews in place of the pecans, extra onions and olives and some capers for depth. Quantities below.

The vegetarian version is as popular as the pork one with the meat eaters, it also makes great veggie burgers for any time of year!

Offer lots of vegetables, I usually roast some potatoes (of course!) and parsnips, steam sprouts and top with some butter and nutmeg and poach carrots sticks in orange juice. I serve mashed sweet potatoes and celeriac rather than more starchy potatoes.

Chop and boil sweet potatoes celeriac. When just tender strain, keeping the liquid for your gravy, add lots of black pepper, some butter and an egg to bind and make it deliciously creamy and mash it all together until smooth. Taste and add salt if needed, the celeriac has a lovely salty flavour so it’s a good place to hold on the salt. Recipe below.

I often add in some chopped kale or savoy cabbage at the end for a tasty and nutritional boost! This can all be prepped in advance and popped in the oven to reheat. Make it easy! Here is another recipe using cauliflower.

For the gravy I am purely indulgent – it is made with the meat juices, a stock made from giblets, carrot, onion and celery, any vegetable cooking water left after I make the vegetarian gravy, red wine and port and thickened in the traditional way with flour. No excuses for that today. There are lots of great gravy recipes to be found online. The vegetarian version involves some butter and flour, onions, garlic, vegetable cooking liquid, marmite, mushroom ketchup, some dulce (we are looking for the umami here) a glug of red wine and port.

For both recipes allow reduction time, as that builds the flavour.

I also make cranberry and bread sauces to compliment the meal and go with the left overs.

I LOVE the left overs, they are my favourite bit with pickled onions, homemade mayo, lots of leavy salad and Boxing day films.

Don’t forget to use the hand test, it helps me everytime, remind yourself here.

left hand good

Merry Christmas, I hope you will be warm and happy, with or in touch with loved ones and most of all loving yourself. Thanks for reading my posts this year and motivating me to be healthier and happier and boosting my own health.

With love,

Desri XXX

Pork stuffing serves 6ish

300gm organic minced pork

1 cup chestnuts

1 cup chopped mushrooms

1/2 cup pitted chopped prunes

2 finely chopped onions

½ cup crumbled pecan nuts or walnuts

2 crushed cloves garlic

Handful sage leaves chopped

Sprig of thyme leaves picked – use the leaves not the stick!

Big pinch salt

10 grinds of pepper

1 egg

Vegetarian stuffing serves 6ish

11/2 cup chestnuts

11/2 cup chopped mushrooms

¾ cup pitted chopped prunes or figs or half and half

2 finely chopped onions

½ cup crumbled pecan nuts or walnuts or mix of either with cashews

¼ cup chopped green of black olives

2 crushed cloves garlic

2 teaspoons rinsed salted capers chopped

Handful sage leaves chopped

Sprig of thyme leaves picked – use the leaves not the stick!

Big pinch salt

10 grinds of pepper

1 egg


Mash for 6-8

1KG sweet potatoes

1KG celeriac

Black pepper

1 dessertspoon butter

1 egg

Taste and add salt if needed.

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