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Halloween weekend is over and let's be honest: sweets were consumed. A cupcake here, a cookie there, a handful of candy there. Chips and dip were consumed, too, and a few glasses of Prosecco. I may have even added some mini marshmallows to my popcorn. I definitely consumed far more junk food than I normally do -- and yet, in the scheme of things, I didn't go crazy. I enjoyed my two drinks and then switched to water. I sampled a lot of the goodies at a Halloween party and then decided I was done. I enjoyed some Halloween candy with my husband but stopped when I felt myself getting full, even though there was a part of my brain that wanted to say, "Keep going! More candy! And champagne! All the candy and champagne in the world!" I reminded myself of a time in the not-so-distant past when I overindulged and spent the next day feeling terrible. I decided it wasn't worth it and moved on to my regular nighttime treat: decaf tea and lots of water. I consider this a highly successful holiday weekend.
Now I'm shifting gears and looking forward to the next holiday. I have such muddled feelings about this one because on one hand, I don't think the atrocities suffered by indigenous people in America are anything to be glorified or celebrated. This and my unease with the sentiment of Black Friday are things I could go on and on about if I were writing a political blog, which I'm not so I'll move on. Here's what I appreciate about Thanksgiving: it encourages families and friends to come together over a home-cooked meal, bask in each other's company, and feel grateful to be alive. Despite the inherent problems with this holiday, I think this last part is something to truly celebrate.
I am determined for this Thanksgiving to be filled with all my favorite f-words (food, fun, family, friends) and none of the dreaded b-word (binging). Like everyone, I have a tendency to overdo it during this holiday meal and I often suffer the repercussions by feeling sick afterward. This year I want to take a healthier approach by enjoying small amounts of the foods lovingly prepared by my friends and family but capping it off at one serving instead of going back for seconds and thirds. I'm also starting the day with a 5K, which I hope will set a healthy tone for everything to follow. I'm so glad that my clean eating and fitness journey has taught me how much more enjoyable it is to enjoy a glass of wine and a slice of pumpkin pie than three or five of each. If something's good now, I try to savor it instead of multiplying it. Always searching for more of something (whether it's food, possessions, love or something else) leads to a constant feeling of discontentment. Truly savoring one delicious slice of pie is a way of letting the world know that I think I have enough, I'm happy with what I have, and I'm grateful. When that voice in my head starts saying "More, more, more!" I try to take it as my cue to give my husband another hug or ask my friend another question or figure out some other way I can GIVE more to the situation instead of sitting there desperately WANTING more.
Another way I can contribute to the holiday is by offering healthy twists on traditional foods. We think Thanksgiving dinner and other holiday meals have to be seeped in as much fat, sugar, butter, cream, salt, calories, and processed-to-hell cranberry sauce from a can as possible, but that's not true. To me healthy food actually tastes more delicious because it relies on real flavors and spices instead of excess salt and oil. Years ago I made a raw apple pie with walnuts as the crust and I still think about it now; it was that good. That's what can happen with a healthy recipe: it can surprise you. Take away the fried onions, gelatinous cranberry sauce, sugared-up pie crusts, buttered-up mashed potatoes, and piles of heavy meat and you can discover dishes that in the end are more satisfying, better tasting, and without the potential of putting you in a food coma. To me that's worth everything.
During one of the healthier portions of this Halloween weekend, a friend came over to fix a meal and watch a movie with my husband and me. We tried a few from-scratch recipes from the Clean Eating Institute, where I've been taking online cooking classes for the past month or so. Both of these recipes seemed appropriate for cold weather and a holiday, so I'm glad we broke them in. I've received a few requests, so I thought I'd share the recipes for both.
Sorghum* Risotto with Artichoke Hearts & Peas
SOURCE: THE CLEAN EATING INSTITUTE
HANDS-ON TIME: 20 MINUTES. TOTAL TIME: 1 HOUR.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup sorghum, rinsed and soaked overnight
4 cups vegetable broth, homemade or boxed low-sodium
1 cup frozen green peas, do not thaw
(or fresh peas from about 1 lb with shells)
1⁄4 cup grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
1 cup jarred and sliced artichoke hearts, drained
Zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint, optional
2 red Fresno or Thai chiles, sliced and seeded, optional
ONE: In a large saucepan on medium, heat oil. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent,
1 to 2 minutes. Add sorghum and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Add 31⁄2 cups broth, then cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium- high and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until broth is almost completely absorbed and grains are tender but retain their naturally chewy texture, 35 to 55 minutes.
TWO: Add remaining 1⁄2 cup broth. When it comes to a simmer, add peas. Cook, stirring frequently, until peas are tender and broth is nearly absorbed, 3 to 4 minutes. Add cheese and artichoke hearts and stir until heated through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest. Garnish with mint and chiles (if using).
*We couldn't find sorghum and used millet instead. It worked fine. I think any ancient grain like quinoa would work fine, too.
Hemp Seed** &Parmesan–
Crusted Scalloped Sweet Potatoes
SOURCE: THE CLEAN EATING INSTITUTE
4 TO 6.HANDS-ON TIME: 20 MINUTES. TOTAL TIME: 1 HOUR, 25 MINUTES.
6 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 2 mm thick (or use a combination of sweet and white)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
Sea salt and ground white pepper, to taste
3 tbsp vegetable stock (homemade or boxed low-sodium)or water
5 tbsp hemp hearts
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
ONE: Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl, toss potatoes with garlic, thyme, salt and pepper.
TWO: In the bottom of a 7 by 11-inch baking dish or oven- proof skillet, layer the potatoes, overlapping slightly. Pour stock over potatoes and cover with a sheet of foil, sealing the edges. Bake until a knife inserted into the center goes in with little resistance, about 45 minutes.
THREE: Remove foil and sprinkle hemp and cheese to cover the top. Return to oven and continue to bake until golden brown on top, about 20 to 25 minutes more. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes.
**We couldn't find hemp seeds and used sunflower seeds instead. It worked fine. Lever let an ingredient keep you from making a dish. If it's something you don't like or can't find, substitute something else. Don't believe fancy recipes that insist you need a certain brand or type of ingredient. You don't. Use what you have or what you can find and you'll be fine.