With Christmas just around the corner, I can hear the sleigh bells ringing, the summer barbeques sizzling and the Christmas crackers snapping! It truly is the season to be jolly, indulge and celebrate with family, friends and loved ones. But, one sound we don’t want to hear as we head into summer is the popping of our jean buttons!
So how can we indulge without overdoing it? Is it really possible to have healthy Christmas meals that are fulfilling and still kind to our bodies? Well, you can probably guess my answer to that question is a big fat yes! While some people can’t wait to get stuck into that huge roast ham or enjoy a plateful of prawns, others have mixed emotions about sitting at the family dinner table or heading to the office parties at Christmas. For some, holiday seasons can cause feelings of fear and guilt around food. But, the good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way! With the right ingredients, scrumptious recipes and a mindful approach to food, Christmas can be enjoyably satisfying and guilt free!
Here are a few tips to Supercharge your food this Christmas:
- Don’t be afraid to get extra spicy this Christmas. Rather than turning up the heat, create a sizzle by using flavoursome and fragrant spices like cumin, turmeric and ginger. These have an abundance of anti-inflammatory properties and help to ease digestion.
- Skip those white potatoes and reach for root vegetables like sweet potato, parsnips and turnips instead. These have more nutritional value as they are loaded with vitamins and have fewer calories per serve!
- Opt for natural, organic, wholefood ingredients. Instead of buying pre-made desserts or packaged chocolates, try baking your own treats from scratch.
- Recipes like my pumpkin pie or fudge brownies are simple to make and better for our bodies than any of the store bought stuff!
- Eating mindfully is a great way to refrain from overeating and overindulging. Really pay attention to the flavours and textures of what you’re eating. Instead of mindlessly gorging on food, try to slow down and enjoy every bite of every meal. Focusing on the look, smell, taste and feel of your food will help you to listen to your body more. So, you can let go of any anxiety or guilt around eating and really celebrate the food and the people you’re with!
This Christmas I’ve created three recipes – a main of spiced leg of lamb roast and two sides, a tray of roasted root vegetables and pan-fried toasted greens. These dishes look delightfully festive and taste super scrumptious… even Scrooge wouldn’t be able to help but smile! Whilst they are full of nutrient-rich ingredients, these recipes are simple and straightforward to put together. You won’t need a Christmas miracle or any elves to help this year!
The great thing about these recipes is you can do a lot of the preparation the day before. So when your friends and family are over you’ll have more time to spend with them, instead of prancing and dashing around in the kitchen.
I like to marinate a leg of lamb overnight so it really soaks up all the flavours of herbs and spices. But also, to ensure the only thing I have to do on Christmas day is just pop it in the oven #sneaky. I do the same thing with the veggies too. Wash, chop and prepare everything the previous day or night, then just place it under meat when ready. This makes for a super simple and stress-free Christmas lunch!
Leg of Lamb Roast with Spiced Marinade
This leg of lamb recipe is packed with a variety of herbs and spices that will have your taste buds singing and your insides glowing. Combining lamb with aromatic sprigs of fresh rosemary adds flavor and fragrance to the meat, whilst also offering numerous health benefits to your digestive system. Since it’s rich in antioxidants and contains anti-inflammatory properties, rosemary eases indigestion and naturally relieves tummy pains that often accompany festive fare.
What I love about the spice marinade is that it doesn’t just season the lamb and enrich the taste, but it also combines nutrient dense ingredients like garlic, ginger, turmeric and cumin that boost the immune system and help your overall well being. These herbs and spices smooth the ingestion of food by lowering inflammation in the intestinal tract and stimulating the activity of digestive processes. This makes it easier for our bodies to digest and absorb the iron, protein and other vital nutrients in the lamb. It’s like a match made in Santa’s workshop…after just one bite, everyone will be oohh-ing, ahh-ing and tra-la-la-la-la-ing!
2kg leg of lamb with bone
4 garlic cloves, whole
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, chopped
1 fresh chili, seeded and chopped
150g of truss vined berry tomatoes
Sea salt and black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
2 tablespoons sheep’s milk yoghurt
3cm piece of ginger, grated finely
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons of cumin, ground
2 tablespoons of paprika, ground
1 tablespoons of tumeric, ground
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds, ground
2 lemons, squeezed to juice
- Start with the marinade, mixing all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
- With a sharp knife, make some deep cuts evenly across both sides of the lamb leg.
- Rub a generous amount of salt and pepper into the meat. Then spoon the marinade over it, and massage in making sure it gets deep into the incisions.
- Scatter half of the chopped rosemary and chili over the meat, pushing them into the cuts. Place the lamb in a bowl and cover with cling wrap. Leave overnight to marinate and let the meat soak up all the flavours and spices!
- Remove the lamb from the fridge and leave in room temperature for at least 30 mins before cooking.
- Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the lamb, left over rosemary, tomatoes and garlic cloves into a tray lined with foil and roast for 20mins.
- Turn the heat down to 150C and cook for a further 1hr and 40mins for lamb that is pink in the middle.
- Halfway through roasting or once the lamb is crisp and golden on the outside, shake the tray, cover with foil then rotate and return to oven the opposite way.
- Remove from the oven, leave foil on loosely and let it rest on a lamb rack for at least 15mins.
- Slice and Serve!
Roasted Root Vegetables
While that creamy, cheesy potato bake might seem like a good idea at first. It usually leaves us feeling bloated and sluggish. Substituting white potatoes for roasted root vegetables is a great and delicious way to make Christmas that little bit more nourishing.
Root veggies like sweet potato, carrots, turnips, and parsnips are loaded with antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin B, beta-carotene and iron. These nutrient rich veggies work to cleanse our system and lower inflammation, increasing the absorption of vital nutrients in our digestive tract.
While white potatoes and other grains tend to cause digestive or inflammatory issues. Root veggies offer complex carbohydrates and fibre that can stay in the digestive system longer, so our bodies have more energy and can maintain a feeling of fullness. With fewer calories and more essential nutrients, these simple vegetables sure do have loads of power. They slow down digestion, help control our appetite and reduce cravings…exactly what we need when we’re faced with mountains of feasts at Christmas time!
Pairing these veggies with herbs and spices like rosemary, garlic and cumin not only gives them more depth of flavour, but also further enhances the health benefits.
1 bunch of dutch baby carrots w skin on, whole if small or halved
2 parsnips, peeled roughly and cut into wedges
1 turnip, peeled roughly and cut into wedges
1 medium sweet potato, peeled roughly and cut across to make round pieces about 1cm thick
4 baby radish, some whole some halved
2 baby fennel bulbs, cut into small wedges
6 garlic gloves, whole
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of cumin, ground
Sea salt and black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Add all the vegetables to a baking tray lined with baking paper.
- Toss them with cumin, half the olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
- Roast for 30mins, shaking and rotating the tray halfway through.
- Add rosemary sprigs and left over olive oil and turn up the heat to 200C.
- Roast for a further 20 – 30mins or until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.
- Make sure your veggies are all cut to similar sizes to ensure they bake evenly.
- If you’re cooking the veggies at the same time as the lamb leg, place them above the meat once it has about 45 mins of cooking time left.
- Then once the lamb is ready and removed from the oven, turn the temperature up to 200C and roast for a further 15 mins or until tender.
Pan-fried Toasted Greens with Pomegranate and Cauliflower Rice Salad
This middle-eastern inspired salad is a healthy take on the classic tabbouleh. It’s a perfect compliment to the lamb or a filling vegetarian option! Not only is this recipe super healthy, it looks like Christmas in a bowl and tastes like a flavor party in your mouth… even the not-so-health-conscious eaters will be drawn back for seconds (probably even thirds!).
Substituting white rice or cous cous for cauliflower is a great way of sneaking in that little bit of extra veg, whilst also offering fewer calories and a higher intake of essential nutrients like protein, vitamin C, and vitamin k. These help to support various functions in our body like the formation and repair of muscles, bones and skin cells.
Loaded with green veggies like asparagus, green beans and spinach, this salad is full of vitamins and minerals that can regulate our digestive processes and protect our bodies from toxins, especially in the gut. Whilst being low in calories, these greens are high in fiber and provide a good source of protein for the non-meat eaters!
Supercharged Tip: Serve with goat’s cheese on the side and substitute butter for extra virgin olive oil for a substantial vegan option!
200g of green beans, halved
100g of asparagus, halved
1/2 large cauliflower head, chopped roughly
1 cup of baby spinach, chopped
1 pomegranate, seeds
1 cup fresh herbs – parsley, coriander and mint
1 tomato, seeded and diced
1/2 red onion, diced
2 garlic clove, crushed
1 lemon, squeezed to juice
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of goats cheese, chopped
- In a large bowl mix the spinach, herbs, tomato, onion and pomegranate.
- Place cauliflower in a food processor and blitz until the consistency resembles rice. Briefly steam over boiling water for a couple minutes just to soften and warm the cauliflower rice
- Heat a frying pan over a medium high heat. Add butter and garlic, stirring continuously. Once browned, add the green beans and asparagus, toasting them for about 3-5 minutes. Squeeze half the lemon juice over the veggies while cooking. You want them to be cooked but still crunchy and green.
- Stir the cauliflower rice into the salad adding the rest of the lemon juice and tossing together.
- Place the green beans and asparagus on top of the salad and crumble the goat’s cheese across.
- Sprinkle sea salt and black pepper generously across the dish and serve!