For most of us Christmas can be quite a challenging time of the year. Granted, we get to see your families again, forget about school or work for a moment, open gifts and share embarrassing stories about our brothers and sisters. However, we all know the festivities can result in a lot of tension; whether this is the result of misunderstandings, disagreements or the criticism of new habits.
This criticism of my ‘new’ habits, such as my eating habits, is what I worry about most this time of the year. They have always been a hot topic of discussion at the dinner table, by which I mean they almost always lead to some kind of argument. The fact that I, as some call it, have become more ‘extreme’ in my avoidance of animal products, probably does not help with making these arguments go away.
TOP TIPS FOR SURVIVING CHRISTMAS
Over the past few years I have learnt that the trick is to draw as little attention to your (new) eating habits as possible. Here are my top tips for doing this:
- Do not bring up the topic of food! Keep your arguments for a plant-based diet to yourself because chances are no one wants to hear about them.
- If someone is interested, try to avoid any conflict with the others by telling them that you will tell them more once dinner is over.
- If someone brings up the topic of food, try not to give your opinion unless you are asked for it. Remember to do so without criticising other people’s eating habits or lifestyles.
- My final tip is to get involved with the dinner preparations; get your hands dirty and get cooking! I came up with 4 delicious and filling plant-based Christmas recipes that I am going to share with you here. I have even tested them on two of my meat-eating family members. Yes, they liked the food and no, they were not starving at the end of the meal because I had not serve them foie gras or turkey.
These recipes also work perfectly as sides. Chances are your family members will get curious so be sure to make enough so they can try out some of your creations. Please read through the recipes as you will need to know exactly when to get started on each recipe.
- Butternut squash with lentil and quinoa filling.
- Classic sweet potato slices with cinnamon.
- Oven-roasted brussels sprouts with dried cranberries and pine nuts.
- Dessert: caramelised pears with coconut yogurt, raspberry coulis and chestnuts.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH LENTIL AND QUINOA FILLING
For the butternut squash:
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 heaped tbsp of nutmeg
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Pepper and salt
For the filling:
- 1 can of lentils
- 1 onion
- 5 tbsp canned tomatoes
- 120g dry quinoa
- The juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3 large handfuls of fresh spinach
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp chilli
- 2 tsp (or more) black pepper
- 2 tsp sea salt (this varies so add gradually and taste)
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C.
Cut the butternut squash in half (length-wise) and carve out the middle with a spoon. Then cut it in half again so you end up with four equal pieces containing holes for the filling.
Place the butternut on a baking tray with baking parchment. Sprinkle with olive oil, nutmeg, pepper and salt. Place the tray in the oven for 35 minutes (before adding in the filling).
For the filling, boil some water in a saucepan. When this is done add in the quinoa and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Let that cook for 10-12 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed. Make sure to fill the saucepan well to avoid all of the water being absorbed too soon.
Place a cooking pot on medium to high heat. Chop the onion in to small pieces, place 1 tbsp of olive oil in the pot and add in the chopped onion.
While the onion is softening, empty the can of lentils and rinse them well. Once this is done, add the canned tomatoes to pot. Stir for a minute and then add in the lentils, fresh spinach and 150ml of water. Stir some more.
When the quinoa is done, add it to the lentils and tomatoes. Start adding in the spices: ground cumin, chilli powder, black pepper and sea salt. Stir everything together well and leave it there on lower heat for another 5 minutes before you remove it from the stove.
Get started on the sweet potato and brussels sprouts.
When 35 minutes have gone by, take the butternut squash out of the oven and use a spoon to add in the filling evenly.
Place the filled butternut in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. Do not eat the skin 😉
CLASSIC SWEET POTATO SLICES WITH CINNAMON
- 4 medium sweet potatoes
- Olive oil to sprinkle
- 1 tbsp nutmeg
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- Black pepper
- Sea salt
- Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into very thin slices (thickness: 5mm).
- Grab a baking tray place them on some baking parchment.
- Sprinkle the sweet potato slices with some olive oil, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper and sea salt (as much as you wish).
- Bake for 35-40 minutes.
OVEN-ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH DRIED CRANBERRIES AND PINE NUTS
4 small servings
- 500g brussels sprouts
- 70g of dried cranberries
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 5 tbsp pine nuts
- Black pepper
- Sea salt
- Place the sprouts, cranberries and pine nuts in a baking dish.
- Sprinkle them with olive oil, pepper and sea salt.
- Bake for 1 hour. From 20 minutes onwards make sure to stir the sprouts every 10 minutes so the top ones do not burn.
CARAMELISED PEARS WITH COCONUT YOGURT, RASPBERRY COULIS AND CHESTNUTS
For the pears:
- 2 medium-sized pears
- 4 tbsp coconut oil
- 4 tsp cinnamon
- 6 tsp coconut sugar
For the raspberry coulis:
- 1 handful frozen raspberries
- 3 tsp coconut sugar
- 4 tbsp coconut yogurt (I used Coyo)
- 2 vacuum-packed peeled and cooked chestnuts
Peel the pears, cut off the ends and remove their insides.
Heat a deep pan on medium heat and add in the coconut oil, coconut sugar, cinnamon and 80ml of water. Stir this together well before adding in the pears.
Place the pears in the pan and cook for about 4 minutes on each side.
For the coulis, heat a saucepan on medium to high heat. Add in the frozen raspberries, coconut sugar and 40ml of water. Stir well for about 4 minutes.
When the pears are done place them on a plate and top each pear with 1 tablespoon of coconut yogurt, 2 tablespoons of coulis, 2 crumbled chestnuts and some more cinnamon.
I wish you all a very merry Christmas!