Oh, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!
With the kids jingle-belling and everyone telling you
Be of good cheer!
Oh it’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Oh, IT is the most wonderful time of the year. I’m sure you can tell that the holidays are by far my favorite season out of the entire year. Pretty much September – December, you’ll find me with my nose in cookbooks or eagerly scrolling through Pinterest for shiny new ideas to test out. I can’t help it – it’s in my blood!
My mom is the check extraordinary in the family. Ever since I was little, I can remember her cooking in the kitchen. Now don’t get the wrong idea – she was never forced to be in the kitchen because “that was her job”. Rather, my mom loved to be in the kitchen. She has always been creative, and that creativity came to life when she cooked. Growing up, I never cared about going to McDonald’s or going out to eat at a fancy restaurant. Honestly, the only time we ever went out to eat was for our birthdays and my parent’s anniversary. In fact, there were times that we didn’t even go out for a birthday because, as my dad liked to say, “It tastes better the way you make it, Mom.”
So, I was exposed to cooking at a very young age. I don’t remember exactly when, but one year my mom decided it was high time my brother and I learned to cook. Now, some could say she was tired from everything else she was having to do (caring for two pre-teens, home-schooling them, and keeping a full house clean isn’t light work) and needed a break a few nights a week. My brother and I didn’t view it that way. We viewed it as a great learning expereince.
Here was the deal: each week, my brother and I each had to make a full dinner. Now, I absolutely hated cooking because for a few years there, I went through a raw meat phobia stage. I refused to touch raw meat and if I did, I scoured my hands with hot water and gobs of soap. It got so bad that I had to wear petroleum jelly and gloves just so my hands wouldn’t crack from the dryness. I remember very clearly my mom telling me, “Oh goodness, I hope you marry a vegetarian!” I preferred to bake. Something about the smell of flour and having it plastered all over you felt like home for me. Baking is also very precise, and Lord knows I like to follow the rules.
My brother, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough of cooking. We had these copycat recipe cookbooks that Mom found and each week, he would find a new recipe to try. Now, remember that we rarely went out to eat, so these meals that he would prepare were gourmet to us! I remember having Cheesecake Factory’s Pasta Jambalaya at home way before I had it in real life. Same went for Smoky Mountain Chicken that Ruby Tuesday is known for. My mom may have helped some in the beginning, but as he got older, my brother proved to have the stronger cooking thumb. He spent years making the same dishes and perfecting them, experimenting with new flavors every once in awhile to keep us on our toes.
Over the years, I have thankfully overcome my fear of raw meat and become more comfortable in the kitchen atmosphere. You would never know that at one point I couldn’t stand the thought of handling chicken or ground turkey! I may have fallen out of practice for several years (who really cooks from themselves when they’re a poor college students), but once I was out on my own, I quickly returned. It was during that time that I realized how expensive those restaurants really are and that I could make something ALMOST as good for a fraction of the cost.
And so here I am today – sharing with you one of my holiday season menus! I have 6 of them total, and I’ll be releasing them every #tastyTuesday and #tastyThursday from now until Christmas. I hope you’ll follow along because each menu is unique and special in it’s own way!
Breakfast: Eggnog Overnight Oats
- ½ cup old-fashioned oats
- 2 T vanilla protein powder
- ¼ cup plain Greek-style yogurt
- ½ cup eggnog; you can also use unsweetened almond, soy, or coconut milk
- 1 T sweetener (honey, stevia, sugar, or other sweetener of your choice)
- ⅛ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp rum extract
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- Optional Toppings: chopped pecans, chia seeds, extra dash of cinnamon
- In a large jar (or a small bowl), stir together all the ingredients.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight (or for a few hours) so that the oats soften and absorb the liquid
- Just before serving, garnish with optional toppings. Enjoy!
Candy Cane Shake
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology
- ½ tsp. pure peppermint extract
- 1 cup ice
- Place almond milk, Shakeology, extract, and ice in blender; cover. Blend until smooth.
Turkey, Apple, Cranberry, Pecan Salad
- 2 cups cooked and diced turkey breast (or chicken breast)
- 1/2 cup diced celery
- 1 cup diced sweet apple (I used a Macintosh)
- 1/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries
- 1/4 cup chopped roasted and salted pecans
- 3/4 cup reduced fat mayonnaise or Greek yogurt
- 1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large bowl, combine the reduced fat mayonnaise, vinegar, and sugar. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add all other ingredients and stir to coat.
- Serve on greens or in a sandwich. Enjoy!
Yield: 6 servings
Dinner: Turkey Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Mash
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into small pieces
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Shepherd’s Pie Filling
- 2 T of olive oil, divided
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Cover the peeled and chopped sweet potatoes with cold water. Place over the stove on a medium high heat and bring to a boil.
- Cook until soft and can easily be mashed with a fork.
- Drain the potatoes and put back in the warm pot.
- Add the Greek yogurt, almond milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Using a potato masher or a large fork whip until smooth. Set aside.
- Heat one large skillet over a medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Add the diced onion and sauté until they start to become translucent, approx. 3 – 4 minutes.
- Add the ground turkey, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon break up the turkey as it starts to brown so that it cooks evenly.
- Meanwhile, heat another pan over a medium heat and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the diced carrots and peas. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until cooked through, approx. 5 – 6 minutes.
- Place the ground turkey and onion mixture on the bottom of a casserole dish. Top with sautéed carrots and peas. Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top. Cover the top with the mashed sweet potatoes and a little bit more paprika.
- Bake uncovered for 20 – 25 minutes until warmed through and sweet potatoes have browned slightly on top.
Roasted Broccoli with Panko Breadcrumbs
- 1 ½ lbs. broccoli
- 2 T olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 T coconut spread
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly grease a baking dish.
- Chop up broccoli into florets and place into baking dish.
- Toss broccoli with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
- Melt coconut spread and pour over the broccoli. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and mix to coat evenly.
- Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are slightly toasted.
- Serve immediately with your favorite fall entree!
Dessert: Holiday Fruit Crisp
- 4 medium apples cored and cubed
- 2 firm pears cored and cubed
- 1 T lemon juice
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 2 T sugar
- 2 T cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 2/3 cup rolled oats
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 T flour
- 3 T butter
- ¼ cup pecans chopped
- pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8 x 8 inch square baking dish or spray with cooking spray.
- To make the filling add the cubed apples and pears to a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients and mix very well. Add to the prepared baking pan and bake for 30 minutes or until the fruits have softened, stirring once halfway through.
- Meanwhile, prepare the topping by mixing all topping ingredients together with your fingertips until coarse crumbs form
- Remove the dish from the oven and stir the fruit well. Top with the oat crumble and bake for another 15 minutes or until golden brown.
- Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving warm.