How to Cook a Paleo Holiday Meal
If you've decided to go Paleo, you've sworn off grains, sugar, dairy, and processed food. This can be a problem if you associate holiday meals with copious amounts of candy and cake, casseroles and stuffing. However, just because you can't have those specific things doesn't mean you have to hide under a rock over the holidays. Invite friends and family to your house and cook a Paleo holiday meal full of meats and vegetables
Serving Snacks and Starters
Break out the dried fruit, nuts, and seeds.A bowl of Paleo snack mix can tide your guests over until dinner is ready as well as providing munchies for after-dinner mingling. Choose organic ingredients to stay within the bounds of your diet.
- Toss your mix with spices to add a punch of flavor.
- You also can drizzle your snack mix with olive oil and herbs and roast it in the oven.
Use mushrooms for savory snacks.Mushrooms are a common ingredient in many appetizers. Many are stuffed with ingredients that are already Paleo, or have stuffing recipes that are easily adaptable.
- Search the internet for stuffed mushroom recipes you think you'd enjoy, and then experiment with the ingredients.
- Don't be afraid to substitute something of similar consistency if you think it would work, or do a separate search for common replacements or substitutions.
Serve kale or sweet potato chips.While experts continue to debate whether potatoes are truly Paleo, almost everyone is in agreement that sweet potatoes are. Sweet potatoes and kale make excellent chips for dipping or snacking on alone.
- For appetizers, you also can experiment with sweet potato fries, or sweet potato skins stuffed with bacon and vegetables.
- Bowls of chips encourage your guests to congregate and chat while you put the finishing touches on your holiday meal.
Experiment with dips and spreads.Trays of sliced fruits and vegetables are Paleo, but many salad dressings, dips, and spreads are not. However, with a little creativity you can satisfy your guests and still stick to your diet.
- For example, since chickpeas are legumes, they are technically out of the Paleo diet – which means so is hummus. However, you can blend steamed cauliflower in a food processor with your favorite seasonings to create a hummus substitute of similar flavor and consistency.
- Pesto is Paleo. You can make many different flavors of pesto sauce, and they're relatively simple to whip up in a few minutes.
- Even though they're technically sugars, many consider honey and maple syrup to be Paleo, provided you use them sparingly as a treat.
- Since avocados are Paleo, you can enjoy guacamole. Mash up the flesh of the avocado with a fork. Add a spritz of lime juice if you would like or some chopped tomatoes.
Moving to the Main Course
Stick with tradition.Many of the foods that typically crowd the holiday table are already completely (or mostly) Paleo already – think turkey or ham and vegetables. A Paleo holiday meal doesn't have to be too far removed from the traditional holiday meal your guests expect.
- Dig out your favorite old family recipes well before the meal so you have time to play with them. You might stumble upon a masterpiece through trial and error.
- Check Paleo cookbooks or blogs to get ideas of common substitutes. Many Paleo cooks have already adapted lots of recipes, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel.
- Don't be afraid to think way outside the Paleo "box." You can find all sorts of recipes that may be relatively easy to adapt once you study them, even though you would normally steer clear of them.
Get creative with your stuffing.If you're serving a turkey, you may think stuffing, which typically includes breading, would be problematic from a Paleo perspective. However, there are plenty of bread-free stuffing alternatives available.
- You can substitute squash or sweet potato for breading in most stuffing recipes and they'll come out just fine. You also might try using cauliflower.
- If you want to get really creative, think about the "turducken": a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken. Three birds on one plate, and not a grain in sight – you don't get much more Paleo than that.
Roast your vegetables.Roasting in the oven can help you want to bring out all the subtle flavors of the fresh Paleo vegetables you're serving. You also can get creative with spices and seasonings without a lot of prep work.
- Cut your vegetables as desired and spread them evenly on a baking sheet. Season them to taste, and slide them in an oven that has been preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (about 204 degrees Celsius).
- Roast your vegetables for 30 to 40 minutes, or until they reach the desired shade and consistency.
- You also can drizzle them with olive or parsley oil, or sprinkle parsley on top once they're done roasting.
Use cauliflower for rice or mashed potatoes.Starches often are considered a staple of the holiday meal, but you can find plenty of ways to manipulate cauliflower so that it stands in for the starches that don't quite fit into the Paleo diet and lifestyle.
- To whip cauliflower to the consistency that it can substitute for mashed potatoes, you typically want to use a food processor.
- Cauliflower rice is perhaps the closest Paleo substitute to actual rice, and has a similar texture. You can also use the cauliflower rice to recreate your favorite rice-based casseroles, or in your turkey stuffing.
Leaving Room for Dessert
Bake apples or pears.Baked fruits are warm, comforting desserts that are sure to satisfy a sweet tooth while also rounding out a filling and flavorful Paleo holiday meal. Season them with your favorite holiday spices, or drizzle them with honey or maple syrup.
- Common spices used with apples and pears include cinnamon, ginger, allspice, clove, and nutmeg.
- You can also drizzle them with vanilla extract, and garnish with vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, or lemon rinds.
- Hollow or halve the fruit and fill it with chopped nuts, dried currants, or raisins.
- Just preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (about 177 degrees Celsius) and bake for 20 to 40 minutes. Check frequently for doneness after the 20-minute mark.
Make coconut milk hot chocolate.When you decided to go Paleo you may have sworn off dairy, but you also know that coconut milk isn't really milk. Combine high-quality organic dark chocolate with coconut milk to make the perfect winter treat.
- You can easily adapt your hot chocolate to suit many different tastes by adding cinnamon or nutmeg, or a few drops of peppermint or vanilla extract.
- Make a spicy Mexican hot chocolate by adding a pinch of cayenne and a dash of sea salt.
- Use the coconut milk to make coconut whipped cream to twist on top for an extra-decadent holiday treat.
Use grain-free pie crusts.Pumpkin and apple pies are prominent fixtures at most holiday tables, but while pumpkins and apples are perfectly Paleo, that crust definitely is not. Thankfully, there are many recipes you can use to create grain-free pie crusts so you can honor tradition without sacrificing your dietary principles.
- Grain-free pie crusts typically use almond flour or coconut flour, along with palm shortening, sea salt, eggs, and honey.
- If your recipe calls for gelatin, try to find an organic, grass-fed variety to stay true to the Paleo philosophy.
- If you've never tried a grain-free pie crust before, you may want to do a trial run before the day of your holiday feast as they can be tricky.
Make a dairy-free pumpkin pie.Pumpkin pie typically contains dairy products, but you can make a Paleo version by using coconut milk instead. Put one can of pureed pumpkin in a food processor with two eggs, a cup of coconut milk, one teaspoon vanilla, and half a cup of either maple syrup or honey. Blend until smooth, and stir in your favorite pumpkin pie spices. Pour it into your grain-free crust.
- Bake this pie for 45-55 minutes at 350 °F (177 °C).
- If you consider alcoholic beverages part of any holiday celebration, stay Paleo by serving wine or distilled liquors such as vodka or tequila. Use only club soda as a mixer, and add a twist of lemon or lime if you want.
- If you are inviting friends or family over for the holidays, let them know that you will be serving a Paleo meal. You can even send them a menu.
Video: Healthy Holiday Meal: Simple Paleo Sweet Potato Recipe Using Organic Grass-fed Ghee!
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