Chef Alina Z’s Top Holiday Eating Tips & Alternatives

Chef Alina Z

December holidays have been known as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” but did you know it is also the most fattening time of the year as well? The fact is that an average American gains a few pounds during the month of holiday parties, family gatherings and food gift galore.

Because many holiday dishes are drenched with fattening dressings, I suggest making your own and then bringing them to group gatherings. Why not share the joy of healthy eating with friends and family? Here are some ideas on how to “accessorize” your holiday favorites, so you don’t deprive yourself of fitting into a fabulous New Year’s outfit!

Tips from Chef Alina Z:

Trade Traditional Mashed Potatoes (which are loaded with butter, sour cream and milk or cream) and for Z-Mash, Chef Alina’s recipe of cauliflower blended with cashews, which give that same creamy texture and taste.

Try alternative ingredients in your Casseroles
Instead of butter, use cashew butter
Instead of breadcrumbs, use gluten-free crumbs
Instead of regular cheese, use Daiya non-dairy cheese

Squash dishes – Replace butter with cashews and more seasoning (see below for more ideas)

Pies – Do raw vegan apple pie (recipe in Alina’s book) or chocolate mousse (made with avocado) also in her book, Single & Hungry.

Smoked Salt: To get the smoky flavor of fatty ham, simply add Smoked Salt to your side dishes. It goes great with lightly sautéed spinach with Portobello mushrooms and tomatoes.

Fresh rosemary, thyme and sage: Use these fresh herbs to season your meals – this way you will get holiday flavor without adding extra calories. Try adding them to your roasted sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, broccoli and Brussels sprouts to create a colorful holiday dish.

Go Green with Green Beans – Enjoy your green beans simply roasted with a touch of extra virgin olive oil and almond slivers. You will get lots of protein and fiber to keep you full and satisfied.

Mashed Potatoes Alternative – Try adding a mashed celery root, parsnips or cauliflower to your mashed potatoes to cut down the calories and the starch.

Stuffing – forget low-quality stuffing with wheat bread. Gluten is so last year! Make your own with Sprouted Ezekiel Bread – (recipe below)

Desserts – Opt for dark chocolate bark (recipe below) that is high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Better than Turkey – if you are still looking for a high-protein, meaty dish, then try this Chicken-Less Chicken with Gravy! It tastes and looks like poultry, but is 100% vegan and cholesterol free!

BETTER THAN TURKEY DINNER RECIPE

Protein Source:

1 Package of Lightly-Seasoned Beyond Meat Chicken, roughly chopped

Raw Vegan Mushroom Gravy

1 pound of sliced baby bella mushrooms
1/2 cup walnuts, soaked overnight and drained
1/2  cup cashews, soaked overnight and drained
1/2 cup Coconut Aminos (it is a soy-sauce substitute)
1/2  cup flax seeds, ground
4 cups filtered water
1 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
1 clove garlic
Place mushrooms in coconut aminos and marinate for 1-2 hours.

In a high-speed blender, blend coconut aminos, water, pepper, walnuts, cashews and garlic  until creamy. Pour into a serving dish and stir in the mushrooms.  Let gravy set for 30 minutes to thicken.

Pour the gravy over the chicken-less chicken and serve with your favorite side dishes. My favorite meal would be this entrée with the stuffing, Brussels sprouts and cooked cranberries combined with cooked pears.

HEALTHY STUFFING

1/2 a loaf of Ezekiel Bread
1 sweet onion, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups of veggie stock
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp fresh sage
Sea salt + black pepper to taste

Toast the bread until dry and crispy and cut in small pieces. Set aside.

In a pan, sauté celery and onions until onion is translucent. Add seasoning and walnuts and stir in for about a minute.

Add the bread pieces and let soak until desired consistency is reached.

ANTIOXIDANT CHOCOLATE HOLIDAY BARK

2 cups of dark chocolate chips
1.5 cups of walnuts
1.5 cups dry sour cherries
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup goji berries for topping
1/3 cup raw cacao nibs

Melt chocolate in a pan on the stove. Remove from stove and mix in walnuts, cacao nibs and sour cherries. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Place saran wrap on top of a rectangular plate and pour the chocolate mixture on top.

Cover with another piece of wrap and press with hands to let air out between nuts and dried cherries. Sprinkle with coconut, pumpkin seeds and remaining sour cherries.

Place in the fridge until chocolate is solid again. Cut in small pieces and enjoy!

Chef Alina Z-Tips for Holiday Drinking

Holidays are here and that means parties, which usually means drinking. If you don’t want to give up alcohol but would like to learn about the healthiest options to enjoy, then in this blog is for you.

Best alcoholic drinks at the party:

- Organic or Bio-Dynamic Red Wine without sulfites added – red wine has the highest level of antioxidants and resveratrol, which has shown to have some heart-healthy benefits. One 5oz glass contains only 100 calories. Check out the award-winning Tuscan winery – Avignonesi, that makes beautiful Sangiovese wines.
https://avignonesi.it/en/products
– Organic or Bio-Dynamic White Wine without sulfites added – one 5oz glass contains only 120 calories. My favorite kind is the organic award-winning New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc by Kaimira Estate.
http://kaimirawines.com/our-wines/kaimira-estate/
– Champagne/Sparking Wine/Prosecco – each glass is usually 3.5oz and has 70 calories. Check out Zonin Prosecco Grey Edition. It is 87% Glera and 13% Pinot Grigio giving this bottle a hint of apples and a light ginger finish. http://www.zoninprosecco.com/

Z-Tips: 

  • Drink flavored Sparkling Water from champagne flutes in between alcoholic beverages to reduce alcohol consumption and stay hydrated. Try raspberry/lemon or the strawberry flavors of Whole Foods Italian Sparking Water.
  • Avoid martinis and instead have your drink on ice. As ice melts, it will dilute alcohol and make your drink less concentrated, therefore easier to process by your system.
  • If you choose to drink hard liquor, choose 100% Blue Agave Tequila. Tequila is the only alcoholic drink that is not a depressant and is said to help digestion and even help people lose weight!
  • Substitute dairy milk and cream for almond milk and coconut cream. Plant-based milks are cholesterol free and they offer additional benefits such vitamin E and good-for-you fats.

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