Festive Food for a Small Table

Full disclosure: It’s December 19 and I’m doing my Christmas meal planning here. Some people are smart enough to do this two or three weeks early, but I am definitely not one of them!

So as I’m contemplating options, I’ll share and help you out, in case you’re a last-minute planner too. Or just tuck them away for another occasion.

You may not feel like cooking a big turkey or other roast for a smaller crowd, and here’s the good news about Christmas 2020: You only have to please yourself and the few who might be at your table.

There will just be the four of us this year, but I still want something festive. We deserve something festive darn it! Plus we’ll bring some to my mom, and we want to help light up her Christmas mood too.

So if you want turkey so it feels like Christmas, go for it. You can always freeze the leftovers. But if you want seafood, have seafood! If you want to order Chinese, why not, really? It’s 2020.

Here’s what we landed on:

Christmas Eve

Aspirations (from a party I went to in Sonoma, CA in 2019)

Cheese plate – There are so many great examples of charcuterie boards online these days, I’m eager to try my hand at it. Plus I think finger food and a Christmas movie will be really fun.

We’ll do a bit of cured meat for our little one, but I’m thinking mostly brightly coloured fruit (kiwi fruit, strawberries, grapes, pomegranate) and nuts (cashews, pecans) with a couple of cheeses for tasting.

I’ll see what I can find in a couple of our favourite little local shops, but I’m also on the lookout for an interesting dip and some different crackers, to mix it up from our usual whole-grain standbys.

And I’ll make one of my favourites, Pomegranate Salsa, using this recipe from dietitian Kristyn Hall. The goal is to keep it on the light side, to leave room for….

To drink – I’ve held onto this Horchata recipe from Calgary food writer Julie van Rosendaal, so I really want to try that. She describes it as a “Mexican rice-based beverage that tastes like liquid rice pudding, and works as sort of lighter version of eggnog without the thick heaviness.”
Grano Dolce – not pretty but delicious nonetheless

Dessert –  Grano Dolce — “sweet wheat” — one of my favourite desserts. It’s a traditional Italian dessert made of wheat berries with chopped walnuts, pomegranate seeds, and dark chocolate, topped with a drizzle of sweet wine or vinegar. I’ll use the quicker, lighter variation I included in my cookbook*, but it’s something like this.

Christmas Breakfast

Christmas granola – We love breakfast enough around here that we’re going to do two: One for the early risers/eaters/adults, and one later on for the whole family. This recipe is sweet enough that it’s a nice balance for plain Greek yogurt, and with pomegranate seeds, we’ll be off to a delicious start.

Christmas Brunch

Banana-Oatmeal Pancakes with Lentils – Sometimes on Christmas we do a baked breakfast, so there’s no fussing on Christmas morning, but we really like this recipe, and with fewer family visits to plan for, we decided it would be fun to spend a bit of time making and eating pancakes together.

Don’t let the lentils put you off. They’re light, fluffy, and sweet, thanks to the bananas. We’ll probably make some strawberry chia jam to go with them.

To drinkPomegranate smoothie – A bit sweet, but perfect for a festive occasion.

Christmas Dinner

Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy – this wouldn’t be my choice, but my daughter asked for it, saying it will make her feel like it’s Christmas, and since she’s sad about not seeing Grandma and her Auntie, I’m going along with it. I don’t have recipes to share for those, because big pieces of meat are not my forte. Wish me luck!

Savoury Pecan Loaf – I’ll make this for those of us who prefer more plant-based food. It’s easy to assemble and can cook right alongside the turkey. Here’s the recipe.

Best Shredded Kale Salad – This is the other plant-based favourite on the menu, recipe from vegan blogger Angela Liddon (“Oh She Glows”). It’s a bit of work, but 100% worth it. Festive too, between the cranberries and pecans.

To drinkCherry lime spritzer – I don’t have a recipe for this… just thaw a handful of frozen cherries and crush a little bit with a fork. Add them and a sliced lime into a bottle of plain sparkling water. Let it infuse overnight.

Dessert – A Toblerone bar usually shows up under our Christmas tree, so we’ll do fruit with Toblerone Chocolate Fondue, using the directions here, again from culinary genius dietitian Kristyn Hall. Easy but delightful treat.

Eat what you love

That turned out to be more food than I had intended! But we’ll have all week to eat leftovers, and I wanted to put things on our table that we really love, especially this year.

I’m not a big Christmas girl, but I do appreciate the lights and sparkle at the darkest time of year. With this year being darker than most, I hope you’ll join me in choosing food that lights you up.

Does it have to be “heart-healthy”? Of course not. It can be whatever you think will help you get through and hopefully even enjoy a little bit of this usual holiday season.

What will help you feel as relaxed and joyful as possible, given the circumstances? We find this heart-healthyish approach strikes the right balance, leaving us feeling energized and ready for fun.

(If you’ve had a heart event, and you are trying to figure out that balance for yourself, I invite you to sign up for my free video series, How to Eat Well For Life After a Heart Event.)

Happy eating, and happy holidays, from our kitchen to yours. What are you planning? Share your festive favourites on Facebook here.

* That’s an affiliate link for the book there, which means that if you buy with it, I get a tiny portion of the sale. But it’s tiny. Buy whatever works for you, especially local booksellers, who can order it for you. Or if you’re in Calgary, I have a few copies left if you want to pop over and pick up a signed copy as a gift.

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