A Healthier Holiday Table

We all know we are supposed to eat more vegetables, and fewer refined grains and sugars, right?  At least I do, but the challenge remains doing so in an easy and delicious way.  Especially when one is cooking for children.  I have one child who wants to be a vegetarian, prefers rice milk over dairy, and eats every single fruit and vegetable you can imagine (with the notable, and random, exception of avocados).  I have another child who eats only meats, cheese, and yogurt, and who eschewed all fruits and vegetables (including such favorites as raisins and apple sauce) until he was 6 and I lowered the boom.  At 6 he had literally never had a fruit or vegetable.  He is almost 8 now, and his repertoire remains limited.  He eats – exclusively, but voraciously – lettuce, spinach, chard, arugula, and kale.  I am not complaining about his intake of greens, but I do wish he would sometimes eat an apple or a potato!

I am a casual cook, and an inexpert one.  I learned from my mother, who is one of this world’s great cooks and entertainers, that the kitchen is not a place for angst.  Unfortunately I lack her talent, so the results aren’t as spectacular, but at least there isn’t a lot of hand-wringing.  I don’t really use recipes very often, and when I do I am haphazard with such things as measuring.  As a result of these biases, I don’t have a single holiday recipe to share.  Instead I have three of my standard vegetable and fruit preparations, each of which is in constant rotation and has become a favorite of my children.  I hope they may help you get a fruit or vegetable into your children soon!

Homemade tomato sauce:

In a large saucepan saute a couple of cloves of sliced garlic in olive oil.  Once it is browned but not burnt, add tomatoes.  In the summer, I use tomatoes from the farmer’s market (to remove skin: make an X in the skin on the bottom, drop into boiling water for 30 seconds, remove, and peel the skin) coarsely chopped.  Maybe 8 big tomatoes.  The rest of the year, I use one big can of San Marzano whole tomatoes, including the liquid.  Add some basil leaves, if you have them, and a sprinkle of kosher salt.  Saute for about 15-20 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Once this has cooled, I whir it in the blender for 10 seconds (chunks in tomato sauce being the kiss of death for Whit).  We use it for pasta, for pizza, for occasional dipping.  I always have a glass container of this in the fridge.

Kale salad:

Cut some washed kale (I prefer lacinato, but any will do) into very thin strips. Almost shredded.  In the bottom of a salad bowl mix 2 T of fresh lemon juice, 1/4 C olive oil, and 2 crushed garlic clothes.  Toss the kale in this mixture and let it sit for 30 minutes or longer.  In the meantime, toast some whole wheat breadcrumbs (such a good way to use up the ends of the loaf!) until crunchy and browned.  When it’s time to eat, put the breadcrumbs onto the kale and add some shaved parmesan or pecorino (use a vegetable peeler for long, skinny shreds) on top and toss.  Whit adores this.

Homemade apple sauce:

Peel and core as many apples as you can stand.  Mixture of types is great.  Chop into quarters (approximately) and put into a Le Creuset or similar oven-safe large pot with a snug-fitting lid.  Put the pot in the oven at 350 and let it cook for about an hour.   Check it, and once the apples are mostly broken down, stir well until all chunks are gone.  Bonus: this makes your house smell delicious.  Is a good thing to make after an apple-picking excursion leaves you swimming in bowls of fruit.  And also a good way to use up old or bruised apples.


I am delighted to be participating in the American Cancer Society’s A Healthier Holiday Table effort.  A few pieces of advice from the American Cancer Society about eating more healthfully, in this season and always, follow.  The links are full of useful and practical ways to make changes we all know we should make!

·         Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of many types of cancer. Here are ideas on how to eat healthy and get active.

·         Did you know that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can help reduce your cancer risk? The American Cancer Society recommends eating at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day. Here are two resources filled with ideas for upping your fruit and vegetable consumption through the day.

·         Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products. Here are some innovative ways to add more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to your day while watching your refined carbohydrates, sugar, and fat intake.

·         Limit how much processed meat and red meat you eat. Some studies have linked eating large amounts of processed meat to increased risk of colorectal and stomach cancers.

·         Drink no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men. Alcohol raises the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), esophagus, liver, breast, and the colon and rectum.

·         Stock your kitchen with a variety of foods that you can throw together for healthy meals in a hurry. Keep these foods on hand for fast meals on busy nights.

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  1. Posted December 6, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I share your kitchen philosophy. Recipes are guidelines, not gospel and angst is best left elsewhere. We’re having a bit of a forced march toward more fruits and veggies for my 3.5 year old. Fiber is essential.

    I made these muffins recently http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/morning-glory-muffins-recipe (kind of – I excluded the coconut, but added more apple and carrot and I’m sure I did something else too.) I love that there’s a little of so many good things hiding inside. And everyone ate them happily.

  2. Posted December 13, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    I like you even more now, as I too am an “inexpert” cook. Tomato sauce and kale salad sound delicious. You lost me on the apples (core? peel?) but I love the idea of the smell warming up the house.

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