Kitchen Shrink: You’d better watch out – some holiday humdingers are coming to town


This time of year, even the most dietary disciplined among us can easily succumb to seasonal temptation from rich hors d’oeuvres and calorie-dense cocktails to fatty fowls, an oink, oink here, a moo, moo there, carbohydrates everywhere, and irresistible, decadent desserts. Let’s leave the belly fat to Santa, and choose slimmed down versions of some dangerous dishes and drinks, along with vibrant spices and treasures from the sea to rev up our energy levels and libidos, too. Vroom, vroom!

Catharine Kaufman
(Copyright of Catharine Kaufman)

Naughty and Nice Caviar is a luxurious, energizing, low-cal indulgence that will make the holidays seem royal and romantic. Roe rocks with omega-3’s, vitamins A, assorted B’s, D, and E, iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium, potassium plus a load of zinc that’s a sure fire way to ratchet up lusty possibilities, especially for males as this precious mineral is needed for testosterone synthesis. Alaska king crab and wild-caught lobster provide a rich store of the mighty mineral too. Concoct a passionate pizza with dollops of red and black roe, a spicy crab taco, or a seafood martini. Cheers!

For vegan palates choose zinc-packed pumpkin and sesame seeds, cashews, almonds, and super dark chocolate that affects the romantic wiring in the brain, so powerfully that it was banned in monasteries centuries back so monks wouldn’t be enticed to break their vows. Bittersweet is best, and the higher the cocoa content the better to unleash your amorous spirit. Anything you do with chocolate is divine. Whip up a chocolate chestnut mousse, or a chocolate fondue with fresh or dried seasonal fruits like figs, dates, slices of persimmons, and blood oranges to warm the cockles of your honey’s heart.

Finally, Christmas spices boldly march out of the pantry making a beeline for the bedroom as they heat up desire. Sassy ginger root is a warming Ayurvedic spice treasured throughout the ages and across the lands to ramp up libido by boosting blood flow and energy levels. Sweet and spicy cloves also hike body heat and vitality, while tempering anxiety and stress, all needed for loving encounters. Aromatic, heavenly (and pricey) cardamom, the “Queen of Spices,” a first cousin to ginger and native of India, has been revered by ancients as an aphrodisiac with a side gig of whitening teeth, freshening breath, and relieving digestive ails. Most expressive ground from fresh pods, cardamom adds a zing to mochas and mulled wines, pie crusts, strudels, beignets, holiday cookies, and fruit salads.

Naughty and Vice

A list of seasonal no-no’s seems longer than “The 179 Days of Christmas” carol. Beware of iconic cocktail munchies that are a secret and seductive store of trans fats, sodium, and sugars. Steer clear of creamy dipping sauces, and doughy, deep-fried, fatty offerings from pigs in a blanket and Swedish meatballs to party wings and calamari rings. Instead, scope out better, lighter choices, such as, turkey meatballs in marinara sauce, crudités with assorted hummus dips, grilled skewers of shrimp or chicken, steamed gems of dim sum, and, if you’re lucky--caviar canapés (recipe on this page).

While pork, “the other white meat,” has been touted as a lean alternative to beef, most cuts (other than the loin or crown roast) contain a mother lode of fat, sodium, hormones, and carcinogenic nitrates. So when there’s a pork in the road, veer off the baked ham, pancetta, and sausage route to grass-fed, pasture-raised lamb chops, or elegant rack of lamb.

Alas, for the cholesterol-conscious bird lovers, celebratory centerpieces of exotic (and fatty) goose and duckling should be subbed for breast meat of turkey, chicken, and Cornish game hen. But really, the skin’s the thing snagging first prize in the fat competition--so chuck it.

Let’s not forget Chanukah, “the festival of cholesterol” that falls one week before Christmas this year, offering traditional potato latkes (pancakes) topped with sour cream, and sufganiyot (jelly donuts) fried in oil symbolic of the Macabee miracle. It’s time to dial up the latkes repertoire with more interesting versions and healthier preparations, whether sweet, spicy, or savory with a pop of color and dose of herbs, fruits, and vegetables for an antioxidant oomph. Latkes can be baked using the French method of cooking called en papillote--sealed in a parchment pouch to maintain the fresh flavors of the ingredients. If you’re a purist and prefer latkes fried, then choose oils with a high smoke-point like grape seed or avocado to prevent burning and imparting an acrid flavor.

For just desserts, there’s no need to sacrifice your indulgent sweet tooth this season. You can transform favorite holiday treats with slimming sleights of hand by losing top pie crusts to instantly cut carbs. A little dab’ll do you with whipped cream, or sub for less fatty plant-based toppings, a dollop of Greek yoghurt, or sorbets. Today’s fruitcake is not your Grandma’s clichéic doorstopper. Healthier recipes with goat butter and chock full of high fiber, antioxidant-packed dried cherries, cranberries, figs, and dates replace neon, glow-in-the-dark fruit nuggets. A bowl of fresh berries with a balsamic drizzle beats them all.

Now shake things up with creative riffs on the rich and cloying liquid holiday cheer. Trim down traditional eggnog using whipped egg whites and swapping out cream for silky almond, hazelnut, coconut, or other plant-based milks. Fattening holiday martinis, such as, Pumpkin, Chocolate, and Evergreen can be replaced with light and lively spiced apple, pomegranate rosemary, or cranberry lavender, or even a low-cal red wine spritzer.

Drinker’s tip – Sipping and savoring from a champagne flute rather than a bulbous wine glass is calorie-efficient.

Up to the lips, over the gums. . .

Happy holidays!

Recipe image

(Copyright of Catharine Kaufman)

Caviar Bruschetta

1 baguette (sliced in 1/2-inch rounds)

3-tablespoons olive oil

4-ounces spreadable goat cheese

1 small red onion, diced

1-teaspoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped

½-teaspoon each rosemary, thyme, chopped

4 hard boiled eggs, chopped

2-ounces caviar (your choice)

Brush baguette founds with oil. Toast on grill pan until golden.

Blend goat cheese with herbs and spread on crostini. Top with sprinkling of onions, eggs, and dollop of caviar.