Kitchen Shrink: Eat, drink and be budgetary: A gustatory December for everyone


This holiday season is definitely not a one-size-fits-all celebration. Alas, with inflation clawing at our wallets like a ravenous beast, pesky pounds creeping up on us, and COVID still breathing down our necks as we’re getting a stranglehold on its tentacles — more than ever we need a little laughter, relief, and holiday cheer to turn ho-hum into ho-ho. Now try these on for size:

Catharine Kaufman

A Ted Lasso-Themed Dinner Party

The Emmy-winning Apple TV+ series about an American college football coach who has been recruited overseas to turn around a struggling English Premier League Soccer club makes good fodder for a fun dinner party. British fare scores big at this soiree. Let’s kick off with some tasty bites like devils on horseback (bacon-wrapped prunes or dates stuffed with blue cheese), or even more decadent angels on horseback (bacon-wrapped oysters), sassy prawn cocktails, black pudding slices on crackers, or devilled lamb’s kidneys with a nice chunk of fried sourdough. Shake, rattle, and roll with some seasonal liquid cheer to wash down those salty starters. A few classic tipples include a mulled wine, a Hot Toddy to warm the cockles of your heart with a blend of whiskey, honey, cinnamon, and cloves, or a spirited Poinsettia blending Triple Sec and cranberry juice.

For the main event serve a roasted turkey or goose with sides of traditional Yorkshire pudding, mashed spuds with celery root, and buttered Brussels all enlivened with redcurrant jelly and bread sauce. For some delightful puddings that would pay homage to Roy Kent, a wealthy and bold retired soccer star serve a rich, decadent or dramatic dessert like brandy snaps, blackberry English trifle, or mince meat pie. Symbolic of his effervescent, quirky, and empathetic girlfriend, Keeley Jones, concoct a boozy knickerbocker glory cake, or divine peach melba, and at last, for Ted Lasso’s contribution bake a simple biscuit, or traditional shortbread (recipe below) reminiscent of the morning offerings he gives to Rebecca, the team owner, to butter her up, and forge a warm bond between them. All topped off with a cuppa London Fog.

Shindigs on a Shoestring

A potluck get-together is a frugal and friendly way to celebrate the holidays with family, cronies, or co-workers. Be mindful of potluck etiquette, and bring low maintenance dishes that don’t require heating, prepping, or large storage space, and always check with the host beforehand to avoid repetition.

Other ways to tighten your holiday belt include buying seasonal and local produce, cheese, seafood and fish, and clip your coupons and discount offers, whether digital or paper ones. When you see a hum-dinger of a sale--stock up, and freeze (where possible). And if you have Champagne taste on a beer budget, then scope out the best quality luxury food items at the lowest prices. For instance, you can get a good bang for your caviar buck with several reasonable domestic varieties (Paddlefish, Trout, Lumpfish, and Salmon roe) that add a briny bite, and pop of color without having to refinance your house. While vegetarians can indulge in affordable seaweed caviar derived from kelp.

The best way to stretch your caviar dollar is to serve it as an appetizer or garnish – a drop here, a sprinkle there on top of toast points or thinly sliced baguette rounds. Add eye candy and a salty oomph to devilled eggs, hollowed out baby redskin potatoes, grilled diver scallops, and pastas, or whip up a seafood pizza topped with wild-caught shrimp, calamari rings, and a pretty pink salmon caviar dollop in the bulls-eye center.

Trimming the Holiday Fat

For the cholesterol-conscious let’s leave the belly fat to Santa by trimming high-calorie, artery-clogging celebratory monsters from the menu. For starters, steer clear of quintessential party hors d’oeuvres, such as, Swedish meatballs, fried mozzarella sticks, pigs in a blanket, and deep-fried egg rolls. Swap out for lighter fare like turkey meatballs in marinara sauce, rice paper-wrapped spring rolls, and vegetable crudités with assorted hummus dips.

Onto the main course. Many holiday tables are traditionally dressed with unctuous and fatty fowls and meats, including roasted duck, spiral hams, and pancetta-wrapped pork roasts. So when there’s a pork in the road choose grass-fed, immune-boosting lamb, mineral-rich sea treasures, especially wild-caught salmon, Dungeness crab, and deep-sea scallops, along with skinless, boneless turkey and chicken breast meat. Be an intrepid chef, and exercise fat and carb control with the sides by drizzling vegetables with olive oil and Meyer lemon juice instead of drowning in butter, whip up stuffings with cholesterol-busting oatmeal, shredded root vegetables, B-complex rich brown rice, or aromatic quinoa for an exotic change-up, and put mashed potatoes on a diet with roasted garlic, and kefir yogurt instead of butter and cream.

Finally, you can guiltlessly indulge in your just desserts with some slimming slights of hand. Replace cloying pecan and cream pies with fruit varieties, and lose the top crust. A little dab will do you for the whipped cream, or use non-dairy, low-fat toppings over fresh berries or fruit compote. Chuck the Yule log, gingerbread house, and marzipan bonbons. Instead, serve super dark, heart-healthy chocolate treats (70% or higher cocoa content) like walnut brownies packed with antioxidants, and mood elevators ending the holiday feast on a blissful high.

Ted Lasso-inspired shortbread biscuits

(Catharine Kaufman)

1-cup sugar (coconut, light brown, cane, or 2/3-cup date sugar), your choice

3 sticks (1/4-pound each) softened sweet butter

3-cups unbleached flour

½-cup almond flour

1-teaspoon almond extract

Dash of salt

½-teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit.

Add butter, sugar, and extract to bowl of an electric mixer. Blend until creamy. In separate mixing bowl combine flours, salt, and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients into butter mixture until well incorporated.

Transfer mixture onto floured board. Roll out to desired thickness (¼- to ½ -inch). Cut into finger strips, or favorite cookie cutter shapes.

Bake on parchment-lined cookie sheet for about 18 minutes, or until golden.