It is possible to throw a healthy holiday party. I should know: I just pulled it off. You see, every year my girlfriends and I get together for our annual White Elephant Xmas party. Given the attendees—16 competitive volleyball players, all type A personalities —no one is shy about swiping gifts. But I’m getting off topic. I’m here to talk about the food. More specifically: that healthy party food is more than possible, it can be a crowd pleaser.
For the menu, I combed through my collection of healthy cookbooks. I have hoards. I wanted comfort food-style eats I could prep in advance. I also wanted to highlight fresh, seasonal ingredients. Last criteria: I wanted lots of vegan options (no meat or dairy) for Kara, the vegan of the bunch. Oh, and I wanted everything to be homemade, meaning no prepackaged, processed stuff.
And here’s what I came up with:
*Organic carrot sticks with white bean garlic dip
*Chips and fresh salsa
*White bean, kale & chicken sausage
*Soup with lentils, lemon, cilantro & feta from Home Made Winter by Yvette Van Boven
*Spaghetti squash and zucchini parmesan from True Food cookbook
*Quinoa kale salad with grapes, red peppers, parmesan and sunflower seeds (inspired by a super yummy salad from La Grande Orange)
*Herb and olive oil topped garlic bread
*My world-famous oatmeal dark chocolate chip cookies
*Caramel popcorn from Dirt Candy: A Cookbook from Amanda Cohen’s award-winning veggie restaurant in NYC.
The consensus: YUM! Everyone lapped up the soups and casserole—and had guilt-free seconds. Granted, the caramel popcorn was the undisputed hit of the night, but there were plenty of sighs of delight for the healthy main courses too. See, it is possible.
And here’s the recipe for the soup with lentils, lemon, cilantro & feta, straight from Home Made Winter by Yvette Van Boven (BTW the cookbook is to-die-for and would make a great gift).
Soup with lentils, lemon, cilantro & feta
There actually isn’t a moment in the day when this soup doesn’t go well. That’s why I put it among the main courses. This recipe is for 2 generous main course portions, but if you eat it as a starter it will serve 4 (in which case add a little more broth).
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 cup (200 g) yellow split peas
½ celeriac, cleaned and cubed
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
Pinch of cayenne
1 small clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ½ cups (1 l) vegetable broth
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
A few sprigs fresh cilantro
2 to 3 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the lentils and celeriac. Stir-fry them briefly, then add the spices and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Stir in the broth and lower the heat. Let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are nicely al dente.
3. Just before serving, add the lemon zest and juice to the soup. Chop the cilantro and add it to the soup.
4. Ladle the soup into big bowls and crumble some feta on top.
5. Serve with artisanal bread
*Bonus: I just posted all my healthy cookbook faves on Pinterest – click here to check them out