Holiday Countdown: Make-Ahead Meals

Posted on November 28, 2016
Asian woman making dinner

Unless you have household staff, chances are that the holidays are an especially busy time. You’ve got to add shopping, decorating, deep cleaning, socializing and (perhaps) travel to an already busy schedule. This is the first of several articles we’ll be publishing between now and the end of December to help make this a happy, healthy holiday season.

With so few low-carb choices available while pressed for time and on the go, it can be difficult to eat foods that are easy on your digestion. Here are a few make-ahead options to help you get through the busiest time of the year.

Road food

You’ll likely be spending more time in your car in the next few weeks. Here’s how to say ‘no’ to cinnamon buns and gingerbread lattes at the mall.

Hot, low-carb seasonal beverages

Save the carbs and do your wallet a favor! Take along a thermos of any of the following:

Hibiscus and Goji Tea 
With its red hue, hibiscus tea is perfect during the holidays

Mulled cider
Limit yourself to an 8-ounce serving, add some cinnamon and enjoy this holiday favorite.

Hot chocolate
Heat 1 cup almond milk with 1/4 cup of cocoa and 1 pinch (1/16th teaspoon) of NOW Foods Organic Better Stevia Extract Powder. Stevia powder is intensely sweet: 1 teaspoon equals 1 cup of sugar. Click here for Stevia.Net’s conversion chart.

Portable, low-carb snacks

Trail mix
You can buy a few ounces of high-carb trail mix at the supermarket, or you can make a couple of pounds of this healthier version for about the price of one box of the packaged stuff. Portion it out into snack-sized zip-lock bags, leave several in (the passenger compartment of) your car and a couple in each of your bags. This can mean the difference between going hungry and eating one of your trigger foods if you’re racing to finish errands during your lunch hour.

Cranberry Pecan Biscotti 

Xanthan gum, a thickener which can cause gas, appears on this recipe’s ingredients list. Most people digest it without difficulty in amounts of fewer than 6 teaspoons. You’ll find only a 1/2 teaspoon of the thickener in this 15-cookie batch, so enjoy!

Open House

If you have kids (or ‘spontaneous’ relatives) chances are that there will be some last-minute surprises. Keep these on hand and you’ll just have to worry about hiding the unwrapped gifts.

Stock your fridge and pantry

Even if you’ve got shelves full of condiments, do you how old they are? Buy a couple of jars of fancy mustard; chutney and marinara sauce.

Remember to pick up extra bottled water (you’ll see why), decaf and regular coffee; black and green tea. Apple cider is another good choice (only small servings for you, though). You’ll probably need to buy soda for your guests, but will have to use your best judgment if it’s hard to resist. Buy only enough for the guests and opt for a liter-sized bottle instead of individual cans; it will go flat much more quickly than the canned varieties.

Buy phyllo and whole-grain pizza dough – preferably the refrigerated varieties.
Shop for lemons, limes, roasted peppers, whole and chopped olives in brine; sautéed mushrooms; roasted peanuts; spicy walnuts; pepper-based hummus; grape tomatoes; loaves of whole-grain bread; assorted hard cheeses; a one-pound package of shredded provolone or mozzarella; two soft cheeses; assortments of whole-grain crackers. (Click here for a list of the best-tolerated cheeses for gas sufferers.)

Order extra (additive-free) sliced deli meats the next time you go to the supermarket. (Don’t worry about the food going to waste if you overestimated the guest count: even sliced deli meats keep well if sealed in freezer bags before being frozen.)

Buy fresh bunches of parsley, rosemary and thyme. Wash and set to drain or give them a whirl in your salad spinner. Store, wrapped in paper towels, in the fridge.

Cut/slice the citrus into wedges. Store separately in ceramic or BPA-free containers in the fridge.

Store the soda and bottled water either in a cold area of your house or, if you have room, in the fridge.

If you don’t want to deal with dishes, try the Chinet brand of paper plates and cups; buy disposable utensils.

Have on hand:
rolling pin
3″ – 4″ round biscuit cutter
12-cup muffin tin

Wash serving trays/platters, ramekins and bowls; wrap in plastic to avoid accumulated cooking grease or dust.

Make-ahead snacks

All that shopping will make it possible to toss the following snacks together in under 30 minutes (active time).

If you have 15 minutes:

Nibbles
Arrange the roasted and spiced nuts in ramekins.

Drinks
Set out the cups, soda and bottled water along with the sliced lemons and limes. Offer to bring out the cider. Take orders for coffee or tea; brew and serve.
Allow yourself up to eight ounces of cider and one to three cups of decaf coffee or green tea.

Antipasto
Serve the (drained) roasted peppers, olives in brine and hummus in ramekins and bowls; arrange the deli meats, cheeses, crackers and bread on trays/platters. Break out the disposable plates, cup and utensils.

If you have 30 minutes:
Drinks
See above

Individual pizzas
Set the oven to 375 the minute the doorbell rings or you get the “I’m in the neighborhood” call.

Roll out the dough and cut it into rounds. Top with a layer each of marinara and shredded cheese; marinara and a cheese blend; cheese and olives/mushrooms; or sauce, cheese and roasted peppers. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn off the oven; loosely cover with foil and set on stovetop until serving time.

Allow yourself one individual pizza and one open-faced sandwich. Help yourself to the antipasti!

Deli spread
Make an assortment of sandwiches using the deli meats, hard cheeses, chutney or mustard and (drained) roasted peppers. Garnish with parsley or rosemary.

If you have an hour:
Drinks
See above

Antipasto tray
See above (minus the soft cheeses, peppers and mushrooms)

Phyllo ‘nests’
Set the oven to 375. Unfold the phyllo dough over a 12-cup muffin tin. Press into each cavity; use kitchen shears or a table knife to cut away excess dough. (Wrap and return to fridge.) Put a tablespoon of goat cheese, and a combination of drained roasted peppers and mushrooms in each well. Follow the package instructions for baking time. Garnish with rosemary.

Crunch Time

If you find yourself wishing for 72-hour days, you’re not alone. Prep these dinners and save your digestive system – and your wallet – from a steady diet of take-out.

Roast Chicken

Trust us – this only looks hard. Plus, the leftovers magically transform into two more meals*.

Two whole chickens
1 head of garlic, divided in half
Two sliced Bermuda onions
Blend of 2 tablespoons each, salt and pepper
One quarter stick of softened butter
Kosher salt (preferred) or regular table salt to season
(Recommended)  1/2 lemon
Two 1″ pieces of peeled ginger

Set the oven to 400.
Remove giblet package
Rinse chickens under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels (inside and out).
Slice two Bermuda onions; place each in a single layer in separate roasting pans. Season the inside of each chicken with equal portions of the salt/pepper combo.
Smash each half of the garlic, place inside each chicken
Add equal portions of the peeled ginger and lemon to each chicken
Rub the back (bony side) of each chicken with butter; sprinkle with salt
Place chickens in the pans
Roast 90 minutes to 2 hours on the back; flip and add butter and salt to the breast; roast for 90 minutes or until golden brown.

The chicken will remain moist longer if you slice it immediately before serving. To really speed prep, you can carve each chicken and keep the slices moist by first wrapping them in the skin of each chicken, next in plastic wrap. (Refrigerate the bones.)

Serve with 1/4 bunch of steamed broccoli and 1/4 head of cauliflower crowns (refrigerate remainder and stalks) and Pan-Roasted Root Vegetables (see below).

Roast Chicken over Field Greens
Rinse and dry salad greens; refrigerate, wrapped in moistened paper towels. Add up to a tablespoon each of crumbled blue/goat, or goat cheese and dried cranberries, the grape tomatoes and mushrooms and spicy walnuts. Add sliced chicken.

*Chicken Soup
Stock
Put the chicken bones in a stockpot with the broccoli and cauliflower stalks and four quartered yellow onions. Add a handful each of peppercorns and kosher salt. Simmer for three hours. Strain.
Soup
Season one pound of sliced chicken adobo. Slice and sauté; add to stock.
Add sliced carrots, onion and red peppers.

Beef Stir-fry 
This recipe can be prepped ahead of time and cooked in under 10 minutes.

Pan-Roasted Root Vegetables
It actually takes longer to peel and slice the ingredients than it does to cook them.
Peel and slice into 1/2″ rounds:
1 pound parsnips
1 medium carrot
1 pound onions

2 pounds golden and red beets, chopped into a 2″x2″ dice
1 head garlic, peel and smashed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of sesame or other aromatic oil

Heat oil in a heavy skillet
Sauté veggies for 10minutes; set aside
Turn off the flame. Swirl 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or wine in the pan until the layer on the bottom loosens.
Return veggies to pan and toss.
Serve, reserving any leftovers for the pot pie.

Chicken Pot Pie
Mash the cooked parsnips and cauliflower
Season with salt, pepper and thyme
Layer the sliced chicken and reserved sautéed vegetables (broccoli, carrots, beets, onions) in one half of this piecrust recipe.

Top with the remaining piecrust. Pierce the crust twice with a fork. Refrigerate until ready to serve; bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Slow Cooker Malaysian Beef Curry

Man (and woman) does not live by chicken alone!

Have you thought about … 

Ever notice that all the cooking magazines focus on what to serve the big day, but not the night before or the morning after?

Easy morning-after breakfast

Paleo Egg Muffins

This breakfast will be ready in the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee and get everyone to the table.

Prep your holiday eve dinner 
Top a salmon filet with pesto and wrap in parchment.
Serve with Phyllo Nests (see Make-Ahead Snacks/1 hour – above)

Dessert

Winter-Spiced Molten Chocolate Cakes
These individual cakes help you limit portions and can be made up to two days in advance. (Just swap a nut milk ice cream for the dairy version!)

With a little planning, you can maintain your healthy lifestyle, save money and enjoy the flavors of the season. If the occasional fast-food meal causes gas and bloating, two CharcoCaps® capsules will get you back in the holiday spirit in no time!

 

CharcoCaps® dietary supplement relieves gas and bloating FAST!*  Enjoy your favorite foods without worry! *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

This is the first in a series of five holiday planning features between now and New Year’s Eve. Check back each Monday!