Healthy Eating for the Holidays: 4 Vegetarian Recipes

BY: Martha Rose Shulman
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From its inception, Martha Rose Shulman's Recipes for Health has been one of NYTimes.com's most-read features. Now some of her most popular recipes have been gathered into one indispensable volume, The Very Best Recipes for Health, and we've been given permission to share some of them here!

Just in time for the holidays, we’ve chosen a few distinctive dishes that take advantage of seasonal ingredients and that will give your holiday table a big boost of flavor and uniqueness. We’ve also included Martha’s tips for preparing some of the ingredients in advance, so you can spend more time with family and friends — and less time in the kitchen. Enjoy these healthy holiday vegetarian recipes!

What Is Healthy Eating?

by Martha Rose Shulman 

I’ve devoted my career to healthy eating, but in a very unscientific sort of way. My approach is intuitive rather than scientific; I’m a cook, not a nutritionist, and even when I was a strict vegetarian, I was never doctrinaire. I’ve always wanted my food to be accessible to a wide range of cooks and eaters, and I’ve worked hard to create healthy food that tastes good and isn’t difficult to make. My passion for food and conviviality, and my instinct for a balanced, healthy lifestyle have always gone hand in hand. I’ve never sacrificed one in favor of the other; I haven’t needed to. As you cook your way through the recipes in my book, you’ll see that eating well needn’t be an austere experience.

Here are the broad strokes of the philosophy behind Recipes for Health:

  • Eating a variety of foods made with raw ingredients (that is, not processed)
  • Eating low on the food chain (not exclusively so, but most of the time)
  • Not eating too much
  • Stopping to eat meals and eating mindfully

If you cook, you’re halfway there, because I firmly believe that the easiest and most pleasurable way to eat well, and certainly the most economical way, is to cook the food you eat. Produce, seasonal and locally grown without pesticides if possible, and a well-stocked pantry are the linchpins of a good diet. Helping you decide what to do with these healthful ingredients is where I come in.

Take the time to sit down to your meals. I firmly believe that stopping to enjoy food at a table, whether alone or in the company of others, has got to be good for your health. If you don’t stop and eat, it’s difficult to be mindful about what you’re eating; the pleasure will elude you. And pleasure is what eating should be about. Cooking is just the first step.

Vegetarian holiday recipes

Baby Salad Greens with Sweet Potato Croutons and Stilton

Makes 4 servings

During the fall and winter I buy sweet potatoes regularly. I usually roast them, but sometimes I use this vitamin-rich vegetable in salads. They contrast beautifully here with a pungent blue cheese like Stilton. Other cheeses I like for this salad are goat cheese and feta.

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and ground black pepper

 For the salad:

  • 1 large sweet potato (10 to 12 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bag (6 ounces) baby salad greens
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled Stilton or other blue cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs, such as tarragon, parsley, chervil, chives, or a combination

1. To make the dressing: Whisk together the buttermilk, olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, mustard, garlic, and salt and black pepper to taste in a small bowl.

2. To make the salad: Place the sweet potatoes in a steamer basket set over boiling water. Cover and steam for 5 minutes, until just tender. Remove from the heat and drain on paper towels.

3. Heat the olive oil in a medium, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sweet potatoes and cook, shaking the pan and moving the pieces around often, for 10 minutes, or until evenly browned on all sides. Remove from the heat; drain on paper towels.

4. Place the salad greens in a salad bowl and top with the cheese. Toss with the dressing. Sprinkle on the herbs and sweet potato croutons and serve.

Per serving: 212 calories, 6 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 16 g fat, 5 g sat fat, 13 mg cholesterol, 331 mg sodium

Advance Preparation: You can steam the sweet potatoes and make the dressing several hours ahead.

 

Braised Red Cabbage with Apples

Makes 6 to 8 servings

I never tire of this classic purple cabbage dish. The cabbage cooks for a long time and ends up very tender and sweet. I like to serve the cabbage with bulgur, or as a side dish with just about anything. You can halve the quantities in this recipe if you don't want to make such a large amount, but it will keep well.

  • 1 large head (2 to 2-1/2 pounds) red cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 5-6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tart apples, such as Braeburn or Granny Smith, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. Quarter, core, and shred the cabbage crosswise. Place the cabbage in a bowl and cover with cold water while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet or Dutch oven and add the onion. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until just about tender. Add 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until the mixture is golden. Add the apples and stir for 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Drain the cabbage and add to the skillet. Toss to coat thoroughly. Sprinkle with the allspice, 2 tablespoons of the vinegar, and salt to taste, and toss well. Cover and cook over low heat for 1 hour, stirring from time to time. Add black pepper, taste, and adjust the salt. Taste again and add 1 or 2 more tablespoons vinegar if needed.

Per serving (based on 6 servings): 132 calories, 3 g protein, 22 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 5 g fat, 0 g sat fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 79 mg sodium

Advance Preparation: This tastes even better the day after you make it and will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. Reheat gently.

 

Wild Rice and Brown Rice Salad with Asparagus

Makes 6 servings

A main-dish salad is a perfect destination for grains. Tossed with a vinaigrette, a selection of vegetables and herbs, perhaps some walnuts to add crunch and flavor, and you've got all you need for the center of your plate. I love the contrast of textures and colors in this salad. The wild rice is earthy, the brown rice nutty, and both are chewy in different ways. Walnuts and walnut oil not only add perfect complementary flavor and crunch, but also contribute omega-3 fatty acids to the mix.

For the salad:

  • 5 cups vegetable stock, water, or chicken stock
  • Salt
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 1/2 cup short-grain brown rice
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or champagne vinegar
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely minced or pureed in a mortar and pestle
  • 1/4 cup walnut oil
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs such as chives, dill, tarragon, marjoram
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • Ground black pepper

1. To make the salad: Bring 3-1/2 cups of the stock or water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Add salt to taste and the wild rice. Return to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the rice is tender and has begun to splay. Drain and transfer the rice to a large bowl.

2. Meanwhile, combine the brown rice, the remaining 1-1/2 cups stock or water, and salt to taste in another saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Remove from the heat. If any liquid remains in the pan, drain. Add to the wild rice.

3. While the rice cooks, steam the asparagus for 3 to 4 minutes, until just tender, and rinse with cold water. Drain on paper towels.

4. To make the dressing: Whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, salt, mustard, and garlic. Whisk in the oils. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Toss at once with the warm rice.

5. Add the asparagus to the rice, along with the parsley, herbs, walnuts, and black pepper. Toss together, taste, adjust the seasonings, and serve.

Per serving: 388 calories, 7 g protein, 41 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 24 g fat, 3 g sat fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 349 mg sodium

Advance : You can make this up to a day ahead, but don't add the asparagus, parsley, and herbs until shortly before serving, because their colors will fade.

 

Winter Squash Gratin

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Winter squash can seem daunting, especially those big kabochas in the farmers' market. They're irresistible, but once you get one home you might be hard-pressed to know what to do with it. I roast my winter squash first, then it often ends up as a filling for a gratin. You can either puree the squash or dice it before mixing with the egg, milk, and cheese. Fresh sage is a particularly nice match for winter squash.

  • 2 pounds winter squash (butternut, hubbard, kabocha)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 large or extra-large eggs
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cover a baking sheet with foil and brush lightly with some olive oil. If using a big, hard squash like kabocha or hubbard, put it in the oven for 30 minutes, or until it has softened enough for you to cut it easily. Cut a 2-pound piece, cut away the seeds and membranes, and lay it on the foil. If using butternut squash, halve the squash, scoop out the seeds and stringy membranes, brush the cut sides with olive oil, and lay cut side down on the foil-covered baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes, or until soft enough to pierce easily with a knife. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then peel and either mash with a fork, puree in a food processor or finely dice. You should have about 2 cups of pureed or diced squash.

2. Reduce the heat to 375°F. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish. Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in the parsley, sage, and squash, and remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

3. Beat the eggs in a large bowl and whisk in the milk. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste. Stir in the squash mixture and the Gruyere. Season with salt and black pepper. Scrape into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the Parmesan over the top.

4. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until lightly browned on the top and sizzling. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Per serving (based on 4 servings): 316 calories, 15 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 18 g fat, 6 g sat fat, 181 mg cholesterol, 266 mg sodium

Advance Preparation: You can make this up to a day ahead and reheat in a low oven.

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