3 Reasons to Consider Serving Nourishing Foods at Holiday Meals

3 reasons to serve nourishing food at holiday meals (it's a delicious tradition, and helps your kids learn to love good food!) Holiday meals are times of throwing caution to the wind, and plowing through unhealthy foods and lots of sugar, right? I don’t know about you, but I find that there are more enjoyable and delicious ways to celebrate (though we always include delicious desserts too!). Our culinary experience has only grown more delicious as we’ve added in nourishing foods into our holiday meals. Plus, and most importantly to us, it’s also a great way to build nourishing foods into your child’s food memory bank. Let me explain.

The traditions we brought with us

Both my husband and I brought our own family traditions into our new little family. His family opened relative’s gifts Christmas Eve; mine opened our new PJ’s for the year Christmas Eve. His family spent hours driving around looking for a Christmas tree and came home and ate gingerbread; mine came home and decorated and ate whatever goodies we wanted that year.

And then there were the traditional holiday foods. We both grew up with the familiar holiday foods of America on our table, but there are a lot of variances on how they are prepared. His family made mashed yams with marshmallows; mine made candied yams with marshmallows. His family spent time carefully hand chopping cranberries and oranges for a tart cranberry salad while mine made a sweet creamy cranberry salad. His family made lightly steamed green beans with a garlic olive oil; we had long-cooked green beans with bacon, carrots and potatoes.

As we have merged our two traditions, we have learned to love each other’s food (though we both still stand by our childhood method of making yams!). But we wanted to do more than just decide what method of cooking yams to take on for our meal, we also wanted to build nourishing foods into our family’s meal.

Primary reason? For the love of our children.

It occurred to me early in my mothering that I had a wonderful opportunity with my children. If I build nourishing foods into holiday meals, their nostalgic food memories of holidays would be built around nourishing foods, not junk food. (I also felt this way about normal childhood dinners).

A story that has been sweeping the virtual world is one about a chef who is selling homemade broth in cups from a window store in New York. There has been so much excitement about this new venture that a local-to-me restaurant was asking their customers if they should also feature this at their restaurant!

But what struck me about the story is that his love of delicious homemade broths started at a young age because they were served at holiday meals,

He says, “I grew up in an Italian household, and brodo is something you have at all the holidays,” he says. “Every Christmas dinner, every Easter dinner, they start with broth.”

This was exactly what I wanted to help my children do – to treat nourishing foods (like homemade broth) as celebration worthy and building holiday celebration into those foods. Now that Italian boy has grown up, and first he made homemade broths a big part of his flavor profile in his restaurant and now he is bringing that goodness to New York one cupful at a time. (You can read about the health benefits of broth here).

What bringing nourishing foods into the meal has looked like for us

What this has looked like for us so far is mostly just improving the ingredients in certain dishes to be more nourishing (like our yam recipes). And using good ingredients, like homemade broth, in making the gravy whenever possible. Thankfully, many holiday dishes are already deliciously healthy if you buy the right ingredients for them.

But on top of that, I have tried to gently introduce certain “superfood” nourishing food items as well. Last Thanksgiving, I brought along this liver pate (read why you should eat liver here) along with crackers and home pickled onion slices for everyone to snack on as an appetizer as we worked on finishing the meal. (My kids enjoyed it, and I was surprised to find that many others liked it as well).

This year, we are thinking of adding in a really light soup (perhaps a very broth-y soup with a little pasta or rice and herbs) as a first course. (Can you tell that the New York chef inspired me?!).

My mom started making amazing autumn salads to serve at holiday meals when I was in high school that I only needed to tweak to serve our needs. And I have even added other extra vegetable dishes in the past such as roasted Brussels sprouts (which are to die for!). And we have kept both family’s delicious green bean recipes as-is (though we both prefer the bacon slow cooked version).

3 reasons this has been a win!

1. Our meals taste better

And you know what? As we have experimented with adding in different healthy foods into holiday meals our culinary experience has only improved. I still remember a few large extended family meals where everyone had brought carb-loaded, cream-of-whatever laced dishes, and not much else. (This is what happens when you tell everyone to bring their favorite dish! You end up with four choices of stuffing, 2 mashed potatoes dishes, and creamy corn, and turkey). We sat down to very bland looking plates of white carbs, and had to lay around the rest of the day to recover, only to stuff ourselves with pie and whipped cream a few hours later.

I’m still not quite sure why that was supposed to be a fun way to celebrate any holiday!

2. Meals are better balanced

When you add in dishes like delicious green salads, well-prepared vegetable dishes, light soups, and liver pate, you definitely won’t end up with a plate of all white carbs. You end up with lots of colors, textures, and yes, nutritional value!

Sure, you can overeat at any meal, but you are much more likely to leave the meal feeling satisfied, not stuffed to the sickening point. If you leave out MSG heavy cream of soups in your dishes, your body isn’t having to deal with any reactions to it either (for those of us who are sensitive – and many of us are).

3. Our kids grow up knowing good food

And finally, our kids are hardly perfect in how they eat, and they can be frustratingly picky at times. But I am thrilled with many of the nourishing and healthy things that they love, and I know the reason they love it is simply because I gave them the opportunity to try it. Some nourishing foods are still hit and miss with them, but I figure I am giving their palate a good head start by the introduction to yummy nourishing foods. If you are wondering, we rarely make our kids eat more than a bite or two of a new food. We just let them try it whenever we serve it, and more often than not, after a few tries they eat it without any complaints.

A word on shared holiday meals:

Granted, many of us are not cooking the entire holiday meal, so we don’t have control over everything served. Generally for us, it has been fairly easy to bring along dishes that help bring this concept to life even when not every item is made exactly how I would have made it. But we’ve also known that we can make our own traditions on different holiday days. For example, my family had a tradition of serving clam chowder on Christmas Eve that I love! (My nourishing version of that family favorite is in my cookbook, Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons – where I share how to make it dairy-free as well).

So far, this adventure of bringing nourishing foods more into the meal has met with great success! In fact, the only times I have struggled is more with trying to recreate foods that meet our food intolerance list. The nourishing part of the equation has just meant better food in every way for all of us.

What about you? Do you try to bring any healthy/nourishing foods into holiday meals?

Related: 

Potato Apple Soup with Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola (grain-free)

Potato Apple Soup with Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola (grain-free)By April Swiger, Contributing Writer

This rustic potato soup is delicately sweet, with caramelized onions and local apples, topped with savory gorgonzola. Not only is it nourishing-to-the-max with chicken bone broth, but it’s quick to put together and very frugal for even the tightest budget! This soup is simple enough for a busy weeknight meal (it has been devoured by my three year old son multiple times this week), but also has a touch of elegance with the addition of gorgonzola cheese in place of a traditional cheddar.

We’re officially in “soup season” as I like to call it. My crockpot is bubbling every week with homemade nourishing bone broth, and my freezer is always stocked with a few quarts for when I need it. Traditional bone broth has an abundance of health benefits ranging from helping intestinal disorders to the common cold (Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, page 116-117). My husband and I drink a warm mug of broth, lightly salted, when we feel a cold coming on – and it really seems to help!

Potato soup is a favorite of mine, and I’m always looking for unique ways to serve it. I currently have twenty pounds of local apples, freshly picked from a nearby orchard. Traditionally, apples are paired with butternut squash, or sweet potatoes, but I loved the idea of a savory sweet soup with the humble russet potato and caramelized onions for extra flavor. Adding some gorgonzola on top gave it just the “bite” I was looking for.

I love keeping recipes simple, frugal, and nourishing, especially in the winter months when illnesses abound. You can’t go wrong when you use bone broth as your foundation. It’s easy to adapt this recipe for your taste as well. Add more apples or onions if you prefer it on the sweeter side, or switch out the gorgonzola for cheddar or brie.

Here are some other soups you may enjoy:

And check out Kimi’s Cookbook, (affiliate link) Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as well!

Potato Apple Soup with Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola (grain-free)
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
 
This rustic soup is savory sweet and very frugal. It could easily be enjoyed all winter long!
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped (I used russet)
  • 3 medium sized apples of your choice (about 1-1.5 lbs)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Gorgonzola cheese to top
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pot. Add the sliced onions, a pinch of salt, and caramelize them for about 20-25 minutes until they are a deep golden brown. While the onions are carmelizing, peel and chop the potatoes and apples.
  2. When the onions are caramelized, add the potatoes, apples, broth, thyme and bay leaf to the pot. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Use a hand blender to puree the soup. You could also do it in batches in a countertop blender as well. I like to leave some chunks in the soup and not puree it completely.
  4. Top with a hefty portion of gorgonzola cheese crumbles.

 

A Great Source for Traditional Food Supplements + Giveaway!

A great source for real food supplements to "supplement" your real food diet! Whether or not we should supplement our diet is a topic loaded with controversy in the real food world, especially those who follow the research of Dr. Weston A. Price. It was Dr. Price who inspired so many of us to improve our health not with supplements, but with a diet of traditional foods rich in minerals and vitamins. I talked about the topic of supplements here, and one “whole food supplement” of dried liver here.

There have been a few supplement items that I have had a hard time feeling great about giving to my family, but also not feeling great about leaving them out. One of which was calcium supplements. There are several studies that suggest that calcium supplements can even be harmful to our health, yet as a mostly dairy-free family, I feel that we have a hard time getting adequate amounts of calcium in our diets. It turns out that homemade bone broths may not be giving adequate amounts of calcium (plus, you have to consistently get a lot of broth in every day). Calcium from grains, nuts, seeds, and certain vegetables may not always be absorbed well. I’ve been sitting on the fence on calcium supplements for a while.

So when I heard that Ramiel Nagel, the man who wrote the book  affiliate links) Cure Tooth Decay largely inspired by Dr. Price’s book, was starting a Traditional Foods Market selling real food supplements that follow Dr. Price’s protocol, I was thrilled! Especially because one of the first items he started carrying was a real food calcium supplement.

I reached out to Ramiel, and he graciously sent some samples out to me to try, and I was so impressed with the purity and quality. They are truly made out of real food! We set up this giveaway so that 4 of my readers can also try out three of his supplements (a value of $110 per winner!). I’m so thrilled to be sharing about these with you! I think that these are a great whole food/real food “supplement” to add to your diet for extra nutrition, and to help in your journey of eating nourishing food. For those on Ramiel’s protocol for halting tooth decay, these items can help you fill in the gaps of the protocol, especially if you can’t source certain food items locally.

Before I get to the individual supplements, a few quick disclaimers: I am now an affiliate partner to Traditional Food Market, so any goods bought through my links will give me a small cut of the profit. Thank you for supporting my blog! I am also not claiming that any of these products can treat or heal any diseases, and my readers also have full responsibilities over their health decisions, and can talk to their health care providers before adding any supplements or foods to their diet. Now to the items!

Calcium Source Supplement

A natural source of calcium! Whole Bone Calcium from free range, grassfed beef. What it’s made out of: “From the website, Traditional Foods Market Whole Bone Calcium is a totally natural, bone derived calcium complex. It delivers all of the elements present in healthy bone tissue, in their correct physiological ratios. It contains naturally occurring collagen, growth factors, and a broad range of trace minerals found in bone. Whole Bone Calcium is low temperature processed and derived exclusively from free-range, pasture-fed New Zealand cattle. The New Zealand cattle we source are never fed grain and they consume pasture or dried grasses their entire life.” Important to note: Calcium is not isolated here, but provided with the cofactors of other natural nutrients.

How it tastes: If you stick your finger into the powder and lick it, it tastes very mild and a little gritty.

How to take it: You can let it simply dissolve in your mouth under your tongue, but I haven’t been brave enough to try yet. We have successfully taken it mixed with applesauce (a little gritty, but doable) and in smoothies (where we didn’t even notice it). You can also simply mix in a little water or kefir or milk.

Oyster Supplement

Finally, a whole foods zinc supplement made from oysters! It also gives 59 other trace minerals! Why oysters? Oysters are a very important source of zinc, which is needed for a properly functioning immune system. It also happens to be a vital nutrient for male fertility. While, granted, you can get zinc at any supplement store, this is a very unique zinc supplement because it is in the whole food form of oysters, which also delivers an array of other nutrients. Each bottle of “Oyster Power” takes at least 100 oysters to make and gives you 59 other trace minerals along with zinc.

Source of oysters: My doctor doesn’t recommend the oysters from our area, sadly, because the water around them is often treated with fungicides. These oysters are sourced from clean, tested water off the coast of Ireland.

How to take it: These come in capsule form. I haven’t been brave enough to break them open and give to my children yet! We’ll see how that goes!

Organic Vitamin C Powder

Finally, a whole food vitamin C source! This supplement is just made out of acerola cherries. Why it’s important: One item that many people don’t realize was on Dr. Price’s body building, cavity treating lunch protocol was fresh orange juice for vitamin C content. Not all of us do well with juice every day (even in small amounts), but vitamin C remains important for us to consume. Once again, there are plenty of vitamin C supplements out there that are mostly synthetic, but here is a vitamin C source that is truly sourced from nature!

Traditional Foods Market says, “Holistic Dental’s organic acerola cherry is certified organic by Oregon Tilth and comes from the biodynamic acerola cherry grower in Brazil. The cherries are grown with biodynamic principals to create a healthy ecosystem, which includes seasonal crops, pastures, herbs, and a herd of pastured cows for natural fertilizer. Freeze drying and spray drying changes the acerola’s pH and reduces its vitamin levels. This vitamin C is processed with a proprietary gentle low heat method. As a result, the natural cherry color flavor and smell remains unchanged. Lab tests confirm that no vitamin C is lost during the process. Each bottle contains at least 25,000 mg of only naturally occurring vitamin C per bottle. This is truly natural vitamin C—there is no ascorbic acid added or synthetic vitamins added at all. It’s just powdered organic cherry. Humans do not have the ability to make ascorbic acid and must obtain vitamin C from their diet. Vitamin C is thus considered an essential dietary component, it protects against damage caused by free radicals, and is essential for the body to have to make collagen—the flexible protein found in cartilage, tendons, bone, and skin.*”

How to take it: This powder tastes great! It’s a little tart, but I like tart. It’s easy to add to smoothies.

Win your own!

Real food supplements giveaway! Enter this giveaway by entering the rafflecopter below! Also, be sure to note that those who subscribe to Traditional Foods Market get $2 store credit, and you can also sign up for the refer a friend program to earn even more store credit

Note: This giveaway is open to U.S. addresses only. No purchases are necessary to enter this giveaway. Each winner will receive products valued at $110. Winners are responsible for leaving a proper email address and responding to the email within 48 hours when the winners are announced. If winners don’t respond, a new winner will be chosen. The winners will be announced: September 16th. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Miso Noodle Soup with Greens & Pork Ribs – Grain Free (Stove Top or Slow Cooker)

Miso Noodle Soup with Greens & Pork Ribs (Grain Free)

Pork ribs are simmered in a ginger-laced broth, then accented with greens and mushrooms and layered with flavors of miso, tamari and umeboshi plum vinegar (or rice wine vinegar). If this isn’t Japanese(ish) soul food, I don’t know what is.

Up until recently we enjoyed this with rice noodles, but lately we’ve loved it with mung bean cellophane noodles or (affiliate link) kelp noodles! Both of these grain free varieties are silky and lovely and totally neutral in flavor. And my kids give the thumbs up for slurpability which – you know – I tolerate, because they are eating such a nutritious meal!

Here are some more grain-free pasta options if you are looking for alternatives. As for the base, I make my own frugal chicken stock or a broth out of drumsticks.

Miso Noodle Soup with Greens & Pork Ribs (Grain Free)

Kelp Noodles

I fell in love with Japanese food in my early 20’s. After graduating college, I worked for a large Japanese company as a project engineer. It wasn’t long until I made a career leap to teaching Pilates and other wellness pursuits, but I was there long enough to get a good glimpse into Japanese culture, get comfortable with chopsticks and even have the opportunity to travel to Japan.

Spending a week in Japan was amazing in so many ways, but the food. Oh the food! It was out of this world.

Bear with me while I reminisce about some of my many food adventures there:

  • After a 13 hour flight and landing on soil that was 13 hours ahead of Atlanta, I felt completely upside down. I didn’t really come around until later at night when Tokyo was all lit up and a Japanese coworker and I settled into a sushi boat restaurant (here’s a good photo of one so you get an idea). We feasted on sushi and sashimi washed down with a little cold sake from a sort of miniature sake waterfall.
  • The next morning (after waking up bright-eyed at 4a.m. and watching the sunrise) I wandered down to the hotel restaurant and had the choice of an American or Japanese breakfast. I chose the Japanese breakfast which consisted of salmon, miso soup, pickled vegetables and rice. Such a great way to start the day!
  • My coworkers and I (both American and Japanese) often ate lunch at the company headquarters cafe. Usually I got the tonkatsu which is a breaded, deep-fried (but somehow light tasting) pork cutlet drizzled with a dark, complex sauce -salty, sweet and tangy. Such delicious food even in a sterile corporate cafeteria.
  • Then there was the magical experience I had in a green tea shop. In the interest of time, I’ll send you over to this Matcha-Ginger Scones post to read it if you’d like. (The scones are great too!)
  • One misadventure I had was at one of the finer sushi restaurants. I was with a Japanese coworker and we were both so excited about the meal to come. He was looking forward to eating some of the more exotic selections (sea urchin for one) but I stuck to the basics. We both had a “sweet shrimp” sushi and ate it at the same time. This was the first thing I had encountered that I didn’t like. In fact I couldn’t even tolerate it and to my horror, I started gagging involuntarily. But thankfully when I looked up, he had his eyes closed and was quietly moaning with delight so I took advantage and quickly spit it into my napkin. By the time he opened his eyes I was poised and smiling!

One of the popular “fast foods” is the ramen soup bowl. These are large hearty bowls of soup brimming with meat, vegetables and umami that hit the spot for lunch. I found a recipe for a pork ramen soup in (affiliate link) Slow Cooker Revolution and adapted it for the stove top and to make it more nourishing. It is deeply satisfying like the soups I remember in Japan. My husband raves about it and the kids down it without a complaint!

I hope you get a chance to try it and love it as much as we do!

Here are some more Japanese-inspired recipes from The Nourishing Gourmet:

Do you love Japanese food? What are your favorite dishes?

Miso Noodle Soup with Greens & Pork Ribs (Grain Free)
 
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Japanese-Inspired
Serves: 4
 
This richly-flavored, decadent soup is simple to make and a family pleaser! Adapted from a recipe in Slow Cooker Revolution.
Ingredients
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
  • 8 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 12 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 pounds pork ribs (bone-in baby back or a leaner cut of spare ribs, if using boneless use 1.5 pounds)
  • 1 (12 ounce) package of kelp or mung bean noodles
  • 6 cups spinach or kale
  • 2 tablespoons miso (white or red)
  • 1-2 tablespoons tamari (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon umeboshi plum vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • Ideas for garnishments: scallions, sliced jalapenos, seaweed flakes and/or toasted sesame seeds
Instructions
  1. Over low-medium heat saute the onion, garlic and ginger in the coconut oil or ghee, careful not to let the garlic burn.
  2. Once softened, add in the chicken broth, ribs and mushrooms. (Since my kids don't like mushrooms I usually saute these on the side and serve at the table separately.)
  3. Simmer for 2 hours if you can (this will make the meat even more tender and the flavors come together better). If not, 1.5 hours is fine!
  4. Take out the pork ribs and cut the meat into bite-size pieces, removing the fat.
  5. If you are using spinach and mung bean or kelp noodles, remove the soup from the heat and stir in the rest of the ingredients including the meat. It's ready to serve.
  6. If you are using the kale and/or rice noodles that need some additional cooking time, you will need to add them in while the soup is simmering until they soften. Then take the soup off the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.
  7. Serve the garnishments on the side.
Notes
To make this soup in the slow cooker, just add sauteed onions, garlic and ginger plus the broth, mushrooms and ribs. Cook on high 5-7 hours. Cut pork into bite-sized pieces. Stir in kale, spinach and noodles and let them cook til tender. (If you're using mung bean or kelp noodles they will be ready very quickly so add them right at the end.) Add back in the pork and season with the remaining ingredients. Serve.