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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Eat-Well Eating During the Holidays

The holidays are a time that we mostly think about eating well in a context that we don't typically mean it here at Eat Well, Eat Cheap. With all of the celebrations and parties and plates of treats, we all tend to eat well around the holidays. Maybe a little too well.

Like us, you probably have a love-hate relationship with holiday food. It's mostly love, of course. We have a great excuse: We're celebrating — and it's only once a year. Well, only one season, but it goes on from Thanksgiving to New Year's.

The hate part is that we all know we're eating things we shouldn't. And so we pledge in our New Year's resolutions that we'll clean up our act just as soon as the  champagne and chocolates are finished.

Because of our pantry-emptying project (post to come), we'd been thinking a lot about what we've been eating — with more than a little horror. So we decided to try to put together a healthy Christmas dinner that was in keeping with our year-round philosophy here at Eat Well, Eat Cheap.

We had a wonderful meal, which we did not intend to be vegan, but in a healthy, happy coincidence, it  turned out that way, much to everyone's surprise and astonishment. Here's what was on the table:

We roasted brussel sprouts: trimmed, cut in half, and cooked in a 400-degree oven with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper for about 20 minutes. When they were hot out of the oven, we doused them with a  little balsamic vinaigrette. Nutty and delicious.

We boiled potatoes and mashed them with about 1/3 cup of soy milk and two tablespoons of Earth Balance butter substitute. We know that these butter-substitute things can range from awful to OK, but Earth Balance rarely lets us down when we use it in cooking.

We made a mushroom gravy that got lots of raves at the table. We'll follow this up with the recipe, along with some variations, depending on what you're having with this essential sauce. For the extreme skeptics at the table, who didn't believe that gravy could be good without meat, it was a revelation.

For a bit of relief from the warm, traditional servings, we served Laurie's Cranberry Conserve, which we'd made the day before.

But what about the main dish? you're wondering. We bought something from the Field Roast company called a Cranberry-Hazelnut Roast En Croute. It's sort of a paté or meat-like loaf in a pastry crust. It's only available at holiday time—we found ours in the freezer case at Whole Foods—but it is available online.

The roast will surprise you, as it did us. (Some skeptics will never buy it. But just tell them it's full of meaty goodness and they'll love it.) When we took stock of the meal with our guests, we all agreed it was one of the best, and certainly the healthiest, Christmas meals we'd had in a long time. And then we realized there wasn't even any dairy in it. A vegan Christmas. Who would have guessed?

But it really was delicious and satisfying.

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