Christmas dinner can be healthy with these simple alternatives

There are lots of healthy alternatives to eat at Christmas dinner, writes Derval O'Rourke. From starters to dessert, here are three recipes to get you going.

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! People always ask me what I’ll be eating for Christmas and if I’ll be cooking. I love traditional Christmas food like turkey, ham and spiced beef. I’m planing on doing the cooking this year.

This week I’m in Christmas cooking mode. I don’t like to mess with tradition so I’m sticking to a starter suggestion and a couple of dessert options for my column. There are so many recipes out there for main courses so here are my non main course options.

I believe in keeping it simple on Christmas Day. Whenever you can pre prep the food it’s a good idea. There is nothing worse than being stuck in the kitchen all day trying to cook. Think about pre prepping your food to ensure you have loads of time to enjoy yourself on Christmas Day. My pea and mint soup is great to cook the day before and the chocolate cake is a fantastic dessert to make in advance.

It’s always nice to get a bit of fresh air on Christmas Day so in between all the eating try to get out for a stroll. You’ll be happy you did it, I promise!

Christmas dinner can be healthy with these simple alternatives

Recipes

Pea and Mint Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • a handful of mint leaves, chopped
  • 600g baby peas (preferably fresh but frozen will also work well)
  • 700 ml vegetable stock, simmering
  • freshly ground pepper

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Method

This soup is a great starter on Christmas Day. It’s easy peasy but yet feels quite indulgent. I cooked this at a cookery demonstration for 120 people a few weeks ago. The feedback was amazing. The soup is incredibly tasty and not too heavy.

This is a great way to start your Christmas day dinner feast. It will give you a kick of green goodness before the bubbles start to kick in. Consider doing this on Christmas Eve and simply reheating it on Christmas Day.

Heat the butter in a large pan over a low heat. Add the onion and mint and cook for about five minutes. Stir in the peas and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until the peas are cooked through.

Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Use a hand blender to blitz the soup. Ladle the soup into warmed serving bowls.

Baked pears with maple and vanilla

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp mixed chopped nuts
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tin of pears, each pear halved
  • 4 tbsp greek yoghurt

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Christmas dinner can be healthy with these simple alternatives

Method

This is a simple and healthy dessert.

It doesn’t make you feel that you are missing out by making this instead of a heavier chocolate cake.

In the absence of being able to get nice quality pears I tend to use good quality tinned pears.

Eat the pears as soon as they come out of the ovenpreferably with a dollop of cold greek yoghurt.

Heat the oven to 180D.

Mix the nuts, maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla in a medium bowl and set aside.

Arrange the pear halves, core side up in an oven proof dish. Carefully spoon the nut mixture into the pear halves. Bake for 15 minutes or until the pears are tender. Divide the pear halves between warmed serving plates.

Trish with a twist (chocolate fondant cake)

Ingredients:

  • 200g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa is ideal) chopped
  • 200g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 175g sugar
  • 5 medium eggs
  • 1 level tbsp ground almonds
  • 10 raspberries

Serves: 6-8

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Christmas dinner can be healthy with these simple alternatives

Method

I’m a useless baker. People assume because I love cooking that I love baking but I don’t. I’m bad at following rules, I like to improvise which makes baking a bad pastime for me. Cooking gives me the freedom to add a bit of this and a bit of that but baking demands I be precise.

This cake is for all my fellow non bakers and rule breakers. It is incredibly simple and not very demanding. This can become your go-to baking recipe. You can use it to wow your family on Christmas Day.

This recipe was originally a Trish Deseine recipe, I’ve added a twist with the ground almond and raspberries. I hope you love Trish With a Twist as much as I do.

The key to any good kitchen is preparation. If you want to be extra prepared for Christmas Day this cake freezes really well. This would be great to make a couple of weeks in advance and take out of your freezer on Christmas Eve to defrost. You know what they say: fail to prepare, prepare to fail!

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. You will need a round 22cm silicone pan.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water. Set this aside for a few minutes. Add the sugar and stir thoroughly. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, be careful not to beat too much air into the mix. Fold in the almond flour.

Put the batter in the silicon pan and bake for around 22 minutes. The cake will be wobbly in the middle. Remove from the oven. Leave the cake to cool completely before turning it out.

Cut the cake into slices and serve.

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