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Holiday food tactics – less stress, more snacks! Like walnut dip.

December 19, 2012

I am approaching the holiday season with a two-pronged attack.

  1. Avoid overcatering for the main meal (whether I end up doing lunch or dinner or both), and instead:
  2. Serve a lot of dips/condiments (especially ones with veges in) to have on tap throughout. In addition to being a lot more fun & creative for myself and guests mixing and matching dips and dip delivery mechanisms, I can prep all of this in advance, leave it in the fridge, and only have to face making one central dish being made on the day (no worrying about timing, other things getting cold, and a little less worrying about allergies/intolerances).

You could serve some of your dips and things as sides and/or snacks later too. Making your own dips can be a great way to sneak plenty of vegetables in without having to serve a salad that’s going to wilt in the summer heat or be totally out of season. Or you know, be totally ignored by that half of your family that doesn’t eat “rabbit food.”

carrot walnut dip-1

My favourite dips at the moment are nut or bean based dips/spreads, for something just as filling as the dairy-laden variety but a little more interesting and varied. The sky is the limit – I adapted the now much-loved-and-spread beetroot/walnut/cumin/insert-dairy-of-choice dip combo, for example, by going with: pan roasted carrots, walnuts, cumin, olive oil, black garlic (sub: roasted garlic or onion & balsamic vinegar, or just leave it out) and feta brine (or you could just use yogurt, ricotta or water and salt). Simply puree, season to taste and devour with bread or crackers, and if you like, a little extra drizzle of balsamic and olive oil (which coincidentally is also easy and delicious). Here are a few formulas that should lead to deliciousness:

  • roasted or pan-roasted vegetable (good way to use leftover roast veges) + nut/seed + optional dairy/other ingredient. Salt &/or sugar/honey to taste. Eg:
    • parsnip, garlic and walnut
    • cauliflower, cashew, cumin
    • pine nuts, red pepper, cumin or basil
    • beetroot, pistachio, feta
    • mushroom, walnut, feta, thyme/parsley, plenty black pepper, garlic if you have it
    • carrot, walnut or tahini, miso, honey/maple syrup
    • sunflower seeds, lemon (see veganyumyum)
  • roasted or pan-roasted vegetable + white beans + optional herbs or spices
    • garlic, white beans, rosemary (plus thyme if you have it), optional balsamic
    • carrot, cauliflower and/or parnsip, white beans, rosemary or cumin

…and here are a few tips:

  • roast your veges in enough oil to fully coat, and roast until one side is speckled brown. To pan roast, oil a cold large frypan, a very small splash of water, and cover. Heat on high until things start sputtering, then reduce the heat to low until the veges are softened but not totally mushy.
  • if you want extra rich nutty flavours, toast your nuts by putting them under the grill/broiler and WATCH them! They burn in next to no time. Take them out while they’re still slightly under-toasted for your liking, as they will continue cooking.
  • if your veges aren’t at their best they might need a little more help in the flavour department – a little honey to bring out the sweetness in your carrots, a bit of miso paste for richness or a little lemon or lime juice and maybe zest can make a big difference.

What are your tactics for holiday cooking and eating?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. December 20, 2012 3:08 am

    That one there looks incredible. So many good dip ideas. Dips are SO huge over here. Every gettogether has dips, but the ones you (and I) avoid – sourcream laden chili dips smeared in 3 types of different cheeses. My little beany, spicy, nutty dips (much like yours!) kind of get shunned for the heart-stroke inducing ones. Meh – more for me and Jesse!

  2. December 20, 2012 4:23 am

    I agree, more snacking and less fretting makes for an enjoyable holiday. :) Years ago, we began the tradition of having only finger foods for Christmas day so it would be a relaxed time of playing games and having fun.

  3. December 20, 2012 10:26 am

    Christina: I have to say I do love dairy-laden dips, but it’s nice to have a bit of variety and also eat crackers and dip for lunch and not feel bleaugh afterwards!

    Judy: Wow that sounds like my kind of Christmas! I hadn’t thought of going totally finger food, but there’s no reason not to, especially in our summery Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere where it’s not really pleasant to stuff yourself when it’s blazing.

  4. December 20, 2012 11:31 am

    Little bites and grazing working wonders during the Holidays for me. Have a Great One:)

  5. December 20, 2012 12:13 pm

    Great tips! I love the idea of lots of nibblies instead of one big, heavy meal

  6. December 20, 2012 10:30 pm

    Thanks cravesadventure, you too :)

    Tara – yes after having stuffed myself on several hot Aussie days now I think I’ve learnt my lesson!

  7. December 21, 2012 3:47 am

    I love the formulas for making dip with just about any veggie – I’m definitely going to have to try some of those. Plus, anything that you can make ahead is a bonus, especially at a holiday. Thanks!

  8. January 24, 2013 11:17 am

    Have you ever tried muhammara? I discovered it in Istanbul and I fell in love! It reminded me of your dip because it’s red peppers, walnuts, olive oil, garlic, and pomegranate molasses. I highly recommend.


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