Anyone else do a little dance after reading that title? No? Alrighty then…
I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving filled with friends and/or family and more good food than you could handle! As the title to this post suggests, we are now officially knee deep in the holiday hustle and it’s all coming at us like a freight train. Regardless of which holidays you celebrate and whether those holidays are joyful or stressful for you, I think we can all agree that this time of year can be very emotional. It’s definitely a balancing act with school/work deadlines, social engagements, figuring out where you’ll be celebrating the holidays or planning to host, shopping for the perfect gifts in overcrowded stores, and travel. There’s also the inevitable family member (or friend) who you would normally dive under a school bus to avoid running into, yet, on the holidays you’re the jerk if you don’t spend an eternity listening to how his or her dogs are doing. And let’s not forget about all of the food surrounding this time of year.
Over the past few years, I’ve made some changes in my mindset regarding food and they have helped relieve a little of the holiday stress. So, here are a few tips that have worked for me:
- Eat a lot of veggies. Really, this is something I do throughout the year now, but during this time of year there are sweets galore and gatherings that involve eating heavy food, so eating more veggies in between celebrations helps ensure that your body is still getting properly nourished. Bonus: fill up on the good stuff and you won’t want to eat the entire gingerbread house.
- Eat in as much as you can. Clearly, you can’t bail on the company holiday dinner, but maybe you can bring your lunch that day. Or say no to the holiday soiree your friend’s husband’s sister’s cousin is throwing and stay home instead. I have to admit, saying no to social functions used to be a hard one for me, but these days I don’t feel guilty for opting out of an event or two if it helps keep me sane. And having good food at home makes staying in so much more appealing. Making big batches of a couple of meals on Sunday will help ensure you always have something good to eat at home.
- Relax. You’re going to splurge a little during the holidays. We all do it and it is not the end of the world, or even the end of your health or diet goals. The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up every time you indulge. Actually, even worse is to give up because you think you blew it anyway. Take a step back and breathe. One cookie, or one day of eating (ahem, Thanksgiving), or even a week of holiday parties is not going to destroy what you’ve worked for. Just resume regularly scheduled healthy habits and move forward. And remember to be present and enjoy time with your loved ones rather than worrying about how many calories you just ordered to, “get in my belly”. It will all be OK.
Need a good batch recipe? Make my chicken and dumplings!!! In this post, I talked about trying to recreate my Grammy’s chicken and dumplings. I kept the essence of Grammy’s chicken & dumplings, but bulked it up with more veggies and made the dumplings from scratch rather than using a biscuit mix (I didn’t love the ingredients in the mix and the BF and I agreed that it tasted a bit like plastic). I struggled with getting the perfect fluffy dumpling and we ate a lot of them in the process, but I finally got it right and the result is sooooo good. This also happens to be a great soul-warming cold weather meal. It’s easy to make, but does take a bit of time (about 1.5 hours total prep + cooking), so plan ahead. Enjoy!
Fluffy Chicken & Dumplings
Serving Nutrition: 258 calories, 13.7 g protein, 5.7 g fat, 38.1 g carbohydrates, 774 mg sodium
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
4 stalks celery, 1/4 inch slices
1 cup carrots, 1/4 inch slices
1 medium potato, diced small
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp cornstarch (or flour)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 cup milk (I used 1%)
1. In large pot over medium heat, sauté onions in olive oil until they begin to soften.
2. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Add celery, carrots, potato, salt, and pepper and stir to mix.
4. Add chicken breasts, chicken stock, bay leaf, and enough water to cover chicken breasts and bring to a boil.
5. After chicken has boiled for about 20 minutes, reduce heat to a simmer, remove breasts from pot and shred with a fork. Return chicken to pot.
6. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch with about 3 tablespoons of hot water and mix until a smooth paste forms. Add cornstarch mixture to pot and mix thoroughly.
7. Let stew simmer for about 20 minutes or until liquid thickens to desired stew consistency.
8. While stew is simmering, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl.
9. Cut softened butter into flour mixture until little beads of dough form consistently throughout mixture.
10. Slowly stir milk into flour mixture a little bit at a time until all dry ingredients are incorporated into dough. It will be a thick dough that will be difficult to stir.
11. Once stew is thickened to desired consistency, lower heat if needed to maintain a low simmer, remove the bay leaf, and stir in parsley and more salt & pepper if needed.
12. Drop 1 tablespoon of dough at a time onto the top of the stew, starting along the edge of the pot and working your way inward.
13. Cover pot and let simmer for 20 minutes.
14. Remove lid and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.