Holidays are a time of feasting. But that doesn’t have to mean we forget about vegetables for the whole month of December. With other holiday meals, there’s much more leeway than with Thanksgiving meals, which, let’s face it, just wouldn’t be complete without the buttery rolls, stuffing, and pie.
As you’re planning your holiday menu, here are some simple, delicious ways to fill up on veggies.
What to Nosh
As guests arrive, make sure the table features a veggies and dip tray so guests are not tempted to fill up on junk. You can even make sure the dip itself is guilt-free! Try this high-protein creamy dip recipe recently featured in our newsletter.
But what about even heartier appetizer ideas? A friend recently introduced me to these vegetarian “meatballs” made with breadcrumbs, feta cheese, and any kind of leafy green you like.
Feasting on… Chard Stems?
I know, it sounds like you’re pawning off destined-for-the-compost-bin vegetable scraps on your guests. But they sure won’t think so once they’ve tried this recipe for Chard Stem Gratin. It’s from chef, restauranteur and locavore activist Alice Waters, and it is a feast day meal to the T: so creamy, salty and topped with bread crumbs and cheese.
Plan a Special Side Salad
When it comes to salad, it’s all about how you help the lettuce accessorize. If your salad’s decked out in sliced apples, blue cheese, and candied hazelnuts, guests will pass the bowl till its empty.
Spanakopita offers the most delicious and festive use for spinach. However, it has two strikes against it. First, if you’re serving it, you’ll have to pronounce it. Second, it uses that impossible stuff called fillo dough.
As far as the first strike, maybe it is just me, but I definitely find this a tough word to wrangle. I confess to having friends order spanakopita for me at restaurants. But we can do this. It’s span-uh–koh-pi-tuh. The emphasis goes on the “koh.” That’s koh as in cope, like “how will I cope with this fillo dough?” Here’s somebody on YouTube saying spanakopitas.
The second strike, the fillo dough, can be harder to deal with. It’s paper-thin and tears easily. It also dries out very quickly. My first attempts with the stuff, trying to make samosas, were messy and frustrating.
But, I promise, if you take deep breath, stage your kitchen well, and allow yourself enough time to work peacefully, you’ll be able to do this. The trick is to keep the dough flat and moist. So unwrap the dough, lay it flat on a clean surface, and have a damp towel handy to cover the sheets you’re not working with yet. Also, make sure to have the butter melted and ready.
For this recipe, I combined two easy spanikopita recipes (from Martha Stewart and The Wednesday Chef), so that in this season of looking forward to peace on earth, there would also be peace in my kitchen.
Try this recipe, and every bite will make you so glad you took the risk.
- 10 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted, or a little less than 1 pound fresh baby spinach, chopped.
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 egg
- ¼ pound feta, crumbled
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
- 10 sheets of fillo dough, thawed if frozen
- ½ cup butter, melted
Special materials: Kitchen shears, parchment paper, brush for buttering phillo sheets, damp cloth.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Saute onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat, until soft and golden (about 8 minutes).
If using fresh spinach:
- Add the chopped fresh spinach to the saute pan, one handful at a time, and cook until it is all wilted.
If using frozen spinach:
- In a colander, wring out the well defrosted spinach so that is is quite dry. You don't want the spinach to add much extra moisture that would make the pie soggy. Use kitchen shears to chop up the spinach.
- Combine spinach and feta. Add herbs, egg, spices and onion and garlic. Set aside.
- Now, stage your kitchen so you're 100% ready to start working with the fillo dough. Have a clean damp cloth ready, and have the butter already melted and your buttering brush at hand.
- Unwrap the dough, lay it flat, and immediately cover it with the damp cloth. Tear a sheet of parchment paper that is slightly longer than the phillo sheets.
- Transfer your first phillo sheet to the parchment paper and brush it generously with butter. Spread the next sheet on top and brush this sheet with butter, too. Repeat.
- Place the spinach mixture in the center of the phillo dough and press it down so that you have a flat circle of spinach in the center atop the phillo dough.
- Grab your next sheet of phillo and lay it on top of the spinach. Butter it. Repeat twice.
- Roll the edges of the phillo dough in toward the spinach, so that there is a thick edge of folded phillo surrounding the spinach.
- Lay another sheet of phillo on top of this and butter it. Now crumple this sheet and arrange it on top of your spanakopita. Repeat with three more sheets (I arranged phillo sheets in concentric circles, but you can really do whatever you'd like at this stage).
- Transfer spanakopita, on the parchment paper, to a baking sheet. Bake 40 minutes until golden.