Surviving the Holidays Part III – Making it Work
This month we wrap up the three part series on surviving the holidays. We’ve successfully navigated our way through those diet busting hazards of October and November and not only stayed on course, but did it without denying ourselves those wonderful traditional favorite foods that are so intrinsic to our year-end holiday celebrations. And although it hasn’t been all that hard, we still have the greatest test of all ahead of us. Though the previous two months were certainly challenging enough you might imagine that even the best resolve can quickly disappear at parties and family gatherings during the festive weeks of December.
During the first holiday season of my low-carb diet, four years ago, our next-door neighbor, Maria, born to Cuban parents, invited my husband and me to her annual Christmas Eve open house and before I could even remove my coat, I had to check out her decadent dessert table. Recalling previous years, I knew what I’d see, among other things, Flan, Tres Leche Cake, Almond Cookies and a dozen assorted incredible candies and sweets. I just wanted to look at them and, indeed, that’s all I did. At that time sadly I didn’t have alternatives to bring with me, as I do now and having come so close to my weight loss goal I had no wish to be foolish. I resisted but I would be in denial to say I did not feel deprived and not a small amount sorry for myself, especially as I watched others slice into and devour those rich savory treats. After all, I had been good for nearly four long months, I reminded myself as I wrestled with my rapidly waning will power. Whew, trust me, I don’t ever want to experience that again. Utter torture. Then and there is when I promised myself that somehow I’d come up with substitutes. I didn’t do it over night, trust me, but over time, and using the new low-carb products available in health food stores and from the Internet, I was finally able to come to terms with that nemesis of dieting, temptation, and now I never have to resist ever again because I have so many options. It was, in fact, these first experiments that inspired me to write my cookbook, 101 Low-Carb & Sugarfree Dessert Recipes. As they say, determination, coupled with a little old fashion research and development, is the mother of invention. Right?
Using the techniques we learned in Part II for evaluating and making substitutions in our favorite recipes, we can look ahead to entertaining friends, family, and co-workers with ease, all the while staying true to our low-carb diets and lifestyle. The new sugar substitutes and other products like Life-Style low-carb bread help us to breeze through to the New Year without abandoning our good efforts. And because they taste so good, we can make our recipes and include them among the sugary high carb counterpoints or simply offer them exclusively, for all to enjoy, without sacrificing taste or quality. What a comfort it is to dress a holiday buffet table with beautiful desserts and treats like Blonde Brownie Stars or Creamy Fudge and not feel even a twinge of guilt. Affectionately dubbed “Low-carb Queen” by friends and family, it is now expected that I will bring a Low-Carb Sugarfree Dessert to any gathering and I rarely have any remaining to bring home with me. This is a testament and confirmation that Low-Carb recipes can be tasty and satisfying even to “civilians”.
A long held tradition in our family is Christmas Brunch served after all the gifts are opened and before the wrapping paper carnage is completely cleaned up. This is made the night before, refrigerated and then put in the oven to bake while mayhem is occurring beneath the bows of the Christmas tree. Holiday Brunch Casserole would not be possible, however, without the great tasting low-carb bread now available, but everyone, dieters or non, can and will relish this hearty, meal-in-a-dish recipe, served with a side of fresh sliced strawberries. This recipe can be doubled and baked in a large lasagna pan to feed a mob of out-of-town guests and tastes even better reheated, if there’s any left to reheat, that is.
What holiday gathering is complete without Red Punch or Eggnog? These also are easy recipes to convert to sugarfree and low-carb. Even children, who often eat too many sweets so readily available during the holidays could benefit from a few sugarfree things instead and, if you don’t tell them, they will never know the difference.
In the first article of this series, I mentioned that I was experimenting with a traditional candy recipe my family insists that I make every year. I haven’t made Strawberry Jewels in four years. This year, I am happy to report that I have finally perfected the low-carb version. Though it tastes almost exactly like the original recipe, the conversion is nothing like the original counterpart. But nevertheless, they are just as good!
Staying on diet and still being able to embrace the joys of the season should not be torture, nor should it be a time for denying ourselves the pleasures of our celebrations, which always seem to center around the traditional cherished foods we look forward to and generally never eat at any other time of the year. With so many choices available now, Low-Carbing is probably the easiest diet to live with and stay true to as the old year passes and the New Year unfolds. Who knew that low-carbing would be more about all the things we can eat than the things we can’t?
My decorations are up, gifts wrapped, Low-Carb goodies waiting to be enjoyed. I believe I’ll sit back now with a cup of coffee and a Blonde Brownie Star. May peace and joy abide in your hearts and homes for as Washington Irving once said; “Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.”