Food The Bite:

9 Healthy Recipes for Post-Holiday Indulgence

Words by Sacha Strebe.
Photography by Johnny Miller for Cook Beautiful.

Sarah Elliott
Sarah Elliott

It’s safe to say we’ve all really enjoyed ourselves this holiday season. After all, what’s Christmas without a little indulgence—dessert, cocktails, and candy canes aplenty! But now that the festivities are at an end, we’re ready to transition from comfort to clean in a bid to prepare our bodies and minds for the return to work and a new, exciting year ahead. So, we’ve compiled some of our favorite healthy recipes to help make that shift a little easier. They’re good for you and your palette. Because no one should have to compromise taste for wellness—for us, the two are always mutually exclusive.  

Ready for a post-holiday reset? Keep reading for nine of Athena Calderone’s healthy recipes from Cook Beautiful to kick things off. It’s time to get cooking.

9 Healthy Recipes for Post-Holiday Indulgence

TUSCAN KALE SALAD WITH LEMON-TAHINI DRESSING

 

I know, I know—not another kale salad! But indulge me and try this one before you write off the world’s trendiest vegetable as overrated. There are a few elements that set my kale salad apart. First, I slice the kale as thinly as possible, about 1/16 inch (2 mm) thick. To get clean, precise cuts, I approach the leaves like basil, stacking and rolling them before chopping, chiffon- ade style. Second, I use apples to add a sweet-tart note to the earthy green. Finally, there’s the lemon-tahini dressing, which brings everything together with its addictive, nutty acidity. After a few bites, you might just rekindle your romance with kale.

NONNA’S CHICKEN SOUP

 

When I was a little peanut home sick from school, my nonna always cooked up a batch of this cold-curing chicken soup. I can still remember the aroma wafting into the living room as I reclined on the sofa watching Gilligan’s Island. Now, when my own little peanut is sneezing, I make it for him, and—even when everyone is healthy—it’s a perennial favorite. Like most soups and stews, it tastes even better the next day and freezes well, making it a super-convenient weeknight meal. The recipe isn’t particularly fussy, but there are two non-negotiables: Always cook and store the pasta separately, so it doesn’t turn to mush in the soup, and don’t forget to pile on the pecorino—just like Nonna always did for me.

9 Healthy Recipes for Post-Holiday Indulgence
9 Healthy Recipes for Post-Holiday Indulgence

FARRO SALAD WITH ROASTED SWEET POTATOES, RED ONION, AND GOAT CHEESE

 

I love me a farro salad! The hearty grain is an amazing base for all sorts of veggie combinations and it’s super convenient to work with since you can cook it several days ahead. I tend to follow a loose formula: farro plus roasted veggies, a bright herb, a crunchy nut or seed, some creamy cheese, and a zingy dressing. Here, sweet potatoes and red onions caramelize gor- geously in the oven, while the earthy goat cheese and zippy vinaigrette balance out the sweetness. Feel free to play—roasted beets or winter squash would be lovely, as would hazelnuts, almonds, or feta.

JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE, CELERY, AND PEAR SALAD

 

Celery is like the forgotten vegetable—no one ever thinks of it. But if I had to make just one salad all fall, it would be this one, in which celery plays a starring role. A super-crunchy showstopper with an unexpected flavor profile, this dish is dead simple to prepare. I always marvel at how the clean, pure taste of each ingredient comes through in every bite. In addition to refreshing celery, there’s earthy sunchoke, sweet pear, toasty hazelnut, and briny Manchego—all of them married together with a lemony vinaigrette. I like to serve this salad with a decadent main course, like a braise or a roast, because its zippy flavors cut through the richness. And sometimes I play around with the ingredients, subbing pecorino Toscano for the Manchego, apples for the pears, or fennel for the celery. You should feel free to do the same. Proof that healthy recipes can taste delicious too.

9 Healthy Recipes for Post-Holiday Indulgence
9 Healthy Recipes for Post-Holiday Indulgence

PAN-SEARED TANGY BRUSSELS SPROUTS

 

A limp sprout is a big bummer, as far as I’m concerned. But it’s easy to avoid that sorry fate if you know this secret: It’s all about dry, room-temperature sprouts and a big, hot pan. If the temperature of the pan is too low, the sprouts too cold or damp, or the skillet too crowded, the little suckers will never get really crispy. This recipe lays it all out for you. Follow it precisely, and you’ll end up with a stellar winter side dish—crunchy, smoky, sweet, tangy, and delicious.

MISO-GLAZED CARROTS WITH CARROT-TOP PESTO

 

Growing up, I refused to eat anything I considered an “exotic” food. It wasn’t until I moved to New York City in the late 90s and starting working at Indochine—the iconic Asian-fusion eatery in Soho—that I finally broadened my horizons. In fact, I fell so hard for the restaurant’s cuisine that when I first started cooking, I stuck almost exclusively to an Asian flavor profile: miso, ginger, and sesame were my mainstays. And one of my favorite ways to use them now is with these miso-glazed carrots. I love pan-roasting those sweet little roots, and the combination of miso and butter transforms them into something truly amazing. My old friends ginger and sesame come into the picture in the form of a carrot-top pesto. Yes, carrot tops! Those lacy greens you normally toss are actually edible. Bitter and earthy, they’re just the right balance for zippy ginger and nutty seeds. This is one of those healthy recipes that doesn’t taste healthy, but is! 

9 Healthy Recipes for Post-Holiday Indulgence
9 Healthy Recipes for Post-Holiday Indulgence

CREAMY CAULIFLOWER SOUP WITH DUKKAH AND WATERCRESS PESTO

 

When I was a kid, my mom’s pureed broccoli soup was my number one cool-weather craving. My son has clearly inherited some of my taste buds—he’s obsessed with this similarly creamy cauliflower version. This soup combines sweet roasted florets with buttery Yukon Gold potatoes and an aromatic trifecta of leeks, garlic, and thyme. The key, when pureeing, is to add liquid just a little at a time. If the soup becomes too watery, there’s no turning back. And to avoid a cauliflower volcano, remember to remove the center insert of your blender and cover the hole with a kitchen towel so steam can escape. When it comes to toppings, you’ve got some options. The nut, seed, and spice mixture is known as dukkah and it adds a wonderful crunch, but I also love the brightness of lemony watercress-pistachio pesto, which cuts through the heavier flavors. Use both, as I have done here, or choose just one.

SHAVED BRUSSELS SPROUTS, PINE NUTS, AND GREEN OLIVES

 

True story: I once got a slew of hateful comments on Instagram because I posted a photo of my son making this salad. Apparently, the fact that I let my then eleven-year-old use a mandoline was grounds for calling child protective services! But a mandoline is a necessary tool if you want to achieve the feathery, delicate sprout slivers that this salad requires. Okay, yes, the blade is sharp, but if Jivan can handle one, so can you! Be precise, watch what you’re doing, and you’ll be fine. And if you can find them, use larger sprouts to minimize the work. This is a super-easy fall salad that is both healthy and ridiculously delish. And there’s no such thing as too much lemon here—the salt, acid, and cheese make the sprouts shine.

9 Healthy Recipes for Post-Holiday Indulgence
9 Healthy Recipes for Post-Holiday Indulgence

WINTER VEGETABLE ROAST

 

Peek inside my oven around six p.m. on any winter evening and you’ll likely find a big tray of vegetables roasting away. It’s one of my favorite healthy recipes. This particular combination is a favorite in my family, bringing together savory caramelized root vegetables with the swoony sweetness of apples and shallots. There’s no tricky technique involved here; just make sure to use enough oil and give the ingredients a little room to breathe in the pan. Overcrowded veg will never brown properly.

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