Conscious Cook: The season to celebrate

There is a Christmas song upon the air,

There is a joy innate within the heart;

An inner sense of peace, a holy light

Illuminates life and sets these days apart.

— Edna Greene Hines

Preparing a delicious life is such an integral part of the holiday season. There is such joy in the kitchen as family recipes are brought out and the rituals of tradition begin. Holiday celebrations are a perfect time to gather with family and friends to remember the true beauty of the season, and to share the blessings of healthy, delicious food, as well as special indulgences.

Whether you celebrate this month with a festive holiday dinner, a bountiful brunch or a simple post-shopping supper, there are endless ways to create menus that are both luxe and luscious, while utilizing healthy ingredients that won’t overtax the system with excess sugars or fats.

Cocktail parties are a particularly pleasant manner of celebrating the holidays. Offering one signature cocktail is easy on the host. A large pitcher of a healthy, citrus-juice-based libation encourages guests to pour their own, and the rich amount of vitamin C will bring a rosy, healthy glow to the crowd.   

A variety of nibbles featuring salty, sweet, and savory flavors will please the palates of your guests. Bowls of toasted walnuts or almonds are crunchy and crisp and offer the restorative benefit of vitamin E, superb for repairing skin and hair. Olives are an excellent hors d’oeuvre; their meaty texture and saline flavor are a stunning cocktail accompaniment. Olives may offer immune system support, as well as a significant amount of iron. The vitamin E and oleic acid in olives may also keep winter skin soft and supple.

This holiday season, as you raise a toast, celebrate the myriad of blessings that come with preparing a delicious life.

Punch is a great way to welcome guests at a holiday gathering.
Punch is a great way to welcome guests at a holiday gathering.

Mistletoe Punch

Makes about 2 quarts.

2 ¼ cups fresh orange juice

strips of zest from 2 navel oranges

three 3-inch-long cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces

Place in a saucepan and boil over moderately high heat until reduced to 1 cup. Strain and let cool.

3 cups fresh orange juice

2 cups fresh red grapefruit juice

1 tablespoon grenadine syrup

2 ½ cups plain seltzer or orange or grapefruit flavored seltzer

orange slices for garnish

In a large glass pitcher, combine the orange reduction with the orange and grapefruit juices and the grenadine. Stir well and refrigerate until chilled. Just before serving, stir in the seltzer. Pour into glasses and garnish with an orange slice.

Add 1 ½ ounces of vodka to each glass for the alcoholic version. Serve without alcohol for a festive brunch beverage.

Happy Holiday Olives

Makes 6 cups.

2 pounds large, pitted or unpitted green olives

2 cups ½ inch celery pieces

1-2 cups red peppadew peppers, halved (or quartered if quite large)

1 cup caper berries (optional, available jarred or in better olive bars)

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¾ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

6-8 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons toasted fennel seeds

Wash olives and drain. If using olives with pits, cut a small slit in each olive. Place olives and celery in a large bowl with the peppadew peppers. Whisk together the olive oil with remaining ingredients until well blended. Pour over olive mixture, tossing to coat. Cover and chill overnight. Serve at room temperature.      

Find more from Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, The Conscious Cook at