The holidays are tricky for those of us who have a tumultuous relationship with food.

The last several years, I’ve been able to maintain a moderately healthy diet while still feeling pampered and indulged at holiday meals. But I have to choose what I put on my plate mindfully: Colorful food, which means a lot of vegetables and some fruit, as well as proteins, some whole grains and very small portions of white carbs.

Half of my plate should be vegetables. I have to remember to dish out small portions and to not clean my plate.  This goes against my instinct. Six years after I changed my lifestyle in almost every way — including losing 90 pounds — I’ve gotten lax.

First, I messed with my routine. More than 1.5 years ago, I left my full-time food-writing newspaper position in Florida and moved in with my boyfriend in NYC to freelance write (plus shoot photos, videos, post, blog and edit) about food and fitness for publications such as Westchester Magazine and Chowhound.com.

Balancing several part-time jobs means my schedule is all over the place, so it’s been hard to stick to a regular workout routine. I used to exercise four to five times a week around my one-job schedule. I miss my old gym classes, but I did join a YMCA in Park Slope, Brooklyn, that’s quite nice. Unlimited towels! TVs on the treadmills! Zumba, Boot Camp, Circuit Training and Yoga!

Also, I lost my Florida running buddies and haven’t been consistent with my running, dropping to one to two times a week. I made half-hearted attempts to join two running clubs, but they meet sooooo early. It takes a cajoling longtime friend to make me do that consistently. Which they did. In Florida.

And now that I live with someone, the kitchen is not under my dictatorship. It’s a democracy these days, and “we the people” involves a Dutchman who stocks the fridge with my kryptonite: amazing cheeses and creamy stuff. I mean, this is some top-notch food here. There is also a wonderful assortment of fresh CSA (community supported agriculture, a neighborhood farm share where we are members) vegetables too, so there’s that.

Oh, and did you read that I’m in NYC now? Yeah. Culinary mecca. Murray’s Cheese, Eataly pastas and Amy’s Bread are regular uninvited house guests who you never want to leave. I didn’t even care that much about bread until I moved here and discovered how amazeballs a good, crusty, soft, freshly baked loaf can be. Dammit.

So now the winter holidays have rolled around, a time for eating heavy food and hibernating. Wait, what? I don’t want to gain another 10 pounds, which is kinda like 20 pounds because most  people lose 5-10 pounds when they move to The City (all that commuter walking and stair-climbing for us subway rats).

It could be boyfriend weight. You know, that gain that happens sometimes when couples move in together and get all snuggly and domestic? That’s a thing.

Regardless, I’m still working out, although about half as much as I was two years ago. I’m eating more fat, dairy, bread and sugar.

But oh, am I eating well. Really well. At least these dishes are usually whole foods, often home-cooked. Not much prepackaged or fast food is going down this gullet. I’m just taking it one day at a time and not giving up.

So this Thanksgiving, I embraced the food holiday like no other. There are no presents. There is no religious meaning, besides whatever meaning you can take from any historical event, and the focus on gratefulness.

Pilgrims and Native Americans and all the shameless-glossing-over-history aside: Let’s eat, I decided.

We hosted our first Thanksgiving dinner using our renovated kitchen, and it was for 14 adults and a 2-year-old.

(Please excuse the low-quality photography in this blog post. I shot many other photos that didn’t save, as my professional photo app seems broken, and I need a new camera. I’m waiting until my phone contract ends to get a new one. Sigh.)

 

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We had a lovely assortment of gracious, funny and intelligent guests. (Photo: Amy Sowder)

I had fun tweaking a traditional Thanksgiving menu:

Hors d’ ouevres

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Endive Bites. (Photo: Yvonne Duivenvoorden, cleaneatingmag.com)
  • Endive Bites with Goat Cheese, Figs and Honey (Clean Eating magazine): This was easy to assemble, beautiful and a huge hit.
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Hearts of Palm Dip with raw vegetables, whole wheat pita wedges and pretzel sticks for dipping. Grapes, cheese and crackers on the side. (Photo: Amy Sowder)
  • Hearts of Palm Dip with crudités  crackers and pita wedges (Food & Wine Magazine’s 2014 cookbook): This was healthy, and eh, OK.

Main Course

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This is actually my day-after Thanksgiving plate of leftovers, so the Brussels sprouts dish is missing, as well as mashed potatoes and an empanada. (Photo: Amy Sowder)
  • 15-Pound Turkey and Gravy (chowhound.com): Cooked by my significant other, the star of the show was delicious, especially with the decadent gravy.
  • Sausage Sage Stuffing using French baguettes (seriouseats.com): Cooked in a Crock Pot and finished in the oven under the broiler after the turkey left, it was great.
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Cranberry Ginger Chutney in progress. (Photo: Amy Sowder)
  • Cranberry Ginger Chutney (epicurious.com): This was lovely, a nice tweak on traditional cranberry sauce.
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Coconut Cardamom Mashed Sweet Potatoes. (Photo by Amy Sowder)
  • Coconut Cardamom Mashed Sweet Potatoes (Clean Eating magazine): Be careful with the cardamom spice! It’s strong stuff. ‘Nough said.
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Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Shaved Prosciutto. (Photo: Amy Sowder)
  • Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Shaved Prosciutto (The New York Times): There were no leftovers of this dish, so.
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Braised Greens with Aleppo Oil and Feta. (Photo: Amy Sowder)
  • Braised Greens with Aleppo Oil and Feta (Bon Appétit magazine): I loved the spice in this dish.

Dessert

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David’s Pumpkin-Butternut Squash Pie. (Photo: Amy Sowder)
  • 2 Pumpkin-Butternut Squash Pies with partially whole wheat crust and clouds of lightly sweetened, freshly whipped cream (David’s own recipe): He is a squash pie master. End of story.
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Soft & Chewy Gingersnaps. (Photo: Amy Sowder)
  • Soft & Chewy Gingersnaps with dark chocolate chip centers (sallysbakingaddiction.com): Yes. Just yes.

Drinks

  • Wine
  • Puritan’s Pride Mocktail with apple cider, ginger soda & cranberry juice (chowhound.com): This is a festive option for those not imbibing alcohol.
  • Stumptown Coffee
  • Green Tea (Bosie Tea Parlor)

Also

  • Guests brought wine, 3 cheeses, grapes, crackers, empanadas and quince pie. David also made mashed white potatoes, at a family member’s request.
  • The meal wasn’t vegan, gluten-free, Paleo or noticeably healthy, but it was delicious and rife with color and nutrition. Balance, people. That’s what it’s always about.

Now if I can manage to avoid overindulging in leftovers of stuffing, pie and cookies …

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