For many, the Holiday table is trimmed with delights that, while sweet, savory and dripping with deliciousness, leave us feeling bloated, sluggish and unhealthy. Some argue that replacing the usual high-fat trimmings with healthy options means saying goodbye to flavor. Jan Kemp, healthy eating specialist at Whole Foods in Ann Arbor, said that you can have it all—healthy plant-based dishes brimming with flavor that leave you satisfied and energetic rather than sluggish.
Kemp will be teaching a class in the Whole Foods Cooking and Lifestyles Classroom, 3135 Washtenaw Avenue, Thursday night from 6 to 8 p.m. that features favorite Holiday dishes made with a whole foods twist. Kemp has been teaching such classes as part of the Whole Foods Health Starts Here initiative aimed at educating home cooks on how to cook without using such ingredients as refined sugars and extracted oils.
“We encourage people to eat whole foods and try to eliminate and reduce the consumption of refined foods,” Kemp said.
While Holiday meals are indeed notoriously high in sugar and fat, Kemp has found many healthy alternatives to sweeten and flavor foods. Among the alternatives for sweeteners, she uses fresh as well as dried fruits. She said dates or apricots can be soaked, boiled in water and blended to create a paste that can be used in place of refined sugar in baking and as a healthy alternative to sweeten such regular oatmeal at breakfast. She also recommends baking with fresh fruits such as apples or bananas.
“These take the place of fats because they have a lot of moisture and bananas will bind things together in recipes,” she said.
For sautéing, Kemp recommends using vegetable broth, wine or sherry in place of oils. This time of year, she said the dark, leafy greens make for a hearty, sweet and nutritious side and are extremely flavorful.
“Dark leafy greens are really good in winter,” she said. “Kale, turnip and mustard greens are all packed with nutrients and they can be put in salads, in a braise or in stews and they add bulk.”
She added that whole grains, nuts and seeds can be toasted to add flavor to various dishes as well, and she even turns cashews into a cream she can use on cakes and cookies by soaking them overnight and blending them.
Kemp said that Holiday meals can be more nutritious if the focus is on side dishes made from whole foods. She said meat does not have to be eliminated, but can be eaten in smaller amounts with whole plant-based sides providing the bulk of the meal.
For her class, the menu will include almond nog made with unsweetened almond milk; fresh cranberry orange relish made raw with cranberries, oranges, pears and dates; roasted Brussels sprouts with pistachio and shallots; aioli with sautéed mushrooms on crostini and grilled tempeh with curried apple chutney. For dessert, she will make either an apple spice cake with a citrus cream or coconut macaroon tartlets with citrus cream.
The fee for the class is $15. Register by calling the customer service desk at Whole Foods at 734.975.4500.
Jan Kemp’s recipe for Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish
1 organic orange, unpeeled
1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
3-4 dates, chopped
1 medium-sized ripe pear, washed and cored
Wash orange well and cut into quarters. Combine cranberries, orange, pear and dates in a food processor. Process until mixture is still chunky. If not sweet enough, add a couple more dates.