Eating My Way Through the Holidays

I’ve been thinking a lot about food lately.

Obviously, tis the season to stuff your face. Everywhere there are delicious and yummy goodies which, in years past, I have happily partaken of. But this year is a little bit different.

After some health problems in May, my 31-year old body went into surgical menopause. And let me tell you – it is @#$% hard to lose weight in menopause. And unbelievably easy to gain it. So here I am 6 months later and desperately struggling to do something… anything…to get that number on the scale to go down. I’ve made some modifications to my diet that seem to help, but that means excluding things I wouldn’t have thought twice about eating previously. As a result I’ve been thinking a lot about my (admittedly unhealthy) relationship with food.

Hello, my name is Lexie, and I’m a food addict.

Reindeer LexieI grew up in a household where memories were made around the dinner table. My mother, who is an excellent cook, made sure that my sisters and I were trained in the culinary arts from an early age. Large portions of our childhood holiday seasons were spent making treats to give away – and of course eating the leftovers or the “oopsies”. We had cookie decorating parties and bake-a-thons with Christmas music playing in the background. There was an ever rotating list of delectables produced from our kitchen, but a few staples remained each year: dark chocolate fudge, crunchy pecan toffee, and soft citrus gingerbread cookies. To this day I take a bite of those confections and I’m immediately transported in my head back to simpler times. Times when my goal in life was to have a pink bedroom all to myself. Or when something was wrong, a hug from mom made it better.

Today as a grown up and a mother, I find myself facing all kinds of wants and problems. And not all of them have ready-made solutions. It’s just so easy to just eat those feelings away. It’s like that little tin of Christmas cookies is saying “Just eat one. Remember how good it felt to bake cookies in your parents’ warm sunny kitchen, while Christmas carols played on the stereo?”

Sometimes it’s not even that deep. Sometimes I’m just stressed out from all the “Christmas-ing” and I’ll pop a piece of candy in like a drug. Just something to get me through till the next Christmas event. Or maybe I’m at a holiday party and everyone else is eating so I should eat too, right?

I’ve had to put some serious brakes on the emotional eating this year. My first act of food independence was to cut down on some holiday stress. I prioritized what holiday events were most important and everything else I cut from my schedule. I know myself and know that I need downtime to decompress from all the holiday “fun”, as I’m much more likely to indulge if I’m stressed out.


Advertisement. Content Continues Below.

Hello, my name is Lexie, and I’m a food addict.

I also focused on making holiday traditions with my son that were healthy and not food based. We spent a great sunny Saturday decorating the whole house while playing Christmas carols on the radio. We walked through the Galaxy of Lights at the Botanical Garden. We spent time thoughtfully shopping for family members, guessing what their reaction would be to each present. We did make gingerbread cookies, but more time was spent on cutting them out and decorating them than eating them. Then we gave them away! If it stays around the house I will eat it. Get it OUT!

Finally, I’ve come up with a battle plan for those holiday events where “everyone is eating, why can’t I”? What are some foods that I *can* eat and be okay? I’ll fill my plate up with those instead. I’ll try to eat a healthy meal before I go so I’m not there on an empty stomach. Or I’ll eat extra healthy during the rest of the day so a little indulgence won’t be so bad.

I’m not saying I’m perfect. In fact, to be totally honest I went a little crazy at a work Christmas lunch just today. But I AM trying. After all, the gift of health is the best gift I can give myself and my family this year.

If you want to indulge a little, try one of my family’s favorite recipes. They taste like my childhood!

MILLION DOLLAR FUDGE

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 4-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
  • 1 (12 oz. each) package of NESTLE TOLL HOUSE Semi Sweet Morsels
  • 1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow creme
  • 3 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

BRING butter, sugar and milk to full rolling boil in large saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil an additional 5 min., stirring constantly.

REMOVE from heat. Gradually add chocolate chunks, stirring until chocolate is completely melted after each addition. Add remaining ingredients; mix well.


Advertisement. Content Continues Below.

POUR into 15x10x1-inch pan sprayed with cooking spray. Cool completely.

OLD WORLD GINGERBREAD

  • 1 1/2 sticks lightly salted butter, softened
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup additional for rolling, if needed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground dry ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses (boiled for a few minutes and returned to room temperature)
  • 1 lemon, juiced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

MIX butter, sugar and orange zest and beat until smooth, 5 to 8 minutes.

SIFT together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, dry ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Set aside.

WHISK together the eggs, molasses and lemon juice in a separate bowl.

ADD all ingredients, mix thoroughly. The dough should be stiff and a little sticky.


Advertisement. Content Continues Below.

DIVIDE the cookie dough in half. Press the first half of the dough in between 2 sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes. Repeat with the second half.

ROLL the first half of the dough about 1/2-inch thick. Transfer them, cookie by cookie to a greased baking sheet. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

BAKE until brown around the edges, 8 to 10 minutes.

Dip in a simple lemon glaze and let dry.

Lemon Glaze: 2 cups confectioners’ sugar and 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Place confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup; stir in lemon juice (glaze should be thick, yet pourable). Add more sugar or lemon juice, as necessary, to achieve desired consistency. You can also try it with orange juice to make an orange glaze that is equally yummy on top!

MOM’S WORLD-FAMOUS TOFFEE

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 4-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
  • 1 (12 oz. each) package of NESTLE TOLL HOUSE Semi Sweet Morsels
  • 1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow creme
  • 3 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

BRING butter, sugar and milk to full rolling boil in large saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil an additional 5 min., stirring constantly.

REMOVE from heat. Gradually add chocolate chunks, stirring until chocolate is completely melted after each addition. Add remaining ingredients; mix well.

POUR into 15x10x1-inch pan sprayed with cooking spray. Cool completely.