Christmas Superfoods

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday: the joy of giving a present and seeing someone’s face light up, the generous man who buys a homeless stranger a pair of boots in the blistering cold, the woman who takes her children to the soup kitchen to show them the true meaning of Christmas, the over zealous coffee barista who makes extra special latte art for the stressed out father. Everyone seems to give a little more. It’s a time for friends and family to get together more than they normally would, and show their gratitude for their love and friendship through the ritual of gift-giving.  

Over the past few years, giving homemade Christmas gifts has become something I really enjoy. It might be cliché but it’s so true: this season really is all about love. So why am I making gifts instead of buying them? To me, giving a homemade gift feels more sentimental, more genuine. I become more present in the moment and in the season. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, or take a lot of time, you feel the love with each gift you make and you hope the recipient does too. And that’s what food is to me: love. 

In honor of being more genuine and more present this holiday season, I want to share three edible Christmas gifts that will work for anyone on your list, even the pickiest of eaters. I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate?! As a Holistic Nutritionist I am always looking for ways to sneak in a bit of nutrition into my food so I’ve come up with three healthy, easy, and thoughtful options. First, an immune-boosting pear and fennel chutney, a perfect accompaniment to a cheese board, a roasted pork loin, a curry, with yogurt and granola, or even on top of hummus. Next are the chocolate barks, an easy way to hide superfoods like rose water, schisandra, ginger and nuts. Last, I wanted to include a super simple infused olive oil. You can add pretty much anything to these oils, such as chili peppers or pink peppercorns, but I opted for a festive rosemary and crushed garlic variety. 

Here’s to relaxing a bit more this holiday season and being more present instead of buying more presents. Happy Holidays!

Superfood Chocolate Bark

For the following recipes, line a pan with parchment paper and set aside.  Break the chocolate into small pieces and add to a metal bowl.  Place the bowl over a saucepan filled with a bit of water. Bring the water to a simmer and slowly and gently melt the dark chocolate. You can also use a double boiler to melt the chocolate. After it has melted, mix in the various ingredients based on one of the following recipes. Pour the chocolate mixture onto the parchment paper and let cool for at least two hours. 

Rose Schisandra Chocolate Bark

This is chocolate for a goddess! Roses aid in digestive disorders and menstrual irregularities. The buds contain vitamin C for antioxidants, immunity, and allergy support. Schisandra is a potent adaptogen, helping our bodies adapt to stress and imbalances by bringing us back to “neutral”: helping to normalize our bodies in stressful situations and increases the bodies energy when we are down. It also aids sleep, soothes anxiety, and increases overall vitality. 

  • 12 oz organic, fair trade, dark chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp rose water (you can find this at the Light Cellar, Cookbook Co, or Silk Road Spice Market in Calgary)
  • 3/4 tsp schisandra powder (you can find this at the Light Cellar in Calgary)
  • optional: sprinkle with crushed rose petals after pouring on the parchment paper

Orange Ginger Chocolate Bark

Did you know ginger is one of the most widely used medicinal herbs on the planet?! And with good reason! Ginger helps control nausea, can destroy certain bacteria, aids circulation, and promotes healing of inflammation, which is the leading cause to many diseases. Paired with orange, it’s the perfect flavor combo.

  • 12 oz organic, fair trade, dark chocolate
  • 3 tsp fresh ginger, grated on a fine grater
  • 2 tsp orange extract
  • Topping: sprinkle with ¼ cup crushed pistachios after pouring on the parchment paper

Fruit and Nut Chocolate Bark

Nuts deliver many healthy fats, which help support our nervous system. Without these healthy fats, our cells would have thin cell membranes, allowing toxins to enter easily.  Healthy fats are vital to our overall health, so eat up!

  • 12 oz organic, fair trade, dark chocolate
  • ¼ cup dried cherries
  • ¼ cup crushed hazelnuts

Immune Boosting Pear and Fennel Chutney

Pears are chock full of antioxidants like zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin E, all which support the immune system and help rid the body of free radicals. I used honey as a sweetener because it is jam packed with health benefits such as antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Honey also contains propolis: a natural resin that has been shown to slow down the reproduction of some viruses.   

  • 4 cups small diced pear
  • ½ cup thinly sliced fennel
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • ¼ tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp fresh ground cardamom
  • large pinch of black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer on low for 12-15 minutes, or until the pear has softened and honey has reduced by half. Spoon into a jar with a tight-fitting lid; keep in the refrigerator up to a week. Makes 20 oz.

Garlic and Rosemary Olive Oil

You can make infused oil by heating the ingredients with the oil and pouring everything into a container to let cool. However, I prefer not to heat my olive oil, as it does contain unsaturated fat. Unsaturated fat is not as stable as saturated fat, and when heated at high temperatures, it goes rancid and creates free radicals in the body.  This recipe is simple in that you just pour and let it sit! Enjoy!

  • 12 oz Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, thoroughly washed
  • 4 large garlic cloves, smashed

Place the crushed garlic and rosemary in a dry, sterilized jar or an olive oil cruet. Pour olive oil into the jar and let it sit by a sunny window for a week, swirling every day.  Remove the rosemary and garlic, and enjoy!