’Tis the season for celebration

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” — Charles Dickens

Celebrations fill the holiday season, whether it be a sparkling holiday soiree, an intimate dinner with friends or a boisterous holiday table crowded with family. During this joyful time, we are reminded of the great and all mighty power of love and our many blessings.

The holidays are such a glorious time for cooks. Seasonal parties are a wonderful time to prepare luscious hors d’oeuvres, creative cocktails, delectable desserts and time honored traditional favorites.

Indulging in rich and delicious ingredients is certainly appropriate during these festive days, but balancing the buffet table with healthy options will be much appreciated by your holiday guests as well.

Natural and nutritious ingredients can be combined in a myriad of ways to create exciting, invigorating, party worthy recipes that will tantalize the palate and satisfy the senses! Fresh herbs add lovely layers of flavor to dips, salsas, salads, egg dishes, soups and so much more.  Combine light cream cheese or a log of goat cheese with finely minced garlic, plenty of fresh basil, parsley, tarragon and mint, a heaping spoonful of grated lemon or orange zest and a splash of orange liqueur to create an appetizer that will dazzle and delight.

Rather than overindulging in salty, fatty potato or corn chips, or buttery crackers, consider using thickly cut cucumber chips, endive spears, celery stalks or hollowed out cherry tomatoes as a base for dips and spreads. Cucumbers are an excellent source of hydration during the winter, especially when skin suffers from overheated rooms and dryness. Containing multiple B vitamins, eating cucumbers may help diminish holiday anxiety and ease damaging effects of stress. The water and fiber found in cucumbers will also aid digestive health, which can tend to suffer during the holidays.

Fresh vegetables are fruits are an excellent option for conscious celebrations. A vibrant and vivacious eggplant compote enlivened with tomatoes, onions, capers and red wine is the perfect partner for crisp multigrain toasts and a bright glass of bubbling champagne. Bursting with the antioxidant protection of vitamin C, while providing plenty of antiviral and antibacterial power, this zesty Mediterranean style compote will deliver big flavor and maximum nutrition.

Raise a glass this holiday season and celebrate preparing a delicious life!

Elegant Eggplant Compote

Makes about 4 cups

1 medium eggplant

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium sweet onion (very finely chopped)

1 can diced tomatoes (14 ½ oz. with garlic, basil & oregano)

¼ cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons capers, drained

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Peel eggplant and cut into ¼ inch cubes. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add eggplant and onion. Cook uncovered, over medium heat for about ten minutes, or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in tomatoes, red wine, vinegar, capers, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer uncovered, for ten minutes, until liquid is evaporated.

Remove from heat; when cool, place in a bowl and cover and chill until serving time. Serve with crisp toasted bread slices or pita bread crisps.

Can be prepared one day ahead.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook”, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing, fresh, natural ingredients and simple, delicious recipes. She conducts cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net. Robin’s blog is confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com.