Keep it simple through the tough holiday weeks

During the next 7 weeks our family will celebrate Thanksgiving, The Little Helping’s birthday, Mr. Second Helpings birthday, Christmas, AND the New Year. I am looking forward to the hustle and bustle of these next two months but it is very important to remember that the actual holidays make up very few of the calendar days ahead. I’m sure there will be a few extra parties added to the mix but for the most part it will be the same routine of staring at the ingredients in the refrigerator and wondering what to make for dinner.

Our Weight Watchers Leader, Pam, loves to share this statistic – “from October 31st to January 1st the average American adult will gain between 7 and 11 pounds.” While Pam is quick to note her inability to qualify the statistic the most important part is the sentiment behind the numbers. These pounds are not from holiday dinners but from an over arching holiday attitude. Treating yourself to a cookie or bit of homemade candy may not be a bad thing but for those of us who are making an effort to achieve or maintain weight goals those extra calorie bombs will not be doing us any favors.

I know when the treats in my diet increase and edge out the whole foods I feel gross. The holidays may be limited to a few specific dates but their effect on our lives is dramatic. Simply running to the grocery store is going to take all the energy I can muster. Navigating Pac-Man style through dark, wet, and over crowded parking lots is trying at the best of times. To get through these and other moments of stress I will need all the help I can get to keep a smile on my face and some pep in my step.

As a blogger and particularly as a food blogger I want to provide you with ideas and inspiration that may help you plan ahead for your celebratory meals and intimate gatherings. At this very moment I am cooking up exciting ideas for healthy versions of snacks, side dishes, entrees and desserts. However, I do not want you to think that the next 7 weeks are going to be one continuous party in our house. (This is where it can get a little confusing.) Our family will continue to eat simple foods adorned with low calorie spices and condiments. Our best defense against unexpected temptation will be fueling our bodies with protein and plant based foods. Our beverage of choice will continue to be water, iced or brewed into tea. Keeping it simple during the bustling season will help us to appreciate the significance of the celebratory days when they arrive.

Admittedly the approaching holidays impact my daily food choices. I find myself looking for ways to enjoy the richness of seasonal foods without splurging on calories. Not long ago I stood in front of the open refrigerator frowning at a container of cold baked potatoes. The thought of simply reheating them made me so bored I was going to just put them back in the fridge. Poking around a bit more produced an onion and three quarters of a bell pepper. That’s when it hit me, I should make a potato hash.

In my opinion a great potato hash is served piping hot with a mix of soft and toasty bits, there should be caramelization on the onions, and everything needs to be seasoned with ample salt and pepper. After dicing some leftover baked or boiled potatoes, toss in whatever else is languishing in your produce drawer. Don’t by shy with your flavors, potatoes can handle aggressive seasoning. Amp up the heat with curry powder or hot sauce or go more sophisticated with dry or fresh herbs. Serve your hash breakfast style with eggs or partner with your favorite lean meat for a hearty dinner. Either way a potato hash is a great way both to clean out the refrigerator and enjoy a holiday meal preview in a quick and easy weeknight package.

Weeknight Potato Hash

Preparation and Cook Time approximately 30 minutes; Serves 4

Ingredients

• 1 pound of potatoes, cooked, chilled, and cubed in bite sized pieces

• 1 sweet yellow onion, cubed the same size as the potatoes

• 1 bell pepper, cubed as above

• salt &pepper

• additional seasonings of your choosing such as 1 tablespoon dried Herbs de Provence

Method

1. Heat a large skillet to medium high heat and drizzle in a little bit of mild flavored cooking oil. Add onions and cook until they begin to soften then add cubed potatoes.

2. Adjust heat as needed to keep the onions moist. Once the onions have begun to brown add the bell pepper.

3. Season with a couple pinches of salt and some hearty twists of a pepper mill. Add any additional seasoning.

4. Flip hash occasionally with a pancake turner allowing all the contents of the pan to make contact with the heat on the bottom. The hash is finished when it has heated through and developed lots of little toasty bits.

Read more from Rose McAvoy at Our Lady of Second Helpings.

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