Annabel Langbein: My pre-Christmas madness meals

By Annabel Langbein

Feel good bowl. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media
Feel good bowl. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media

Every year I swear I'm not going to get caught up in the madness of the pre-Christmas rush. And every year, as Guy Fawkes rolls around and the crackers start banging, it feels like one of those starter pistols on the athletics track has gone off in my brain. Boom! Run!

The realisation of the 20 gazillion things that need to be done before the finish line that is Christmas kicks every ounce of my adrenalin into action.

Unlike other forms of anxiety, pre-Christmas madness dissipates overnight on December 25, so you just have to get through it.

One strategy is to eat indiscriminately. When life is crazy we don't have time to shop or chop or sit, so we eat on the run - pies and chips and chocolate, and tubs of icecream late, late into the night when we finally finish something on the ever-expanding to-do list. Booze, which goes hand in hand with the silly season, is another tempting fallback to help us deal with life at this time of year. Unfortunately the aftermath of this approach leads to a lack of productivity, which just compounds the problem.

But this Christmas it's all going to be different. You will be calm, healthy and happy. The shopping will be done, the laundry will be done, cupboards stocked, presents wrapped. "How?" I hear you ask.

The secret lies in a jar, and a little ritual that will take maybe five minutes a day. Prepare a few of them at the weekend or early in the week to have on hand for a workday lunch or midweek dinner on the run.

Jar salads keep in the fridge for two or three days and are a perfect make-ahead portable meal. Start with the dressing in the bottom, then layer in wholegrains or pulses, some kind of protein and loads of vegetables, keeping crunchy and fragile ingredients like nuts and salad leaves on the top. When you're ready to eat, turn it out into a bowl, toss and enjoy.

Lest you forget, your body is actually a finely tuned high-performance machine. For once, in its time of need, you are going to treat it right, and fuel it with the goodness it needs to perform. In all the madness, you don't need to fall off the bus. It's that easy to be zen.

Power Bowl

Photo / Annabel Langbein Media
Photo / Annabel Langbein Media

Prep 10 mins. Serves 2

½ large just-ripe avocado, chopped
1 large chicken breast, poached and shredded, or 200g cooked chicken, shredded
½ mango, finely sliced
2 celery stalks, finely sliced
1 spring onion, finely sliced
6 leaves cos lettuce, finely shredded
¼ cup mint leaves, torn
½ cup roasted cashews, coarsely chopped

Creamy Nut Dressing
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp orange juice
1½ tsp miso
¼ tsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp almond butter or other nut butter

To make the Creamy Nut Dressing, shake together all ingredients in a small jar to combine. Transfer to a large jar or divide between two medium jars. Layer in avocado, chicken, mango, celery, spring onion and cos lettuce. Top with mint and nuts and screw on the lid or lids. To serve, invert into two large bowls and toss gently.

Annabel says: Using nut butter in a dressing is a great way to make it rich and creamy without any cream. Peanut butter, cashew butter and almond butter all work well here. Mango is a superfood that helps regulate blood pressure, improves memory and aids digestion.

Abundance Bowl

Photo / Annabel Langbein Media
Photo / Annabel Langbein Media

Ready in 30 mins. Serves 1-2

350g pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and diced
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup cooked chickpeas or lentils
100g feta, coarsely crumbled
1 handful of baby spinach leaves
2 Tbsp pistachios
Mint leaves or dill

Lemony Tahini Dressing
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1½ Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp water

Preheat oven to 180C fanbake and line an oven tray with baking paper. Toss pumpkin in oil, salt and pepper, spread out on the tray and roast until golden and soft (about 20 minutes). Allow to cool a little.

While pumpkin cooks, make Lemony Tahini Dressing by shaking together all ingredients in a small jar to combine. Transfer dressing to a large jar or divide between two medium jars. Layer in chickpeas or lentils, pumpkin, feta, spinach, pistachios and herbs then screw on the lid. To serve, invert into one or two large bowls and toss gently.

Annabel says: You can use about 2 cups of chopped, leftover roasted veges instead of the pumpkin in this Middle Eastern-inspired salad. One of my favourite timesaving tricks is to roast a big tray of veges at the weekend to add to salads and couscous for for weekday lunches and sides.

Feel Good Bowl

Photo / Annabel Langbein Media
Photo / Annabel Langbein Media

Prep 15 mins. Serves 1-2

1½ cups cooked soba noodles
1 cup cooked edamame, thawed if frozen
1 cup flaked cooked or raw salmon or 210g can salmon, drained
1½-2 cups thinly shredded red cabbage
2 radishes, very finely sliced
2-3 Tbsp pine nuts or almonds, toasted
4 brazil nuts, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp black sesame seeds

Soy-Sesame Dressing
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp orange juice
1 Tbsp tamari or light soy sauce
1½ tsp miso
1 tsp sesame oil
¼ tsp finely grated fresh ginger

To make Soy-Sesame Dressing, shake together ingredients in a small jar to combine. Transfer to a large jar or divide between two medium jars. Layer in noodles, edamame, salmon, cabbage and radishes, top with nuts and sesame seeds and screw on the lid or lids. To serve, invert into one or two large bowls and toss gently.

Annabel says: This combination of soba noodles, edamame, salmon, crunchy veg and a light dressing is positively addictive. Salmon supports the immune system, eases inflammation and helps lift mood. For a gluten-free version use buckwheat noodles instead of soba, and tamari in the dressing.

- Canvas

• For more great Annabel Langbein recipes see her new summer annual A Free Range Life: Celebrate Summer! (Annabel Langbein Media, $24.95) or visit annabel-langbein.com.

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