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The 2016 Festive Feasting Issue

Sometimes it's hard in November (when I write this newsletter) to believe that not everyone likes Christmas. Fractures in families can become gaping chasms and none more so than for the bariatric patient who loves and loathes what may be in store in equal measure. Indeed I remember my 2nd Christmas after surgery when it was a real challenge to get to The Queen's Speech without wanting to use the carving knife for something other than the turkey.


So the sparkly happiness that hangs in the winter air for some, but not others, can be a bit of a class act or a pantomime, depending upon how you plan and stage it! So let's accept that it's not all tinsel and twinkling lights - it's a lot of hard work and often compromise too.


I find I can negotiate better (and this will be my 7th post-op Christmas) if I make a nod to the customs that no one likes to change (things like the turkey, mince pies, mulled wine) and then ring the changes around my new regime with the sides dishes and happily-accepted food surprises that are bariatric-friendly.


So that's what you'll find in this newsletter and on the bariatric cookery website this month. We'll skip the usual main dishes (although if you want them they are still there in the archive) and focus more on some new ideas to make Noel 2016 just a little bit different, for the three acts of Christmas.

In Act 1 we'll give you a drink idea to get the festivities started (and since it's slightly fizzy I shall expect you to swizzle out as many bubbles as you can while slowly sipping); a fishy noodle tartlet or filo basket recipe that's perfect for handing around or placing on a plate for a manageable and not too overwhelming a starter before the main event; and a speedy and almost effortless baked cheese and festive fruit ice-breaker that everyone can dip into.
Act 11, The Main Event, is geared more to the main event on Boxing Day rather than Christmas Day itself since it has recipes for two salads and a leftovers stuffed loaf that will be welcome on any buffet table (but since some in my family start early on the leftovers these dishes may well appear a little earlier than planned on Christmas Day Eve). There is however a pea and Brussels sprouts recipe that might make a welcome new addition to the traditional roast main meal - try eat, even sprouts haters here said they enjoyed the new twist!
Act 111, The Grand Finale, offers some ideas to round off the holiday meals - simple dipped strawberries for a party occasion; a stunning berry filled freezer gateau for those who want an alternative to the traditional pud; and our version of a Christmas Cake for when all you want to do is chill out on the sofa with a slice and watch a movie (although I shall be also taking a thin wedge wrapped in foil in my pocket when attending our usual Boxing Day football game).
During Christmas (and the run up to it) it's also important not to forget yourself when making merry plans for everyone else - it's your Christmas too and so you're allowed to impose some rules. Check out some that we and others have employed to make the time less anxiety ridden and more pleasurable alongside the recipes.

It's easy to moan a lot about Christmas (and all that commercialism) but I'm hoping for a more reflective time looking back on the best bits of Christmas Past; enjoying the delights of this Christmas Present; and wishing you all much joy, health and happiness for Christmases to come.




Berryworld Raspberry Spritz
Prawn and Noodle Baskets/Tartlets/Lettuce Cups
Box-Bake A Cheese
Holiday Crunch Red Cabbage and Apple Slaw
Peas with Brussels Sprouts and Orange Nut Glaze
Turkey and Mozzarella Christmas Sandwich Loaf
Prune It! Quinoa Salad
Chocolate-Dipped Berries
Berry-Delicious Freezer Gateau
Light Christmas Cake



Here's a bright and flavoursome cocktail type drink to get the party or celebrations started. Berryworld Raspberry Spritz has a wonderfully festive colour, great taste and just enough alcohol not to rock the boat too heavily. Swizzle with a stick to reduce the fizz if you can and sip slowly.
To make, crush about 20 raspberries with 2 tsp sugar or sweetener,
80 ml/scant 1/2 cup water and 4 mint leaves. Put 2-3 ice cubes into 2 large wine glasses with a few extra raspberries and pour over the prepared raspberry crush through a sieve. Divide 100 ml/1/2 cup vermouth bianco and 150 ml/2/3 cup Prosecco between the glasses and top up with a little soda water. Stir to serve. Makes 2 large glasses (or 4 WLS portion glasses).

Here's an idea for some hand-me-round small tartlets made with baked filo pastry baskets, ready-made small canape pastry tartlets, or small lettuce 'boats' or cups - filled with a prawn and Thai noodle salad mixture.

Prawn and Noodle Baskets can be made well ahead and assembled at the last minute. To make the salad, mix together 2 finely chopped shallots, 150 g/1 cup shelled prawns/shrimp, 50 g/1/4 cup chopped cooked rice noodles, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp lime juice, 1 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce, 1 tbsp chopped coriander/cilantro, 1 tbsp chopped mint, 2 chopped tomatoes, 1 tsp sesame seeds, 2 tsp grated lime zest and a little chopped chilli to taste. Divide the mixture between baked filo pastry baskets, ready-made tartlet shells or lettuce leaves to serve. Makes about 30 (WLS serving 1-2)

One of the speediest and most impressive starters I know is the
simplest - Box-Bake A Cheese and serve with ripe festive fruits.

Remove the sticker from a box of Camembert, place the lid under the base for support. Return the unwrapped cheese to the box. Score the top of the cheese in a criss-cross pattern and push a few fresh thyme leaves into the top. Bake in a preheated 190 C/375 F/gas 5 oven for 20 minutes or until wobbly in the centre. To serve, scatter the top of the cheese with some chopped walnuts, further thyme and a drizzle of honey if liked and tolerated. Serve with pear slices and fig wedges to dip. Return the cheese to the oven if it starts to become too solid and firm again. Serves about 4.


This salad accompaniment beats hands down any ready-made coleslaw you might find in your chill cabinet. It's light, colourful and has sufficient crunch to make the dreariest of leftovers a treat. For those who like them, a few dried cranberries, can be added to the mix for a measured sweet extra and
festive touch.

To make Holiday Crunch Red Cabbage and Apple Slaw, finely shred about 225 g/8 oz red cabbage and place in a large bowl. Add 2 coarsely grated carrots, 1 sliced red apple and 1 tbsp lemon juice and toss to mix. Add 25 g/1/4 cup pecans or walnuts and a 200 g/7 oz bag crispy salad leaves and toss together. Make a dressing by mixing 4 tbsp low-fat natural yogurt with the zest and juice of 1 lemon and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over the coleslaw mix to serve. Serves 4 (WLS Portion 1/2).


Love them or loathe them the main event just doesn't seem the same without sprouts! This twist on serving them with peas and a lovely orangey and nutty glaze might just sway the doubters.
For Peas with Brussels Sprouts and Orange Nut Glaze, cook 200 g/7 oz prepared Brussels sprouts by boiling for 5 minutes or until nearly tender. Add 400 g/14 oz frozen peas, bring to the boil and cook for 2 minutes, then drain and place in a warm serving dish. Meanwhile, melt 50 g/4 tbsp light butter or low-fat spread in a small pan, add 50 g/1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts and cook for 1 minute until golden. Add the zest and juice of 1 orange and cook for 1 minute. Season to taste and pour over the peas and sprouts to serve. Serves 6 (WLS Portion 1/4-1/2).


I remember well being on sandwich duty on Boxing Day when I was younger and living at home - it seemed never-ending. I wish I had caught up on this idea of filling a large loaf with deli meats, leftovers, crunchy salad and relishes etc and then slicing to serve more than one at a time. The beauty is that it can and should also be made at least an hour ahead for a firm cut. 
Some bariatrics tolerate bread well and others don't and much depends upon the bread, the chewing and what else is eaten at the same time. If you struggle then simply pick the filling out of this loaf and feed the rest to the dog, birds or any other hungry mouth.
To make Turkey and Mozzarella Christmas Sandwich Loaf cut the top off a large circular loaf of your choice about one quarter of the way down. Pull out the soft bread inside of the crust to leave a 2 cm/3/4 inch layer of bread to hold the filling. Spread about 4-6 tsp cranberry sauce (we have a bariatric-friendly one on the website that you can make) in a thin layer over the inside of the bread bowl, then layer about 3-4 Cos lettuce leaves on top, tearing to fit. Add a layer of about 150 g/5 oz sliced mozzarella cheese some roasted vegetables from a jar (or home-made) then leftover turkey or other deli style roasted meats in layers, finally ending with another layer of lettuce leaves. Replace the bread lid, wrap tightly in cling film or foil, and weight with a can or something heavy for 1-4 hours. Cut into slices to serve. Serves 4-6 (WLS Portion 1/2).


This is a mild and slightly spicy salad using quinoa, beetroot, feta and prunes. It can be made well ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. It works well with most leftovers - meat, fish, eggs and vegetarian options.

To make Prune It! Quinoa Salad, cook 200 g/generous 1 cup dry quinoa according to the pack instructions. Meanwhile, spritz a pan with low-fat cooking spray or mist, heat then add 1 chopped red onion, 2 cloves crushed garlic, 2 chopped celery stalks and 12 California prunes (halved lengthways) and cook until slightly softened. Add 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp mild chilli powder, 1 tsp ground mixed spice and 2 tbsp water - cook for 1 minute until the liquid has evaporated. Add the cooked quinoa, 4 tbsp chopped parsley, 2 cooked and diced beetroot/beets, 125 g/4 oz crumbled feta cheese, 16 quartered cherry tomatoes, the juice of a lemon and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to mix and serve. Serves 4-6 (WLS portion 1/2).


Whether you're looking for a grand sweet finale for a buffet or something light yet decadent after the main event (or instead of the usual Christmas Pudding) these Chocolate-Dipped Berries always look and taste amazingly festive.

They remind me of Santa hats and if you provide a dipping bowl of cream or flavoured yogurt then you too can have a snowy jingle bells hat! Simply dip ripe strawberries in a little melted chocolate (I use no-added sugar dark chocolate) and then dip into chopped nuts (chopped pistachios look wonderful). Spear onto small dessert forks or wooden sticks to serve. 

For very little effort you can have a stunning ice-cream like gateau tucked away in the freezer to reveal at the end of a memorable Christmas or holiday meal. Berry-Delicious Freezer Gateau is a deep dish dessert bursting with jewelled fruits in a low-fat but high protein mixture of Quark and fromage frais.

To make, coat the base a 23-cm/9-inch spring-form pan with a mixture of 12 crushed ginger nut biscuits/cookies mixed with 4 tbsp melted light butter and chill to set. Meanwhile, mix 400 g/14 oz Quark (low fat skimmed cheese) with 400 g/14 oz fat-free fromage frais, 2-3 tbsp sweetener and 2 tsp vanilla extract. Gently fold in 4 stiffly beaten egg whites and then 400 g/14 oz mixed berries (we used strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries). Pour over the base and freeze until firm. To serve, allow to stand for 20 minutes to soften before slicing with a knife dipped in hot water. Serves 6 (WLS portion about 1/2).


Use our light fruit cake recipe to make a Bariatric-Friendly Christmas Cake but instead of topping with just nuts before baking, use them with other dried fruit and assorted nuts to decorate in a casual rustic way. Glaze the top with warmed apricot or sugar-free jam before adding the topping to secure in place.
Recipe For Christmas Cake Click Here

Toni Jenkins, Bariatric Nurse Consultant for Ramsay Weight Loss Services, has kindly given us some details of her own personal WLS journey, as well as some tips and advice gleaned from years of experience from helping other patients with pre- and post-surgery Christmas choices. Toni is my go-to person for advice when I don't have the answers. Her quick question and answer feature below will undoubtedly help you this festive season.

1.  For many the turning point in their weight-loss battles comes in the aftermath of Christmas just before the New Year with a resolve for things to be better. Did this feature in your experience?

Yes but with growing trepidation as I always failed to keep up the good habits beyond January. In my case it was the March when my mother was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. My grandmother had also had it so I knew I would be next if I didn’t take action.

 2.  Have you found Christmas and the festive season in general a challenge after WLS or has the time of year become easier and better negotiated after surgery?

It’s much easier now. The first year was trickier because I still expected to eat the same foods and it simply wasn’t possible. I remember terrible pain after trying to eat badly chewed pork crackling!
3. What would you say to anyone considering surgery now on the run-up to Christmas?

It can be difficult especially with family members that may want to feed you. I suggest January so you have a year to adjust before the next Christmas. It is a change for life so you may need to ask yourself if you are ready to make that commitment yet.  You can’t switch off your operation for festivities and different people have different experiences.
 4.  Have you found the food you eat and socialising you do at Christmas very different post-op to pre-op?  Is it better, worse or just different?

Different. I’m lucky because I don’t drink and that is a major source of Christmas calories. I don’t get too obsessed. I allow myself to eat small portions of whatever I like and try to keep eating to meal times. The mince pies and sweets are a bigger problem for some people so try to eat well at mealtimes to reduce hunger between meals 
5.  Are there things you can now do and enjoy more during the festive season that weren’t possible before your surgery?

Wear anything that I like! Go for a walk without being out of breath. I have so much more confidence. I decided to get a full bike licence so I can go off for a Christmas ride without looking terrible in leathers!
6. Is there any advice you can give about what to say to partners/family/friends during this period in terms of providing support through a potentially difficult time of year?

Please be patient. They may not be eating according to normal guideline for “healthy” and may need to take supplements. Accept that they will eat much less and take longer. Refusing food is not a rejection of your love and hospitality and doesn’t mean that they are having a miserable time .It will be worth it in the end.
7.  Finally, can you give anyone newly post-op some tips on how to negotiate the ‘season of goodwill’ so that they are not missing out and yet not bombarded with the sabotaging antics of  well-meaning friends and family at this time of year?
Watch the alcohol. It is the same calories as pure fat. Think what else you could eat for the same calories. You will also get drunk much quicker so don’t attempt to drive if you drink.  Eat porridge or a banana for breakfast. This will give you a constant blood sugar and make you less likely to crave sweets.  Allow yourself to eat anything you like if you are seated at the table with a knife and fork!  Family will be less likely to argue if they see you trying normal food. Brandy butter and many Christmas treats can cause dumping syndrome if you have had a bypass which can make you feel very unwell. If you do go mad, ease off for the rest of the week. Don’t beat yourself up.  Remember that this is for life and not a few months. It has to be doable

For more details of Ramsay Weight Loss Services

And if you're not being the hostess with the mostest (or the host with the most), be the guest with the gift ....
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Photography Credits:
Berry-Delicious Freezer Gateau copyright of
Berryworld Raspberry Spritz courtesy of
Box-Bake A Cheese courtesy of
Chocolate-Dipped Berries courtesy of
Holiday Crunch Red cabbage and Apple Slaw courtesy of
Peas with Brussels Sprouts and Orange Nut Glaze courtesy of
Prawn and Noodle Baskets courtesy of
Prune It! Quinoa Salad courtesy of
Spring Onion/Scallion and Celery Loaded Potato Skins courtesy of
Turkey and Mozzarella Christmas Sandwich Loaf courtesy of
Merry Christmas From All At Bariatric Cookery
Copyright © 2016 Bariatric Cookery, All rights reserved.

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