Cooking light for the holidays

By Marcia Kyle | Nov 26, 2008

This is a cook's favorite time of the year – from Thanksgiving to Christmas and the New Year. Even for the novice, taking time to prepare meals to share with family and friends creates the most memorable times of the holiday season. All the magazines and newspapers are gearing up with recipes that entice us to overindulge. The hardest thing to do is find recipes and cooking techniques that reduce fat and calories without sacrificing flavor. Last year I prepared this menu for my family and several "health" conscious friends, and got rave reviews.

And yes, people with diabetes can have pie and cranberry sauce without feeling guilty. Just make sure that you plan ahead. Two tablespoons of cranberry sauce can be substituted for a serving of fruit. Cut smaller portions of pumpkin pie to reduce the carbohydrates or have dessert later in the day and substitute the pie for a serving of starch and fruit. And increasing your exercise routine will help burn off those extra calories.

Try these Thanksgiving favorites.

The two ways to reduce calories and fat in traditional roast turkey are to select a turkey that isn't self-basting (no fat added); and to bake the dressing in a casserole instead of inside the turkey, where turkey fat will drip into it.

Roast Turkey with Bread Stuffing

7 or 8 slices white bread
7 or 8 slices whole wheat bread
1 6- to 8-pound turkey
1 teaspoon cooking oil
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons margarine
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning or dried sage, crushed
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup chopped, peeled apple
1 cup water
1 teaspoon butter-flavored sprinkles
1/2 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon granules
Nonstick spray coating

Preparation: Cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread into a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Bake in a 300 degree F oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until dry, stirring twice. Or let bread cubes stand, covered, at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

Pull neck skin of turkey to the back and fasten with a skewer. If band of skin crosses the tail, tuck drumsticks under the band. If there is no band, tie drumsticks to the tail. Twist wing tips under the back. Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Brush turkey with cooking oil.

Insert a meat thermometer into the center of one of the inside thigh muscles. The bulb should not touch bone. Cover turkey with foil, leaving an air space between the bird and the foil. Press foil lightly at the ends of the drumsticks and neck. Roast in a 325 degree F oven for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, for stuffing, cook the celery and onion in margarine in a small saucepan until tender. Remove from heat. Stir in poultry seasoning or sage and pepper. Place dry bread cubes in a mixing bowl. Add onion mixture and apple. Combine water, butter-flavored sprinkles and bouillon granules; drizzle over bread mixture, tossing lightly to moisten. Add additional water for desired moistness. Spray a 2-quart casserole with nonstick coating. Spoon stuffing into casserole. Chill stuffing until needed. Cover and bake the stuffing alongside the turkey the last 50 to 55 minutes of roasting or until hot.

Cut the band of skin or string between the drumsticks and roast uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes more or until meat a thermometer registers 180 degrees F.

Remove turkey from the oven and cover with foil. Let stand 20 minutes before carving. Serve turkey with stuffing. Makes 8 servings.

Make-ahead tip: Up to seven days ahead prepare dry bread cubes for stuffing. Freeze.

Nutrition facts per serving: 357 calories, 11 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 87 mg cholesterol, 430 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 37 g protein, 12 percent calcium, 23 percent iron.

Mashed Potatoes with Gravy

Fluffy potatoes and creamy gravy with just 201 calories per serving.

9 medium potatoes (3 pounds)
4 teaspoons butter-flavored sprinkles
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup skim milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant chicken bouillon granules
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 12-ounce can evaporated skim milk
1/2 cup water

Preparation: Wash, peel and quarter potatoes. Cook, covered, in a large saucepan in a small amount of boiling water for 20 to 25 minutes or until tender.

Drain potatoes and mash with a potato masher or with an electric mixer on low speed. Add butter-flavored sprinkles and salt. Heat the 1/3 cup skim milk. Gradually beat enough of the hot skim milk into the potatoes to make them light and fluffy.

For gravy, stir together flour, bouillon granules and pepper in a small saucepan. Gradually stir in evaporated skim milk and water until mixture is smooth. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Serve over hot mashed potatoes. Makes 8 side-dish servings.

Make-ahead tip: Up to 24 hours ahead, peel potatoes, cover with water and refrigerate. Drain before using.

Nutrition facts per serving: 201 calories, 0 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 442 mg sodium, 43 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 7 g protein.

Cranberry Sauce

Serve this simple three-ingredient cranberry sauce with pork or poultry.

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cups cranberries (8 ounces)

Preparation: In a medium saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Add cranberries. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until skins pop, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat. Serve warm or chilled with poultry or pork. Makes about 2 cups sauce (32 1-tablespoon servings).

Make-ahead tip: Prepare sauce; cover and chill up to 1 week.

Nutrition facts per serving: 28 calories, 0 g total fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 7 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, 0 percent vitamin A, 1 percent vitamin C, 0 percent calcium, 0 percent iron.

Seasoned Green Beans

Lightly seasoned, these beans really show their fresh flavor.

1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans cut into 1-inch pieces (6 cups)
3 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preparation: Cook fresh green beans in a saucepan, covered, in a small amount of boiling water for 12 to 15 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain well.

Meanwhile, stir together lemon juice and oil in a small bowl. Toast almonds in a small skillet over medium heat until golden, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour lemon mixture over green beans; toss to coat. Gently stir in toasted almonds. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.

Make-ahead tip: Up to three days ahead, toast nuts.

Nutrition facts per serving: 56 calories, 3 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 14 mg sodium, 7 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein.

Spicy Pumpkin Pie

Some fat has been trimmed from the pastry, but the big calorie savings have been made in the spicy pumpkin filling.

1 recipe Lightened Pastry for Single-Crust Pie
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
2/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
4 egg whites
1 cup evaporated skim milk
1/4 cup water
8 tablespoons frozen whipped dessert topping, thawed (optional)

Preparation: Prepare Pastry for Lightened Single-Crust Pie and line a 9-inch pie plate as directed.

Stir together pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves or allspice in a large mixing bowl. Add egg whites. Beat mixture with a fork until combined. Stir in evaporated skim milk and water. Place pastry-lined pie plate on an oven rack. Pour pumpkin mixture into pie plate. Cover edge of pie crust with foil.

Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes more or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool pie on a wire rack. Cover and store in refrigerator. Serve with whipped topping, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

Make-ahead tip: Up to 1 week ahead, prepare pastry. Roll the pastry into rounds. Place on waxed paper on a baking sheet. Wrap, seal, label and freeze. Thaw at room temperature before using. Pastry also may be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Lightened Pastry for Single-Crust Pie

Butter-flavored shortening also works well in this recipe.

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup soft (trans fat free) margarine
4 to 5 tablespoons cold water

Preparation: Stir together flour and the salt. Using a pastry blender cut in margarine until pieces are pea size.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the water over part of the mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl. Repeat moistening dough, using 1 tablespoon of the water at a time, until all the dough is moistened. Form dough into a ball.

On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to slightly flatten dough. Roll dough from center to edges into a circle about 12 inches in diameter.

To transfer pastry, wrap it around the rolling pin. Unroll pastry into a 9-inch pie plate. Ease pastry into pie plate, being careful not to stretch pastry.

Trim pastry to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pie plate. Fold under extra pastry. Crimp edge as desired. Do not prick pastry. Continue as directed above.

Nutrition facts per serving: 240 calories, 7 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 1 mg cholesterol, 135 mg sodium, 39 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 7 g protein.
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