Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Guilt-Free Holiday Menu

Written by Branda Polk

Planning a holiday meal can be a frustrating battle for the
health-conscious host or hostess. Your mind desires to provide a
delicious, festive, and healthy meal for your guests, but your heart
(and family) cries for the traditional, high-fat recipes identified
with the holiday season.

Healthy Holidays; A Plan to Help You Maintail for Healthy Lifestyle
Through The Holiday Season
This year, settle both mind and heart with this delicious menu full of
good-for-you food. Impress your guest's taste buds and save time and
waistlines with this easy-to-prepare line up of festive food,
appropriate for an intimate meal for four or — when doubled — for the
family gathering.

Appetizer: Festive Black Bean Salsa with Baked Tortilla chips
Salad: Spinach Jicama Salad
Main Course: Apricot Cornish Game Hens
Side Dishes: Low-Fat Creamy Potato Au Gratin
Herb-Stuffed Tomatoes
Broccoli with Lemon
Dessert: Delicious Cherry Cheesecake


Festive Black Bean Salsa
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup finely chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. finely chopped jalapeno pepper (add more for additional heat,
omit for milder salsa)
1/3 cup red vinegar
1/3 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate to let
flavors blend. Best when made 1-2 days before serving. Serve with
baked tortilla chips.

Spinach Jicama Salad
Jicama is a sweet, crunchy root vegetable from Mexico that is
delicious alone or in a salad. You can find jicama in the produce
section of your local grocery store.

1 bag fresh spinach leaves, cleaned, dried, and torn into pieces
1 6 oz. can mandarin orange slices
1 cup Jicama, peeled and shredded or thinly sliced
1/2 cup fat-free or reduced fat poppy seed dressing
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted (optional for garnish)
Place spinach, oranges, and Jicama in a large salad bowl. Drizzle with
dressing and toss together. Sprinkle with toasted almonds if desired.

Apricot Cornish Game Hens
2 – 4 Cornish Game Hens, cleaned and patted dry
2 envelopes of dry onion soup mix
1 jar apricot preserves
1 large bottle reduced-fat Italian dressing

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Determine number of hens based on size.
Plan at least half a bird per person for larger hens and a whole bird
per person for smaller birds. Place cleaned game hens in a roasting
pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. In a bowl, combine soup mix
and apricot preserves. Drizzle mixture over hens. Pour entire bottle
of dressing over hens. Cover roasting pan. Bake for approximately 1.5
hours or until done. While baking, occasionally spoon juices over hens
to baste and distribute flavor. Remove foil for final 10 minutes of
baking to brown hens. When done, remove hens from oven, cover, and
allow to rest before slicing or serving.

Low-Fat Creamy Potato Au Gratin
3 medium baking potatoes, washed and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 small onion, trimmed, thinly sliced and separated into rings
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
4 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
12 oz. evaporated skimmed milk
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, combine all spices
(cayenne and black pepper, paprika, nutmeg, and salt). Coat a 10-inch
pie plate with non-stick cooking spray and layer half of the potatoes
in the bottom. Sprinkle potatoes with 1 Tbsp of flour. Arrange onions
on top of floured potatoes. Sprinkle with half of spice mix and 2
Tbsp. of Parmesan cheese. Arrange remaining potatoes in a spiral
formation on top of cheese. Sprinkle with remaining flour and spices.
Pour milk over the potatoes and top with remaining cheese. Cover with
foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, lower the temperature
to 350 degrees and bake for about 15 more minutes until the top is
golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before
serving. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Herb-Stuffed Tomatoes
4 large tomatoes, cut in half crosswise with seeds removed, forming "cups"
3 small shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tsp. margarine, melted
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
3 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh ground pepper (garnish)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle inside of tomato "cups" with
salt and set aside to drain on paper towels for 15 minutes. Combine
remaining ingredients, except pepper, in a bowl. Stuff each tomato cup
with breadcrumb mixture. Sprinkle with pepper. Bake 10 minutes, then
broil 30-60 seconds until lightly browned. Serve warm.

Broccoli with Lemon
1 pound fresh broccoli, trimmed, washed, and cut into flowerets
3 Tbsp. chicken or vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. finely grated lemon rind
2 tsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Steam fresh broccoli over boiling water or in microwave until tender
but still crisp. Drain, cover to keep warm, and set aside. Combine
remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk to thoroughly combine.
Add cooked broccoli to sauce and toss together. Garnish with lemon

Delicious Cherry Cheesecake
Prepare cheesecake the night before your big event and keep chilled
until ready to serve.
1.5 pounds fat free cream cheese, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 nine-inch graham cracker pie crust
1 can cherry pie filling
Light whipped topping (garnish option)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Blend together first 3 ingredients with
an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, combining each
one before adding the next. Blend well. Pour cream cheese mixture into
pie crust. Bake 45 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool.
Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight. Top with cherry pie filling and a
dollop of whipped topping just before serving.

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