Make some alterations for healthier holiday

Friday, November 16, 2007

A little extra planning can go a long way toward making your holiday meals a bit healthier, yet still taste special.

Carl Behnke, a chef instructor at Purdue University recently offered the following tips for making slight changes to some favorite holiday foods that will make them a bit healthier:

* Start by cooking your holiday stuffing separate from your bird. When stuffing is cooked inside a turkey cavity, it acts like a sponge that absorbs uncooked juices. It cooks so slowly it's difficult to reach a safe serving temperature.

* Cookies: cut butter to half of the recipe's recommendation and substitute an equal amount of cream cheese for a unique flavor. This substitution reduces fat minimally yet gives the cookies a flavor and texture option.

* Gravy: when making gravy, use cornstarch dissolved in cold water, known as a slurry, as a low-fat thickening agent. Slowly whisk it directly into boiling liquid and stop when it reaches the desired consistency.

* Cream dishes: Substitute low-fat or fat-free evaporated milk. There may be a slight flavor change when doing this, so compensate with fresh herbs and seasonings.

* Mashed potatoes: Use cream cheese instead of butter and low-fat yogurt or evaporated milk instead of cream. When used in combination with strong flavors such as roasted garlic or chives, this variation can create a satisfying new item that stands alone and won't be compared with the traditional standard.

* Vegetables: Saute' in olive oil blended with canola or vegetable oil instead of butter. For roasting, use olive oil cooking spray to lightly coat carrots, parsnips, potatoes, beets, turnips, rutabagas or hard squash, such as butternut or acorn squash. Roast until a paring knife easily slips out of the vegetable.

For more information about nutrition or food safety, contact the Putnam County Office of the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service at 653-8411.

Sweet Potato Puffs

2 lbs. Sweet potatoes or yams

1 T Grated orange peel

1/3 C. Orange juice

1/2 t. ground nutmeg

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/4 C chopped English Walnuts


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray cookie sheet with nonfat vegetable spray.

2. Peel and cut potatoes into 2 inch pieces. Place in medium saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil.

3. Cook 10-15 minutes or until tender.

4. Drain, place in large bowl and mash until smooth.

5. Add remaining ingredients; except for nuts.

6. Spoon mixture onto cookie sheet in 10 mounds. Sprinkle with nuts.

7. Bake 30 minutes.

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