Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Break Snack

The kids are out of school and you need to find a few extra snacks.  While searching the web for something else (what, I can't remember), I found a cute new take on the ants on a log recipe.  I thought this was the perfect Christmas break snack.  It's quick, easy and nutritious. With a little extra help, kids can make this snack.  To go along with this snack, how about a cup of hot chocolate. 

Pears in a Pod

4 stalks of celery
½ cup peanut butter
2 pears, cored and cut into cubes

1.  Spread the peanut butter into the center of the celery stalk. 
2.  Place pears on top of peanut butter.  Cut celery into desired length and serve.
Source: USA Pears

Hot Chocolate

Serves 1.

Combine 1 tablespoon cocoa and 1 tablespoon sugar in a mug.  Pour in 1 cup hot low fat milk.  Stir to combine and serve. 

If you want to mix up your hot chocolate, here are a few suggestions.
  • Peppermint candy
  • Marshmallows
  • Vanilla flavoring
  • Cinnamon
If you would like additional snacks and activities to keep the little ones happy, try Disney's Family Fun website.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cauliflower - Finishing Up the Holiday Sides

This is the last of the healthier (and good) holiday sides.  They started the week after halloween with that infamous green bean casserole.  I hope that you have gotten a chance to try a few of the holiday sides that have been offered in this blog.  As always, it has been fun to put these posts together.  At this time of overeating, it's nice to have some healthier options.

This last post is for browned then braised cauliflower.  I found the recipe quite intriguing.  I had never browned and then braised anything.

It's the holiday season and you don't have a lot of time for extra reading, so I'll get to the recipe.

Browned then Braised Cauliflower

Serves 4.

4 teaspoons olive oil
1 head cauliflower, about 2 pounds
3 garlic cloves, minced
teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup reduced sodium chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1.  Separate flowerets from the head.  Cut larger pieces into quarters.  You should have about 6 cups.

2.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet.  Add cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally, until flowerets are golden brown, about 7 to 9 minutes.

3.  Clear the center of the skillet.  Add 1 teaspoon of the oil, garlic and red pepper flakes.  Cook for about 30 seconds, until the garlic becomes fragrant.  Stir into the cauliflower.

4.  Add chicken broth, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook until cauliflower is crisp-tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Uncover and cook until liquid is almost evaporated.

5.  Remove from heat and stir in cheese and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.

Source:  The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

Enjoy and Have a Great Holiday Season!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cranberries, Minus the Can

I grew up eating canned cranberry sauce.  You opened the can and out it popped.  We will always have a can of cranberry sauce on the holiday table.  Otherwise, someone in the family will be sitting before a jury. 

Now that my tastebuds have grown up, I've come to enjoy making my own cranberry sauce.  It's not that difficult, cranberries, sugar and water. (For exact amounts, check the package of fresh cranberries.)  Cook until the cranberries pop.  Refrigerate and the mixture becomes thicker as it cools. 

One of my favorite recipes for cranberries came from a friend.  It is a little beyond the basic cranberry sauce, but a nice addition to the holiday table.

Winter Fruit Bowl

4 medium grapefruits
1 cup sugar
½ cup orange marmalade
2 cup fresh cranberries
3 medium bananas

1.  Peel and section grapefruit, discard the white inner membranes.
2.  Combine cranberries and one cup of water, cook until the skins pop.  Add sugar and marmalade.  Heat to boiling. 
3.  Remove from heat.  Add grapefruit, cover and chill.
5.  Just before serving, slice bananas and stir into sauce.

The original recipe states that it serves 10 people.  However, at my dinners it serves at least 15 people.

I have made this sauce several times and find that even those who like the canned stuff also like this dish.  In addition to turkey, it pairs well with pork. 

Cranberries are also good at other times of the year.  Purchase an extra package or two.  Sort and remove the bad berries.  Wash and freeze until ready to use.  For additional recipes, check out Ocean Spray website.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mashed Potatoes on the Holiday Table

Although I did not grow up eating mashed potatoes for the holiday meal, most of my midwestern friends don't think it's a holiday dinner without mashed potatoes.  And when in Rome, do as the Romans do.  Therefore, I am doing mashed potatoes as one of my holiday sides.

For your holiday mashed potatoes, start with either russet (Idaho) or Yukon Gold potatoes.  These types are better suited for making mashed potatoes.  Russets are high in starch and low in moisture.  For this reason russets cook up drier and fluffier and are better able to absorb butter and cream. Russets also lose their shape when simmered, so they are good for thickening soups and stews. Yukon Golds are a great all purpose potato.  Although they contain less starch than russets, they are good for baking and making mashed potatoes.

To make lower fat mashed potatoes, try using buttermilk or nonfat yogurt instead of sour cream. 

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Serves 4.

1 pound potatoes, Yukon Gold or Russets
½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon salt

1.  If desired, peel potatoes.  Cut into 1-inch pieces.  Place potatoes in a medium saucepan; cover with water.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until potato is tender. 

2.  Drain potatoes thoroughly.  To further remove water, return potatoes to the saucepan on medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, shaking constantly so they don't burn.  Mash potatoes with a potato masher.  Stir in buttermilk, butter and salt.

Since it is the holidays, if you want to "upscale" your mashed potatoes, here are some suggestions.  But remember, add-ins like cheese and bacon also bring extra calories.
  • Roasted Garlic
  • Chives or green onions
  • Herbs, such as parsley or pesto
  • Horseradish and low fat sour cream, especially good for serving with beef