Relieve some holiday stress and buy a SPIRAL-SLICED HAM for dinner. Stop by the deli for POTATO SALAD and COLESLAW. Add WHOLE-GRAIN ROLLS.
We always get in the spirit with PEPPERMINT ICE CREAM CAKE. Horizontally slice a 10-inch angel food cake in three layers. Place the bottom layer on a serving plate. In a bowl, combine 1 quart fat-free vanilla ice cream (slightly softened), 3 (1.5-ounce) chopped chocolate-covered peppermint patties, 1/3 cup chopped pecans and 1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract; mix well. Spread 1/3 mixture on bottom cake layer; top with second cake layer and 1/3 of the mixture; repeat for last layer. Cover and freeze; remove from freezer before slicing to serve.
PLAN AHEAD: Save enough ham and refreeze the cake for Tuesday.
Try meatless ITALIAN BEANS AND VEGETABLES (see recipe) for a change. Add a MIXED GREEN SALAD and CRUSTY BREAD. Canned or chilled TROPICAL FRUITS are good for dessert.
Budget Tuesday /Christmas Eve
We always ate HAM BISCUITS (use leftover ham) on Christmas Eve before we went to the children’s service at our church.
And Mother always made this PINEAPPLE BAKE to serve on the side. (I still have the well-worn recipe in her unmistakable schoolteacher handwriting.) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 1 1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine 2 tablespoons flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 3 beaten eggs, 2 beaten egg whites and 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice; mix well. Add 7 slices cubed white bread (crusts removed). Spoon into dish and drizzle top with 3 tablespoons melted butter. Bake 1 hour.
Add a SPINACH SALAD alongside your meal. If you must have a little something extra, PEPPERMINT ICE CREAM CAKE is in the freezer.
PLAN AHEAD: Make Wednesday’s strata this evening.
Family Wednesday / Christmas
Everyone will be up early, so bake the MUSHROOM, BACON AND SWISS STRATA (see recipe) right away. Serve with CANADIAN BACON and FRESH ORANGE WEDGES. Munch on CHRISTMAS COOKIES to celebrate the holiday.
Enough of the fancy food! The kids will be ready for ENCHILADA CASSEROLE (see recipe) tonight. Serve with a CHOPPED LETTUCE SALAD. SLICED PEACHES are dessert.
PLAN AHEAD: Save enough casserole for Friday.
Take the evening off and heat the leftover ENCHILADA CASSEROLE for dinner. Serve it with an AVOCADO AND GRAPEFRUIT SALAD on the side. Make FLAN (from a mix) for dessert.
PLAN AHEAD: Marinate Saturday’s chicken overnight.
Easy Entertaining Saturday
Entertain friends with MEDITERRANEAN CHICKEN. In a large bowl, combine 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 2 tablespoons dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar and 1/3 cup olive oil, 24 bite-size pitted prunes, 6 ounces pitted Spanish green olives, 2 tablespoons rinsed capers, 2 bay leaves; mix well. Add 8 bone-in skinless chicken thighs; turn to coat. Marinate 6 to 24 hours.
When ready to cook, transfer chicken and marinade to a 4-quart or larger slow cooker. Stir 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup dry white wine together; pour over chicken. Cover and cook on high 4 hours or until chicken is 165 degrees. Remove and discard bay leaves; serve chicken with fruit and juices. (Adapted from “Slow Cooking for Two,” Cynthia Graubart; Gibbs Smith, 2013.)
Serve with RICE, MIXED GREENS and ITALIAN BREAD. For dessert, make it light with any SORBET and store-bought ALMOND THINS.
TIP: I adapted the recipe for 4 servings.
ITALIAN BEANS AND VEGETABLES (Monday)
Makes 6 servings
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: about 1 hour
1 (1 1/2-pound) peeled, seeded butternut squash, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 (19-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 large onion, cut into thin slices
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 tablespoon chopped lemon zest (yellow part only)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup vegetable broth
4 ounces (1 cup) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Microwave squash 5 minutes on high (100 percent power); drain. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, combine squash, beans, onion, spinach, lemon zest, thyme, sage and salt. Add broth; cover tightly with foil. Bake 45 minutes or until squash is tender. Remove cover and sprinkle with cheeses; bake uncovered 5 minutes or until cheeses melts.
Per serving: 340 calories, 19 grams protein, 5 grams fat (14 percent calories from fat), 2.5 grams saturated fat, 54 grams carbohydrate, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 1,198 milligrams sodium, 14 grams fiber.
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MUSHROOM, BACON AND SWISS STRATA (Wednesday)
Makes 8 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes; chilling time: 8 hours
Cooking time: about 1 hour, plus 20 minutes to toast bread; standing time: 10 minutes, plus 15 minutes at room temperature prior to baking
12 ounces (about 7 cups) ciabatta or dense white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups onion, chopped
2 (8-ounce) packages sliced mushrooms
6 ounces reduced-fat shredded Swiss cheese, divided
4 slices center-cut cooked bacon, crumbled, divided
3 cups 1 percent milk
1 1/2 cups egg substitute
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
Chopped thyme leaves for garnish
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange bread in a single layer on a large rimmed baking pan. Bake 20 minutes or until toasted. Place cubes in a large bowl. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high. Add onion and mushrooms; cook 10 minutes or until liquid evaporates and vegetables are tender. Add onion mixture to bread; toss well to combine. Arrange half of mixture in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with half of cheese and half of bacon; top with remaining mixture, cheese and bacon.
In a medium bowl, whisk milk, egg substitute, thyme, pepper and salt. Pour egg mixture over bread mixture. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove strata from refrigerator; let stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Bake, covered, 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 15 more minutes or until set. Let stand 10 minutes. Garnish with thyme. (Adapted from “Cooking Light Lighten Up, America!” Allison Fishman Task; Oxmoor House, 2013.)
Per serving: 312 calories, 23 grams protein, 9 grams fat (26 percent calories from fat), 5.2 grams saturated fat, 36 grams carbohydrate, 26 milligrams cholesterol, 510 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.
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ENCHILADA CASSEROLE (Thursday)
Makes 8 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: about 25 to 30 minutes
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (19-ounce) can enchilada sauce
1 (16-ounce) can reduced-sodium black beans, rinsed
1 (14-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1 (11-ounce) can Mexicorn, rinsed
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 (10-ounce) package 6-inch corn tortillas, divided
3 cups cooked or canned chicken breast, chopped and divided
2 cups shredded reduced-fat Mexican four-cheese blend, divided
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil on medium-high and cook onion 6 minutes or until tender. Stir in enchilada sauce, beans, tomatoes, Mexicorn, chili powder and cumin. Reduce heat to low and cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring often. Spoon 1/3 of sauce mixture in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer with 1/3 of the tortillas, half the chicken and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat layers with 1/3 of the sauce and 1/3 of the tortillas, remaining chicken and 1/3 of the cheese. Top with remaining tortillas, sauce mixture and cheese. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
Per serving: 403 calories, 30 grams protein, 13 grams fat (28 percent calories from fat), 4.3 grams saturated fat, 43 grams carbohydrate, 62 milligrams cholesterol, 808 milligrams sodium, 8 grams fiber.
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