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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2006
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Fresh sage, rosemary, thyme and garlic season Herbed Roast Turkey.
Courtesy photo
Fresh sage, rosemary, thyme and garlic season Herbed Roast Turkey.

Menu makeover
Let herbs, olive oil replace butter, creamy soups in your holiday dishes

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

Your holiday eating plan is familiar: Eat all you want because Christmas comes only once a year, and then start the diet in the new year.

You could, however, put a new twist on that holiday menu by watching the oils, fats, butters and sugars, and then you will already be a step ahead on your healthy new year game plan when 2007 arrives.

There's nothing wrong with the traditional turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries and vegetables. The problem is the number of cans of creamy soups, cartons of sour cream, cups of sugar, marshmallows and other add-ins often used to turn good-for-you items into way-too-heavy casseroles, dressings, salads and desserts.

Start your menu makeover with Christmas dinner by incorporating the flavors of herbs, maple syrup, almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds and olive oil and eliminating the sticks of butter, sour creams and creamy soups. These recipes for Herbed Roast Turkey, Sesame-Almond Vegetable Sauté and Mashed Sweet Potatoes will turn out tasty while ranging from 100 to 330 calories per serving, with no trans-fats and only small amounts of saturated fats.

The dishes were developed by the North American Olive Oil Association, which recommends using olive oils because they are cholesterol-free and a source of heart-healthy fats, with antioxidants such as vitamin E.

If you want to remake some of your other holiday recipes, try substituting 3/4 teaspoon of olive oil for 1 teaspoon of butter or margarine, or 3/4 cup olive oil for 1 cup butter or margarine.

Extra-light olive oil is a good choice for baking and can be used instead of vegetable oil in most recipes; it has the same number of calories as other olive oils, however.

Extra-light is used in the Mashed Sweet Potatoes, while pure olive oil works well with turkey and other meats and seafood. Extra virgin olive oil is best for salads and vegetables, as well as sauces and dipping breads.

Herbed Roast Turkey

16- to 18-pound turkey, thawed if frozen

1 medium onion, cut into wedges

2 ribs celery, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 to 2 stems each of fresh sage, rosemary and thyme, if desired

3 cloves garlic

1/3 cup chopped fresh sage leaves

1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves

3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup pure olive oil

Additional stems rosemary, thyme and sage

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Remove giblets and neck from turkey; discard or save for broth, if desired. Rinse cavity of turkey and pat dry. If desired, sprinkle inside or turkey with salt and pepper to taste. Place onion, celery carrot and 1 to 2 stems each of sage, rosemary and thyme inside turkey. Place turkey on rack in roasting pan; set aside.

In food processor or blender, chop garlic until fine. Add herbs; pulse until coarsely chopped. Add salt and pepper. With machine running, add 1/3 cup olive oil; process until well blended.

Carefully separate (but do not remove) the skin from meat on breast of turkey. Rub 2 tablespoons olive oil mixture between meat and skin. Replace skin. If desired, add 1 cup water or broth to pan under rack. Roast turkey for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, blend remaining 1/2 cup olive oil into remaining herb mixture. After 1 hour of roasting, baste turkey with part of herb mixture.

Continue roasting 2˝ to 31/4 hours (see note) or until internal temperature of thickest part of thigh is 170 degrees and juices run clear, basting every hour. If necessary, cover breast of turkey with foil to prevent over-browning during roasting. Cover loosely; let stand 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

Makes 16 servings, each with 330 calories, 12 g total fat, 171mg cholesterol, 0 carbs.

Note: Total roasting time will be about 12 to 20 minutes per pound, depending on size of turkey. Check turkey wrapper for additional timing information. The olive oil-herb rub can be used when roasting only a turkey breast and is also good on roasted or grilled chicken or pork.

Sesame-Almond Vegetable Sauté

Sesame-Almond Vegetable Saute
Courtesy photo
Sesame-Almond Vegetable Saute
1/3 cup chicken broth or water

1/2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 2 cups)

1 cup baby carrots, halved crosswise

2 cups broccoli florets

1˝ cups cauliflower florets

1/3 cup slivered almonds

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges

1 clove garlic, minced

2 to 3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (see note)

In Dutch oven or large skillet, combine squash, carrots and chicken broth. Cook over medium-high heat until broth is steaming. Cover and cook 3 minutes. Add cauliflower and broccoli; cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer or just until squash is tender and broccoli is brightened. Drain and set aside.

In small skillet over medium-high heat, cook almonds 5 to 7 minutes or until light golden, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

In large skillet or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes or until onion is softened. Increase heat to medium-high. Add well-drained vegetable mixture, thyme, salt and red pepper flakes. Cook and stir until hot and tender. Stir in almonds; turn into serving dish. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Makes 12 servings, each with 100 calories, 7g fat, 0 cholesterol, 9g carbs.

Note: Toasted sesame seeds are available in the spice section of some grocery stores. To toast your own, follow directions for toasting almonds, stirring frequently and watching carefully to prevent over-browning.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

4 large sweet potatoes (about 5 pounds), peeled and quartered

1/4 cup extra light olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 to 3 teaspoons grated fresh gingerroot

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1 egg

2 tablespoons grated orange peel (about 2 oranges)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cardamom, optional

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 slices cinnamon bread, torn into 1-inch pieces

2 teaspoons extra light olive oil

Place potatoes in Dutch oven with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover loosely and simmer 15 to 25 minutes or until tender (see note). Drain well in colander; place in large bowl. Set aside.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 2-quart casserole with olive oil. In medium skillet or saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and gingerroot; cook and stir until tender.

Lightly mash potatoes with spoon or potato masher. Add onion mixture and remaining ingredients, except cinnamon bread and 2 teaspoons olive oil. For smoother consistency, beat with mixer to blend. For a chunkier mixture, mash with potato masher or wooden spoon to blend. Spoon into prepared casserole.

In food processor or blender, process bread pieces until completely chopped. Blend in remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. Sprinkle over potato mixture. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until lightly browned and thoroughly hot.

Makes 16 servings, each with 210 calories, 4.5g total fat, 15mg cholesterol, 39g carbs.

Note: Potatoes are tender when knife can easily be inserted into the thickest parts with little or no resistance. For a smoother casserole, cook potatoes until very tender. For a slightly chunkier casserole, cook potatoes just until knife can be inserted.

Holiday Carrot Cake

Cake:

2˝ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon allspice

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

4 eggs

1˝ cups extra light olive oil

2˝ cups shredded carrots

1 cup chopped walnuts

Frosting:

6 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 cups powdered sugar

2 to 4 tablespoons half-and-half

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease three 9-inch round cake pans with olive oil. Cut waxed paper rounds to fit inside cake pans. Grease waxed paper; lightly flour pans and liners; set aside.

In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt; set aside.

In mixing bowl, combine granulated and brown sugars, eggs and olive oil. Beat at high speed until creamy. Add carrots and flour mixture. Mix on low speed to moisten. Blend on high speed 1 minute, scraping sides as needed. Stir in walnuts. Divide evenly between the prepared pans. Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on cooling racks; loosen edges. Remove from pans and cool completely on racks.

For frosting: In mixing bowl, blend cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating on low speed to mix. Add 2 tablespoons half-and-half; beat at high speed, adding additional half-and-half 1 tablespoons at a time until desired spreading consistency is reached.

Frost and stack two layers and then the top layer and sides. Refrigerate until serving; remove cake from refrigerator at least one hour before serving and serve at or around room temperature. Makes 16 servings, each with 630 calories, 35g total fat, 75mg cholesterol, 78g carbs.

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