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A Holiday Celebration

by Nanette Blanchard



Although Christmas is generally the time for high-fat meals and overdoing it at the dinner table, you can still eat healthfully and prepare delicious recipes for a feast for family and friends. By experimenting with some new lowfat holiday recipes, you'll be ready to start the new year fit and satisfied.

This festive menu will give you enough food for 6 people, and every recipe is free of any added fat. Try the polenta cut into attractive shapes with cookie cutters and serve the pale pink poached pears in a crystal dish. Decorate the Christmas table with natural decorations such as pine cones and evergreen boughs and assorted candles.

The following recipes are adapted from my upcoming cookbook, 'Tis the Season: A Vegetarian Christmas Cookbook, to be published in August of 1995 by Fireside/Simon & Schuster.

(Makes 40 breadsticks)

These herbed breadsticks are thin and crispy and are quite popular as munchies for a lively party. The best breadsticks are the ones that are stretched, not rolled. Serve these stacked high in a rustic basket lined with a red or green napkin.

1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons minced fresh sage
About 2-1/2 cups whole wheat flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water for 10 minutes. Stir in salt, garlic, and sage. Add flour slowly. Turn out onto well floured board and knead 20 minutes or until smooth and satiny.

Spray bowl with vegetable cooking spray and place dough in it. Cover and let rise in warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Punch down. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured board, roll dough out to a 12-inch square. Sprinkle dough lightly with additional flour. Divide dough into four equal pieces. Cut each piece into 10 strips. Stretch each strip out to 12 or 15-inches long. Place on greased cookie sheet 1/2-inch apart. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Total Calories Per Breadstick: 27; Fat: less than 1 gram

(Serves 8)

This is a vegetarian version of posole, a dish made by Pueblos and Hispanics for feast days and special celebrations. Serve it with sage breadsticks. Hominy is a flavorful, chewy type of corn kernel that is treated with lime and dried. It is available either canned, frozen, or dried. A mail-order source for hominy is Los Chileros de Nuevo Mexico, PO Box 6215, Santa Fe, NM 87502; (505) 471-6967. You can substitute frozen corn kernels for an even more colorful soup.

2 Tablespoons apple juice
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 zucchini, sliced
1 cup peeled and chopped mild green chile peppers
6 cups vegetable broth

4 cups cooked yellow hominy (or 2 16-oz. cans)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro

Saute the onion and garlic in apple juice for 3-5 minutes. Add zucchini and green chiles and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, another five minutes. Add broth, hominy, and cumin and simmer, covered, over low heat for 45 minutes. Stir in cilantro and serve.

Total Calories Per Serving: 89; Fat: 1 gram

(Serves 6)

I make this recipe often; it is my favorite way to flavor polenta. I buy coarsely ground cornmeal, called polenta, at my health food co-op, but regular cornmeal can be substituted if polenta is not available.

Use holiday cookie cutters to cut out interesting shapes for this fun dish. If you can't find a dried chipotle chile pepper, you can either substitute a chipotle pepper canned in adobo sauce or any other type of hot dried whole chile pepper.

3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta or cornmeal
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 sun-dried tomatoes
1 dried chipotle chile pepper

Bring water and salt to a boil over medium-high heat in a heavy saucepan. Pour polenta in slowly, in a thin stream, stirring constantly. Add garlic and cook polenta, continuing to stir constantly, until it starts pulling away from the sides of the pan.

Meanwhile, reconstitute tomatoes and chipotles by pouring boiling water over both and let sit while polenta cooks. After polenta is fully cooked, drain, mince softened tomatoes and chipotle and add to mixture.

Sprinkle drops of cold water over marble pastry board or cookie sheet. With firm spatula, spread cooked polenta onto board into a rectangle 1/4-inch thick. Let cool and cut into shapes with cookie cutters.

Place shapes on cookie sheet sprayed with vegetable cooking spray. Broil 4-inches from heat source for 5 minutes and serve immediately.

Total Calories Per Serving: 95; Fat: 1 gram

(Serves 6)

Don't be intimidated by the number of ingredients in this spicy salad. Sprinkling the vegetables with the salt wilts them slightly and makes this coleslaw ready to eat immediately after it is prepared.

4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 large carrots, thinly julienned
2 Tablespoons salt
1 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup apple juice concentrate
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

In colander, mix cabbage, tomatoes, green pepper, red onion, and carrots and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for one hour. Rinse vegetables and drain well. Mix vinegar, apple juice concentrate, and spices and toss with vegetables. Cover and chill before serving.

Total Calories Per Serving: 77; Fat: less than 1 gram

(Serves 5)

I have some red and green mugs that are nice for serving this hot, fruity tea. Garnish with cinnamon sticks.

2 cups water
2 cups pineapple juice
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon
1 lemon, halved and sliced

Heat water and pineapple juice in a saucepan until it boils. Add cloves, cinnamon, and lemon and lower heat. Simmer 10 minutes over medium heat. Remove cloves and cinnamon and serve hot.

Total Calories Per Serving: 56; Fat: less than 1 gram

(Makes 8 pear halves)

I love the texture and buttery flavor of poached pears. This microwave poaching method is so simple that sometimes I buy a big bag of pears and poach them all at once. They can then be refrigerated and covered and eaten as snacks throughout the next week. Bosc and Bartlett pears are the best varieties for poaching.

This is a nice holiday recipe because the cranberry juice turns the pears a pale pink color. These pears are pretty garnished with some fresh mint sprigs. This recipe is best made at least 30 minutes in advance to give the pears time to cool.

4 pears, preferably Bosc
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup cranapple juice

Halve, peel, and core the pears. Sprinkle freshly cut pears with lemon juice to prevent browning. Place in microwave-safe dish and cover with cranapple juice. Cover and cook on high 6 - 8 minutes or until pears are fork tender. (Check the pears after 6 minutes; the fresher the pears, the longer they'll take to cook.) Spoon juice over pears, cover, and let stand 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight.

Total Calories Per Half Pear: 62; Fat: less than 1 gram

Nanette Blanchard celebrates Christmas in Durango, Colorado.

This article originally appeared in the November/December issue of Vegetarian Journal, published by:

The Vegetarian Resource Group
P.O. Box 1463
Baltimore, MD 21203
Phone: (410) 366-8343
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