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Busy People's Fun, Fast, Festive Christmas Cookbook
By Dawn Hall
Rutledge Hill PressCopyright © 2007 Dawn Hall
All right reserved.
Chapter OneChristmas Eve Dinners
Christmas Eve for some families is their primary Christmas celebration. Food ranges from the traditional sit-down dinner to a vast array of assorted finger foods served buffet style to lighter fares as simple as soup and salad.
As blended families and large extended families try to find an attractive date everyone can attend, Christmas Eve is becoming almost as popular as Christmas Day itself. As the oldest of seven children with in-laws to take into consideration along with extended blended family situations, my parents started the tradition of having our family's Christmas celebration the Sunday before Christmas Day, which worked out great.
I have come to learn that what is most important isn't the actual date we gather to celebrate, but that we do take the time to celebrate together. Christmas was celebrated on Thanksgiving Day this year because my husband's parents were going away for the winter months. We celebrated with my side of the family the Sunday before Christmas, and we celebrated with our children Christmas Eve and early Christmas morning. This gave me Christmas afternoon and evening free. It was absolutely wonderful to be able to travel the many hours on Christmas Day to visit my dear grandmother who didn't want to leave her nursing home. That was a first for me. Another first (because of that travel) was eating Chinese food on Christmas Day. Thank goodness that restaurant was open. I am especially grateful for a compassionate and caring husband who was gracious enough to set aside a relaxing holiday to be with his wife on a long drive to my grandmother's nursing home. That is love; that is what Christmas is all about.
Italian Christmas Eve Dinner
Italian Christmas Tossed Salads (page 16) Busy Holiday Bruschetta (page 17) Super Easy Lasagna (page 14) Herbed Cauliflower (page 19) Warm Spiced Cherries over Pears (page 18)
Place a plain green artificial wreath in the middle of the table and tuck fine European chocolates into the branches. (Foil-wrapped chocolate Santas and ornament balls would look nice.) Light a candle in the center of the wreath. Add a red Christmas ribbon bow to the wreath and you are done.
9 x 13-inch casserole dish Plain green artificial wreath 6 dessert cups or Red ribbon bow tall-stemmed glasses Food processor
1. Set the table and make your centerpiece.
2. One and a half hours before serving time, make the Super Easy Lasagna and place it in the oven. 3. Forty-five minutes before serving time, make the Italian Christmas Tossed Salads and place them in the refrigerator. Do not put dressing on them until serving time.
4. Make the Bruschetta, but do not bake.
5. Set up everything to make the Warm Spiced Cherries over Pears. Put the pears in the dessert cups and the cherry cranberry mixture in the saucepan, but do not bake.
Last 15 minutes
6. Prepare the Herbed Cauliflower.
7. Bake the Busy Holiday Bruschetta.
8. Light the candle on the table.
9. Take the salads, bruschetta, lasagna, and cauliflower to the table.
10. After eating dinner, remove the plates. While clearing the table, heat the cherries.
11. Spoon the hot cherry mixture over the pears, top each dessert with 2 tablespoons dessert whipped topping, and then lightly top with nuts. Serve guests the warm desserts.
Frozen Foods 1 (8-ounce) container fat-free dessert whipped topping (only 3/4 cup needed) 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen cauliflower 1 (12-ounce) bag sausage-flavored veggie crumbles or 1 pound low-fat turkey Italian sausage
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables 1 pound baby lettuces (spring mix) 3 Roma tomatoes 1 cucumber 1 yellow bell pepper
Staple Items 1 (29-ounce) can pears in light syrup 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, basil, and olive oil 1 (16-ounce) box lasagna pasta (only 8 pieces needed) 2 (26-ounce) jars your favorite fat-free spaghetti sauce
Dairy 1 tablespoon light butter 6 teaspoons light margarine 1 (5-ounce) bag grated Parmesan cheese (only 1/2 cup needed) 1 (7-ounce) bag fancy shredded Parmesan cheese (only 1/4 cup needed) 3 (8-ounce) packages fat-free shredded mozzarella cheese 1 (16-ounce) container fat-free cottage cheese 4 egg whites
Baking Items 2 tablespoons dried sweetened cranberries 1 (21-ounce) can lite cherry pie filling 1 tablespoon finely chopped walnuts Nonfat cooking spray
Seasonings/Condiments 1 (8-ounce) bottle fat-free red wine vinaigrette salad dressing (only 3/4 cup needed) 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 teaspoons ranch salad dressing mix, dry 2 teaspoons dried parsley
Other 1 (17-ounce) loaf multigrain French bread (about 1/2 of a 17-ounce loaf is needed) 1 (8-ounce) package foil-wrapped fine European chocolates
Super Easy Lasagna
I like this best when it sits for a day in the refrigerator before baking; however, it is good prepared and baked right away too. Although this recipe takes more than thirty minutes to bake and cool, it is so easy that I'm including it in this book. No pots and pans like the old-fashioned recipe, which used to be a real hassle to make. This recipe can be put together days in advance and refrigerated until you are ready to bake it. I promise you, you will get oodles of rave reviews. And if you don't tell anyone it is vegetarian, they'll never know.
1 (16-ounce) container fat-free cottage cheese 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 4 eggs, separated 2 (26-ounce) jars fat-free spaghetti sauce 8 pieces lasagna pasta, uncooked 1 (12-ounce) package sausage, flavored veggie crumbles or 1 pound low-fat Italian turkey sausage, cooked, crumbled, and drained 2 (8-ounce) packages fat-free shredded mozzarella cheese
* Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
* Spray a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish with nonfat cooking spray.
* In a food processor combine the cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, and egg whites and process until well blended.
* Put 1 cup of the spaghetti sauce in the bottom of the prepared casserole dish.
* Put 4 strips of pasta on top of the sauce. (Put 3 strips down lengthwise and 1 strip across the end. You will need to break part of the end piece off so it will fit.)
* Layer with half of each of the following: cheese mixture, sausage-flavored crumbles, remaining spaghetti sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Repeat the layering again.
* Cover with aluminum foil and bake on the center rack in the oven for 1 hour.
* Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes on the top rack of the oven or until the cheese is bubbly.
* Let the lasagna sit for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve hot.
Yield: 9 servings
(with veggie crumbles)
Calories: 319 (7% fat); Total Fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 15mg; Carbohydrate: 36g; Dietary Fiber: 9g; Protein: 39g; Sodium: 1562mg; Diabetic Exchanges: 4 1/2 very lean meat, 2 starch, 1 vegetable (with turkey sausage)
Calories: 340 (10% fat); Total Fat: 4g; Cholesterol: 40mg; Carbohydrate: 34g; Dietary Fiber: 8g; Protein: 40g; Sodium: 1673mg; Diabetic Exchanges: 4 1/2 very lean meat, 2 starch, 1 vegetable
Preparation time: 15 minutes Baking time: 1 hour and 20 minutes Total time: 1 hour and 35 minutes
* * *
A Gift She Gave Herself
At twelve years old, my daughter Ashley wanted to do something special to help those less fortunate during the holidays. She organized a food and clothing drive at her school during the month of December. The event was a huge success! Ashley originally planned this fundraiser to bless others, but she was the one who was blessed. Each day she came home from school even more in awe than the previous day of the outpouring of generosity. Often the greatest way to overcome feeling down is to count your blessings and do something for someone else. My hope is that whoever plans to help someone else will be blessed as much as my daughter. She thought she was helping others and in return by blessing them she received the gift of giving. It was a priceless gift she gave herself.
Italian Christmas Tossed Salads
These are just right for Italian-themed holiday dinners.
3 Roma tomatoes 1/2 cucumber 1 yellow bell pepper 1 pound spring mix 1/4 cup fancy shredded Parmesan cheese 3/4 cup fat-free red wine vinaigrette salad dressing
* Place six salad plates in the freezer while you prepare this salad. This will allow you to serve the salads on chilled plates.
* Slice the tomatoes into six slices per tomato so that you will have three slices for each plate.
* Run the prongs of a fork down the sides of the cucumber to make a pretty design in the green skin before slicing. Slice the cucumber into six slices.
* Slice the yellow bell pepper into six ringed slices.
* Divide the spring mix among the six chilled plates from the freezer.
* Place a cucumber slice in the middle of each salad, and place a bell pepper ring on each so that a cucumber is in the middle of each pepper ring.
* Arrange three tomato slices around the pepper and cucumber rings and sprinkle 2 teaspoons of cheese on each salad.
* Just before serving, drizzle 2 tablespoons of the dressing on each salad or serve the dressing on the side.
Yield: 6 servings
Calories: 81 (13% fat); Total Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 2mg; Carbohydrate: 16g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Protein: 3g; Sodium: 378mg; Diabetic Exchanges: 1 1/2 vegetable, 1/2 other carbohydrate
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Busy Holiday Bruschetta
This is perfect for when you're in a rush. The taste is fabulous, the aroma is inviting, and the colors complement any holiday meal.
12 teaspoons light butter 12 (1/2-inch) slices multigrain French bread 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, basil, and olive oil, drained and juices discarded 1/2 cup shredded fat-free mozzarella
* Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
* Spread 1/2 teaspoon butter on both sides of each slice of bread.
* Place the buttered slices on a cookie sheet.
* Top each slice of bread with the tomatoes, dividing them evenly among the slices.
* Sprinkle the cheese on the top of the tomatoes, dividing it evenly among the slices.
* Loosely cover the cookie sheet with foil, taking care not to let the foil touch the cheese or the cheese will stick to the foil.
* Bake on the lowest rack of the oven (to help the bottom of the bread to toast) for 3 minutes.
* Remove the foil, place the pan on the top shelf, and turn the oven to broil.
* Broil for 2 minutes or until the cheese is lightly golden.
Yield: 6 (2-piece) servings
Calories: 167 (14% fat); Total Fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 8mg; Carbohydrate: 28g; Dietary Fiber: 4g; Protein: 9g; Sodium: 496mg; Diabetic Exchanges: 1/2 lean meat, 1 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable
Preparation time: 10 minutes or less Cooking time: 5 minutes Total time: 15 minutes or less
Warm Spiced Cherries over Pears
The presentation of this dessert is absolutely gorgeous, and the light, fruity taste of the warm cherries with bits of sweetened, dried cranberries oozing over the pears is awesome topped with the slight crunchiness of walnuts.
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 (21-ounce) can lite cherry pie filling 2 tablespoons finely chopped dried sweetened cranberries 1(29-ounce) can pears in light syrup, drain and discard juice 3/4 cup fat-free dessert whipped topping 1 tablespoon finely chopped walnuts
* In a medium-size, nonstick saucepan over medium heat, stir the cinnamon, pie filling, and cranberries until well mixed.
* Cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until the mixture reaches a low boil.
* Place 1/2 cup pears in each of six dessert cups or glasses.
* Spoon the hot cherry mixture over the pears.
* Top each serving with 2 tablespoons whipped topping and then lightly sprinkle the nuts evenly over all the desserts. Note: Six dessert cups or six stemmed tall glasses are needed. I think the stemmed glasses look prettier. If you don't have any, you can usually purchase them for about $1 each at most dollar stores.
Yield: 6 (1 dessert cup) servings
Calories: 141 (5% fat); Total Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Carbohydrate: 32g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Protein: 1g; Sodium: 25mg; Diabetic Exchanges: 1 fruit, 1 other carbohydrate
Preparation time: 5 minutes or less Cooking time: 5 minutes or less Total time: 10 minutes or less
1 tablespoon light butter 2 teaspoons dry ranch salad dressing mix 2 teaspoons dried parsley 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen cauliflower
* In a small bowl, microwave the butter for a few seconds until melted.
* Stir in the ranch dressing mix and the parsley.
* Microwave the cauliflower in a microwave-safe dish until fully heated, about 3 minutes.
* Drizzle the butter mixture over the cauliflower and gently toss.
Yield: 6 (1/2-cup) servings
Calories: 35 (26% fat); Total Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 3mg; Carbohydrate: 4g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Protein: 2g; Sodium: 172mg; Diabetic Exchanges: 1 vegetable
Preparation time: 3 minutes Cooking time: 3 minutes Total time: 6 minutes
Mexican Christmas Eve Dinner
In Mexico they celebrate Christmas with La Posada. For La Posada they re-create Mary and Joseph's search for shelter on the night that Jesus was born by walking from house to house pretending that they are seeking shelter.
After dinner on Christmas Day in Mexico the children get to try to break a piñata that is filled with candy. A rope is strung through the loop on the top of the piñata and two adults hold the ends of the ropes. Then they blindfold one child at a time, spin him or her around a few times, and let the child try to break the piñata with a stick.
Fiesta Chili Soup (page 26) Southwestern Celebration Salad (page 26) No-Cook Bean Dip (page 23) Beefy Chili Enchilada Casserole (page 24) Spicy Spanish Rice with Tomatoes and Green Chilies (page 25) Virgin Cranberry Daiquiris (page 27) Sweet Snowflake Tortillas (page 22)
Place a candy-filled piñata in the middle of the table. After dinner, hang it up, blindfold one child at a time, and let the child try to break the piñata open by hitting it with a stick or a bat.
Large, round, microwave- Stick to break the piñata (tie pretty safe casserole dish ribbons around one end of the stick) Piñata Dutch oven or soup pot
1. Set your table and place a candy-filled piñata in the middle.
2. About 1 1/4 hours before dinner make the Sweet Snowflake Tortillas, but do not heat. Cover and set aside.
3. About 1 hour before serving time make the No-Cook Bean Dip, cover, and place in the refrigerator until serving time.
4. Assemble the Beefy Chili Enchilada Casserole and place in the refrigerator. You will cook this in a little while.
5. Thirty minutes before serving time, start the Spicy Spanish Rice with Tomatoes and Green Chiles.
6. Start cooking the Fiesta Chili Soup.
7. While the rice is simmering, put the Beefy Chili Enchilada Casserole into the microwave to heat.
8. Turn off the rice and keep it covered so it will stay hot.
9. Make the Southwestern Celebration Salad.
Last 15 minutes
10. Make the Virgin Cranberry Daiquiris. You will make this recipe twice, because it will not all fit in your blender at one time. Put the daiquiris into glasses and take them to the table.
11. Ladle the soup into bowls and take all of the food to the table except the tortillas.
12. After dinner, put the Sweet Snowflake Tortillas into the microwave to heat. Serve warm.
Excerpted from Busy People's Fun, Fast, Festive Christmas Cookbook by Dawn Hall Copyright © 2007 by Dawn Hall. Excerpted by permission.
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