Happy, Healthy Holidays
Holiday celebrations are orgies. They are occasions to indulge ourselves in worldly pleasures, prominently food. We behave by the credo “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we diet…” add to that, “and suffer from our sickness.” Pass me the insulin injection and the zocor please.
Confucius will say, if he had the culinary skills and the taste buds of a gourmet, that food should be enjoyed in moderation. So reduce the quantity and modify the ingredients.
With careful planning, we can execute an all-inclusive holiday feast. That means Grandma, who is diabetic, can have a dessert like the others and Dad, who has a heart problem, can have a low-fat entrée. Cousin Melissa need not bring her own vegetarian dish. And little Robbie, who is allergic to wheat products, can have a piece of cake and eat it too.
We searched the internet for helpful recipes (and you can too) and came up with some that we thought could make it to the Filipino Christmas table.
For the insulin-challenged:
(makes 4 servings)
11/4-ounce envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4cup cold water
8packets artificial sweetener
1/3cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4cup nonfat (skim) milk
1/2cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2tablespoons natural vanilla
2tablespoons rum extract
1/2cup frozen non-dairy whipped topping, thawed
fresh strawberries (optional)
In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water; allow to stand 2 minutes to soften. In a medium saucepan, stir together the sweetener and cocoa. Stir in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very hot. Add the gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and refrigerate until slightly cold (do not allow to gel). In a food processor or blender, combine ricotta cheese, vanilla, and rum extract. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl. Add the whipped topping; stir until well combined. Gradually fold ricotta mixture into the cocoa mixture. Spoon into 4 dessert cups. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. Top with sliced fresh strawberries.
Here is another one from www.allrecipes.com
Black Forest Trifle
1 (8 ounce) package chocolate sugar-free, low-fat cake mix (such as Sweet 'N Low)
3/4 cup water
1 (1 ounce) box chocolate sugar-free, fat-free instant pudding mix
2 cups fat-free milk
1 (16 ounce) package frozen no-sugar-added pitted cherries
2 drops red food coloring
2 cups fat-free frozen whipped topping, thawed
Sugar-free chocolate curls (optional)
1. Prepare cake mix according to package directions, using 3/4 cup water. Let cake cool in pan; remove from pan, cut into cubes.
2. Prepare pudding mix according to package directions, using 2 cups fat-free milk; chill at least 30 minutes.
3. Thaw cherries, reserving 1/4 cup juice. Combine cherries, juice, and food coloring.
4. Place half of cake cubes in a 3-quart trifle bowl. Spoon half of cherries over cake; spread 1 cup pudding over cherries, and top with half of whipped topping. Repeat layers. Top with chocolate curls. Cover and chill at least 8 hours.
For Cholesterol Watchers:
Grilled food (meat and vegetables) are good for people who have to manage their cholesterol levels. The grills that collect fat drippings for easier disposal are excellent. You can also trim the fat off the meat and remove the skin. Cool soups or sauces in the refrigerator so that you can skim off the fat with a spoon.
You can also cut down on fat content by substituting ingredients. This pie crust recipe from Eating Well uses only two tablespoons of butter but has ground nuts and walnut oil. Nuts from oil are monosaturates so they do not produce bad cholesterol. The dough will keep, if tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to two days or in the freezer for up to six months.
Nut Pastry Dough
Small single crust:
¼ cup walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds or pecans
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. cold butter, cut into pieces
1 ½ tbsp. walnut oil
4 tbsp. cold water
1. Preheat oven to 350oF.
2. Spread nuts in a pie pan and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until fragrant. Let cool.
3. In a food processor, combine nuts, flour, sugar and salt; process until nuts are finely chopped. Add butter and process until incorporated. Transfer to a large bowl.
4. Drizzle oil over flour mixture. Use your fingertips to rub oil into the mixture. One tablespoon at a time, add water and mix with a fork until dough is crumbly and holds together when pressed.
5. If making a single crust, gently form dough into a flattened disk. If making a double crust, divide dough into 2 pieces, 1 slightly larger than the other, and form each into a disk.
Pear Tart Tatin
1 recipe small single crust Nut Pastry Dough
5 ripe but firm Bosc pears
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
¾ cup water
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. butter
1. Preheat oven to 375oF.
2. Place 2 overlapping sheets of plastic wrap on a work surface. Set dough in the center and cover with 2 more plastic wrap sheers. Roll dough into a 10-inch circle. Transfer dough (still between plastic) to a baking sheet and freeze until ready to use.
3. Peel pears, cut in half lengthwise and core. In a bowl, toss with 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Set aside.
4. In a heavy ovenproof skillet, combine ¼ cup water and sugar. Over low heat, swirl until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium and bring sugar syrup to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 minute. Uncover and cook, without stirring, until syrup turns light amber, 6 to 8 minutes. Gently swirl skillet if syrup is coloring unevenly.
5. Remove from heat and add remaining ½ cup water and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. (Styand back as aramel may sputter.) Return skillet to low heat and stir until caramel has dissolved. Add butter and stir until melted.
6. Arrange pears cut-side down in the caramel in a tight circle, with 1 pear half in the center. Increase heat to medium. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. With tongs, turn pears cut-side up and increase heat to high. Cook, uncovered, until pears are tender and caramel becomes a thick glaze, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
7. Remove pastry from freezer and peel off plastic wrap. Lay crust over pears, turning edges under to fit. (Let the steam from the pears warm the crust until pliable.)
8. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until crust is golden. Remove from oven. Place a large flat serving plate on top of the tart, quickly invert it and remove pan. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm at room temperature. Makes 8 servings.
For the Wheat Avoiders:
Noodles made from rice can be digested by people allergic to wheat. So guests who require gluten-free diets can eat Pancit Bijon and sotanghon guisado. They can also eat rice. There’s no problem with entrees unless you prepare something that is breaded or has a crust.
Baked products are a challenge. You have to find substitutes for flour. Peachy Yutangko, a Filipino baker who owns Organic Oven in Brampton, has come up with gluten-free or lactose-free tasty treats. She can even make you a decorated cake. I have tried some of her products and even though I don’t have an allergy to wheat, I enjoyed the carrot cake and the flaxseed and almond cookie. The latter is good for people with cholesterol problems too because it is rich in omega-3 oil.
But if you want to learn to bake a gluten-free cake yourself, esp. if there is a celiac or gluten-intolerant person in your household, here is a recipe I found in www.celiac.com.
Joanna’s Fruit Cake
3 cups cooked rice
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup demerara sugar (or coarse brown sugar)
2 medium bananas, mashed
2 apples, finely chopped
500g (1 pound) cottage cheese
2 cups mixed dried fruit
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup mixed nuts OR almonds, roughly chopped
grated rind of one mandarin OR orange
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Combine everything and mix well. Place mixture in a greased tin. Joanna uses a fancy fluted ring (one with a hole in the middle). Bake at 220 C (400 F) for about half an hour until firm and cooked through. When a skewer comes out clean, the cake is cooked. Allow to cool in the tin.
For the Vegetarian:
We often neglect the protein needs of vegetarians. Don’t limit their choices to salads. That’s probably the reason why they bring their own food --- it’s because you treat them like rabbits.
Prepare pastas and noodles with assorted vegetables. Mix beans with the rice.
If you don’t want to deep fry lumpia at home esp. in winter, try using phyllo as wrapper. You can bake them. Here is a recipe for something close to our lumpia, courtesy of Vegetarian Recipes Around the World. Of course, you can use your own vegetable filling recipe if you want.
Phyllo Baskets with Vegetable Filling
500g packet phyllo pastry, thawed
150ml olive oil
125g mushrooms, wiped and sliced
4 large spring onions, chopped
100ml shredded red cabbage
100ml shredded white cabbage
4 carrots, scraped and chopped
200ml bean sprouts
230g can bamboo shoots, drained
salt and pepper to taste
10ml garlic and ginger mix
12g (25ml) cornflour
50ml dry sherry
25ml soya sauce
Cut phyllo pastry into eight equal squares.
Cover with a dish towel.
Brush between layers of each square with 100ml of the olive oil.
Press pastry squares into greased muffin pans to form eight baskets.
Bake at 160 ° C, 15 to 20 minutes.
(Olive oil tends to burn, so this recipe is baked at a lower temperature)
Remove from oven and set aside. Heat remaining olive oil in a large frying pan, stir-fry mushrooms, spring onions, cabbage, carrots, sprouts and bamboo shoots.
Season to taste.
Add ginger and garlic mix.
Combine cornflour, sherry and soya sauce, stir into vegetable mixture. Cook two to three minutes or until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat. Spoon mixture into phyllo baskets. Serve at once.