Cranberries: One of the
Season's Most Nutritious
Delicacies

With a gorgeous color and a powerful
punch of flavor, cranberries are...

read more

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are, without a
doubt, a staple of many holiday
tables. However, the need to boil,
mash and prepare them at the last...

read more

Three Healthier Holiday Staples

The holidays are often a time of
gluttony - so much good food
makes it easy to say goodbye to
your diet for a day or two!...

read more

Cranberries: One of the Season's Most Nutritious Delicacies

With a gorgeous color and a powerful punch of flavor, cranberries are an unbeatable winter treat. They can add a bit of zing to nearly any recipe - from breads and beverages, to sauces, soups and salads. Here are some ideas cranberry tidbits from the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association.

  1. The cranberry is nutrition powerhouse! It is high in fiber, has just 25 calories per 1/2 cup and is a good source of vitamin C. Cranberries are also low in sodium and contain vitamins A and B, calcium, phosphorus and iron.
  2. When shopping for cranberries, look for firm, plump berries with a lustrous color. You'll find fresh cranberries in the produce section from September through December. They freeze well, so buy extra and put them in the freezer. They keep in the freezer for up to nine months.
  3. Fresh cranberries will keep in the refrigerator for up to four weeks. Wash berries only when ready to use.
  4. You can substitute frozen cranberries in most recipes calling for fresh. No need thaw.
  5. To prepare cranberries for cooking, sort out bruised, soft or shriveled berries and discard. Rinse remaining berries in cold water.
  6. Cook cranberries by boiling gently in water and waiting until the berries "pop" (when the outer skin expands until it bursts).
  7. Each 12-ounce bag of cranberries yields about 3 cups.

Here are some quick and easy ideas for incorporating cranberries into your diet.

  • Mix a little cranberry juice with hot apple cider for a great fall beverage.
  • Add a half cup (or more) of chopped cranberries to your favorite quick bread or muffin recipe.
  • Chopped cranberries add flavor and color to any stuffing mix. They are especially tasty in sausage cornbread stuffing!
  • Add a kick to baked apples by filling the apple center with cranberries and a dash of brown sugar and cinnamon.
  • Add zest and moisture to your meatloaf by adding a 1/4 cup of prepared cranberry sauce (per pound of ground meat) before baking.
  • Add one cup of whole cranberries to your favorite two-crust apple pie for a rosy red color and a sweet/tart taste.

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Three Healthier Holiday Staples

The holidays are often a time of gluttony - so much good food makes it easy to say goodbye to your diet for a day or two! But this year, rather than throwing your healthy habits completely out the window, try to find a healthier way to make one or two dishes. Then, focus your calorie splurge on the one or two items that you really love and look forward to all year. By keeping a few items on your plate healthy, you will have less damage to undue once the big meal is over!

Here are three healthier versions of holiday dinner mainstays. (All recipes courtesy of allrecipes.com.)

Wild Rice Stuffing

By using wild rice rather than the traditional bread, this stuffing recipe offers lower calories and carb counts.

  • 2 cups hot water
  • 4 cubes chicken bouillon, crumbled
  • 1 6-ounce package wild rice, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 5.5-ounce package seasoned croutons
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

Directions:

Dissolve 3 cubes bouillon in 1 cup hot water. In a medium saucepan, combine wild rice with bouillon water, then fill with just enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix remaining 1 cube bouillon in 1 cup hot water. Heat butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in celery and green pepper; cook until tender. Mix in remaining bouillon water. Pour skillet contents into a large bowl. Stir together cooked rice, croutons, and poultry season.

Place stuffing in a well-greased baking dish, cover and bake 30 minutes in a preheated oven at 325 degrees.

Baked Ginger Sweet Potatoes

This year, skip the marshmallows and nuts on your sweet potatoes! Try this healthier alternative, which offers sweetness from honey and nuttiness from walnut oil - all while saving calories.

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss together the sweet potatoes, honey, ginger, walnut oil, cardamom, and pepper. Transfer to a large cast iron frying pan.

Bake for 20 minutes. Stir the potatoes to expose the pieces from the bottom of the pan. Bake for another 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender and caramelized on the outside.

Crustless Pumpkin Pie

Much of the calorie count from most pies comes from the buttery crust. This pumpkin pie offers all the flavor and texture of a traditional pie but magically creates its own crust - saving calories and time!

  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup biscuit baking mix
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch pie pan.

In medium mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, milk, sugar, baking mix, melted butter, eggs, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, until mixture is smooth. Pour mixture into pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 50-55 minutes, until center is set. Allow to cool before serving.

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Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are, without a doubt, a staple of many holiday tables. However, the need to boil, mash and prepare them at the last minute leaves many Thanksgiving chefs a wreck. Well, the Pioneer Woman (Food Network host, author and food blogger) has come to our rescue with this make ahead recipe. This year, make your mashed potatoes the day before and see how much smoother your day goes!

  • 5 pounds Russet or Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 3/4 cups Butter
  • 1 package (8 Oz.) Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 1/2 cups (to 3/4 Cups) Half-and-Half
  • 1/2 teaspoons (to 1 Teaspoon) Lawry's Seasoned Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons (to 1 Teaspoon) Black Pepper

Directions:

Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they're cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.

Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.

Turn off the stove and add 1 1/2 sticks of butter, an 8-ounce package of cream cheese and about 1/2 cup of half-and-half. Mash, mash, mash! Next, add about 1/2 teaspoon of Lawry's Seasoning Salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper.

Stir well and place in a medium-sized baking dish. Throw a few pats of butter over the top of the potatoes and place them in a 350-degree oven and heat until butter is melted and potatoes are warmed through.

Note: When making this dish a day or two in advance, take it out of the fridge about 2 to 3 hours before serving time. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or until warmed through.

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