501 Life Magazine | 'Healthy holiday cooking'
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'Healthy holiday cooking'

Story and photos
by Sonja J. Keith

Holiday-inspired recipes that were not only tasty but healthy too, were recently presented to members of the Conway Regional Women’s Council.

The program – titled “Healthy Holiday Cooking” – featured an interactive cooking demonstration led by Cooperative Extension agent Melanie Malone, Family and Consumer Science/Faulkner County. She was assisted by Cooperative Extension agent Kami Marsh, Courtney Malone and 4-H members Victoria Puckett and Sierra Puckett.

Throughout the demonstration, Melanie provided background information on the recipes as well as helpful tips and techniques on how to make dishes healthier. They also enlisted the help of council members in preparing the dishes, which class participants were able to sample.

Ashley O’Roark, a registered dietitian and wellness coordinator at Conway Regional Health and Fitness Center, provided useful information on eating healthy during the holidays.

The women’s council hosts a variety of events throughout the year that are free to members. For more information on the council and upcoming events, visit conwayregional.org/WomensCouncil, call 501.513.5771 or email foundation@conwayregional.org.

Class members were also given several handouts, including copies of the recipes that were demonstrated during the program. Among the recipes:

Apple Cider-Brined Turkey

Brine:
8 cups apple cider
2/3 cup kosher salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
1 tablespoon whole allspice, coarsely crushed
8 (1/8-inch-thick) slices peeled fresh ginger
6 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 (12-pound) fresh or frozen turkey, thawed
2 oranges, quartered
6 cups ice

Remaining ingredients:
4 garlic cloves
4 sage leaves
4 thyme sprigs
4 parsley sprigs
1 onion, quartered
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

To prepare brine, combine first eight ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until sugar and salt dissolve. Cool completely.

Remove giblets and neck from turkey; reserve for Savory Herb Gravy. Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. Trim excess fat. Stuff body cavity with orange quarters. Place a turkey-sized oven bag inside a second bag to form a double thickness. Place bags in a large stockpot. Place turkey inside inner bag. Add cider mixture and ice. Secure bags with several twist ties.

Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Remove turkey from bags, and discard brine, orange quarters, and bags. Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under turkey. Tie legs together with kitchen string. Place garlic, sage, thyme, parsley, onion, and broth in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place roasting rack in pan. Arrange turkey, breast side down, on roasting rack. Brush turkey back with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 500 degrees for 30 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Remove turkey from oven. Carefully turn turkey over (breast side up) using tongs. Brush turkey breast with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into meaty part of thigh registers 170 degrees (make sure not to touch bone). (Shield the turkey with foil if it browns too quickly.)

Remove turkey from oven; let stand 20 minutes. Discard skin before serving; serve with gravy.

Cornbread Apple Stuffing

Cornbread:
1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fat-free milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray

Stuffing:
2 teaspoons olive oil
6 ounces lean, low-sodium smoked turkey sausage, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cups finely chopped onion
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups diced Granny Smith apple (about 1 large)
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced fennel bulb
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

To prepare corn bread, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine milk, canola oil and an egg in a small bowl. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into an 8-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425 degrees for 16 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan; cool completely.

Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.

To prepare stuffing, heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add onion and bay leaf; cook 8 minutes or until onion starts to brown, stirring occasionally. Add apple, celery and fennel; cook 5 minutes. Add garlic and next five ingredients (through black pepper); cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; discard bay leaf. Cool to room temperature.

Crumble corn bread into a large bowl. Add sausage mixture to bowl; toss to combine. Add broth and 2 eggs; toss to combine. Spoon into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes or until top is crisp and golden brown.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping

2 (29-ounce) cans sweet potatoes in syrup, drained and mashed (about 4 cups mashed)
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 large eggs
, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Combine first eight ingredients in a large bowl; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add whipping cream; stir well. Pour into a lightly greased 3-quart slow cooker.

Combine pecans and remaining 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle over sweet potatoes.

Cover and cook on HIGH 3 to 4 hours.

Alternative to the oven: This is a great holiday side that cooks on the countertop while your turkey and dressing fill your oven.

Green Bean Casserole

3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 medium sweet onion, (half diced, half thinly sliced), divided
8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup low-fat milk
3 tablespoons dry sherry,
1 pound frozen French-cut green beans (about 4 cups)
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
3 tablespoons buttermilk powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and slightly translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, onion powder, 1 teaspoon salt, thyme and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the mushroom juices are almost evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour over the vegetables; stir to coat. Add milk and sherry and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir in green beans and return to a simmer. Cook, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in sour cream and buttermilk powder. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Whisk the remaining 1/3 cup flour, paprika, garlic powder and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow dish. Add sliced onion; toss to coat. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion along with any remaining flour mixture and cook, turning once or twice, until golden and crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Spread the onion topping over the casserole.

Bake the casserole until bubbling, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.