Low-Cal holiday delights

If, like me, you want to look forward to many more Yuletides in your life, you’d better remember the golden rule — everything in moderation. Research proves that folks who consume fewer calories live longer. Plus their lives are more fun than those who weigh themselves down with excess baggage. I know this sounds tiresome and some people are turning against it. We maintain that you can eat all you want of your favorite foods, enjoy a long and robust life and still remain trim and fit. You can even lose weight if you just cut down on the calories. Here’re some triple-tested treats for doing just that this holiday season.

Santa’s Relish Tray
This “Christmas Tree” should keep hungry guests content while they sip their low-cal cranberry drinks. * Scrub and wash veggies before decorating the “tree.”


^1 Styrofoam cone, about 10 to 12 inches high
Chicory, curly endive or mustard greens, washed and dried
Staples or upholstery pins
Cherry tomatoes
Zucchini slices
Cauliflower florets
Carrot sticks
Rash roses

  1. Starting at the base, encircle the Styrofoam with a layer of greens. Attach with staples or pins.

  2. Add a second layer, overlapping the first.

  3. Working from bottom to top, add layers so as to cover the entire cone.

  4. Once this is done, spear vegetables with toothpicks and decorate the “tree.”

  5. Set the “tree” on a tall cake stand. Add extra vegetables around the base.

  6. Set a dip sauce or bowl of salad dressing nearby.

Bethlehem Relish
PREPARATION: 8 minutes
COOKING: 1 hour
FREEZING: not required
PER SERVING: 2 calories. No cholesterol. Excellent source of vitamin A and potassium. Good source of vitamin C.

Totally delicious with roast turkey or other meat, prepare this two weeks before Hanukkah or Christmas Day, for mellowing of flavours.

4 large beefsteak tomatoes
1 small sweet red pepper, seeded
1 small green pepper, seeded
1 large onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tsp (10 mL) salt
½ cup (125 mL) brown sugar, packed
cup (155 mL) apple cider or malt vinegar
½ tsp (2 mL) sweet paprika
Garnish: chopped parsley

  1. Peel tomatoes, if you wish, and chop finely along with peppers and onion.

  • In a heavy saucepan, place all ingredients except garnish and bring to a boil.

  • Reduce heat and simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick.

  • Pour into a jar. Allow to cool, seal, then refrigerate. Serve at room temperature. Yield: 500 g (1 lb).
  • Bonavista Soup
    Similar to eastern European Borsch but easier to prepare, this soul-satisfying recipe tickles the tastebuds and prepares the stage for your main entrée, be it roast turkey or an alternative. Broth can be homemade from beef bones (see The Memory Lane Cookbook, p. 25), or from cubes or powdered version sold in health food stores.

    PREPARATION: 12 minutes
    COOKING: 40 minutes
    FREEZING: excellent
    PER SERVING: 80 calories. No cholesterol. Excellent source of vitamin A and potassium. Good source of calcium and folate.

    2 cups (500 mL) fresh beets, shredded
    1 cup (250 mL) carrots, chopped
    1 cup (250 mL) chopped onion
    2¾ cups (675 mL) pure spring water, preferably Manitou**
    2½ cups (625 mL) beef broth made with pure spring water, preferably Manitou**
    1 cup coarsely chopped cabbage
    1 tsp (5 mL) Canadian canola oil
    1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh lemon juice or cider vinegar
    Garnish: no-fat sour cream

    1. Cook beets, carrots and chopped onion in spring water for 20 minutes. Add broth, cabbage and oil; cook, uncovered, 15 minutes.

    2. Stir in lemon juice or vinegar. Serve hot or chilled. Top with sour cream. Yield: 6 servings.

    James Michener Bread
    One of the truly creative novelists of our time, Michener’s my hero, having endowed an annual award of $10,000 for young Canadian writers and contributing more than $45 million to other worthwhile causes. No other author has ever done more. It all started with South Pacific, which won the Pulitzer Prize, became a Broadway musical and then a motion picture. His 1985 novel, Texas, a 1,096-page epic, sold a million copies. More than 75 million people bought his 42 books. I loved Alaska (1987). That same year, he forwarded this delightful recipe to the Memory Lane Cooking Schools. To serve as a cake, see low-cal frostings in The Memory Lane Cookbook, p. 284.

    PREPARATION: 20 minutes
    COOKING: 1 hour
    FREEZING: excellent
    PER SERVING: 180 calories. Excellent source of fibre. Good source of protein.

    1½ cups (375 mL) cups soft wholewheat flour***
    ¼ cup (62.5 mL) oat bran***
    ½ cup (125 mL) Splenda granular sweetener* or white sugar
    ½ cup (125 mL) brown sugar, tightly packed
    2½ tsp (12 mL) baking powder
    ½ tsp (2 mL) salt
    ¾ cup (175 mL) wholewheat bran***
    _ cup (150 mL) dried apricots, chopped
    ¾ cup (175 mL) skim milk
    1 low-cholesterol egg****or 2 egg whites, well beaten
    ½ cup (125 mL) orange juice
    2 tsp (10 mL) grated orange rind
    2 tbsp (30 mL) Canadian canola oil
    Canadian canola oil cookware spray

    1. Combine all dry ingredients and stir well with a spoon.

    2. In a separate bowl, blend milk and other ingredients including apricots. Add to flour mixture, stirring until just moistened.

    3. Spray a 8½ x 4½ (22 x 12 cm) loaf pan. Pour in mixture.

    4. Bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for one hour or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.

    5. Cool in pan for 12 minutes. Slide knife around edges and remove from pan onto a rack.

    6. When cool, wrap in plastic or waxed paper, label, secure with elastic, and refrigerate or freeze. Yield: 12 slices.

    Mother Teresa Turkey Mousse
    No, the Nobel Prize winner did not create this fabulous recipe but after tasting it, she approved. “Any food we can provide to the poor,” she declared, “should be prepared with tender, loving and expert care.” A New York Memory Lane group devised this super dish, to use up Christmas turkey leftovers for one of her missions. It’s low-cal and gourmet quality. If you like it, mail a cheque to the Sisters of Charity or your favorite non-profit cause.

    PREPARATION: 22 minutes
    COOKING: none
    PER SERVING: 157 calories. Excellent source of potassium and niacin. Good source of calcium and protein. Cholesterol: 10 mg.

    2 cups (500 mL) skinless cooked turkey, diced
    1 envelope gelatin
    ¼ cup (62.5 mL) cold pure spring water, preferably Manitou**
    ½ cup (125 mL) low-sodium chicken broth
    ½ cup (125 mL) low-cal mayonnaise
    1 tbsp (15 mL) pure lemon juice
    1 tsp (5 mL) grated onion
    ½ tsp (2 mL) hot pepper sauce such as Tabasco
    ¼ tsp (1 mL) sweet paprika, preferably Hungarian
    1½ cups (375 mL) no-fat cottage cheese
    ¼ cup (62.5 mL) green pepper, chopped
    ¼ cup (62.5 mL) celery, diced
    ¼ cup (62.5 mL) pimiento, chopped

    1. In a medium bowl, pour cold water over the gelatin. Stir.

    2. Add chicken broth. Stir.

    3. Add mayonnaise, lemon juice, onion, hot pepper sauce and paprika.

    4. In blender or food processor, whip cottage cheese until creamy.

    5. Fold in turkey and other ingredients. Stir.

    6. Pour into a mold. Chill until firm. Yield: 10 servings.

    Princess Diana’s Yuletide Pudding
    The “People’s Princess” declared this recipe her favorite Christmas pudding, perhaps because it calls for no sugar but still tastes sweet. She insisted that the Memory Lane version be prepared for a number of her charities in the United Kingdom.

    PREPARATION: 30 minutes plus marination
    COOKING: 5 hours plus 2 hours
    FREEZING: not recommended
    PER SERVING: 210 calories. Excellent source of potassium. Good source of calcium and vitamin A.

    4 loosely-packed cups (230 g/8 oz) fresh wholewheat bread crumbs
    2 cups (500 mL) each of roughly chopped black raisins, yellow sultanas and dried apricots
    ¾ cup (175 mL) crumbled almond macaroons or amaretti
    ¾ cup (175 mL) chopped raw almonds
    ½ cup (125 mL) ground almonds
    1 apple, unpeeled, cored and grated
    1 tbsp (15 mL) orange peel, grated
    1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon
    1 tsp (5 mL) mace
    ½ tsp (2 mL) ground cardamon
    ½ tsp (2 mL) ground cloves
    ½ tsp (2 mL) allspice
    2 tbsp (10 mL) Seville orange marmalade
    4 low-cholesterol eggs****
    6 tbsp (75 mL) Cognac
    Scant _ cup (140 mL) fortified Muscat wine, port, Marsala or rich Oloroso sherry
    Cookware spray

    1. In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients thoroughly.

  • In another large bowl, blender or food processor, beat liquid ingredients until frothy. Add to dry mixture. Stir. Cover and let stand for at least 2 hours or overnight.

  • Spoon mixture into a sprayed pudding basin. Fill to within ½ in. (1.25 cm) of rim. Cover with sprayed waxed paper and string. Place basin in a saucepan.

  • Surround basin with boiling water halfway up the side and simmer steadily for 5 hours, adding more boiling water to maintain level.

  • Remove basin from saucepan and allow to cool completely. Wrap in greaseproof paper and a layer of foil. Store in a cool, dark place.

  • On the big day, steam pudding for 2 hours in a saucepan half-filled with water. Decorate with holly, warm some brandy or rum and anoint the pudding. Turn off lights before the grand entrance into the dining room. Serve with a blob of crème fraîche (for a low-cal version, see p. 284 of The Memory Lane Cookbook). Yield: 8 servings.
  • * Sweetener actually made from sugar, used in low-cal cranberry cocktail by Ocean Spray.
    **Rated best for beverages, soups and stews.
    ***Best sources: health-food stores.
    ****Hens are fed special diets. Look for such brands as Natura.