guilt-free eggnog

It’s Christmas Eve, can you believe it? I know me neither. The weeks of planning, quietly executing and subversive measures will all culminate in a few hours and then Christmas 2013 will become just another memory. Sure the gifts (the ones not returned anyway), credit card bills and expanded waistlines will still be there to remind us of the big day, but all the real Santa fun will be over in the blink of an eye. Sigh. But back to Christmas Eve…

Christmas Eve would never be considered complete at our house without several things happening first: Marshmallows must be roasted in the fireplace. Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce must be one of the appetizers. Crack and carrots must be left for Santa and the reindeer. And finally egg nog must be the final cocktail of the evening.

In the past I’ve served store-bought egg nog that I boozed and spiced up to my liking, but this year I thought I’d try to make it from scratch instead. When I started researching recipes I couldn’t get over the calorie stats I was reading. I’m all for enjoying the holiday but come on… 375+ calories in one cup seems like a bit much even to me! So I decided to look for a lower fat (yet still delicious) recipe and Cooking Light magazine was my first stop. Their recipe looked like just the jumping off point I needed to create a classic Jan Greco tweaked up low-fat eggnog recipe. And so I did just that, I tweaked and taste tested and I came up with an eggnog recipe I can really feel good about (or that really makes me feel good, or perhaps a little of both) and now I’m ready to pass it along to my lovely and loyal readers. Think of it as my gift to you.

From my kitchen to yours, happy holidays!

Guilt-free Eggnog
This is a rich, creamy
egg nog that doesn’t taste remotely like something “light”. If you would like yours a little less boozy feel free to cut back or even omit the brandy and bourbon.

eggnog3

3 1/2 cups 1% milk
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. salt
2 large egg yolks, beaten
3 tbsp.- 1/4 cup bourbon
3 tbsp – 1/4 cup brandy
2 tsp. vanilla extract
additional ground nutmeg, for garnish

  1. Whisk together the first 6 ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently.
  2. Place the beaten egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk half of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks and continue whisking until fully combined. Add the milk/yolk mixture back to the pan with the remaining hot milk and cook over medium heat 2 minutes or until slightly thickened, whisking continuously.
  3. Pour the bourbon, brandy, and vanilla into a large pitcher and set aside. Allow the egg nog to cool for 5 minutes in the pan then add to the pitcher, whisking to blend.
  4. Refrigerate the egg nog at least 4 hours, until fully chilled. Before serving give a final stir then pour into glasses and garnish with additional nutmeg. Bottoms up!

*adapted from cooking light

modernized tetrazzini

Some people love leftovers while others cringe at the very idea. I happen to be a leftover lover. A delicious meal with a fraction of the work, um yes please! In my mind what’s even better than a no hassle dinner of leftovers is turning those leftovers into something entirely new and delicious. Think shepherd’s pie with leftover mashed potatoes (remind me to give you that recipe, it’s one of my families favorites), pea soup with leftover glazed ham or ice cream with leftover egg nog. Yum!

I’ve already told you that one of my all-time favorite meals is roasted chicken, but with warm weather (finally) upon us I’d much rather crank up the grill than the oven. Thankfully my husband received a “beer can chicken” rack last Father’s Day and has recently started putting it to good use. Have you ever cooked chicken this way? It’s ridiculously good and strikingly easy, especially if you have a rack. Anyway back to the leftovers— we made and enjoyed a beer can chicken last Sunday and ended up with a container of leftover meat after dinner. Chicken salad, chicken soup, chicken a la king… nope Chicken Tetrazzini.

Chicken tetrazzini seems to be one of those classic dishes that has gone the way of tuna noodle casserole (complete with crushed potato chips sprinkled on top) and sloppy joe’s. It’s typically made with some diced chicken and mushrooms, tossed with spaghetti, smothered in a heavy butter/cream sauce and baked until the cheese on top is bubbly and toasted. Tasty I’m sure, but not exactly a 2013 idea of nutritious. But if you make a few lower fat substitutions and really punch up the flavor with a bit of onion and spices, hello perfectly acceptable and surprisingly kid-friendly modern day dinner!

Sometimes those oldies really are the goodies. Perhaps next week I’ll try to modernize franks n’ beans…

Welcome to the Future Chicken Tetrazzini
This recipe is great with either leftover chicken or turkey. I typically use fusilli pasta or rotini, but you could also use spaghetti if you prefer.

NEW:tetrazzini2

1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
a pinch cayenne pepper
8 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
1/2 cup brandy
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup flour
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup set aside
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
8 ounces thin pasta (fusilli, spaghetti), broken in thirds
3 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced large
plain panko, for topping

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, black pepper, salt, thyme, garlic, cayenne and mushrooms; sauté 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Add the brandy and cook 2 more minutes.
  2. Add the broth to the pan and gradually add flour. Use a whisk to incorporate the flour into the liquid and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and the cream cheese, stirring with a whisk until cream cheese melts.
  3. Remove from heat and add the pasta and chicken and stir until blended. Grease a medium high-sided ceramic baking dish and pour in the tetrazzini mixture.
  4. In a small bowl mix together the panko crumbs and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the pasta and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and bubbly. Remove casserole from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

*adapted from cooking light