You don't need to be a trained chef to pull off these celebratory dishes. Our expert tips and guidance make these lightened meals practically foolproof.
November 12, 2008
1 of 14Becky Luigart-Stayner
You'll Love It Lightened!
No holiday is complete without tried and true classics like casseroles and roasts. Here are your favorites slimmed down and simplified to suit both new and busy cooks. Now, that's a reason to celebrate!
This casserole exemplifies the power of moderation. A holiday treat, sweet potatoes are also high in fiber and Vitamin A. The pecans on top provide a healthy amount of monounsaturated fat.
Herb-Crusted Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding with Red Wine Jus
Slow roasting at a low temp is the way to go with big hunks of meat—it keeps them tender and juicy. It also helps you nail doneness: The window of time for your preferred temp is bigger, and carryover cooking is minimal.
Have your butcher cut the ribs from the roast and tie them back on. Use muffin tins if you don't have popover pans. Preheating the pans makes the popover batter start cooking and fluffing the second you pour it in.
Onions sliced vertically (pole to pole) have longer fibers so they don’t turn to mush as they caramelize. Vidalia onions add a touch of sweetness: Beef stock, traditional here, can get bitter. Meaty mushroom liquid, a dash of Worcestershire, and liquid aminos—a vegan secret weapon made from soybean extract—amp up umami deliciousness.
Great latkes are a study in textural contrast: crisp outside, tender and creamy within. It’s key to size the cakes properly. Too big, and the inside won’t get tender by the time the crust is done. Too small, and they’re crunchy disks. For this mix, 1 ⁄4-cup scoops are perfect. The oil needs to stay at 350° and come back up to temp between batches. If latkes go into oil that’s not hot enough, they soak up oil, turn greasy, and don’t cook right. A touch of lemon juice keeps the raw shredded potato from oxidizing and lends extra flavor to the latkes.
What makes duck breast such a treat? Golden, crisp skin. The goal: Render as much fat as possible, but keep the meat rosy. Scoring is critical—it lets excess fat melt from the thick skin. Start in a cold pan, like with bacon, to keep the skin from curling and to render fat evenly. The citrusy gastrique (a caramelized sugar-vinegar reduction) hits luscious sweet-and-sour notes, rounded by a swirl of creamy butter. Duck breast is best when cooked to medium-rare or medium—it develops livery flavor when cooked longer.
If you have a mandoline, break it out. Evenly sliced potatoes ensure you don't get any underdone "surprise" bites in this rich, cheesy gratin. Reduced-fat creamy casseroles can be tricky because milk breaks (curdles) if cooked too hot or too long. Flour in the milk mixture helps stabilize the dairy. More milk protection: Parcooking the potato reduces oven time.
To lighten this stunning dessert, we cut out three-quarters of a cup of oil and combined whole eggs and egg substitute. The result: 11 fewer grams of fat. We used light cream cheese for the frosting, reducing fat by an additional 7 grams. Now with only 223 calories per slice, this centerpiece is a nutritional masterpiece.
A holiday table would be incomplete without mashed potatoes. This garlicky version boasts all of the savory richness of traditional recipes without adding extra fat and calories. The secret? Yukon Gold potatoes, which need little adornment thanks to their buttery flavor and creamy texture.
This favorite casserole was revamped to include the same creamy tang of the original recipe, but with 26 fewer grams of fat. The water chestnuts add a surprising crunch, and the substitution of sharp Cheddar cheese for the milder Colby variety provides additional zing.
The original version of this delicious holiday favorite was weighed down by a stick of butter and a cup of sugar. Our lightened version eliminates 8.5g fat and 102 calories by accenting the natural sweetness of carrots, and adding a punch with the addition of sour cream.
These yeasty, gooey orange rolls earned our Test Kitchens’ highest rating, and they have become a staple on many holiday menus. Switching from regular to reduced-fat sour cream was an easy fix for this recipe, shaving off 120 calories and 19 grams of fat.
This recipe, more than a century old, was begging for an update. Filled with raisins and covered with a rich, lemony sauce, this pudding is a Christmas Eve highlight. Simply switching to two percent reduced-fat milk from whole and decreasing the amount of butter lowered the fat content by 62%, transforming this dessert into an indulgence you'll crave more than once a year.
The tart cranberries and crunchy pecans serve as an effective contrast to the sweetness of this cake, rendering it a true holiday star. A significant reduction of butter cut 14 grams of fat from the original recipe, and substituting fat-free whipped topping for the original whipping cream shaved off another 19.6 grams of fat―per slice.