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Archive for New Year’s Eve

TIP OF THE DAY: Champagne Cocktails

The easy way out is to uncork the Champagne, pour and serve. The fun way is to offer a menu of Champagne cocktails.

When it comes to New Year’s Eve cocktails, we have a favorite: Champagne or other bubbly mixed with St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, a French import made by a family-owned Parisian company. At about $30 a bottle, it’s one of our favorite gifts to fellow foodies.

While “elderflower liqueur” may sound like something from another century (and it is), it is exquisite to modern palates. It has a gorgeous lychee aroma aroma with flavor notes of grapefruit, orange, pear and peach. It’s simply luscious by itself or mixed with white wine, including any white sparkling wine. Here’s our review.


The classic Champagne cocktail. Photo courtesy Chambre de Sucre.


St. Germain liqueur: a perfect pairing with
Champagne and other bubbly. Photo
courtesy St. Germain | Paris.



  • Classic Champagne Cocktail: Sprinkle a few drops of bitters onto a sugar cube; let them soak in. Drop the cube into a flute with a splash of Cognac. Top with Champagne.
  • Ginger Champagne Cocktail: Add ginger liqueur to a Champagne glass, top with Champagne and garnish with a piece of crystallized ginger.
  • Grapefruit Mimosa: The classic Mimosa with orange juice is too much of a brunch standard to be special for New Year’s Eve. But a Grapefruit Mimosa isn’t something you come across often. Here’s a recipe; garnish with candied grapefruit peel.
  • Kir Royale: A Kir Royale mixes sparkling wine with crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur). Add the liqueur to a Champagne glass and then pour the wine down the side. Chambord (black raspberry liqueur) is equally delicious (just don’t call it a Kir Royale). Optional garnish: a fresh blackberry.
  • Champagne Lemon Drop: Make lemon simple syrup by stirring equal parts of sugar and water over medium heat until dissolved. Juice three lemons; cut the peel into garnishes. Combine champagne, 1/2 to 1 ounce vodka, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon each simple syrup and lemon juice; garnish with peel.


    Champagne punch is another special way to usher in the New Year. The trick is to keep the ingredients as cold as possible before mixing the punch, so you don’t need to use a lot of ice, which dilutes it.

    This recipe is from the Hyatt Regency New Orleans: It combines our favorite Champagne-St. Germain cocktail with a vodka kick. It’s called “garden” Champagne punch because of the aromatic herbs used as garnish. It’s lovely at any time of year and the pretty herb garnish is an eye-opener.


    Ingredients For Pitcher Or Punch Bowl

  • 9 ounces vodka
  • 2 ounces St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • 2 ounces simple syrup (recipe)
  • 1 bottle chilled Champagne or sparkling wine
  • 3-1/2 ounces fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Garnish: basil, cilantro, cucumber, mint, rosemary, thyme

  • Punch bowl or pitcher
  • Ice cubes*

    1. COMBINE vodka, St. Germain, simple syrup and lime juice in a punch bowl or pitcher combine. Chill until ready to use. Prior to serving…

    2. ADD Champagne to the mixture and pour over ice; garnish and serve.

    If you can’t get a bottle of St. Germain, substitute orange liqueur (Cointreau, Grand Marnier, etc.) or other fruit liqueur, and add some orange slices or other corresponding fruit to the herb garnish.

    If you have lychee liqueur, use that with a garnish of herbs, oranges and lychees (available canned in the Asian foods aisle; fresh lychees are in season from spring through early fall).

    *The larger the ice cubes the slower they melt. One option is to freeze a block of ice in a small loaf pan or other container. You can add fruit and/or herbs to decorate the ice.



    RECIPE: Mini Champagne Cupcakes

    Mini champagne cupcakes. Photo courtesy
    Golden Blossom Honey.


    If you celebrate the New Year with champagne or other bubbly, how about some champagne mini cupcake to take a sweet bite of the new year?

    This recipe is from Golden Blossom Honey, a fourth generation family company whose honey is 100% American-made (not cheap Chinese imports). Their signature proprietary blend combines honey from three different flowers: clover, orange blossom and sage buckwheat*.


    Ingredients For 72-74 Mini Cupcakes

    For The Cupcakes

  • 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 orange juice
  • 3/4 cup champagne
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest

    For The Frosting

  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 3 tablespoons champagne
  • 6 tablespoons pulp free orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • Garnish: gold or silver sanding sugar, edible glitter (especially these gold stars and silver stars), gold or silver dragées

  • Mini cupcake/muffin tin and papers


    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl mix flour, baking powder and salt.

    2. BEAT butter in a separate bowl on medium speed; gradually add sugar. Add eggs one at a time, then add honey, orange juice and champagne. Gradually add the mixed dry ingredients. Once combined, fold in orange zest.


    Delicious bubbly for less than $10 a bottle. Photo courtesy Martini & Rossi.


    3. LINE mini-cupcake tins with paper cups and pour batter evenly into each. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

    4. MAKE the frosting. In a large bowl whip powdered sugar, butter, champagne, orange juice, and orange zest on medium speed. Spread onto cupcakes and sprinkle with colored sugar, edible glitter or dragées.


    You can use any champagne you like. The champagne is more of a “romantic” ingredient in the recipe; the cupcakes won’t taste like Dom Perignon (about $200), Roderer Cristal (about $250) or even the “bargain”-priced Veuve Clicquot Non Vintage Brut Yellow Label (about $45).

    A $20 bottle will do, and a sparkling wine that isn’t from France will do. We enjoy two California sparklers made by great French champagne houses: Roederer Estate Brut, Anderson Valley and Mumm Napa Brut Prestige both about $20. Yellow Tail Rosé from Australia is just $8 and and Martini Asti Rosé from Italy is about $15 (and you can find it in splits); they work great in this recipe.

    *Varietal honey comes from the particular flower named on the label: alfalfa, clover, orange blossom, etc. We know buckwheat honey and sage honey, from two different plants; but we’d never heard of a combined “buckwheat sage honey.” So we wrote to the National Honey Board and got this response from a representative:

    “While I’ve never heard of “sage buckwheat” honey, it’s possible that the bees could be visiting both sage blossoms and buckwheat blossoms, gathering the nectar and bringing that back to the hive. This would result in a cross between the two floral sources and thus, a mixture in the honey. Honeybees travel in a five mile radius, so if both plants were growing the that five mile area, then I’m assuming it could be possible.

    “I took a look at where each plant primarily is found. Buckwheat plants grow best in cool, moist climates. The buckwheat plant prefers light and well-drained soils, although it can thrive in highly acid, low fertility soils as well. Sage honey can come from many different species of the sage plant. Sage shrubs usually grow along the California coast and in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. So again, it could be entirely possible that they blend these honey’s together to get their ‘signature’ honey.”



    TIP OF THE DAY: Apple Cider Bar

    Hot raspberry cider. Photo courtesy Driscoll’s Berries. Here’s the recipe.


    A few months ago we created a feature on party food bars:

  • Breakfast & Brunch Bar
  • Drinks & Snacks Food Bar
  • Desserts Food Bar
  • Lunch & Dinner Food Bar

    Our drinks bars included the different ways to serve Bloody Marys, lemonade and iced tea. Around Thanksgiving, we realized we had left out another “essential,” and created an Apple Cider Bar.

    We liked it so much for Thanksgiving that we did it again for Christmas and we’re planning it for next Halloween as well. So today’s tip is: Don’t wait until then: Set up an apple cider bar for New Year’s Eve.

    Serve the cider cold and hot, so people can customize their drinks. Heat the cider on the stove with a ball of mulling spices, then serve it in a pitcher. If you have a hot plate or other device to keep the cider warm, so much the better.



    Juices & Mixers

  • Apple cider
  • Hard cider
  • Pomegranate juice
  • Club soda
  • Ginger ale/diet ginger ale

  • Bourbon
  • Gin
  • Rum and/or spiced rum
  • Whiskey
  • Vodka

    Sweet Toppings

  • Ice cream: cinnamon ice cream, rum raisin or vanilla ice cream
  • Sorbet: apple sorbet, cranberry sorbet
  • Whipped cream (try these recipes for Bourbon Whipped Cream an Five Spice Whipped Cream)

  • Apple or pear slices, berries, red seedless grapes
  • Cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise
  • Ground cinnamon and nutmeg
  • Honey
  • Orange and lemon wheels and curls

  • Butter pats*
  • Glasses and mugs
  • Ice cubes
  • Napkins
  • Spoons & stirring sticks, jiggers for alcohol

    Add your favorite spices. Photo courtesy Ruth’s Chris Steak House.


    Related Snacks

  • Cake & Pie: apple bars, apple pie, ginger bars (recipe), pound cake, spiced bundt
  • Cheese & Fruit Plate: cheddar and washed rind cheeses with apples, pears and grapes, prosciutto
  • Cookies & Donuts: butter cookies, cider- or cinnamon-sugar donuts, gingersnaps, oatmeal raisin cookies, shortbread
  • Light Fare: chicken/turkey/ham sandwiches, grilled cheese, mac & cheese, quiche
  • More: flavored tortilla chips†, granola bars, spiced nuts (recipe)
    *To float atop hot cider.

    †We like Food Should Taste Good tortilla chips in Kettle, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato; Laurel Hill tortilla chips in Pumpkin Seed; or Way Better Snacks tortilla chips in Zesty Sweet Potato.



    RECIPE: Tiramisu Cupcakes

    Mmm, mmm: tiramisu cupcakes. Photo


    For more than a few people, a mini cupcake at midnight is the right way to start the new year. This recipe marries tiramisu with cupcakes, filling the soft, moist cupcake with tiramisu, the luscious Italian dessert made of ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of egg yolks, egg whites, sugar and mascarpone cheese, flavored with cocoa.

    In this recipe, cupcakes replace the ladyfingers. It’s from one of our favorite bakers, Lauryn Cohen of

    “I like to make filling my cupcakes easy—no cutting cones out or slicing and dicing my cupcakes,” says Lauryn. “Just stick a pastry bag into the cupcake and squeeze. It works every time, I promise!”

    She made these as mini-cupcakes for portion control, but you can make standard size cupcakes if you prefer.



    For The Syrup

  • 2-3 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • For The Cupcakes

  • 1-1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    For The Filling & Frosting

  • 4 tablespoon butter
  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened
  • 4 ounces fat free vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coffee extract

  • Cocoa powder
  • Chocolate covered espresso beans*
    *Available at candy stores, coffee bean stores, food markets (including Trader Joe’s) and online.


    Ttiramisu filling, tiramisu frosting. Photo courtesy


    1. MAKE the syrup (be sure to do this first). Stir together the espresso powder, sugar and water over low heat until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool while making the cupcakes.

    2. MAKE the cupcakes. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a mini muffin pan with cupcake liners. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

    3. CREAM butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, until smooth and pale in color. Add eggs one at a time, making sure that each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one. Stir vanilla into milk. Switch mixer to low speed and add dry and wet ingredients, alternating with half the dry, all of the wet, and the remaining dry, making sure not to overmix.

    4. SCOOP batter into liners and bake for 10-12 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. As soon as the cupcakes come out of the oven, poke hole in the tops with a toothpick, and, using a pastry brush, brush tops of cupcakes with the coffee syrup. Allow cupcakes to cool completely.

    5. MAKE the filling and frosting: Beat butter, mascarpone and yogurt in an electric mixer on medium/high speed until fully combined. Add confectioners’ sugar, a half cup at a time. Beat in the coffee extract.

    6. PLACE the filling/frosting into a piping bag with a narrow round tip. Push tip into top of cupcake and gently squeeze filling out of pastry bag until tip naturally starts to rise out of the cupcake. You will quickly get the hang of when to stop squeezing. Be gentle and do not over-squeeze. Once you have completed the filling, spread frosting over the cupcakes in a dome-like shape. Sprinkle with cocoa powder and top with a chocolate covered espresso bean.


    Alternatively, you can make cupcakes into a clock presentation for New Year’s Eve. Use any cupcake recipe and decorate the top of each cupcake with a different number from 1 to 12. Arrange them in a circle like the face of a clock, with chocolate pretzel rods as the hands.

    Here’s the recipe, plus Lauryn’s tips for baking perfect cupcakes.



    NEW YEARS EVE: Chocolate Caviar Tart Or Tartlet

    Dominique Ansel, the acclaimed pastry chef who invented the Cronut, has an entire store full of delicious things to eat.

    For New Year’s Eve, anniversaries and other special occasions, we like his chocolate caviar tartlet*. He fills a chocolate tart crust with caramel coffee cream and tops it with chocolate caviar pearls and gold leaf.

    You can use any chocolate tart recipe you like. Here’s a delicious coffee-chocolate tart recipe is from pastry chef Pichet Ong.


    Chocolate caviar comprises small beads of chocolate that are formed to look like real caviar beads (which are also called caviar pearls—check out our Caviar Glossary). They provide a visual delight, toothsome texture and of course, intense bites of chocolate.


    Caramel chocolate “caviar” tartlet with edible gold foil. Photo courtesy Dominique Ansel.

    Chocolate caviar is typically made from cocoa powder, sugar syrup, water and alginate to hold it together.

    Here’s the rub: Buying chocolate caviar in small quantities is costly. It’s sold as a gourmet novelty gift.

    But if you can see your way to buying seven pounds of it—the commercial size from top chocolate manufacturer Callebaut—for $56, it’s an affordable $8 a pound, and leaves you with a lot of caviar pearls to repackage in 8-ounce portions as Valentine gifts. Check it out.

    *A tartlet is an individual portion. A tart is a multiportion size, six inches or more in diameter.


    Milk chocolate caviar pearls. Photo courtesy



  • Godiva Chocolate Pearls. This item from the Chocoiste line seems to have been discontinued; it’s no longer on Godiva’s website. But it is on Amazon. In addition to the dark chocolate pearls, you can find milk chocolate pearls, mint dark chocolate pearls and white chocolate pearls, among other flavors, while they last. These chocolate pearls are larger than chocolate caviar pearls.
  • Venchi Chocolate Caviar. This fine Italian chocolate maker sells 1.4 ounces of chocolate caviar
  • in a classic glass caviar jar: $16.99 (or $12 an ounce). However, these are not round “pearls” but irregular “pebbles.” And given the price, it makes sense to buy the Callebaut chocolate caviar in bulk: You get 112 ounces for $56, or $2 an ounce.


  • Then there’s Gourvita: a retailer that sells caviar pearls made by Sosa Ingredients and packaged in the classic blue metal caviar tin. Gourvita is a German gourmet food store that sells the chocolate caviar on but ships it from Germany. A 100g (3.5 ounce) package is $33.90. That’s $9.69 an ounce—better than Venchi, but nowhere as good as the Callebaut bulk chocolate caviar.

    Don’t forget the edible gold leaf.

    And don’t forget to save a tartlet for us!



    FOOD FUN: Penguin Oreos

    The perfect Oreo for Christmas, New Year’s
    Eve and black tie occasions. Photo courtesy
    Mackenzie Limited.


    How do you make Oreo cookie even better?

    Turn them into penguins!

    These adorable Oreo penguins aren’t inexpensive: 12 cookies are $42.95 at

    But if you’re game to make your own, head to the store for the ingredients to make your own.



  • A jumbo bag of Oreos (ideally Double Stuff Oreos)
  • Dark and white chocolate, chopped, or chocolate chips
  • Red and yellow food color-or-gumdrops, Starbursts or other orange candies for beak and feet
  • Wax paper
  • 2 quart-size plastic storage bags

    1. MELT dark chocolate in the microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Dip Oreos completely in the chocolate and set on wax paper to harden, about 10 minutes. We used tweezers to hold an edge of the cookie. Then, after we set the cookie on the wax paper, we added a dab of chocolate to the small “naked” spot.

    2. HARDEN and when the chocolate has set, melt the white chocolate in the same manner. Transfer into the plastic storage baggie. Cut a small corner off the bag and draw the “vest” on each cookie. Don’t worry if your lines aren’t as perfect as the professional version—they used specialty tools to achieve perfection.

    3. CREATE the beaks and feet. After the white chocolate has set, melt another batch of white chocolate and use food color to make it orange. Transfer to the other plastic storage bag to pipe the beaks and feet. (Unless you’ve got a great hand, it’s best to omit the bow tie.)

    4. CREATE eyes by dabbing white and dark chocolate with a toothpick. Let harden and store in an airtight cookie tin between sheets of wax paper until ready to serve.



    RECIPE: Eggnog “Martini”

    The Eggnog “Martini” in sunny Napa Valley.
    Photo courtesy Boon Fly Café | Carneros Inn.


    Can you call any a cocktail poured into a Martini glass a Martini?

    Of course not; otherwise you’d call a Cosmopolitan a Cranberry Lime Martini with triple sec substituting for vermouth.

    The Martini is a cocktail made with gin and vermouth, and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. The first recipe for a vodka Martini appears in 1951, but didn’t gain world notice until the publication of the second James Bond novel, Live and Let Die, in 1962 (Bond’s cocktail of choice was a vodka martini, “shaken not stirred”).

    Here’s more Martini history.

    Why a vodka Martini? Two good guesses are that a bartender made it for a customer who didn’t like gin; or that a vodka distributor created and promoted it to move more vodka—also a clear spirit but without the aromatic gin ingredients.

    If you want to make a cocktail with rum, tequila or whiskey, call it something other than a Martini.


    Even if they don’t know the rules, the folks at Boon Fly Café at the The Carneros Inn (in sunny Napa Valley) are pleasing customers with Eggnog “Martinis.”

    All you need is eggnog, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and a Martini glass.



    Ingredients For One Drink

  • 1 ounce of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
  • 3 ounces eggnog
  • Garnish: Dash of nutmeg or cinnamon

    1. SHAKE rum and eggnog with ice and strain into a Martini glass.

    2. GARNISH and serve.

    Candy Cane Martini

    Cranberry Martini

    Ginger Martini

    Pomegranate Martini


    Captain Morgan, ready to pour rum into his eggnog. Image courtesy Diageo.




    RECIPE: Cranberry Baked Brie

    Baked Brie in pastry with dried cranberries,
    honey and almonds. Photo and recipe


    Here’s a recipe to serve with your favorite bubbly. It’s a favorite of Olga Dominguez, cheese buyer at Zabar’s in New York City.

    For the holidays use dried cranberries; for Valentine’s Day substitute dried cherries or strawberries.

    This party-size recipe uses a standard 17-inch wheel of Brie. If your celebration will be more intimate buy a Baby Brie, which at 8.8 ounces, serves up to four. (In theory, with a portion size of one ounce, it should serve eight—but we don’t know eight people with that much restraint).

    Brie (typically a double-crème cheese, although some like the Rouge et Noir brand are even richer triple-crèmes) is one of America’s top-selling cheeses.

    Other best sellers include Cheddar, cream cheese, mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano.



  • 1 large wheel of double crème Brie, 2.2 pounds
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 pound dried cherries, cranberries or strawberries (or a mix)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds plus extra for garnish
  • 1 package of ready-to-bake crescent rolls (or make your own pastry)
  • Crackers or bread (or a combination)

    Keep the Brie refrigerated and cold until ready to slice.

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F.

    2. CUT the Brie in half horizontally with a sharp knife, creating a top and a bottom.

    3. SPRINKLE the cranberries, half the honey and half of the almonds in the center of the bottom half of the cheese, to within two inches of the edge. Cover with the top half and press down the edges. (When you press down, the fillings will spread close to the edge.)

    4. OPEN the crescent roll container and prepare to wrap the Brie with the pastry. Lay the triangle crescent dough pieces on a work surface to form a sheet, overlapping the edges slightly. Press to bond together. Place the Brie in the center of the sheet and wrap the edges around the wheel until the entire surface is covered. Overlap and press the crescent dough close to the edges so that the Brie and fillings will not run out.

    5. PLACE on a nonstick cookie sheet with a lip (just in case the cheese does run). Pour the remaining honey in the top center of the wrapped Brie and sprinkle with the remaining almond slices.

    6. BAKE for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve immediately.

    Serving Suggestions

  • As a cocktail party food, provide bread or crackers and a spreader.
  • For a dinner party salad/cheese course, give each guest a plated wedge with some dressed mesclun or frisée salad greens. Pass bread or crackers in a basket for those who want it.


    SPARKLING WINE: Limited Edition Chandon Blanc de Noirs

    The limited edition bottle for Holiday 2013
    is wrapped in snowy white and festive
    stars. Photo courtesy Chandon.


    If you’re looking for a special yet affordable bubbly for the holiday season, take a look at this limited edition sparkler from Chandon, a Blanc de Noirs champagne-style wine.

    Blanc de Noirs means “white from black,” referring to the white wine that is produced from black* Pinot Noir grapes. Its counterpart is Blanc de Blancs, a white wine produced from white (Chardonnay) grapes.

    Most champagne-style wines are a mix of Pinot Noir and chardonnay grapes. A Blanc de Noir is all Pinot Noir; a Blanc de Blanc is all Chardonnay. (The winemaker may add a small amount of a black grape, Pinot Meunier, to add structure to the wine.)

    Blanc de Noirs is a versatile wine, a great match with everything from fruity to spicy to salty foods, and the often hard-to-mach Asian, Latin American, Mexican and Southwestern cuisines. Pair it with just about anything.

    *Actually dark purple.


    Chandon Blanc de Noirs is a full-flavored, fruit-driven blend with a light copper hue. There are red fruits—strawberry, currant and cherry—on both the nose and palate.

    The suggested retail price is $24.00 at wine stores nationwide or



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Healthy Food Resolution For The New Year

    Plain Greek yogurt substitutes well for sour
    cream and whipped cream. Photo courtesy, which offers a recipe for
    homemade Greek yogurt.


    The new year means new beginnings. That’s why we have the tradition* of New Year’s resolutions: to set goals, make lifestyle changes, accomplish big projects, and so forth.

    Dieting is on the New Year’s resolutions list for many people, and was always at the top of ours for most of our life, significant weight loss was at the top of our list. And it rarely was achieved.

    So 10 years ago, we revised our resolution strategy and instead chose to make one healthy food change each year: a simple and easy switch of one food for another. There’s no sacrifice; just a trade in of one food for a different, equally tasty food. We’re very pleased with the results.

    So our tip of the day is: Make one healthy food resolution this year. Here’s what we’ve done so far: 16 great trades. Please contribute your own favorite food switches.

  • BUTTER: Switch butter for olive oil. Whether for cooking eggs, sautéeing or as bread dipper instead of butter, you’ll trade cholesterol—an animal fat that is never good for you—for a heart-healthy oil (here’s a list of the “good fats”). Olive oil is also delicious in cakes.

  • DESSERT: Trade pumpkin pie for mashed sweet potato, topped with nutmeg and cinnamon (and artificial sweetener, if you like it), plus chopped walnuts or pecans. It’s “diet pumpkin pie.”
  • DESSERT: Trade ice cream for sorbet. It’s cold, it’s sweet and it has no cholesterol. That means fewer calories as well. Check the labels: Some fruit flavors have half the calories of superpremium ice cream.
  • DESSERT: Trade other desserts for fruit with nonfat Greek yogurt. Sweeten plain yogurt with cinnamon and artificial sweetener: delicious, and you get a Health Pyramid fruit serving plus a protein serving.
  • GRAINS: Switch refined grains for whole grains. Here are the benefits of whole grains, plus a collection of whole grain recipes from the Whole Grains Council.

  • PASTA: Trade pasta for “mock” pasta: lightly sautéed fresh veggies (bell pepper, eggplant, onion, mushroom, zucchini, etc.) topped with spaghetti sauce and a teaspoon of grated cheese. This switch is very satisfying, largely because plain pasta is pretty bland. Veggies have more flavor; and with a good tomato sauce (add herbs, capers, olives) and some grated cheese, you can happily make the trade. When we’re in a hurry, we simply slice the zucchini into circles before steaming; but to make it more pasta-like, shred raw zucchini in the food processor or cut it into julienne strips. Or, try spaghetti squash.
  • PASTA: Switch white flour pasta for whole wheat pasta primavera. If you want to eat pasta regularly, make it the more nutritious whole wheat pasta. Then, fill the bowl with half pasta, half steamed veggies: bell pepper, eggplant, onion, mushroom, zucchini, etc.
  • POTATOES: Trade potatoes for bean dishes. Potatoes have become a default starch for many of us. At least twice a week, substitute bean dishes: from casseroles and sides to salads and soups. Beans are a nutritional powerhouse, putting potatoes to shame. It’s easy to open a can of beans (although cooking from scratch lets you control the amount of salt). Check out recipes from the US Dry Bean Council.

    Mix equal amounts of pasta and vegetables for a healthier Pasta Primavera. Photo courtesy Here’s the recipe.


  • POTATOES: Trade mashed potatoes for mashed cauliflower. Many moms know this trick: Kids don’t notice the difference! You get lots more nutrition, including cancer-fighting antioxidants, and far fewer calories. We steam the cauliflower in the microwave, and often pulse it in the food processor for a silky purée. You can also use turnips or rutabaga, a cross between a cabbage and a turnip (rutabaga is commonly called yellow turnip). If you don’t want a mash, top the steamed or stir-fried vegetables with plain nonfat Greek yogurt or lowfat cottage cheese and garnish with fresh herbs: a basil chiffonade, minced dill, oregano or parsley.
  • SOUR CREAM: Trade sour cream for nonfat Greek yogurt. We grew up on sour cream and had a pint-a-day habit. The switch to Greek yogurt was surprisingly easy. Greek-style yogurt is less tangy and more like sour cream. We use it with Mexican dishes, cottage cheese, fruit salad, and as the base of every dip. Mixed with noncaloric sweetener and perhaps some cinnamon and vanilla extract, it’s a low-calorie, fat-free alternative to whipped cream. Try different brands: Even plain yogurt tastes different from manufacturer to manufacturer.
  • SOUR CREAM: Discover fromage blanc. The French answer to yogurt, fromage blanc is a fat-free, fresh and slightly drained cows’ milk cheese with the consistency of sour cream. It’s high in protein and calcium, luscious and elegant. Because it’s only made by artisan creameries, it’s pricier than Greek yogurt. But treat yourself to a tub: The entire container from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery (8 ounces) is just 120 calories. Mix in fresh herbs and garlic for a quick dip, add sweetener for a dessert topping, serve with granola, fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey.
  • STARCH: Add fiber and nutrition to plain starch dishes. Garnish plain white rice or a baked potato with diced tomatoes, shredded carrots, slivered almonds or pine nuts to brown rice or couscous
  • SOUP: Make healthy homemade soups. Soup is filling and can be very low calorie and healthful. When you make your own, you control both the nutrition and the sodium. Look for healthy soup recipes. Make large amounts and freeze in portion-friendly containers.
  • SNACKS: Trade empty calorie snacks for nourishing snacks. Heart-healthy nuts, fiber-filled fruit such as apples and pears, peanut butter, raw vegetables with yogurt dip or hummus, and plain low-fat yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit are all good choices.
  • SUSTAINABILITY: Eat Greener. Carry a water bottle instead of landfill. Water bottles have become a fashion accessory: Check out all the options on This Nissan Intak Hydration Thermos Bottle in 6 colors has a meter to count how many glasses of water you’ve had.
  • VEGETABLES: Add a new vegetable every month.
  • Even if you love broccoli or spinach, for example, they can lose their charm if they’re on the table every night. Pick a “vegetable of the month” and add it to your repertoire. You may find that you adore chard, kale and turnips, for example.
    Not a resolution, but a good thing to do in the new year:

  • GET TO KNOW SLOW FOOD USA, an organization that fights for better, cleaner food for all of us.
    *The practice of making New Year’s resolutions developed partially from Christian Lenten sacrifices, but the tradition goes way back: Ancient Babylonians made promises to the gods at the start of each year. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the first month of the year is named. Medieval knights took the “peacock vow” at the conclusion of each Christmas season that re-affirmed their commitment to chivalry. Some Christian groups created watchnight services, held late on New Year’s Eve, preparing for the year ahead by praying and resolving. During the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Jews reflect upon their wrongdoings over the prior year and seek and offer forgiveness.



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