Healthy eating can be measured in terms not only of what you eat, but how much you eat. At holiday get-togethers, it’s difficult (and a bit snobby) not to partake of Aunt Sue’s sweet potato casserole. Generally, the rule of thumb is having one of whatever will fit onto a tiny plate where appetizers are the bill of fare, or one serving (ideally what might fit onto the palm of your hand, sweet potato towers not included) of entrees and sides for sit-down meals.
When you are the master chef in control of your dining domain, portion and ingredients are key to keeping it skinny. Two tools that can help bring nutrition to your holiday meal planning are rather obscure, ones you probably haven’t adopted into the pantry, but should: won ton wrappers (at about 100 calories each) and wheat germ.
Won ton wrappers are frequently guilty by association— to being stuffed with MSG-laced meat or cream cheese and crab, then deep-fried. But their nutrition value lies more in the area of packaging. When stuffed with the right ingredients, won ton wrappers can be a clever way to control portions and streamline calorie-laden, bready components. In fact, steamed dumplings using won ton wrappers are among the healthiest (and tastiest) choices on a Chinese menu. Won ton wrappers are generally found in the refrigerated produce section at the grocery store.
Wheat germ is the healthy ingredient with the unfortunate name. Especially when kissed with honey, wheat germ tastes good and adds texture. The “germ” refers to germination, indicating the part of the wheat kernel that would turn into a plant if sown. Wheat germ is the most nutrient-packed component to the wheat kernel. It is sold as an ingredient to heighten the nutritional value of dishes, being high in protein, Vitamin E and potassium. It can also add a bit of flavor and crunch. Wheat germ is typically found in the grocery store near the baking essentials or breadcrumbs; depending on the store, it may also be found near the cereal in the breakfast aisle.
Now that you have the basics on a couple of healthy ingredients you may not have used before, here are a few accompaniments using them to try alongside your traditional Thanksgiving dishes.
Potato Gratin with Wheat Germ
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups 1 percent milk
1 large garlic clove, sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 small onion, sliced into thin rings
1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup Kretschmer Original Toasted Wheat Germ
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400° F. In a 2-quart pot, bring to boil potato slices, milk, garlic and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 5 minutes or until potatoes are softened.
- Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Pour potatoes with milk into pan and bake for 45 minutes until most of the milk is absorbed and there is a bit of browning on the edges.
- While potatoes are cooking, heat remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil in a medium skillet. Add onions and sauté about 8 minutes until softened and lightly browned. Set aside until potatoes are cooked.
- Once potatoes are cooked, stir pepper, remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and wheat germ into onions. Top potatoes with onion mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Place pan back in oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and topping is lightly browned. Turn broiler on and broil potatoes for 3 to 5 minutes to finish melting the cheese and create a crispy top, watching carefully so it doesn’t burn. Remove from oven and let gratin sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Whole Wheat Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls with Wheat Germ
3 tablespoons warm water (105°-115° F)
1/4-ounce package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons honey, divided
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus additional for greasing the bowl
1 cup fat-free milk
1 cup Kretschmer Original Toasted Wheat Germ
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour, plus additional for kneading dough
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
- Stir together warm water, yeast and 1 tablespoon honey in small bowl until yeast is dissolved; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat; add milk and heat to lukewarm. Remove from heat and stir remaining 2 tablespoons honey and 3 tablespoons olive oil into butter mixture.
- In large mixing bowl, combine wheat germ, white whole wheat flour and salt with a rubber spatula. Mix in yeast mixture and butter mixture just until combined and a moist, sticky dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, using additional white whole wheat flour as needed, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a draft-free place at room temperature until dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
- Coat 18 muffin cups with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Turn out dough onto a hard surface and divide evenly into thirds. Roll each piece of dough into an 18-inch-long rope. Using a sharp knife, cut each rope crosswise into 18 1-inch pieces, rolling each piece into a ball. Place 3 balls side-by-side into each greased muffin cup forming a triangle. Cover muffin cups loosely with a kitchen towel and allow the rolls to rise until almost doubled in bulk, 30 to 40 minutes.
- While rolls rise, put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400° F. Just before baking, brush rolls lightly with egg. Bake until golden, about 12 minutes.
Pumpkin Dumplings (Pumpkin Pie Alternative)
1 package Nasoya Won Ton Wraps
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup pumpkin
2 tsp sugar
Combine the pumpkin, cinnamon and sugar. Spoon a dollop in the center of the won ton wrapper. Use a little water along the edges of the wrapper and fold diagonally. Bake in the toaster at 375 degrees for about 7 minutes.
Turkey Harvest Popper
1 pkg Nasoya Won Ton Wraps
8 ounces ground turkey
8 ounces whole cranberry sauce
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet yellow onion
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 tsp sage
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
gravy (or favorite sweet/sour sauce) for dipping
- Preheat oven to 350°. Mix together all ingredients in medium mixing bowl. Brush edges of Won Ton Wrap with egg wash (1 egg and 1/4 cup water mixed). Place 1 tsp of turkey mixture on wrap then pinch corners together. Place filled wraps on non-stick baking sheet. Brush top of wraps with remaining egg wash or lightly spray with vegetable oil. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until wraps are golden brown. Serve with gravy for dipping. Hint: Cover unused wraps with a warm, moist cloth in between batches to keep from drying out.
- Vegetarian alternative: Crumble tofu into a large skillet and lightly brown with olive oil and a dash of celery salt. Let it cool. Mix together the remaining ingredients (above, beginning with walnuts) and follow the directions.
“Thanksgiving can still be a time for your traditionally big meal, but with the right planning, you can save money and calories,” said Beverly Glaze, a registered dietitian and adult program specialist with WVU Extension Service’s Family Nutrition Programs.
Great chefs will attest there’s no broth or soup base like that made from an on-the-bone cut of meat, boiled slowly with vegetables and herbs for a rich infusion of flavor.
Rather than tossing out that wishbone, Glaze suggests using it, as well as the remaining turkey skin and bones for a savory soup.
“I can boil the turkey carcass for an hour to loosen the little remaining pieces of meat. Instead of throwing out those leftovers they become a main ingredient for a turkey soup,” Glaze said.
Beverly Glaze’s Turkey Soup Recipe
1 turkey carcass
4 cups celery, diced
4 cups carrots, sliced
1 package frozen peas
1 medium onion, diced
4 cubes chicken bouillon
1 large package egg noodles
Put turkey carcass in a large soup pot, add water to cover carcass. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat. When water starts to boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour. Remove the turkey carcass, let cool on a cookie sheet. Once cooled, remove meat and add back to the soup pot along with the celery, carrots, onion, peas and bouillon cubes.
Simmer until vegetables are soft. Add noodles and boil for about 10 minutes or until noodles are tender. Let cool before serving.
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