Enjoy the little splurges that make the holiday special – those foods that you can only get this time of year, a seasonal drink or two, that dessert you’ve been dreaming about. But you don’t want to undo a year of effort in a two-week period or start the New Year with holiday regrets. Want to put the “ho ho ho” in Christmas without the next day “oh no, oh no, oh no”? Here are 10 Lo-Cal/No-Cal ideas to celebrate the joy of Christmas where “indulging” is more about time with loved ones and friends than calories consumed.
1. Cream Cheese Berry Coffee Cake. Personally, I’m tempted to sneak this one for myself when everyone has gone to bed on Christmas Eve. I can brew myself a fresh cup of coffee and relax knowing that the stockings were hung by the chimney with care and all has been done for the early morning celebrations. You can of course be virtuous, and save it for the morning when others are around to share in the deliciousness. This dessert is versatile enough that you could serve it with your other options. It does save on calories and fat but it is also rich enough to hold its own with your other desert selections. Click on the picture for the recipe and nutritional information.
2. Grinch Kabobs. A fun choice for pre-dinner snacking as well a dessert companion for those wanting a lighter bite of something sweet. Click the picture for instructions for the pictured dish. I’ve also seen this combination with a simple face on the grape – two dots for eyes, diagonal slashes over them for angry eyebrows, and an upside-down half-circle for a frown. I think they may have been squeezed on with a thin line of squeeze-frosting.
3. Lighted Burlap Garland. This homey decoration, used instead of a table runner, can light up your dining surface without losing much serving dish room or the fire hazard of knocked over candles. Click on picture for the how-to.
4. For adult sipping. This indulgent recipe for eggnog is half the calories of the regular version. You’ll want to make this the day before so it’s plenty chilled. But remember, portions are a half-cup. Click picture for the recipe.
5. The Christmas Tree Napkin. It’s not as complicated as it looks. Sometimes it’s easier to learn by seeing it done, so we’ve linked to the site that has both pictures of the folding sequence as well as the simplest video instructions we could find at Handimania.
6. Green Beans with pizazz. For an alternative to the traditional creamy green bean casserole, how about beans with the crispy prosciutto and pine nuts? Tip: Almonds can be substituted for the more expensive and harder-to-find pine nuts without losing the crunch. Click the picture for this Eating Well recipe.
7. Whole Grain Biscuits. Making a few savvy ingredients swaps moves this biscuit from the “avoid” category to an acceptable “enjoy in moderation.” Click the pic to check out the Food Network’s recipe.
8. Dinner Conversation. There’s certainly more to celebrating than the food. To enhance the table chat in a way that will get everybody talking, check out these fun conversation-starters.
9. For a sweet ending, there’s nothing mousy about this bite of cherry, chocolate and almond – well, except for the shape, maybe! Click the pic for the MidWest Living recipe.
10. Poppers. Also called “Crackers” sometimes, these festive rolls have been a traditional holiday-meal ender at our house for years. The guests tug at both ends at the same time, a satisfying “Pop!” is heard, and surprises spill out. Usually a paper crown in addition to a silly joke (we take turns going around the table reading these) and a trinket or two. Poppers come in a variety of price ranges and the contents vary accordingly – from Cracker Jack-like toys on up to useful items like nail clippers – but each Cracker in a box has a different surprise. I am usually able to find some at the discount store Tuesday Morning, but there are also many on-line options. They are also available for Hanukkah celebrations.