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Make your holiday brunch healthy and hearty

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Bonnie Brost3 / 3

The season of friends and family gathering together is here.

It's a special time to share company, exchange gifts and eat special foods.

An early day gathering often fits into our schedules on holidays and weekends. Planning a brunch menu that is tasty, easy and healthy can be a challenge. Brunch menus often include sausage and egg bakes, sweet breads, rolls and dessert.

For a main dish, consider this egg and hashbrown bake. The recipe was adapted to fulfill the desire for a hearty egg dish that's more heart healthy than those using processed, high-sodium sausage and full-fat cheeses. Hashbrowns provide the crust rather than Bisquick and the "sausage" is made from ground turkey breast with spices that give the dish a lot of flavor. There are even some vegetables. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but comes together quickly. This recipe can be prepared the day before to easily fit into a busy holiday morning.

Other main course ideas could be crockpot oatmeal with a variety of fruits and spices. This adds a wonderful aroma to your house as guests arrive. Another idea is the mini-mushroom and sausage quiche, found on the eatingwell.com website. I'd substitute the homemade sausage with the ground turkey and spices found in the egg bake recipe.

Sweet bread recipes often come with a lot of sugar and no whole grains. This Berry Almond Bread recipe featured was adapted from the Eating Well website. It's a low-sugar treat that includes great berries, good fats and whole grains to help decrease inflammation. To lower the sodium content, I eliminated the salt and made my own "buttermilk." I increased the amount of whole grain by using all "white whole wheat flour" instead of a combination of whole wheat flour (usually made from red wheat) and all purpose flour. This bread provides 25 grams of whole grain per serving — more than half of the daily recommended 48 grams.

Other sweet bread ideas are banana bread or cranberry-orange bread. Try using white whole wheat flour and reducing the sugar by at least 25 percent in your favorite sweet bread recipe to improve the nutrition.

For a dessert idea, consider creative ways to put fruit together. A make-your-own fruit parfait is a fun way to encourage young guests to try different fruits. Have a variety of fresh, canned or frozen fruits (cherries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwi, pineapple) and encourage your guests to make up their own combination, and use some low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt. A little granola on top is a nice finish.

Another option for a sweet side or dessert is the Festive Winter Salad. This recipe was adapted from the My Recipes website. It's a great combination of fruit for the winter and holiday gatherings. Pomegranate and oranges are available during these cold months. The coconut on top gives it a festive winter look.

Egg and Hashbrown Bake

12-ounces frozen hashbrowns, (Mr. Dells has no sodium)

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 fresh red pepper, chopped

¼ cup chopped onion

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 pound ground turkey breast

½ tsp garlic powder)

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried sage

1 tsp dried thyme

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp dried rosemary

1/8 tsp crushed red pepper

Dash cayenne pepper

5 ounces Fresh Baby Spinach

8 slices Reduced Fat Swiss Cheese (Sargento)

6 large eggs

2 Tbsp skim or 1 percent milk

1 large fresh tomato, sliced

¼ cup low-fat feta cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix hashbrowns with olive oil. Pat into bottom of 9-inch by 13-inch pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Potatoes will begin to brown. Remove from oven.

2. Place 1 Tbsp olive oil in large frying pan on medium heat. Add chopped red pepper, chopped onion and mushrooms and sauté.

3. While vegetables are cooking, mix ground turkey with garlic powder, black pepper, sage, thyme, nutmeg, rosemary, crushed red pepper and cayenne pepper. Add this turkey mixture to the frying pan with the vegetables and cook until turkey is no longer pink.

4. Place cooked turkey and vegetables over hashbrowns.

5. Layer fresh spinach over the turkey and vegetables.

6. Place slices of reduced fat Swiss cheese over spinach. If you're preparing this for the next morning, cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

7. Mix eggs and skim milk together. Pour over the spinach and cheese.

8. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

9. Add sliced tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Return to oven and bake for 10 additional minutes.

10. Cut into eight pieces.

And other healthy eating options for the coming New Year's Eve parties include:

LOW-FAT TACO DIP

Try this low-fat taco dip, which has 100 fewer calories than the full-fat version.

Taco Dip

8-ounce fat-free cream cheese or fat-free plain Greek yogurt

8-ounce fat-free sour cream

1 teaspoon lemon juice

4 tablespoons Newman's Mild Salsa

2 teaspoons chili powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon cumin

Chopped tomatoes

Chopped lettuce

Chopped onions

Mix cream cheese or yogurt, sour cream, lemon juice, salsa and spices in mixing bowl until well blended. Or use a food processor. Spread onto serving platter. Top with chopped vegetables. Serve with tortilla chips such as Bearitos or Garden of Eatin, Sage Valley or Xochitl or vegetables.

Nutrition facts

Serving size, 2 tablespoons; calories, 35; total fat, 0 gm; saturated fat, 0 gm; cholesterol, 3 mg; sodium, 140 mg; carbohydrates, 4 gm; fiber, 0 gm; protein, 3 gm.

BROCCOLI-BACON SALAD

1 clove garlic (½ teaspoon)

¼ cup olive oil mayonnaise

¼ cup reduced-fat sour cream

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

4 cups broccoli crowns, finely chopped

1 cucumber, chopped

3 slices lower-sodium bacon, cooked and crumbled

3 tablespoons dried cranberries

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Whisk garlic, mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar and sugar in a large bowl. Add broccoli, cucumber, bacon, cranberries and pepper; stir to coat with the dressing. You can cover and refrigerate for up to one day.

Nutrition facts

Serving size, 2/3 cup; calories, 75; total fat, 4 gm; saturated fat, 1 gm; cholesterol, 5 gm; sodium, 100 mg; carbohydrates, 8 gm; fiber, 2 gm; protein, 3 gm.

BLACK BEAN DIP

This dip is a great way to add more vegetables to your snacks or meals. Choose tortilla chips made from whole-grain corn and you will have added veggies and whole grains in your menu plans.

Southwest Black Bean Dip

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 cups frozen corn

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

15-ounce can lower-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

Jalapeno pepper, chopped (if desired)

Tortilla chips or dipping vegetables

Mix lime juice, oil and cumin in a small bowl. Combine corn, cilantro, black beans, red bell pepper and jalapeno pepper; toss. Drizzle dressing over bean mixture and mix. Serve with whole-grain tortilla chips or dipping vegetables.

Nutrition facts

Serving size, ½ cup; calories, 80; total fat, 1.5 gm; saturated fat, 0 gm; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 60 mg; carbohydrates, 13 gm; fiber, 3 gm; protein, 3 gm.

SALMON SPREAD

This is a great way to add healthy omega 3 fatty acids. Use fresh or frozen salmon instead of canned fish to cut the sodium level.

Salmon Spread

8 ounces of salmon, baked or poached

8-ounces fat-free cream cheese or fat-free plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons olive oil mayonnaise

2 teaspoons lemon juice

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon minced garlic

¼ teaspoon onion powder

¾ teaspoon Tabasco Sauce

1 dash ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon liquid smoke

Bake or poach salmon until flaky and then cool. Put all ingredients in a food processor and process until creamy. Serve with fresh vegetables or whole-grain crackers.

Nutrition facts

Serving size, 2 tablespoons; calories, 45; total fat, 2 gm; saturated fat, 0.5 gm; cholesterol, 15 mg; sodium. 130 mg; carbohydrates, 2 gm; fiber, 0 gm; protein, 5 gm.

TURKEY SQUASH SOUP

1 tablespoon canola oil

3/4 cup onion or leeks, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 cup carrots, chopped

1 cup celery, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced (1½ teaspoons minced garlic in jar)

6 cups unsalted chicken stock (less than 150 mg sodium per cup)

1½ pounds butternut squash (2-3 cups), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried thyme

1½ teaspoons ground cumin

½ cup raw wild rice, rinsed

3 cups cooked fresh turkey or chicken (about 1½ pounds)

2 cups frozen corn kernels

2 tablespoons lime juice

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion (or leeks), bell pepper, carrots, and celery. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in broth, squash, wild rice, thyme and cumin. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add turkey (or chicken) and corn. Return to simmer and cook until the turkey is heated through, about 30-45 minutes. Cooking for several hours will enhance the flavor. You can also cook in a slow cooker for 5-8 hours on low. Add lime, red pepper, salt and pepper just before serving.

Nutrition facts

Servings size, 1 cup; calories 155; total fat, 2.5 gm; saturated fat, 0 gm; cholesterol, 40 mg; sodium, 180 mg; carbohydrates, 16 gm; fiber, 3 gm; protein, 19 gm.

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