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Learn How to Lighten up Your Favorite Holiday Recipes

Aired December 11, 2004 - 08:30   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: A U.S. soldier charged with murder in Baghdad has drawn a stiff sentence. Staff Sergeant Johnny Warren, Jr. had pleaded guilty to killing a severely wounded Iraqi civilians a few months ago. Warren has been sentenced to three years in prison, reduction to rank and private, and rank to private, forfeiture of all pay, and a dishonorable discharge.
Doctors in Austria may know today what's causing the facial disfigurement plaguing Ukrainian presidential candidate Victor Yushchenko. The Ukrainian opposition candidate sought further tests in Vienna, following allegations he was poisoned.

And thousands of Dodge Durangos and Dakota pickups will have to go back to the dealers. Daimler-Chrysler is bowing to government pressure and ordering a massive recall. Some 600,000 2000 to 2003 Dodge Durango SUVs and Dakota pick-ups are involved. The vehicles have a defect that can cause the wheels to fall off.

I'm Betty Nguyen. HOUSE CALL with Elizabeth Cohen begins right now.

ELIZABETH COHEN, HOST: Good morning and welcome to HOUSE CALL. I'm Elizabeth Cohen in for Dr. Sanjay Gupta. We're coming from the Cook's Warehouse this morning in Atlanta. And we're going to learn how to lighten up your favorite holiday recipes.

Now to help us do that, we have with us registered dietitian from "Cooking Light" magazine, Ellen Carroll.

Ellen, welcome to the show.

ELLEN CARROLL: Good morning. It's my pleasure to be here.

COHEN: Now a lot of times when people hear lightening up holiday favorites, they get kind of scared. They say all my favorite tastes, what's going to happen to the taste?

CARROLL: Well, nothing is really going to happen to it. It will still be good, but you can do without a lot of those extra calories and the extra fat. And we're going to show you just what to do today to make that so.

COHEN: Well, good. And we definitely need to learn that because the average holiday meal has in it, did you know this, 2,000 calories and 135 grams of fat.

CARROLL: Unbelievable.

COHEN: That's a lot of calories and a lot of fat packed into one meal. So we're going to start with the dressing. Now I didn't realize that dressing had quite so many calories and fat. Your average classic dressing would have about 325 calories and 27 grams of fat. Now Ellen managed to lighten it down to 166 calories and five grams of fat. Ellen, you must be a magician, how did you do that?

CARROLL: Not really. And we still have tons of flavor. That's the good thing. This is a bread stuffing with French bread in it, which of course is fat-free. But instead of moistening the bread with like a stick of butter, which would be common in a traditional dressing, we've used a fat free chicken broth.

We've really pumped up the flavor by using a sweet Italian sausage that we cooked first, so that if there was any fat, we could get rid of that and then putting it in here.

And of course, Italian sausage has fennel in it. That's what gives it its characteristic flavor. So we pumped some flavor in here by adding some of the fennel bulb and some celery, as well. So that's the way we made this dressing. It's so good.

COHEN: And you're using turkey sausage.

CARROLL: Turkey sausage.

COHEN: So that helps as well?

CARROLL: It does. And if you can't find the Italian turkey sausage, you could always use the 50 percent less pork sausage. And again, cook it before you put it in your dressing in case there is any fat that cooks off. You'll be able to get rid of that before you put it with the bread.

COHEN: Now if you're going to have dressing, you have to have gravy. And as I understand it, this gravy scared your sister-in-law. Tell us that story.

CARROLL: Yes. My sister-in-law is from New Orleans. Born and bred there. And when she heard I was making the gravy at holiday time, she panicked, because she says fat-free gravy can't be any good.

Because you have to understand, she likes to put a stick of butter in everything. And yes, it is good. But I'm proud to say that after I made this gravy the first time, she now begs me to make the gravy at holiday time.

The secret to it is degreasing the turkey drippings and using a little red wine, and then thickening it with flour. Not a rue (ph). A flour and fat. And that really takes the fat grams down, but it keeps the flavor high.

And sometimes turkeys will give you a really rich looking dripping. And sometimes it's very light colored. If it's very light colored, you can always add just a dash of soy sauce or a little of the kitchen bouquet browning and seasoning sauce to it to, you know, just make it a little bit darker because the darker color will make it, you know, look a little richer, too.

COHEN: Like this is nice and thick.


COHEN: It doesn't look fat-free. How do you use drippings and make something fat free?

CARROLL: Fat-free?

COHEN: How does that work?

CARROLL: It's so easy to degrease the drippings. And I'd love to show you how to do that.

What we do is we put the drippings in a zip top plastic bag, a freezer bag. And as you can see, there's a fat layer here. And these are the drippings.

So if you hold that back and just snip a little piece into the bag, and then the drippings start coming out. And when it gets near the bottom, you just pull it up right before the fat gets in there. And what you have is pretty much a degreased drippings.

COHEN: There you go.

CARROLL: Pretty easy, huh?

COHEN: Well, you managed to make gravy go from 88 calories per serving with six grams of fat, down to 42 calories with one gram of fat. That's terrific.

Now let's move on to my personal favorite, which is the green bean casserole.

CARROLL: Green bean casserole. Yes.

COHEN: And what you managed to do here is you took it from 188 calories and six grams of fat to 139 calories and 4.5 grams of fat. And while you tell me how you did it, I'm going to start to take a taste.

CARROLL: That's wonderful. What we did is we wanted to update this casserole a little bit, too. And you know, there's nothing wrong with condensed soup. And they do make a healthier version now.

But what we did is we made a white sauce and put a little reduced sodium Swiss cheese in it, and some low fat sour cream. And then we grated some onion into that white sauce, so you that French fried onion flavor, but it's in the bean part rather than the topping.

And then what we did is we sprinkled some herb seasoned crumbs on top, so that you still have that brown and crunchy business going on, but it's not the high fat French fried onion rings on top. COHEN: Well, that is really wonderful. It tastes very similar to the kind that my family has made for years. That's (UNINTELLIGIBLE.)

Ellen, don't go anywhere, because when we come back, we're going to be lightening up more holiday recipes. Stay with us

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From sweet potato casserole to your favorite desserts, we're updating and lightening some popular holiday dishes.

First, try your hand at our tasty quiz. Which is the most fattening of these holiday foods? Stuffing, eggnog, or pecan pie? The answer when we come back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Checking our daily dose quiz, we asked which are the most fattening of these holiday foods. Stuffing, eggnog, or pecan pie? The answer, a slice of pecan pie, coming in at 502 calories and 27 grams of fat.

COHEN: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL, where we've been lightening up your favorite holiday dishes. And here to help us is "Cooking Light" magazine registered dietitian Ellen Carroll.

Now Ellen, we were going to move onto the sweet potato casserole. I have to say I was surprised to hear that a vegetable dish could contain 644 calories per serving and 32 grams of fat. At "Cooking Light" magazine, you managed to bring it down to 376 calories and about nine grams of fat. Ellen, how'd you do it?

CARROLL: Well, there are a lot of things you can do with sweet potatoes. First of all, they are going to be a little bit more caloric, because they are by very nature of what they are -- sweet potatoes.

But alas, they are very, very nutritious. So don't worry about eating at this time of year. What we did is we used some fat-free milk instead of a stick or two of butter in the filling. And we pumped up the vanilla extract a little bit. And then we put -- instead of all the marshmallow topping that people usually put on a casserole, we made a nice praline topping with some flour, a little sugar, some cinnamon and some pecans.

COHEN: And it's a delicious. I don't even miss those marshmallows.


COHEN: You got the sweetness in, even without the marshmallows.

CARROLL: Yes. Actually, when you use less sugar sometimes, you get more of the sweetness from the sweet potatoes. And that's probably what you're tasting, Elizabeth. COHEN: Well, speaking of sweet, we have here the mother of all holiday dishes when it comes to fat and calories -- pecan pie. Did you know that a slice of pecan pie has 502 calories and 27 grams of fat? So you're getting, in one slice of pie, about half the fat that you're supposed to have in an entire day. And you're getting that in just one slice.

"Cooking Light" magazine managed to bring it down to 295 calories and 8.8 grams of fat.

Ellen, how did you go from 27 to 8.8 grams of fat? What did you leave out?

CARROLL: It was sheer magic. Actually what we did is we cut a little fat from the crust. But as you can still see, it's quite adequate and flaky. And the filling is where we made the big difference.

We took the eggs down by half. We took all of the butter out of the filling, but it's very rich still because we've used a dark corn syrup in here. And we also took the pecans down be a bit. But as you can see, it's still a beautiful pie. It has plenty of filling, and it has plenty of pecans. And I really don't think you're going to miss a thing in the pie at all.

COHEN: Now during the holiday season, everyone is just so busy. They don't always have time to cook. Is there a way to spread the cooking out over a couple of days rather than all at once?

CARROLL: Oh, absolutely. I have to do that for sheer survival when I cook. I mean, take these dishes, for instance. You could do all of the prepping of the vegetables, cutting the bread, cutting the green beans, cooking your potatoes, all of that in one day. And then the next day, you could come back and assemble the dishes. And then the next day, you could come back and do like the crunchy toppings, because you just want to add those at the last minute before you cook them.

And of course, you don't want to moisten this until you get ready to cook it either. There are lots of tips you can do.

COHEN: Ellen, thank you for helping us making our holidays lighter and heart healthier.

CARROLL: I enjoyed it.

COHEN: Great. Well, you can find the details on all of these recipes on You can also go to There are links to the recipes and also a whole host of other terrific holiday and cooking and health information.

Now coming up, we're going to be talking about the quest for the perfect gift. Stay with us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stressed out trying to find just the right present? Try giving the gift of health. From athletic shoes to massages, our gift experts will show you some easy to find and healthy options for that special someone.

But first, this week's top medical headlines in the pulse.


HOLLY FIRFER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Up to four million new doses of the flu vaccine will be made available to the American public said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. The new doses bring this year's total number of shots to 62 million, leaving the U.S. 38 million doses short of its original target number of vaccines. Secretary Thompson made a point of saying the new vaccines from a German factory have been tested for safety and effectiveness.

And a new study concludes Celebrex is much safer than the similar arthritis drug, Vioxx. Independent researchers found that Vioxx was three times more likely than Celebrex to cause heart attacks and stroke, but still cautioned that Celebrex should not be used as a first option in a patients with a history of heart disease.

Vioxx was pulled from the market earlier this year over concerns about heart risk, but Celebrex remains on pharmacy shelves.

Holly Firfer, CNN.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I try and find something that they'll find real - that'll be really appreciated, you know, something that they really wouldn't buy for themselves ordinarily.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm trying to figure out what to get for my grandchildren.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've already done some of our shopping. It gets more stressful as time goes on. If you can do it ahead of time when you're not, you know, down to the wire, it's a lot easier.


COHEN: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL. Tis the season for shopping, sometimes 'til you feel like dropping. If you're feeling stressed trying to find that perfect gift, sit down and relax before you hit the mall. We're here to help. It doesn't take much work or much money to give a gift that'll keep you and your loved ones healthy and happy throughout the year.


COHEN (voice-over): Finding a gift to improve the well-being of someone's body and mind can be easy and inexpensive. Just ask Robin Freedman Spizman, author of two books on gift giving. She says everybody likes a good massage.

ROBIN FREEDMAN SPIZMAN, AUTHOR: Massagers are an excellent gift because you can take them on the road, travel. This is $20 all the way up to $200. So there's really something for every budget.

COHEN: For a professional massage or a relaxing day at the spa, think about a gift certificate.

SPIZMAN: Well, has over 2,000 stay and day spas across the country. So if you don't know, for example, what spa someone patronizes in another city, you can send this fabulous gift certificate for denominations from $50 and up.

COHEN: Looking for something on a smaller budget? Gifts to rest the mind and body can be as simple as a pillow.

SPIZMAN: And these are outstanding pillows that allow you just to conform your neck and head to the cushiest, softest pillow on earth. It's a lot of fun. Kids love it. Teens love it.

COHEN: Another idea for someone on the go, lotions and potions.

SPIZMAN: Products are an example of products that are dedicated to skin and safety in the sun and really taking care of your body.

COHEN: This talking pedometer will help friends and family keep with their exercise. Clip it on, and then track steps taken, miles covered, and calories burned.

SPIZMAN: So people who are really interested in promoting good health love this little product because it's a constant reminder that when we move, we burn calories, we expend energy. And it has health related benefits.

COHEN: If food is their passion, go online and order baskets filled with fresh treats.

SPIZMAN: And choose things like nuts and other healthy items to tempt the palate, but at the same time, give a great gift.

COHEN: Healthy gifts can be as big as this $200 juicer.

SPIZMAN: Everyone knows the benefits of juicing, but Jack Lalane, who's turning 90 this year, he looks like he's 50. And he has developed one of the most outstanding juicers offering 30 percent more juice.

COHEN: Or as small as this $25 box of pears. Another option, donate to a favorite charity. You'll feel good by doing good.

SPIZMAN: If you log to, then you can click their store button and find out all about their greeting cards.

COHEN: From cards to a trip to the spa, good health is the gift that keeps on giving.


COHEN: If your list includes people who are always on the go, helping them stay in good health can be even harder but the folks at "Money" magazine had some great ideas for budding yogi or traveling athlete.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the gifts we looked at was a go fit yoga kit. It comes with all the essentials for the amateur yogi. A yoga mat, a yoga strap, and a yoga (UNINTELLIGIBLE.)

The aqua bells are the perfect (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of portable weights for the business traveler. You fill this weights with water from the hotel tap and they can expand to weigh 16 pounds.


COHEN: If you're tracking your spending this season, here's what those gifts will set you back. The go fit yoga kit costs between $30 and $35. For about $50, you can be travel ready with the aqua bells. And tracking cardio fitness with the Polar heart rate monitor starts at around $50.

And coming up, shoes that interpret your every need. You have to see these.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The most expensive running shoe ever made for the masses. Will you be adding it to your Christmas list?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not a diet where I have to count points or count calories or grams. It's a mental state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gift of a fit body and mind, details coming up. Stay tuned.


TIME STAMP: 0855:35

COHEN: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL. We're talking about healthy holidays gifts. If your special some one is resolving to get fit in the new year, think about giving a health club membership.

Some new women only gyms may be just what the woman in your life needs to feel comfortable getting started.


CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These women share the motto, no makeup, no mirrors and no men. And they all belong to a gym called Curves. Heidi Weiss' tried to lose weight with all kinds of diets. She even had her stomach stapled. And she says it wasn't until she joined Curves that she lost 61 wounds.

HEIDI WEISS, CURVES MEMBER: It's not a diet where I have to count points or count calories or grams. It's a mental state.

FEIG: The curves workout is based on two ideas. Women are busy, so the circuit is 30 minutes long. And women want support so the machines are placed in a circle members. Members rotate from station to station to the music at 140 beats per minute.

Curves clients say the program helps them stay committed to exercise. And that's the first step to fitness success, staying motivated.

Christy Feig, CNN, Washington.


COHEN: If you've got more of a runner than a gym rat on your list, a welcome gift may be a new pair of shoes. Doctors recommend replaces athletic shoes every 300 to 500 miles or every 300 hours of aerobic activity. With that in mind, the editors of "Popular Science" had a top pick we thought was pretty high tech.


JENNY EVERETT, ASSOC. EDITOR, POPULAR SCIENCE: We're most impressed by the Adidas one because it's doing something that's never, ever been done. And it's tackling a really concrete problem, which is being able to self adjust your cushioning with every step. And it just makes for a better running experience.

The Adidas one has a processor and a motor and a sensor in the heel of the shoe. And what it does is when you take a step, the sensor senses how hard you're stepping, the compression in the mid sole. And then it sends that information to a processor, which can handle information and process it as fast as 2,000 times a knee jerk. And it sends that information to a motor, which then uses a pully to adjust the amount of cushioning in the heel. And all this happens while your foot's in the air. So it's at every step.


COHEN: That's pretty cool, but those shoes will also cost you a cool $250. If you're looking for something a little more personal than what we've been talking about, you could make your own gift. Try compiling your favorite recipes into a healthy cookbook or give a friend an exercise buddy coupon. That means that any time they want company, you'll there.

Another exercise idea, make up a CD with your favorite workout tunes and give it as a gift to keep someone you love moving towards better health. And lastly, for friends and family with children, babysitting coupons are always a good idea. Parents get an evening out knowing that the kids are being taken care of by someone who loves them.

We're out of time for today. Remember to go it our Web site to find the recipes we talked about earlier in the show. And good luck with all your healthy holiday shopping.

Make sure to tune in next week when we're talking about addiction. The excess of the holidays is one thing, but how do you know when you've got a problem with alcohol or even food? Find out when we talk with addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky. That's next week at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.

Thanks for watching. I'm Elizabeth Cohen. Stay tuned for more news on CNN.


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