Who can resist a holiday dinner with a golden-brown roast-turkey centerpiece surrounded by all the fixin’s, topped off with a delectable dessert? However, the rich ingredients in some of our favorite family recipes can undermine our healthy eating plans. Here are a few professional cooking tricks and savvy substitutions you can use to whip up a feast with all the flavor and only half the fat and calories.

Trimming the Turkey
The white meat of a turkey is light and lean, but the crispy turkey skin is loaded with fat. And because of their highly processed carbs and sugar, the cornbread mix and prepared stuffing, which many folks substitute for Grandma’s made-from-scratch, can also make the meal less healthful.

So this year, try switching up the menu with boneless turkey breast, replacing the skin with a tasty cornbread-crumbcoating that’s light, keeps the bird moist and provides a pleasing crunch. Then top that off with a traditional cornbread stuffing made from sugar-free, stone-ground cornmeal, seasoned with tasty, colorful vegetables and moistened with fat-free stock. Our stuffing is a great source of dietary fiber and full of flavor, too.

Making Greens Lean
Most of us would not dream of celebrating the holidays without a pot of greens. But greens, which are loaded with antioxidants, fiber and calcium, can conceal a lot of fat when seasoned with pork. Even smoked turkey wings, while leaner, contain a ton of fat and sodium. But if you make a turkey wing broth the day before, the fat will rise to the surface and solidify as the liquid cools, allowing you to skim it off. Skimming the fat leaves the flavor behind, so your turnip, mustard and collard greens can simmer in fat-free broth, making for healthful, low-calorie greens and pot likker full of smoky, meaty flavor.

Building a Perfect Parfait
Of course you’ll want to put your stamp on the holiday meal with a grand finale. A parfait, composed in a tall, elegant glass, looks and tastes spectacular. You can cut calories by replacing diet-busting ingredients, like fudge sauce and sweetened whipped cream, with equally delicious alternatives, such as nonfat yogurt (usually OK for the lactose intolerant), low-calorie wafer cookies, a low-calorie whipped topping and colorful fruit.    

Herb-Crusted Turkey Breast
With Cornbread Stuffing in Winter Vegetable Wreath
Makes 8 servings

1        egg
2       cupsbuttermilk                             
1 3/4  cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal          
3/4     teaspoon baking powder
3/4     teaspoon baking soda
1/4     teaspoon salt
Pan-coating spray, as needed
1        three-pound skinless, boneless turkey breast half
1        teaspoon poultry seasoning
3        tablespoons no-sugar apricot preserves, melted
4        tablespoons reduced-fat margarine, melted
1/3     cup chopped fresh parsley
1        cup chopped onion
1        cup chopped celery
1        cup diced red bell pepper
5        cups low-sodium chicken stock
2        tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water

Cooked baby carrots, Brussels sprouts, baby beets, pearl onions or other winter vegetables

1. Preheat oven to 450o F and place a heavy 10-inch skillet inside to make it warm. In a mixing bowl, beat egg and stir in buttermilk.
2. Combine cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir egg mixture into cornmeal mixture.
3. Spray hot skillet with pan coating, pour in batter and bake 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a rack, then
crumble. Set aside 1/4 of crumbs for the coating. Reduce oven to 375o F.
4. In the same skillet, brown turkey breast on both sides and remove.Season breast with 1/4 of the poultry seasoning and brush the top with the preserves. Mix coating crumbs with parsley and margarine, and pat coating onto surface of turkey.
5. Put chopped onion, celery and bell pepper and remaining poultry seasoning into skillet with 1/2 cup of stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Toss with remaining cornbread crumbs, then return to the skillet. Lay turkey breast on top and roast at 375o F. for 30 to 40 minutes to an internal temperature of 155o F.
6. Boil remaining stock and thicken with cornstarch. Season lightly with salt and pour into a sauceboat.
7. Reheat winter vegetables in microwave and arrange them around the turkey and dressing.

Perserving: 299 calories, 13 grams carbohydrates, 46 grams protein, 612milligrams sodium, 131 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams total fat, 2grams saturated fat

Smokey Greens Trio in Fat-Free Pan Juices

Makes 8 servings
1        8-ounce smoked turkey wing, chopped into 6 pieces
6        cups water
1        cup chopped onions
1        teaspoon minced garlic
1        pinch red-pepper flakes
1        drop liquid smoke (optional)
1/2     teaspoon salt
1        small bunch collard greens, washed, chopped coarse
1        small bunch turnip greens, washed, chopped coarse
1        small bunch mustard greens, washed, chopped coarse
1        teaspoon cider vinegar (optional)

1. The day before, simmer turkey wing in water with onions, garlic and pepper flakes in a covered pan for 40 minutes until turkey is falling apart. When cool, remove and discard bones and skin, returning meat to broth. Refrigerate overnight.
2. On serving day, scrape and discard fat from the surface of the broth. In a large pot, bring broth to a boil. Add liquid smoke (if desired), salt and greens. Cover and simmer briskly about 20 minutes (until greens are just tender).   
3. Pour greens’ juices into a skillet, bring to a boil and reduce to about3/4 cup. Pour pan juices back over greens, toss and reheat. Season with vinegar (if desired).

Perserving: 76 calories, 3 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 162milligrams sodium, 22 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat

Light & Luscious Raspberry Parfait

Makes 8 servings

1       12-ounce package frozen raspberries, thawed
1/4    cup honey
1       8-ounce package low-calorie chocolate wafer cookies
1       quart fat-free vanilla yogurt
1       pint whole fresh or frozen, thawed raspberries
2       cups low-calorie whipped topping
8       mint sprigs

1. Rub frozen berries and their juices through a sieve to make seedless raspberry puree. Discard seeds. Stir in honey.
2. Reserve 8 cookies for garnish and crumble the rest.
3. Reserving 8 large berries for garnish, layer the yogurt, raspberry puree, whole berries and cookie crumbs into tall glasses to make multilayered parfaits. Top each parfait with the whipped topping and garnish with a cookie, mint sprig and raspberry.
Per serving: 258 calories, 52 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 192 milligrams sodium, 2 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams total fat, trace saturated fat

The Right Tool for the Job 

One of the secrets of perfectly roasted meats is to use an instant-read thermometer to determine internal heat. While meats and poultry need to be cooked to an internal temperature of 145o F or higher so they don’t make you sick, white-meat poultry quickly becomes dry and tasteless if taken much past 155o. Inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey breast will allow you to judge the perfect cooking time for a moist and juicy roast.

Lou Sackett is a restaurant consultant, culinary educator and freelance food writer. She is coauthor of American Regional Cooking for the Professional Chef (Prentice Hall 2006).