The holidays can be a testing time for those of us who live or are trying to live a healthier eating lifestyle. Here comes the overeating of delicious home-cooked meals that remind us of childhood because we haven’t eaten them in quite some time. Luckily I have found some tasty healthy dupes to some of mine and your favorite holiday dishes.
As a Mexican American I get the best of both worlds during this time of year. A traditional Mexican meal for Christmas are home-made tamales. Not very often do we get the chance to make tamales so when we do I tend to stuff my face, which cannot be entirely smart or healthy. I went on a deep dive in search of the best healthy tamales recipe. Of course it being a traditional meal I wanted to keep the authenticity. I found a recipe from Mexican home cook Mely Martinez. This healthier version of tamales is 226 calories, low fat and excludes pork and pork products. This particular recipe also serves 16.
- 2 ½ cups of corn masa-harina
- ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cups olive oil
- 1 ¾ cups of warm chicken broth
- 2 cups of picadillo (or filling of your choice such as shredded chicken with green salsa, poblano peppers with cheese etc.)
- 16 large corn husks and a few extra for the steaming pot
- In a large pot, place the cornhusks and cover with hot water to soften them. Leave them there for at least 30 minutes. Drain and reserve.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients (corn masa-harina, baking powder and salt), and stir in the olive oil. Pour the warm chicken broth and mix with a spatula until you form the dough into a creamy texture, similar to soft ice cream. If the dough doesn’t look creamy enough, add a little more broth, a tablespoon at a time.
- Spread about 3 tablespoons of the dough onto the already soft corn husk using a spoon or spatula. Top with two tablespoons of the filling. Fold the left side of the husk to the center and the right side to the center. Finally, fold the end toward the center of the tamale. Place the tamale on a tray while you finish assembling the rest.
- Now get your steamer ready adding a couple of hot cups of water and line the steamer rack with corn husks. If you don’t have a steamer, place loose pieces of aluminum foil at the bottom of the pot to function as a steamer rack
- Place the tamales standing up, cover with the rest of the corn husks, a clean dish towel and pot lid.
- Cook for 60-75 minutes over a medium heat. While cooking, add more hot water to the pot if needed, be careful with the steam while removing the lid. To make sure your tamales are done, remove one and if the corn husk can be easily removed from the dough, they are ready! The tamales will firm up after they are cooked.
I did mention I was Mexican American so of course I have to add in a healthy substitute to a traditional American dish I personally love: the green bean casserole. Just like when searching for an authentic heartier version of the traditional tamales, I went on a similar search for a just as tasty yet healthier version of the green bean casserole I know so well and enjoy. I found this delicious recipe with just 169 calories on wellplated.com by the incredible chef Erin Clarke.
- ½ cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley plus additional for garnish
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 ½ pounds trimmed green beans
- 1 medium onion very thinly sliced
- 8 ounces baby bella (cremini) mushrooms sliced (do not use plain white mushrooms, as they do not have much flavor)
- 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
- 2 cups 2% milk
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 7 oz 2% greek yogurt
- Position a rack in the upper third of your oven and preheat to a broil. Lightly coat a 2-quart, broiler-safe baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a small bowl, stir together the panko, parmesan, parsley, and two tablespoons of olive oil. Set aside.
- Blanch the green beans: Bring a very large pot of water to a boil. Prepare an ice water bath and set out a large, clean kitchen towel. Place the beans in the water and cook just until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking, then drain and transfer to the towel. Lightly pat dry.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large, wide saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and golden and the mushrooms brown and have given up their liquid, about 15 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle the flour over the top. Cook, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until all of the flour turns golden and no white bits remain.
- Slowly add the milk a few splashes at a time, stirring between each addition to prevent lumps from forming. Increase the heat to medium high. Stir in the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cook and stir, allowing the sauce to bubble, running a wooden spoon or spatula along the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking and stirring until the sauce reduces and thickens to resemble a creamy gravy, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the greek yogurt.
- Transfer half the beans to the prepared baking dish. Spread half the sauce over the green beans and add the remaining green beans and top with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top.
- Broil, watching closely, until the casserole is bubbling and beginning to brown on top, 1-3 minutes, depending on your broiler. Let stand for 10 minutes prior to serving. Garnish with additional fresh parsley.
And just like that you get the best of both worlds with some of my favorite dishes, in a new and much healthier way, at your next holiday gathering!