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Dinner Diva: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Dinner Diva
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Last week, I sent up a warning flag on the dangers of getting a jelly belly this time of year. And while this may seem contradictory, I also want to encourage you (within reason and moderation!) to ENJOY these holidays and the celebratory spreads that come with them! That doesn't mean you have to strap on the feedbag and eat like it's your last meal.
This column, Eat, Drink and Be Merry is a classic that bears repeating. Please enjoy it and the festive recipe at the end of the column.
A long time ago, when my daughter was about 6 or 7, I took her to a children's birthday party. It was pretty typical--games, lots of junky food, birthday cake and ice cream. I couldn't even tell you the name of the child the party was for or anything about it except I remember this one poor little kid who was just miserable.
Her mom, doing her best to do the right thing, wouldn't let this child eat the hot dogs, chips or any of the other junk. She gave him a whole-wheat muffin while the other kids snarfed down gobs of cake and ice cream. I joked with the other mothers about how I'll be trying to get my daughter off the ceiling with a spatula later on from all the sugar. But curiosity got the best of me as I watched this mom argue with her child and watch her like a hawk during the entire party--being a nutritionist, I was convinced she had some sort of serious allergy.
Turns out this mom had never let her child eat anything other than organic, wholesome foods and there were no exceptions--ever. She was horrified to find out I was a nutritionist and even more horrified when she spied my child inhaling her third hot dog. "How can you let her eat like that?" she asked. I said, "She doesn't. Just for today. Today is special, it's a birthday party and we do things differently on holidays and birthdays." She didn't understand, but I'm hoping you will.
It's important to eat healthy and it's important to be balanced about it, too. And my idea of a healthy eating is doing it right 90% of the time. The rest of the time, eat what fits: if you go to ball game, eat a hotdog. If you go to an Easter brunch, eat the ooey gooey buttery coffeecake and forget about it! Life is too short to always say no. (Obviously, the key is moderation and a modicum of self control! And you obviously can't do this if you're dealing with a severe allergy, physical restriction or religious restrictions.)
There are parts of life that are filled with celebrations and there are celebratory foods that go with it. Eat those foods with relish and don't even look at the nutrition info. Then start over the next day eating healthy again. And when you look back, enjoy the memory of the people that went along with all that good food because that's what it's all about.
Here's a fabulous holiday dessert that I make every year for Christmas. It's in my book, Saving Dinner for the Holidays:
Easy Trifle
Serves 6, plus
My British father was quite the cook and often made a traditional trifle that I absolutely abhorred. The whole mess floated in too much sherry and custard. I didn't like it because it was so soggy and boozy. So I came up with my own version, which not only preserved the integrity of the pound cake, but also gave those who didn't want the sherry on it, options. Trust me, this is easy, fabulous and you are going to love it.
2 Sarah Lee frozen pound cakes, thawed and sliced
1 small jar raspberry preserves (I prefer the seedless)
1 pint of fresh raspberries (or whatever other kind of berry you can find fresh or skip)
1 pint whipped cream (whipped NOT Cool Whip and not the stuff in a can)
1 recipe Creme Anglais (recipe is below)
1 pitcher of cream sherry (optional)
In a footed trifle bowl (or use a salad bowl with straight sides), you are going to layer everything, starting with pound cake slices spread with a generous spoonful of raspberry preserves. Place the first layer on the bottom with jam side up.
Then a layer of whipped cream, then some berries, then more pound cake smeared with raspberry jam. Do it again. End with whipped cream on top. Garnish with any remaining berries.
Serve with Creme Anglais on the side in a pitcher.
Creme Anglais (make this anytime. It will hold up for a few days in the fridge, no problem)
This is easy to make, but you must follow the directions exactly. You don't want the half and half boiling! It will break and you will have scrambled eggs floating in your sauce. Not good. For those in the UK and Australia, half and half is half cream and half milk.
1 cup half-and-half cream
1/2 cup white sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla, plus another 1/2 teaspoon
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine half-and-half, 1/4 cup of the sugar and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until smooth.
When cream mixture starts to just to a boil, remove it from the heat. Whisk a small amount of hot cream into the egg yolk mixture, then pour egg yolk mixture into remaining hot cream and whisk together until smooth.
Return it to the heat and cook over medium heat stirring until mixture coats the back of a metal spoon and is slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter. To keep it from getting a skin on top, put plastic wrap directly on the surface. Stir in the last 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla just before putting the plastic wrap on.

For more dinner solutions, visit savingdinner.com Copyright 2007 Leanne Ely. Published with permission for this publication.

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