March 30, 2006

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Easter Dinner

See those stuffed chicks and bunnies in every store? Must be Easter!

Watch out for the jelly beans, cream eggs, and chocolate bunnies lurking next to those toys, or you'll be sorry come Easter Monday. Sugar free Easter candy is becoming more available; if you must indulge, this is a better choice. Russell Stover is advertising sugar free Easter stuff, including chocolate caramel rabbits, chocolate peanut butter rabbits and Easter eggs, and jelly beans. Jelly bean titan Jelly Bellies makes a sugar free assortment. It's worth checking local candy stores to see what sort of sugar free stuff they're offering; these places often have a nice selection. And if you'd like an Easter basket stuffed with sugar-free goodies, some of the online retailers are offering them, including my pals at Carb Smart: http://store.yahoo.com/carbsmart/giftbaskets.html

A word to the wise: Sugar-free jelly beans and caramels are nearly solid polyols. Be very moderate with the quantities you eat, or you'll suffer from gas, or even cramps and diarrhea. Sugar-free chocolate is less polyol-dense, but can still cause problems if eaten in quantity. These are sweets that can actually enforce moderation!

Most folks serve ham for Easter dinner, though I have no idea how this custom arose. In much of the world lamb is served for the Easter feast, and it's the tradition in my family. It fits in with the Passover story, you know. If you're weary of ham, you might consider roasting a leg of lamb as a change of pace. As an unprocessed meat, lamb is more nutritious than ham, and has no added sugar, something that is standard in ham.

If you do choose ham - and I'm betting you do - read the labels to find the ham with the least added sugar. I've seen ham with as little as one gram of added carbohydrate, or as much as 6 grams per serving. That's a 600% difference! How to glaze your Easter ham? Not with brown sugar, that's for sure! Sugar-free pancake syrup lets you make a tasty glaze.

Maple-Orange-Mustard Ham Glaze

1/2 cup sugar-free pancake syrup (I like Log Cabin brand)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon Splenda
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon butter

Combine everything in a saucepan, and simmer over low heat, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Use to baste your ham during the last hour of roasting.

This will add just 6 grams of carbohydrate to the whole ham, not counting the polyol sweeteners in the pancake syrup.

If you plan to buy a pre-cooked spiral sliced ham, call around and ask the various purveyors what sort of carb count their ham has. In my experience, companies are very nice about this sort of thing. Most of these hams are heavily glazed; do yourself a favor and leave the outer surface on your plate.

What to serve with your ham? Deviled eggs would be the obvious choice for an appetizer, since you're likely to have a bunch of hard-boiled eggs on hand. I'd serve asparagus; as I wrote recently, asparagus symbolizes spring to me, it's delicious, and has just over half a gram of usable carbohydrate per spear! If you prefer it, broccoli also has just over half a gram of usable carb in a 5" spear. Add a big salad, some pureed cauliflower "fauxtatoes" and, if you must, some rolls for the carb eaters in the family, and you've got a feast!

Here's an Easter dessert that's just about ideal: It's festive, beautiful, delicious, unusual, seasonal, low carb, easy to make, and highly nutritious. What more can you ask from one recipe?

Balsamic Strawberries with Cream Cheese Sauce

2 pounds strawberries
1/4 cup Splenda
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

For the sauce
4 ounces cream cheese -- softened
1/4 cup plain yogurt OR sour cream
2 teaspoons Splenda

Remove the green hulls from your strawberries, and halve them __ if you have some really huge berries, quarter them. Place in a glass, plastic, or stainless steel mixing bowl. Sprinkle the Splenda over the berries, and toss to coat. Now sprinkle on the balsamic vinegar, and stir again. Stash the bowl in the fridge for at least a few hours, and a whole day would be fine. Stir them again whenever you open the fridge.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, yogurt or sour cream, and Splenda together until very smooth - you can do this in advance, too, if you'd like, and refrigerate it till dinner.

Simply spoon the berries into pretty dessert dishes, and drizzle some of the balsamic vinegar syrup in the bottom of the bowl over each serving. Top each serving with a dollop of the cream cheese sauce, and serve.

8 servings, each with 89 Calories; 6g Fat; 2g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber, and a useable carb count of 6 grams.

(Jewish readers, bear with me. Next week I'll reprint my Passover column!)

Posted by HoldTheToast at March 30, 2006 09:07 PM