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Faith Hill's Holiday Favorites

Edna's corn bread dressing with gravy

Serves 10
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 2 hours

3 tablespoons butter-flavored Crisco
1 to 1 1/2 cups Martha White Self-Rising Yellow Corn Meal Mix
1 raw egg
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 3-pound whole chicken
A small bunch green onions (scallions), chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
5 hard-boiled eggs
32 ounces cream of chicken soup (preferably homemade), divided
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
A dash all-purpose seasoning (Faith uses the Kroger brand)
1 large carrot, grated

To make the corn bread:
Preheat oven to 500°F. Melt the Crisco in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
Meanwhile, combine cornmeal, raw egg, and buttermilk in a mixing bowl and stir until it reaches the consistency of pancake batter. Add melted Crisco to cornmeal mixture and stir again. Sprinkle a little dry cornmeal in the skillet and pour batter on top.
Bake corn bread for about 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool corn bread in pan on rack. (Corn bread can be made up to two days ahead. Cool completely, cover, and store at room temperature.)

To make the dressing:
Remove the chicken gizzards and liver from the chicken cavity. Wash the chicken inside and out in cool running water. Place whole chicken, gizzards, and liver in a pressure cooker and cook for 20 minutes. (If you don't have a pressure cooker, roast the chicken, gizzards, and liver in a 350°F oven until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (about 20 minutes per pound). Once cooked, set the chicken, gizzards, and liver aside to cool. Save the liquid that accumulates in the pressure cooker to add to the dressing. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, crumble cooked corn bread and add onions and celery. Chop 3 of the hard-boiled eggs, add to the bowl, and stir. Add 16 ounces of cream of chicken soup, sage, all-purpose seasoning, and the liquid from the cooked chicken and stir. If the mixture seems thick, add a little hot water to thin it. Set aside about 1 cup of the mixture to use in the gravy. Place the rest into a 9- by 11-inch baking pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until golden brown on top.

To make the gravy:
Chop the reserved chicken gizzards and liver and the remaining 2 hard-boiled eggs. Slice the meat from the whole chicken and chop enough so you have about 1 cup of meat. (Freeze the remaining chicken to use in other dishes.) In a large saucepan, combine the remaining cream of chicken soup, reserved dressing, gizzards, liver, eggs, and chicken and stir. Add grated carrot and a little hot water until the mixture is the consistency of gravy. Place on the stovetop and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Serve a portion of the cooked dressing topped with gravy alongside roast turkey.

Make it healthier:
"With a few simple tweaks, you can cut the calories, fat and sodium in this dish considerably," says Kyle Shadix, R.D., chef-nutritionist and managing director of Nutrition + Culinary Consultants in New York City. First make sure you remove all of the skin and any visible fat from the chicken before adding it to the gravy mixture, as that's where most of the fat and calories are in chicken. Next, remove 2 of the yolks from the hard-boiled eggs you add to the dressing and from one of the eggs for the gravy. Finally, use 1 cup of cornmeal mix (not 1 ½ cups). With these changes, you bring the calorie count down from 688 to 442 and trim the fat from 41 to 14 grams. The saturated fat is also reduced by more than half. (Note: Don't worry about trans fat in this dish; Crisco has been reformulated to contain 0 grams of trans fat.) Another adjustment to make to this recipe is to cut the sodium. One serving has 1,431 milligrams and most of that comes from the baking soda in the cornmeal mix. You can't really change that, but you can reduce the sodium in other ways: use low-sodium cream of chicken soup and no-sodium buttermilk, and the count drops to 925 milligrams per serving.


Coca-Cola cake

Serves 12
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 &frac; hours

For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup Coca-Cola
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

For the icing:
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons cocoa
6 tablespoons Coca-Cola
2 cups confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease and flour a 9- by 13-inch sheet cake pan. Sift flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Set aside. In a small saucepan, bring butter, cocoa, and cola to a boil over medium heat. Pour over flour mixture and stir. Add buttermilk, baking soda, eggs, vanilla, and marshmallows, and stir. (Batter will be thin and marshmallows will float to the top). Bake cake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. About 5 minutes before the cake is done, make the icing by bringing all the ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan. Cook until it reaches the consistency of a thin glaze. Poke holes in the cake with a toothpick or wooden skewer (to let the icing sink into the cake), then spread the icing over the cake while both are hot. Set aside to coolS; slice and serve.

Make it healthier: Scaling down the portion size of this dish is the simplest way to reduce the calorie and fat count without sacrificing flavor, says Shadix. His solution: Turn the cake into cupcakes. "This recipe will easily make 18 cupcakes, and that brings the calories down from 610 to 407. The fat drops from 24 grams to 16," he says. You prepare the recipe the same way; just reduce the cooking time to 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.


Sausage balls

Makes 48 pieces
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

1 pound hot or mild sausage
3 cups Bisquick
1 cup water
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large frying pan, cook sausage for about 10 minutes or until browned, crumbling it up with a spatula as it cooks. Set sausage aside to cool. In a large mixing bowl, combine Bisquick, water, and grated cheese. Stir, then mix in cooled sausage. Wet your hands (so the meat won't stick) and roll sausage mixture into small balls. Bake in batches on a cookie sheet about 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Make it healthier:
"The flavor won't suffer if you substitute equal amounts of turkey sausage and reduced-fat cheddar for the standard ingredients," says Shadix. Each treat will then have 42 calories and 3 grams of fat versus 83 calories and 7 grams of fat in the original recipe. Don't try to make them leaner by substituting nonfat cheese, though. "Fat-free cheeses generally aren't as flavorful as reduced-fat cheeses," says Shadix. "And they tend to have a rubbery or chalky texture."

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