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I'm Dreaming of a Light Christmas -- with Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

WebMD Live Events Transcript; Event Date: Wednesday, December 15, 2004

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MAGEE: You can do these lightened steps on any cheese ball recipe. I happened to pull up a top-rated cheese ball recipe from www.allrecipes.com. So I'll walk you through this recipe, but know these same changes you can make to your cheese ball recipe.

Instead of 8 ounces of cream cheese, I used light cream cheese. For a quarter cup of butter I used 2 tablespoons of a low trans margarine with 8 grams of fat per tablespoon (i.e., Take Control or Land O' Lakes Fresh Buttery Spread). Then they add 2 teaspoons of cheddar cheese sauce powder, from a macaroni and cheese box (or I think Spice Islands makes one). Then instead of a cup of shredded cheddar, I used reduced fat sharp cheddar. Then I doubled some of the other ingredients that are going to add flavor without fat. For instance, I added 2 tablespoons sliced green onion; 2 teaspoons lemon juice; 2 teaspoons fresh parsley finely chopped. Then it takes about 3 tablespoons of chopped walnuts to coat the outside. This makes one cheese ball. You could also add to this recipe; don't add the cheddar cheese powder but add a couple tablespoons of bleu cheese. It's a way of adding a lot of flavor without a lot of fat. Bleu cheese has a lot of flavor for a small amount.

In general, look for crackers that have no trans fat, lower fat and higher fiber, such as reduced fat Triscuits.

MEMBER QUESTION: That sounds good. What else can you serve besides the usual veggie platter with ranch dip?

MAGEE: I actually love those veggie platters. It's a little bit more challenging during the winter months to find good looking produce. Just remember, you can do a light ranch very easily, even buy some great tasting light bottled ranch dressing.

But in addition to the veggie platter, you can always do a nice fruit kabob platter. There is always a handful of good-looking fruit items around this time of year. Basically find what looks good and put it together in a fruit salad or a fruit kabob. Use lemon juice, grapefruit juice, or orange juice to sprinkle over the top of the cut fruit to keep it from browning as it's sitting out on the buffet table.

MODERATOR: Low-fat yogurt with vanilla and cinnamon makes a nice dip for fruit.

MAGEE: For a small amount of effort, it makes a really nice presentation. I'm all for making fruit look good.

A couple other ideas for a quick appetizer buffet. So, so easy, is using that light cream cheese in a tub. Literally scooping it out, putting it on a nice serving dish, you can top this with a cranberry/orange or cranberry/raspberry compote or relish and serve with crackers. Another nice way to serve the cream cheese is to put jalapeño jelly on top and serve with crackers. I picked the jalapeño and cranberry because they're festive colors, but any unique and fancy relish or chutney would go nicely as a spread.

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