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Dining In: Lightening up between holiday feasts



    The memories of roast turkey, savory dressing, thick gravy and buttered mashed potatoes are fading, and visions of Christmas cookies and egg nog are taking their place.
   Here are some suggestions for a change in flavors (many recipes can be made healthier by substituting low-fat cheeses and similar ingredients).

Salsa Corn Chowder
   2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
   1 1/2 c. chopped onion
   1/2 c. chopped celery
   3 1/2 c. low fat or nonfat milk
   3 Tbsp. cornstarch
   2 17-oz. cans whole kernel corn, drained
   1 8-oz. pkg. pasteurized processed cheese spread, diced
   1 c. mild picante sauce
   Cilantro
   Heat oil in large Dutch oven, saute onion and celery until tender; stir occasionally. Combine 1/2 c. milk with cornstarch. Add mixture and remaining milk to vegetables; continue stirring, bring to a boil and reduce heat. Add corn, cheese and salsa; stir until cheese is melted and soup is heated through. Garnish wih cilantro. Makes 8 cups.

Empanadas Especiales
   2 c. shredded beef
   1 16-0z. can spicy refried beans
   1/2 c. picante sauce
   1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
   1/4 tsp. cumin
   2 l-lb. loaves frozen bread dough, thawed and each cut to eighths
   1 egg, beaten
   Blend first five ingredients together in a bowl; set aside. Flatten each bread dough eighth into a 5-inch circle. Spoon 1/4 c. meat filling into center of each dough half. Fold dough over filling to make a half circle. Press edges together with fork to seal.
   Place empanadas on lightly greased baking sheet; cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place for 15-20 minutes. Remove wrap, brush with egg, and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 16.
(Previous two recipes courtesy of Rosarita.)

Pasta Salad with Italian Green Beans and Mushrooms
   2 Tbsp. olive oil
   2 1/4 c. mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
   1/4 c. medium size pitted black olives, halved
   1/4 c. sun-dried tomaties in oil, rinsed, patted dry, and coarsely chopped
   8 oz. bow-tie or medium size shell pasta
   1 9-oz. pkg. frozen Italian green beans
   2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
   1 tsp. Dijon mustard
   1/4 tsp. each dried oregano and marjoram, crumbled
   In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 tbsp. oil over high heat. Add mushrooms and saute, stirring frequently for five minutes or until the mushrooms have softened and are lightly colored. Transfer to a large salad bowl and add the olives and sun-dried tomatoes.
   In a large saucepan of boiling unsalted water, cook the pasta for 10 minutes or until tender but still firm to the bite. During the last 5 minutes of cooking add the green beans. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain again. Transfer to salad bowl.
   Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, oregano, marjoram and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. (Or put all ingredients in a small jar wih a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously.) Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until well coated. Serve at room temperature. Serves 4.

Fruit for dessert
   Fruit is a perfect ending for almost any meal: