healthy easter coconut cake fruity dessert

Healthy Holiday Treats


     To help ensure that holiday foods are healthful as well as festive, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has developed innovative recipes for wraps that can serve many purposes as appetizers, light meals, snacks and as a hands-on treat children enjoy making.
   “No matter what particular diet a family member or guest may be following,” according to Melanie Polk, RD, AICR’s Director of Nutrition Education, “these wraps will find a welcomed place during the holidays. In addition to being healthful, they are low in fat and calories, and low in what some dieters consider bad carbs.”
     Polk points out that these wraps make a great family-centered activity which children especially enjoy. “Once the wrappers are ready to be filled,” she says, “both guests and children have great fun selecting filling ingredients and rolling up the wraps themselves. And, since these wraps contain a rich variety of health-protective ingredients, parents will appreciate the ease with which they can encourage children to eat more healthfully.”
     “One of the more unusual wraps,” Polk notes, “calls for dried wrappers made of rice that take only a quick soak in water to become pliant and ready to use.” AICR’s version is not fried in oil, as so many Asian versions are. And because they are extremely thin, they are low in carbohydrate as well as light in character.
     Often sold under the label Spring Roll Skins, rice wrappers are enjoying a new popularity in this country. “Many supermarkets, especially those that focus on organic and other specialty foods, stock them regularly, as do Asian markets.” Most are packaged in one of two sizes 6 1/4 inches and 8 1/2 inches.
     Whole-grain versions of tortillas and pita bread, observes Polk, also make great wraps.  Compared to refined versions, they offer far more nutrients and dietary fiber that help protect against chronic diseases, including cancer.
      “The filling ingredients can vary considerably,” Polk adds, “which makes these wraps a quick and convenient dish to make on occasions when unannounced company arrives, for example. Any crunchy vegetable can be substituted for another, such as cucumber, and leftover cooked meats, like turkey, are well-suited to wraps.” In the case of the Southeast Asian wraps, leftover stir-fried foods, whether home-made or store-bought, can also be used.
     In addition to vegetables and some type of meat, fruit is also suggested as a filling option.  Although not a typical ingredient most Americans encounter when eating wraps, fruit can add a delicate sweetness and juiciness plus a different crunchy texture as well as health-protective nutrients and phytochemicals.
     Below are instructions for using rice wrappers, plus recipes for wraps with ethnic characteristics different from most commercial versions:  Southeast Asian, South Asian and Southwest American.“Rice wrappers are traditionally used for Southeast Asian wraps but can be used for other types as well.” However, they are thinner and more delicate than tortillas and other wrappers, so the filling ingredients should be cut very thin, and a gentle hand plus a little practice, perhaps is needed in rolling up the wraps.

Using Rice Wrappers

Set out filling ingredients before making wraps. Set out a round baking dish big enough to hold a rice wrapper. (A shallow bowl or plate with a little depth also works.)  Fill it with enough warm water to submerge a wrapper.  Place a cutting board or large, flat-bottomed plate next to it.  Using fingers to hold a wrapper along the edge, about 3-4 inches apart, immerse the wrapper into the water for 2-3 seconds, then immediately remove it when edges begin to soften.  (Wrappers continue to soften.)  Place it flat on the cutting board or plate, allowing the edge of the wrapper nearest you to hang over the side a little.  Add filling ingredients in long, narrow rows from left to right.  Be careful not to use too much or the wrapper may tear when rolled up.

Lift the overlapping edge of the wrapper and fold it over to cover the filling.  Fold in the ends, if desired, pressing gently to seal.  Continue rolling the wrapper, gently pulling itl toward you, to create a snug fit.  Be careful not to use too much pressure or wrap it too tightly, which may create a tear.  Gently press in the remaining outer edge to help seal the wrap.  Transfer the roll, seam side down, to a serving plate.  Continue making remaining wraps in the same way.

To prevent wraps from drying out, tuck a damp (not wet) paper towel around the top and sides of each wrap until ready to serve.

The following wrap is a version of a traditional summer roll popular in Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia.  It is served with a dipping sauce made with Asian fish sauce, which is pungent, strong tasting and a somewhat acquired taste for Westerners.  Soy sauce can be used in its place, or a combination of both sauces.   In place of the dipping sauce below, other Asian sauces can be used, including commercially-prepared versions such as Hoisin, Szechuan, sweet and sour, or peanut sauce.

Southeast Asian Style Wraps

Southeast Asian Style Dipping Sauce
3 Tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce or
Asian fish sauce
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp. unflavored rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. mirin (cooking sake), sake, or water
2 tsp. light brown sugar (packed)
Asian chili oil, Asian-style chili-garlic
paste, or hot sauce, to taste (optional)
Make the sauce before the wraps to allow flavors to meld.  Mix together in a bowl all the ingredients until well combined.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.  (Sauce can be made 1-2 days ahead and stored, refrigerated.  Allow sauce to reach room
temperature before serving.)
Makes about 1 cup of sauce.

4 rice wrappers*
4  large leafy red or green lettuce leaves,
rinsed and dried, with end of ribs
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into
long, very thin strips
1 carrot, peeled and sliced thinly or
shredded into long strips
3/4 lb. cooked and shelled shrimp, cut
lengthwise in half (cooked lean
chicken or pork may also be used)
1 Asian pear (or mango), peeled and cut
into long, thin strips (optional)
16-24 leaves of fresh cilantro or mint

Place a lettuce leaf on top of the damp wrapper.  (The frilly edge of the leaf can extend slightly beyond the edges on one side, if desired.)  Arrange 1/4 of the cucumber strips in a narrow row from left to right, across the third of the wrapper nearest you.  Spread shrimp halves (cut sides down) end-to-end on top of the cucumber.  Place a thin row of carrot next to the shrimp (on the side opposite from you).  Place strips of pear or mango (if using) on top of carrots.  Arrange cilantro (or mint) leaves (if using) end-to-end, lengthwise, between fruit and cucumber.  Lift edge of wrapper closest to you and fold over the filling.  If desired, fold ends over the wrapper.  (If lettuce extends beyond one end, do not tuck in at that end.)  Finish rolling the wrapper over the filling.  Gently press outer edge into the wrap to help seal it.
Place the wrap on a serving plate and cover with a damp paper towel, tucking edges in on all sides.  Make the remaining wraps in the same way.
If serving immediately, cut wraps into two or three pieces, cutting on the diagonal.  Serve with the dipping sauce.
If necessary, rolls can be made 2-3 hours ahead (but left uncut) if refrigerated.  Tuck a damp paper towel around each, then cover the serving plate snugly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Before serving, bring wraps to room temperature and, if desired, cut diagonally into halves or thirds.  (Wraps cut more easily when cold.)
*The amount of filling ingredients are geared to the larger wrappers, but novices might find the smaller wrappers easier to use at first.  Any leftover filling can be used in a salad or soup.
   Makes 4 servings as an appetizer.
Per serving:  164 calories, 2 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat), 15 g. carbohydrate, 20 g. protein, 2 g. dietary fiber, 637 mg. sodium.

The following recipe uses seasonings typical of dishes in some South Asian countries such as India.  In place of the Curried Dipping Sauce, a commercially-prepared Indian-style sauce may be used, or a chutney puréed in a blender or food processor.

South Asian Style Wraps
Curried Dipping Sauce
1/2 tsp.-1 Tbsp. curry powder, or
according to taste
3/4 cup fat-free plain yogurt
3/4 cup fat-free mayonnaise
Salt and white pepper, according to taste
Make dipping sauce before the wraps to allow flavors to meld.  In a bowl, mix together the curry powder, yogurt and mayonnaise until well combined.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  (Dip can be made ahead and stored, refrigerated, overnight.  Bring sauce to room temperature before serving.)
Makes about 1 1/2 cups of sauce.

4 whole wheat tortillas or small pita
4 large lettuce leaves (iceberg or a leafy
green), washed and dried
3/4 lb. grilled chicken breasts (skinless
and boneless), cut into very thin strips
3/4 cup very thin strips of peeled and
seeded cucumbers
1/4 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, stem
1 mango, peeled and cut into long, thin
strips (optional)

Make one wrap at a time.  Place a lettuce leaf on a tortilla or, if using a pita pocket, gently insert a lettuce leaf so that it lines the interior.  Without adding too much filling ingredients, add to each about 1/4 of the vegetables, chicken and mango (if using), in the following order:  cucumber, chicken, spinach and mango (if using).  Spread a thin layer of the dipping sauce along the tortilla’s edges that will be exposed once the wrap is rolled up.  Roll up the tortilla, pressing the outer edges in so the sauce will help seal the wrap.

Serve immediately or wrap each individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2-3 hours before serving.  (Bring refrigerated wraps back to room temperature.)  Serve with  the dipping sauce.  (If using pita pockets, dollops of the sauce can be added before serving.)
Makes 4 servings as an appetizer.
Per serving:  224 calories, 3 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat), 30 g. carbohydrate, 25 g. protein, 3 g. dietary fiber, 614 mg. sodium.

The following recipe is extremely adaptable to substitutions with foods already on hand.  For example, any grilled lean meat may be used, and a commercially-prepared salsa can also be used for the dipping sauce.  The “Smooth and Spicy Sauce” calls for chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, a commercially-prepared version of smoked jalapeno chilis in a tomato-based sauce, which can usually be found in the Mexican food section of large supermarkets.
Southwestern-Style Wraps

Smooth and Spicy Sauce
1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup non-fat plain yogurt
3 Tbsp. finely minced fresh cilantro
leaves (stems removed)
1 green onion (scallion), finely minced
1/2 tsp. garlic paste or minced garlic cloves, or to taste
1-2 minced (1-2 Tbsp.) canned chipotle
chilis in adobo sauce, or to taste
Salt and white pepper, to taste
1-3 drops hot sauce, or to taste
Make the dipping sauce before the wraps to allow flavors to meld.  In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients until well combined.  The dip can be made ahead and stored overnight, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator.  Bring chilled sauce to room temperature before serving.
Makes about 1 1/4 cups sauce.

4 whole-wheat tortillas
4 lettuce leaves, washed and dried,
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into
very thin strips
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into
very thin strips
1/2 cup (approximately) jicama, peeled and cut into very thin strips
3/4  lb. cooked turkey or pork (trimmed
of fat), cut into very thin strips
1-2  Gala apples (depending on size), cut
into thin strips (optional)
1/2 cup chives, chervil, or flat-leaf
parsley, cut into strips

Fill tortillas one at a time.  Place a tortilla flat on a cutting board..  Place a lettuce leaf on top of the  tortilla.  (The top of the leaf can extend a little beyond the edge of the tortilla.)  Along the length of  the tortilla, in the third closest to you,  place 1/4 of the filling ingredients in the following order:  red bell pepper, jicama, green bell pepper,meat, apple (if using), and a small amount of herbs.  Spread a thin layer of the dipping sauce along the tortilla’s edges that will be exposed once the wrap is rolled up.

Roll up each tortilla snugly, folding in ends, if desired.  (If leafy end of the lettuce extends beyond wrapper, do not fold in that end.)  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap (if using tortillas).  Set aside.

Make remaining wraps.  Finished wraps can be set aside up to 30 minutes before serving, which will allow flavors to develop.  (Wraps can be refrigerated 2-3 hours before serving.  Allow chilled wraps to reach room temperature before serving.)

If desired, cut wraps on a diagonal into halves or thirds.  Serve with dipping sauce.

Makes 4 servings as an appetizer.
Per serving:  290 calories, 7 g. total fat (2 g. saturated fat), 32 g. carbohydrate, 30 g. protein, 4 g. dietary fiber, 528 mg. sodium.

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The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the nation’s third largest cancer charity, focusing exclusively on the link between diet and cancer.  The Institute provides a wide range of education programs that help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk.  AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers across the U.S.  The Institute has provided over $70 million in funding for research in diet, nutrition and cancer. AICR’s Web address is AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.



Sue Baxter