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I'm Dreaming of a Lighter Christmas

Healthy holiday recipes you can feel good about indulging in

Studies show that during the two-month holiday season that starts with Halloween candy and ends with Christmas pudding, most of us will gain about a pound. "No big deal," you say. "That's easy to take off." In theory, yes, but in reality, most of us never bother to shed it. A decade later you suddenly realize you've bumped up a size. I don't want that to happen. That's why this year I'm dreaming of a light Christmas!

Our family tradition is roast beef. In Christmases past, I would have served up a well-marbled prime rib with creamy horseradish sauce, followed by a big bowl of chocolate mousse for dessert.

Not this year. Instead, I'm roasting up beef tenderloin, an unusual cut because it's both lean and tender. For those assets you pay a price, but if you're ever going to enjoy a tenderloin, 'tis the season. Plus, whole beef tenderloin serves a large crowd, and leftovers are superb.

You can buy beef tenderloin two ways. For those who shop at warehouse-style grocery stores such as Costco or Sam's Club, beef tenderloin comes untrimmed and packaged in Cryovac. And untrimmed tenderloin contains many large pockets of fat, so you'll need to trim it a lot. There's also the silver skin, or connective tissue, to deal with … or not. You can leave it alone — it really doesn't affect the meat's texture — but it will cause the roast to bow during cooking. If you don't want the curling, simply snip the silver skin crosswise in a couple of places or remove it completely with a sharp knife.

Unless you like to butcher, you'll want to buy trimmed or peeled beef tenderloin. It's more expensive, but when you figure the weight of the excess fat and your labor, it's probably worth the extra cost.

Either way, you'll need some butcher's twine. Because the roast has a tapered shape, you should tuck the thin end under so the roast looks uniform and cooks evenly. Once it's been prepared to this point, the rest is simple. This classy roast does not need to be gussied up. Just oil, salt and pepper it and shove it in the oven. In 40 to 45 minutes it will emerge gorgeous and perfect, ready for Parsley-Red Pepper Sauce -— a festive, healthier alternative to traditional sour cream-horseradish sauce.

Dessert is light and festive, too. Instead of cream-laden chocolate mousse, this pudding is enriched with evaporated milk, which has half the calories of heavy cream. Top the pudding with Warm Prune-Walnut Sauce, which you can double, if you like: It's a wonderful topping for yogurt and granola the next morning.

I ate only one piece of Halloween candy, and my Thanksgiving dessert was fruit and cheese with a glass of port. With this year's lighter roast beef and Christmas pudding, I hope that when I hop on the scale on New Year's Day, I'll have no surprises.

Next page: Simple roast beef tenderloin with parsley-red pepper sauce. »

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