Healthy, Holiday Nutri-Gifts

Fresh baked banana bread is always a welcome treat.
"I dread the Holidays. I get bombarded with chocolates and cookies, and of course, I eat them all."   ...  "I have no idea what to give my training buddy for a Christmas present. He doesn't need anything." ... "I'm low on money, but I want to give gifts to my friends. I need some ideas..."

This holiday season, as you search for the "perfect gift," remember that active people welcome gifts of good health--a loaf of bread warm from the oven, a tasty homemade dinner, or even a nutrition book. Here are a few recipes and book ideas. The recipes are from my Sports Nutrition Guidebook, a popular gift itself.

Banana Bread

This is an all-time favorite banana bread recipe. Its key to success is using well-ripened bananas that are covered with brown speckles. Especially yummy for a pre-exercise snack.

3 large well-ripened bananas        
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg or 2 egg whites            
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons oil, preferably canola    
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup milk                
1 1/2 cups flour, preferably
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar            
half whole-wheat, half white

 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
 2. Mash bananas with a fork. Add egg, oil, milk, sugar. Beat well.
 3. Gently mix in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir just until moistened.
 4. Pour into a 4" x 8" loaf pan that has been lightly oiled, treated with cooking spray, or lined with wax paper. Bake 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.
 5. Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan.

Yield: 12 slices    Total calories: 1,600
135 calories per slice; 24 g Carb; 3 g Protein; 3 g Fat

Gourmet Lasagna

This "company is coming" lasagna has a wonderful flavor and is a nice variation from standard lasagnas. The winning ingredients are sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts.

15 lasagna noodles
8 to 9 sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup pine nuts (pignoli nuts)
1 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1 teaspoon oil, preferably olive or canola
1 pound ricotta cheese, part-skim or nonfat
4 to 8 oz. shredded lowfat mozzarella cheese
1 to 2 dashes nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 10-oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 28-oz. jar spaghetti sauce
Optional: 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

 1. Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions.
 2. Put the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl. Cover with boiling water and set aside for 5 minutes if oil-packed, 10 to 15 minutes if dried. Drain, cool, and chop finely. Set aside.
 3. Toast the pine nuts in the oven at 350°F for 5 minutes or on the stovetop in a skillet over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
 4. In a separate skillet, saute the garlic in oil for 2 minutes. Do not brown. Set the pan aside.
 5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, nutmeg, oregano, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, garlic.
 6. In a 9" x 13" pan, pour enough tomato sauce to coat the bottom. Cover with lasagna noodles; add a layer of ricotta mixture, then spaghetti sauce. Repeat, making 3 layers of ricotta, and ending with noodles and tomato sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan, as desired. Cover; bake at 350°F for 30 to 40 minutes.

Yield: 8 servings      Total calories: 3,600
450 calories per serving;  53 g Carb; 21 g Protein; 17 g Fat
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