Prepare a quick holiday meal this year

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 15, 2001

The holiday season is a busy time and with all the hustle and bustle, you may skip a meal because you don't have time to prepare it. However, some meals don't take a lot of preparation time. Take potatoes, for example. You might be surprised to discover the many ways a potato can turn from dull and tasteless into a tasty light meal all by itself.

You know that potatoes can be boiled, steamed or baked. Potatoes sometimes get a bad reputation as fattening and are often one of the first foods eliminated by dieters. A potato is a health food, with 50% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and more potassium than a banana. Potatoes are also packed with complex carbohydrates. Calorie-wise, they compare to an apple of the same size.

Potatoes can be divided into two categories

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waxy potatoes, and mealy potatoes.

Mealy potatoes crumble or fall apart when you cook them and have a dry, crumbly texture . Russet potatoes are an example of a mealy potato. These are good as mashed potatoes. Waxy potatoes are more moist in texture and keep their shape when cooked. They are good for potato salad. Round red potatoes and long white potatoes are in this category.

So, instead of turning down potatoes for a meal, try one of these variations. If time is against you, try this speedy idea. Cook frozen hash browns according to package directions. Top with fried eggs and Parmesan cheese. Top a baked potato with low-fat or non-fat yogurt and season with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

For an easy side dish, quarter small red or white potatoes and place in a pan with a little olive oil. Cook until potatoes are tender. Season with dill and salt.

Marinate 2 cups of chopped fresh vegetables (broccoli, carrots, onion, zucchini) in 1/2 cup of bottled low-fat Italian dressing. Spoon over a baked potato that has been split and fluffed.

Don't forget twice-baked potatoes. Leaving the shell as intact as you can, scoop out the inside of a hot baked potato,fluff and mix it with a little milk, diced ham, shredded cheese and minced chives. Spoon the mixture back into the shell. Reheat in the microwave.

So, no excuses for missing meals! You have shopping to do, a house to decorate and gifts to wrap.

You need all your strength.