To make up for a lean year, many of my friends are going overboard for the holidays.

To do this without stressing their budgets, a lot of them are in a frenzy knitting scarves to give as gifts, assembling scrapbooks that commemorate special moments for children and grandchildren, or bottling a favorite fig chutney, spicy salad dressing, or other specialty. They are also preparing dishes for elaborate holiday menus.

I remind them that eating well from now until Christmas is as important as gift giving.

To make sitting down to nice dinners easy, try these speedy dishes so simple that only the Fish with Christmas Salsa requires a recipe. And in the holiday spirit, they all feature the colors of the season.

Balsamic Chicken with Peppers

Instructions: Saute strips of boneless chicken with red and green peppers, then toss with a splash of balsamic vinegar and serve.

Broiled Salmon with Pan-Popped Cherry Tomatoes and Spinach

Instructions: While salmon is broiling, roll the tomatoes in a hot skillet with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and 2 garlic cloves for 2 minutes, then stir in the spinach until wilted, 2 minutes. Serve the broiled salmon with the cherry tomatoes and spinach.

Shrimp and Veggie Stir Fry

Instructions: Stir fry peeled shrimp with broccoli and diced red bell pepper and onion. Season with dashes of reduced-sodium soy suace, rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil. If you like it spicy, add hot chili paste to taste.

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Baked Eggplant Marinara

Instructions: Place 1-inch thick slices of eggplant into a baking or casserole pan, top with marinara sauce and shredded part-skim mozzerella cheese. Bake at 350F until the eggplant is soft.

Roasted Fish with Christmas Salsa

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 3 vine-type tomatoes, halved and seeded
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions, green part only
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 Tbsp. very finely chopped shallot
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 Valencia (juice) orange
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 (6-ounce) pieces tilapia, halibut or cod filet
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

  2. In mixing bowl, combine tomato, red onion, scallions, sweet onion, shallot and jalapeno. Add the orange and lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside for 20 minutes for flavors to develop. Makes 3 cups salsa.

  3. Season fish lightly with salt and pepper. Set medium skillet that can go into oven over medium-high heat on top of stove. When hot, add oil and immediately place filets into hot pan. Cook until fish is lightly browned on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Using wide spatula, turn fish. Slide pan into oven.

  4. Cook until filet flakes easily and is white in the center at widest point, about 2 minutes for tilapia, 3 to 4 for halibut and cod, depending on the thickness of the filets. Place a piece of fish on each of 4 dinner plates. Spoon one-fourth of salsa alongside fish and serve.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
230 calories
8 g total fat
1 g saturated fat
11 g carbohydrate
27 g protein
2 g dietary fiber
85 mg sodium