The YMCA of Central Florida is committed to helping people adopt healthier, more balanced lifestyles in many ways, including its healthy living initiatives. Here, the organization shares a healthy recipe for your holiday spread.
-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
-1/2 cup shelled pumpkin seeds (I prefer raw unsalted if you can find them) Kosher salt
-2 teaspoons smoked paprika
-½ cup water
-1 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
-2 green onions roughly chopped
-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus zest
-1 small garlic clove minced
-4 Cornish game hens, gizzards discarded
In a large skillet over medium heat add 3 tablespoons olive oil, the pumpkin seeds, 1/2 teaspoon salt (no salt needed if you are using pre salted seeds) and 1 teaspoon paprika. Cook, shaking the skillet, until the seeds begin popping and some turn brown (be careful not to burn them), about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Transfer the seeds and oil to a food processor, add 1/2 cup water, the parsley, green onion, lemon juice and pulse until pureed. Remove about 3 tablespoons of the pesto for the hens and set aside the rest for serving. Slide your fingers under the breast skin of each hen to loosen. Slide 2 heaping teaspoons of the pesto under the skin of each hen, and rub the pesto all over. In a separate bowl, mix the garlic, tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon paprika and lemon zest, then rub all over the outside of the hens. Refrigerate, uncovered, at least 2 hours or overnight. Preheat to 400 degrees F. Put the hens on a rack in lower half of the oven in a shallow roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet and tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Roast, rotating the pan halfway through, until the skin is golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees F, about 1 hour. Let rest 15 minutes, then cut each hen in half. Serve with the reserved pesto.