WHEN IT COMES to cold weather entertaining, fondue is a classic. This time of year, I typically pull out my pots - one copper and one ceramic that I got as wedding gifts in the late '80s.

Considering that reduced-fat cheeses have a reputation for not melting well, it might seem dicey to try to change the ingredients in a classic beer-and-cheese fondue.

This Cheesy Beer Fondue recipe, developed by professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss, uses a combination of reduced-fat cheeses, fat-free half-and-half and light beer with tasty results.

Cheese is very high in calcium and high in phosphorous. Swap out the hunks of baguette for vegetable dippers, and you've added vitamins and fiber.

Or go for pretzels and you have a crunchy, fat-free snack.

Shopping tip: For testing purposes, we used Select 55 by Budweiser.

Serving tip: There are loads of fondue pots on the market these days. A ceramic or enameled cast-iron fondue pot is the perfect type for cooking cheese fondue.

Check the manufacturer's directions to see if the pot can be heated on the stovetop to avoid dirtying more than one pot.

We found the retro 1970s flame-orange fondue pot shown here on eBay.

CHEESY BEER FONDUE

1 tablespoon butter

1 small onion, chopped

2 carrots, thinly sliced

1 stalk celery, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (14.5-ounce) can fat-free, reduced-

sodium chicken broth

1 cup light beer

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups fat-free half-and-half

1 3/4 cups 2 percent shredded cheddar cheese

4 slices 2 percent American cheese, cut into small pieces

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Suggested dippers: carrots, broccoli or

cauliflower pieces, or pretzels

Melt butter in large nonstick skillet. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 8 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Stir in chicken broth and beer. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 20 to 25 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Ladle about half the broth-vegetable mixture into a blender; cover and blend until smooth. (Use caution when blending a hot mixture, and always vent the cover when blending hot foods or liquids.)

Pour puree into a 3-quart saucepan. Repeat with remaining broth-vegetable mixture and pour into saucepan.

Whisk flour into half-and-half; then whisk half-and-half mixture into broth-vegetable mixture. Simmer, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes, or until it begins to thicken. Toss cheeses with cornstarch and add to saucepan. Stir constantly until cheese has melted and mixture is smooth.

Serve warm with desired dippers. Makes 4 cups or about 12 fondue portions.

Per portion: 107 calories (29 percent from fat), 3 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 8 milligrams cholesterol, 9 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 212 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Jill Wendholt Silva is an award-winning food journalist and editor for the Kansas City Star. She is the author of the cookbook "Eating for Life" ($24.95, Kansas City Star Co.), featuring 100 recipes from her weekly column. Contact her at jsilva@kcstar.com.