great home cookin'! When we think of it we think of all those wonderful rich flavors like bacon, ham, cream, real butter, bold cheeses, sour cream, rich oils. No question about it – fats are where the flavor comes from. But the "inconvenient truth" as we well know is that the source of just about everything unhealthy is, again, FATS. High cholesterol, weight gain, heart problems, diabetes, some cancers - can all be traced back to a diet high in fats. It isn't fair!
So... is it possible to get those wonderful rich flavors in our cooking without using fats? Well – to be honest, fats are still the most flavorful, so if you’re making something very special that is cherished for its wonderful flavor and texture - don’t change it. It’s pretty hard to make an oozy cheese omelet without the cheese; a thick delicious bisque without cream and butter - and whoever heard of a BLT without the bacon? Not possible.
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The trick is to eat those extra-delicious treats only once in awhile. Make them the exception rather than the rule - that way you still get those special dishes that you cherish and you don’t feel so deprived. But in your “everyday” cooking you can make smart choices that eliminate or drastically cut down the high-fat or salty meats, oils, creams, and butter. Here are a few ideas. . .
1) To Serve For Dessert. . .
Try pureed berries. They’re divine on so many different things, and so easy! Use fresh or frozen berries and simply puree them in a blender or food processor. Use as a topping for sorbet, puddings, angel food cake, low-fat ice cream, fresh fruits like sliced peaches, pears or cantaloupe. They’re so colorful, they look gorgeous, and they’re very healthy!
Another idea is to use good old-fashioned store-bought chocolate syrup. Believe it or not chocolate syrup is very low in fat, sugar, and calories.
2) To Add Flavor and Thickness to Soups, Casseroles and Stews. . .
A great trick is to add more vegetables than you’ll need and when they’re cooked, puree a part of them until they’re totally smooth. Add the pureed vegies back to the pot and you’ll have a thicker, creamier texture as well as a much fuller flavor. Also – diced potatoes, a little pasta, or rice add thickness because they’re starchy. Flavorful, too!
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3) To Make Healthier Salad Dressings. . .
The ingredient in most salad dressings that makes them so unhealthy is the heavy oils. A large amount of oil is required to cut the acid in most vinegars – including red or white wine vinegar. The solution is to use rice vinegar because it's much less acidic than other vinegars – therefore requiring less oil. Another alternative is to substitute orange juice or fresh lemon juice (my favorite!) for part of the vinegar – there again, requiring less oil but with a full flavor.
4) To Bake with Less Fat . . .
This is a bit trickier only because the proportions vary by recipe. But by experimenting a little you’ll come up with the exact amount that works. Remember – you’re trying to cut down on the fats. So, for example – cut out 50% of the fat by replacing half of the shortening, butter, or oil - with a fruit puree. I especially like applesauce for this because it’s readily available and inexpensive. Mashed bananas also work well, or pureed pears. For creamy fats like sour cream, replace with nonfat yogurt, low-fat buttermilk, or pureed reduced-fat cottage cheese.
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This sounds bizarre but believe me – it really works! Try it the next time you make brownies or a cake from a mix . . cut the oil by half and replace with applesauce. You can NOT tell the difference and the fat is reduced by a full 50%.
5) To Cook with Less Fat
Avoid frying as much as possible. Grill, steam, poach, bake, slow-cook or microwave foods instead of frying them. Sauteeing is OK but use non-stick pans with a light oil spray or broth instead of butter or oil.
Happy healthy cooking!
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