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Low-fat sour cream can be a substitute for heavy cream or whipping cream used to flavor and thicken creamy soups.
Removing the skin from chicken reduces fat content by approximately 50%. Wow, that's a lot of fat!
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Week of June 27, 2004

Tips for Converting Desserts Recipes:

If you make all your own desserts, you will know exactly what they contain and can feel comfortable that the ingredients are within your boundaries. Here are some little tips for the cook who would like to lower the fat in some of their old favorites.

PLEASE NOTE: These substitutions will not work the same in all recipes. These are just some of the tips that I have found that work well or fairly well. It is advisable to try one substitution at a time in a recipe, or to substitute only half of an ingredient for another (like 2 eggs with 1 egg and 2 egg whites). Never assume that you can easily substitute a fat-free counterpart of an ingredient and get the same results. Many fat-free or reduced calorie foods are made with extra water or other added ingredients, such as gelatin, that will break down when heated. The water can sometimes be compensated for, but the gelatin breakdown is tough to get around.

These are not iron clad rules, but suggestions for the adventuresome cook who would like to convert favorite recipes for a healthy lifestyle. Cooking is an art form and it may take one or two tries to perfect the recipe. Keep in mind that some recipes may not be suitable for conversion.

1. Milk and Cream. Try the milk step-down. If a recipe calls for cream, try fat-free half & half or evaporated skim milk. If it calls for whole milk, try 2 percent milk or if the recipe is suitable, try buttermilk. If it calls for two percent, try skim milk. You can always add a tablespoon of dry Butter Buds® to skim milk to give it a richer flavor.

If a recipe contains evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk, you can often substitute fat-free evaported milk or fat-free sweetened condensed milk or the low-fat versions.

2. Cream Cheese. When substituting low-fat or fat-free cream cheese, here is a good rule of thumb that will work most of the time. If the recipe is going to be cooked or baked, it is often (but not always) best not to use fat-free cream cheese. Use low-fat cream cheese. It will not separate as easily. If the recipe is not to be cooked, like a trifle or no-bake cheesecake, you usually can use fat-free cream cheese without a problem.

3. Margarine, Butter and Oils. For breads, cakes and brownies that use butter, oils or margarine, substitute applesauce or other pureed fruit for 1/2 of the margarine/butter in a recipe.

While you may use many other trans fat-free margarine spreads for use on toast and pancakes, the best that I have found for cooking and baking is "Smart Balance®". It is a (67%) margarine/spread designed for cooking, baking and sautéing. For baking, only very small adjustments may have to be made (if any) for the water content, which is a little higher than full fat (80%) margarine and butter for which most common recipes were written. Usually one teaspoon of flour per one cup of margarine substituted for butter will compensate for the extra water content or slightly adjust the amount of liquid added to the recipe. Like I said, it really is not much of an adjustment to make.

4. Eggs. Use less whole eggs. If a recipe calls for 3 eggs, try using 1 whole egg and three to four egg whites. You usually will not be able to tell a difference in texture or flavor.

Or you may use egg substitutes. They are made with egg whites with coloring and other added ingredients. I have a couple of favorites, mainly because of flavor and price, but most brands work equally well (read the labels, some have more added oils than others).

  • 1/4 cup equals 1 whole egg (except in cakes)
  • Use 1/4 cup for 1 egg yolk, however if the recipe calls for more than 2 egg yolks, it may not turn out well.
  • For cakes, use 1/3 cup for each egg called for and you will get better volume results
  • If egg content is high (3 - 4 eggs), reduce liquid by 2 tablespoons to compensate for the added liquid in egg substitutes.

5. Sugar. Substitute artificial sweeteners for sugar. It is so easy to work with Splenda® which is measure for measure the same as sugar. It will work in most any recipes (with the exception of recipes that use oils - the texture is sometimes compromised). See more ideas and sugar free recipes at the SplendaŽ web site.

6. Whipped Cream. When substituting whipped cream for a topping, you may use some of the aerosol fat-free whipped creams, frozen whipped toppings or a dry mix you whip with skim milk called "Dream Whip®" made by Kraft, which can be found in the grocery isle next to the pudding mixes. I always use this when making a pudding based pie. It makes a firmer filling that will hold up better than frozen whipped topping. Check out the Kraft web site for recipes using Dream Whip. Remember to substitute skim milk for whole milk and sugar free pudding mix to cut calories and fat.

7. Chocolate. Substitute 3 tablespoons cocoa powder for each 1 ounce of baking chocolate. If a recipe calls for chocolate chips (like in cookies), use mini chips and use 1/2 half the amount so the chips are distributed evenly throughout the recipe.

8. Sour Cream and Yogurt. Fat free sour cream will often work fine in chilled recipes but like fat-free cream cheese, fat free sour cream is often not suitable for cooked dishes. Try low fat sour cream or fat free or low fat yogurt.

When using non-fat yogurt for a cream sauce or in cooking, mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon yogurt and stir into the rest of the yogurt. Stir over medium heat until thickened. This will prevent separation.

When baking, I prefer using buttermilk over yogurt because I find the recipe turns out less dense and has a finer grain. (Unless of course, you are wanting to achieve a dense grain). I also prefer its tangy flavor. If you take both and whip them, the buttermilk aerates better because it's thinner.

To stabilize yogurt in a chilled product, add 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin dissolved in two tablespoons of hot water.

9. Salt and Sodium. If salt is omitted or reduced, other spices or flavorings in the recipe should be increased slightly to compensate. Citrus zest can also be added to enhance flavors.

In yeast dough, salt slows yeast fermentation. Omitting or reducing the amount of salt in yeast dough can cause the dough to rise too quickly, adversely affecting the shape and flavor of bread. Reduced salt bread will usually have a courser texture.

Some things like baking powder and baking soda which are very high in sodium have no substitutes.

10. Nuts and Peanut Butter. When using nuts, try cutting the amount used in half. If you toast the nuts, you will get the same amount of flavor, just less crunch. In baked goods, you may also substitute 1/2 or all of the nuts with a crispy rice cereal to get that added crunch.

The only substitution for peanut butter is using a sugar-free reduced fat peanut butter.

11. Shortening. Anything is better than shortening. Hydrogenated shortening should be avoided at all costs.The rule of thumb is to substitute one solid fat for another (ie: butter for shortening), and oil with another oil (vegetable oil for canola oil). That's because when a fat is solid, it acts differently in a baking recipe than a fat that's liquid. Substitute a non-saturated margarine like Smart Balance®.

Smuckers also makes a fat substitute called Baking Healthy® Oil & Shortening Replacement for Baking. Sadly, not many places carry it. Other fat replacements made of fruit purees for baking are also available. They can usually be substituted for 1/2 and sometimes up to 3/4 of the total amount of shortening.

If these methods do not work, pass on the recipe. Shortening is one of your worst enemies when trying to stay heart healthy. The recipe just is not worth it.

12. Greasing and Flouring Pans. Stop using shortening to grease and flour your pans. Try a neat little product called Baker's Joy made by Nordic Ware® - it has the flour and the oil all in one. You can usually find it by the cooking sprays at most larger grocery stores. It is definitely less messy to use than trying to use cooking oil spray and then flouring the pans.

Another method is to spray pans with cooking oil spray and then line the bottom of the pans with waxed paper. Either way is preferable to the use of shortening.

Week of June 20, 2004

While wonderful sweet bell peppers are in abundance, you may want to freeze some for use later. It does not matter if they are green, red, orange, yellow or purple - they are all delicious and packed with vitamins. Just one half cup provides the recommended dietary allowances for vitamin C, lots of vitamin A and E but contains only 12 calories with no sodium or fat. Peppers also naturally contain cancer fighting antioxidants.

To freeze bell peppers: Wash and core peppers. Chop, dice or slice according to how you will cook with them. (You may blanche peppers like you would other frozen vegetables, but it is not really necessary.)

Line a cookie tray with wax paper. (This keeps them from sticking to the tray) Spread peppers in a single layer on tray. Place tray in the freezer for an hour or longer to freeze.

Remove pepper pieces from the tray and pour into zip-lock freezer bags. Discard wax paper. Immediately place sealed bags in the freezer. Remove as much air as possible from the bag. The pepper pieces will remain separated for ease of measuring and will not stick together. Simply remove as many as you need, reseal the bag and return to the freezer.

COOKS NOTE: Frozen peppers retain some of the crispness when you thaw them first before using. If you are going to use chopped ones and cook them for a long period of time (like in a marinara sauce), you can use them straight from the freezer.

You can even use them raw in dishes like pasta salad when using this method of freezing, then thawing them. They will retain much but not all of the crisp texture.

You can also cut the tops off, seed them, freeze them whole, then thaw and stuff and bake them in the usual manner.

This method will also work well with many other peppers like pepperoncini and banana peppers. Because the papery like skin, poblano peppers work best if roasted and peeled, then frozen.

Week of June 12, 2004

I am sure with Father's Day coming up, you will be heating up the grill to favor Dad with good lean grilled entrees.

As you know, grilling a chicken breast with a little salt and pepper tastes fine, however, you can greatly alter the flavor by marinating that same chicken breast in a spicy aromatic mixture. The resulting flavor can be magnificent. The flavors that you can add to your marinade are limited only by your imagination and the spices you have on hand. Just use ingredients that taste good together. It can be fresh or dried herbs and spices or fresh and dried chili peppers, onions, shallots, garlic, ginger and citrus zest. Condiments of mustard, ketchup, plum sauce and marmalades can also be added. Do not EVER use salt in your marinade. Salt will bleed out the moisture, so do not add salt to the meat or poultry until just before cooking. Otherwise you will end up with dry and tough entree.

When you add sugar or sweet ingredients to the marinade, the sugars on the surface of the meat will caramelize when exposed to high heat, giving the meat a nice browned color and rich flavor as well as a tinge of sweetness. Use sugar, marmalades, jellies, corn syrup, honey, fruit juice and sodas (colas, etc.) for this purpose.

A small amount of oil in a marinade will add moisture to foods. Use pure olive oil, sesame, walnut or chili oils. These work best.

The two most popular types of marinades are acidic (made with citrus, vinegar, or wine) and enzymatic (made with ingredients such as pineapple and papaya). Although both types work primarily on the surface of the food, they lead to different results: highly acidic marinades can actually toughen food, while enzymatic marinades can turn the surface of the food to mush (meat tenderizers you buy are enzymatic). For true tenderizing, the most effective marinades are those that contain dairy products.

Dairy products are the only ingredients that can actually tenderize meat all the way through while retaining the original texture. Buttermilk and yogurt work especially well for this. Yogurt is slightly acidic and helps break down protein tissues in beef, fish, chicken and other meats, and allows absorption of flavors from herbs and spices.

Yogurt marinades work faster than oil counterparts. When deciding how long to marinate, consider the texture of the meat or fish. In general, open-textured flesh like fish fillets needs only a few minutes of soaking (Fish will take as little as 20 minutes). Food with a tighter texture, such as chicken, pork loin or lamb, can tolerate several hours in a marinade, even one that's mildly acidic. Marinate chicken for no more than 4 hours. Marinate beef for 6 hours, turning once or twice. DO NOT EXCEED recommended time as the meat will toughen as the acid actually "cooks" the protein.

Week of June 6, 2004

Steaming with the Microwave

Puttering in the kitchen may be fun when the weather is cooler, but when the mercury zooms above 90 degrees F., the last place anyone wants to be is in a steamy, hot kitchen.

The microwave is perfect for steaming vegetables; you can cook them in the same dish you use to serve them and it does not heat up the kitchen!

It is easy and fast. Just add a small amount of water to the bottom of the dish, cover it with a microwave safe lid or a piece of plastic wrap making sure to leave a little room for the steam to escape.

Cut all pieces to a uniform size to ensure even cooking. Then (depending on the thickness of the vegetables, microwave on high for 4 to 8 minutes. This is a great method for steaming veggies because not only is it hassle-free, but since very little water is used, nutrients that are lost are minimal.

Microwaves vary greatly, so just to be sure, consult your manufacturers manual for your particular brand.

 


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