The Low Fat Kitchen

The Low Fat Kitchen

The Low Fat Kitchen
The Low Fat Kitchen

A new year, a new you! Time to go into the kitchen and clean house.

This is also a good time to practice your label-reading skills. Check the food labels for fat concentration and take a look at the list of ingredients. Ingredients are listed in order of predominance, so pay special attention to the first two.

When choosing a spread for bread or vegetables, make sure it only has two grams or less of fat per serving. Tub or liquid margarine is usually lowest in saturated fat. Diet or whipped margarine or butter is low in both fat and calories but do not melt easily. Use the primarily for spreading.

Make sure your pantry is well stocked with pasta, rice and grain products, especially whole grains, which provide fiber. These foods are naturally low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates. Check the labels on cookies and crackers. Many contain tropical oils. Better choices for the low fat kitchen include pretzels, rice cakes and baked chips.

Keep your refrigerator supplied with a variety of fruits and vegetables.  If you wash and cut them into serving pieces, they are more likely to be chosen for quick snacks and meals on the run. Every low fat kitchen should have a steady supply.

Meats should be lean and well trimmed. Heavily marbled meats will be tender, but loaded with fat. Buy more fish and poultry. Beware of processed lunch meats – they are often high in fat and sodium. Your best bets are lean sliced poultry and meats, like roast beef and ham. Look for meats that have less than three grams of fat per ounce.

Cooking with less fat and fewer calories is a snap once you learn the art of recipe modification. This simply means making substitutions.

Next are some tips to get your started on modifying some tried-and-true favorites. Try these tips and you may not even miss the original ingredients.

Food

  • Use a lettuce leaf, thin tomato slice or mustard on a sandwich and forget the butter, margarine or mayonnaise. If you like a little zip, add some mustard.
  • Leave out the oil and margarine many packaged foods recommend in the preparation.
  • Try skim milk in food preparation and cooking. There is virtually no taste difference when it is combined with other ingredients.
  • Substitute two egg whites for one whole egg in most recipes. The egg white has no fat or cholesterol.
  • Reduce the amount of oils and fats called for in most recipes by about one-half, with no change in the final product.
  • In muffins and quick breads, substitute non-sweetened applesauce or other mashed fruit in place of up to three-quarters of the oils and fats called for in the recipe.
  • Vinegar can add snap to lower-calorie, lower-fat whipped salad dressing.
  • A shaker of butter flakes contains the flavor of butter without the fat. Mash them into potatoes or use them on hot, steamy foods, such as pasta, rice or vegetables, to take the place of butter, oils or higher-calorie spreads.
  • Reduce the fat per serving in your favorite casserole by adding more vegetables. For example, put more tomatoes and peppers in your chili. More mushrooms and less meat in your spaghetti sauce. More celery and onion, and less mayonnaise in your tuna salad. Replace one of the meat or cheese layers in your lasagna with slices of zucchini squash. Salsa can stretch the calories and fat per serving in cheese dips, guacamole and potato toppings.
  • Try buying lower-calorie ingredients. Replace the regular versions of salad dressings used to make pasta salads, spreads and dips with their lower-calorie counterparts. Purchase reduced-calorie soups to make reduced-calorie casseroles and noodle or rice mixtures.
  • Always use non-stick pans and baking sheets. Use cooking spray rather than oil or shortening to grease your pans.

Three tips for healthier meal preparation:

  1. Bake, broil or grill foods on a rack to drain fat away. Try the “indirect heat” method of grilling by placing the food away from the heat source. Every low fat kitchen should have indirect heat grilling available. This results in better flavor and juiciness. It also keeps the meats tender and reduces the risk of forming carcinogens in an overly browned or charred top layer of the meat. See Remove Carcinogens When Grilling Meat for more information.
  2. Stir-Fry. This is a popular cooking method that belongs in every low fat kitchen. Foods cook quickly, preserving precious nutrients. Use cooking spray in a pan or wok. Sprinkle the food with broth, soy sauce or water if it begins to stick.
  3. Steam vegetables, leaner meats and delicate foods like fish. Steaming is an overlooked cooking method, which deserves some time in the spotlight! Place the food to be steamed with desired seasonings on a rack over boiling water, or use an Oriental steamer (available in many specialty shops). No fat is necessary and the foods will not dry out.

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Healthy 1 Skillet Meals

Quick and Healthy 1 Skillet Meals

During these busy days of the holiday season, it’s more important than ever to eat well and eat healthy. Consider 1  skillet meals made healthy! Here are some tips.

1 Skillet Meals
1 Skillet Meals

Try using more frozen foods. Just be sure to check nutrition labels and purchase brands you trust.

Take advantage of bagged lettuce, tomatoes, etc. for a quick and easy salad.

For vegetables, try frozen. They are an acceptable alternative to fresh when you are in a pinch. Many can be heated quickly for 1 skillet meals.

Jarred foods such as spaghetti sauces, linguine, salsa and many other choices can add taste and nutrition as well as speed up your cooking. Again, check labels and stick with brands you trust. The same applies for canned foods.

Many jarred and canned goods have excellent recipe ideas on them for quick and easy 1 skillet meals. Check them out and give some a try. You may be pleasantly surprised! Please note canned foods tend to be high in sodium. Purchase the low-sodium, low-fat varieties. Much progress has been made in the flavor and texture of these products and in many cases, you will not even notice the difference.

Get out the slow cooker again and make use of it from time to time. This gets tiresome as a steady ritual, but there is little argument it is still quite convenient. There are so many things you can make in a slow cooker, the possibilities are endless.

If you are taking some time to cook or bake, double your quantities and freeze the leftovers for quick heat and eat meals, snacks or even desserts. When you do heat to eat, just pull out a non stick skillet and in no time you’ll have a 1 skillet meal.

If you’ve got the oven on to roast meat or poultry, throw in a baking dish of chopped veggies such as eggplant, tomatoes, green and red peppers and fennel that have been doused in olive oil and chopped garlic. Roasted vegetables keep for a week in the fridge and can be used hot or cold to top rice or couscous or on sandwiches.

Think breakfast for dinner. You can make a very nutritious and satisfying meal with egg substitute, vegetables, pancakes, waffles and toast.  Use your imagination and create your own 1 skillet meals!

Skillet Clean Up Tip

To easily remove burnt on food from your skillet, simply add a drop or two of dish soap, or baking soda and enough water to cover bottom of pan, and bring to a boil on stove-top — skillet will be much easier to clean now!

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Custom Made Vinaigrette

Custom Made Vinaigrette

Some say if you can prepare a well balanced custom made vinaigrette, you know how to cook. Is this true? Not sure; however, there are many opinions as to just how vinaigrette should taste.

What to do? Well, the classic proportion of oil to vinegar in vinaigrette is four to one. However, two recent award-winning cookbooks favor a combination of three to one. So, knowing how to make a pleasing vinaigrette really boils down to tasting and adjusting ingredients and trusting what you discover.

Vinaigrette Oils

Custom Made Vinaigrette
Custom Made Vinaigrette

Ingredients matter. It is best to purchase your oil in small quantities. Oil will deteriorate in light and should be stored in dark or opaque bottles in a cool place or in the refrigerator. Olive oil is the favored oil for vinaigrette, but many cooks find its flavor too assertive and combine it with other, milder oils such as canola or sunflower. These oils are lighter in weight and in taste. They are ideal for delicate salads with butter lettuce or for napping on mild fish. They mix well with white wine or rice vinegar and with citrus juices.

Peanut oils and other nut oils are very fragile and should be stored in the refrigerator. Nut oils have strong flavors that you should balance with milder oils to smooth the taste. Serve with strongly flavored greens such as endive or arugula. Sesame oil has much character and can overwhelm other flavors. When melded with milder oils, these vinaigrette’s will enhance dishes as diverse as spinach or broccoli, noodles, poultry, pork or fish.

Vinegar

Truly successful vinaigrette calls for quality vinegar. Inferior vinegar can be too sharp and will need too much oil to balance it. Vinegar’s can range from tart to smooth. Rice vinegar is mild and almost sweet at 4 percent acidity. Red wine vinegar is clean and sharp at 7 percent. Balsamic vinegar has a middle value of 6 percent acidity. This may explain why it can be drizzled on strawberries and steak with equal success.

Potato, pasta, dried bean and lentil salads should be dressed with a more acidic vinaigrette. Often two parts oil to one part vinegar. The starchy qualities absorb flavors and will be bland without a boost of tartness.

The bulk of fat in vinaigrette comes from oil, but you can make salad dressings as fat-free and low-calorie as you like by changing the amount of oil you use. Basic vinaigrette is one-part vinegar to two to three parts oil. Traditionally, one would add mustard for flavor and body. This helps reduce the calorie and fat content. To cut fat further, try the following variations.

Substitutes for wine vinegar’s:

Wine vinegar.
Wine vinegar.
  • Orange juice.
  • Apple cider.
  • Balsamic vinegar.
  • Herb vinegar’s.

These are less acidic which means less oil is necessary for a balance of tartness.

Opt for monounsaturated oils such as grape seed and olive oil.

Go Asian. Combine the sweet, sour and salty tastes of honey, rice wine vinegar and fish sauce with a slice of chili pepper and ginger for a great salad dressing without fat.

Get flavor from herbs, citrus zest, shallots, ginger, scallions and interesting combination’s of salad greens.

Use interesting combination’s of salad greens like arugula, endive or mustard greens.

Use mango, apricot, roasted red pepper or roasted garlic purees to add texture and body to salad dressings. This allows you to reduce some of the oil.

Common favorite additions to 1-cup of custom made vinaigrette:

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons minced shallots or onion
  • One medium clove garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • Four to five cloves minced roasted garlic

If you feel a bit more adventurous, try the following suggestions:

  • One pureed tomato or roasted pepper. This will thicken and emulsify the dressing.
  • 1/4 cup black olives, pitted and chopped.
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons citrus juice.
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons capers.

A custom made vinaigrette is a wonderful accent to your food and will bring out its best flavor. Try your hand with your very own custom made vinaigrette!

Custom Made Vinaigrette Recipe

Ingredients:
1/4 cup vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2/3 to 3/4 cup olive oil
Options: 1/3 cup herb or nut oil. Substitute for 1/3 cup oil in basic recipe or 1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons lemon, lime or orange juice. Substitute for 2 tablespoons vinegar

Optional additions:
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons chutney
1/2  to 1 teaspoon ground spice, such as cumin or paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped herbs
One medium clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 medium shallot, peeled and minced

Directions:
To prepare vinaigrette by hand, whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper until slightly thickened. If using sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, chutney or spice, add here. Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking until blended and emulsified. If using herbs, garlic, or shallot, add here.

To prepare your custom made vinaigrette with a food processor or blender. If using herbs or garlic, put into processor or blender and chop finely. Add vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Pulse to blend. Add sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, chutney or spices if using. With motor running, slowly add oil, processing until blended and emulsified. Stir in minced shallot if using.
Pour vinaigrette into a jar, cover tightly and refrigerate up to three days. Recipe makes one cup custom made vinaigrette.

Nutrition information per tablespoon: 85 calories, 3g carbohydrates, .03g protein, 9g fat, no cholesterol, and 83mg sodium.

Relishing Chutney

Relishing Chutney
Relishing Chutney

Relishing Chutney

During the last couple decades, there has been quite a proliferation of chutneys in modern America. Chutney is the English derivative of the Indian word “chatni”. In India, before the 19th century, chatni was a sweet relish usually made from fruit. It contained a prominent tang of acid and paired with blander rice and lentils served at mealtime.

There was a definite distinction between the Indian pickles (a savory, pickled vegetable) and the sweetened chatni. The English adapted the chatni to become chutney. They made it a combination of the savory pickle and the sweeter and tangy chatni. This was in response to the broad use of the English garden.

In modern times it seems anything goes when making chutney. Sticking to the classic combination of seasonal fruit with a balance of sweetness to acidity and a touch of heat is the preferred procedure. Most prefer to cook the fruit to the consistency of jam or preserves.

Chutney tips:

  • Taste the fruit you are using for sugar content. A very sweet fruit will need more acid for balance. One way to control this is by cooking fruits separately.
  • Strain the liquid off when the fruit is just cooked. By doing so, you can reduce the liquid and control the consistency of the chutney.
  • Allow the chutney to sit for at least a day to meld the flavors together.

Once you begin to make chutneys, you will most likely find you can serve them often. Holidays to dinner to snacks are all possibilities.

Here’s one of our favorite recipes for Chutney. This one is nice for the up-coming holidays.

Cranberry, Ginger and Pear Chutney

Ingredients:
8 ounces brown sugar (about 1-1/4 cup firmly packed)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and cut into julienne strips
Pinch of salt
1/4 to 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
Four pears, peeled, cored and diced small
12 ounces cranberries, cleaned

Directions:
Bring brown sugar, vinegar, ginger, salt and cayenne to a boil in non-reactive saute pan (see note). Add pears and cover. Cook until crisp-tender, about nine minutes. Strain, reserving liquid.

Place liquid back in pan and add cranberries start to pop, about two minutes. Strain cranberries, reserving liquid.

Return liquid to pan and reduce to a glaze. Add cranberries and pears and stir to coat. Transfer to bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed. You can make up to three days in advance. Recipe makes four cups.

Note: Non-reactive pans include those with a stainless steel, nonstick or enamel lining. Avoid pans made of unlined aluminum, copper or cast iron.

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Personalized Pizza for Everyone!

Eating and enjoying a piece of pizza
Eating and enjoying a piece of pizza

 

Personalized Pizza for Everyone!

Almost everybody’s favorite – PIZZA! This can be made as vegetarian or non-vegetarian as you choose, and fat content can be controlled through your choice of cheeses for the topping. Use this merely as a starting point for making pizza the way you like it.

For the crust:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 16 oz can Italian style tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Toppings:
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Assorted vegetables (mushrooms, olives, artichoke hearts, bell peppers, etc.) of your choice

To make the crust, sift together the flour and salt. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil, flour, and salt. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and allow to rise until double in volume.

Meanwhile, heat the oil for the sauce in a sauce pan over moderate heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not brown. Puree the tomatoes and their juice in an electric blender and add to the onions, along with the remaining sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour, until thick.

When the dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down and place on a lightly floured surface. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before rolling into a 12 inch circle. Spread the sauce over the top, followed by the cheeses and additional toppings of your choice.

Note: If topping with sausage, be sure to brown the sausage before putting on the pizza. Place on a pizza pan or baking sheet and bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edge of the crust is brown and the cheese is melted in the center.

Makes one 12 inch pizza.

 

Personalized Pizza Pie.
Personalized Pizza Pie.

 

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Ten Tips for Heat and Serve Cooking

Ten Tips for Heat and Serve Cooking

Heat and Serve Cooking
Heat and Serve Cooking

Here is a short list of some of the things that you can keep in your pantry to help you short-cut dinner preparation. Use it as a start-up list and add your personal favorites.

  1. A variety of frozen vegetables.
  2. Canned chicken, beef and vegetable broths, preferably low-sodium.
  3. Canned tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, and pasta sauces.
  4. Couscous, bulgur and precooked dried pastas.
  5. Frozen rice mixtures.
  6. Seasoned bread crumbs, stuffing mixes, and croutons.
  7. Salad dressings to use for marinades, sauces, and dips as well as salad toppers.
  8. Basic herbs and spices such as dried basil, cilantro, dill, oregano,parsley, rosemary, thyme, ground cumin, paprika, pepper, chili powder, curry powder, onion flakes, garlic flakes and your favorite herb and spice mixtures for savory cooking. Allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg are essential for desserts.
  9. Frozen precooked meats; frozen shelled and de-veined shrimp and breaded seafood.
  10. Ready-to-use refrigerated Italian, French, and Asian sauces.

A Few Tips for Speedy Heat and Serve Cooking

A few simple measures can cut down on your kitchen preparation time.

  • Focus on simple recipes rather than elaborate techniques. These elaborate techniques just cause more dirty dishes and more clean-up time.
  • Consider what else you can do to speed up your meal after you start noodles to boil, rice cooking or meat browning.
  • Use quick flavor enhancers, such as low-sodium broths and sauces, herb vinegars, hot pepper sauce, garlic powder, onion powder and nuts.

Fast Food Fix

Try apples with fat-free caramel dip, brocco-flowers with low-fat ranch dressing, carrots with peanut butter, or tomato slices topped with a little olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese.

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Pumpkin and Oats Pair Up

Power Packed Foods Pumpkin and Oats Pair Up

The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene. Pair up pumpkin and oats and you have a nutrient powerhouse.

Pair up pumpkin and oats.
Pair up pumpkin and oats.

Beta-carotene is one of the plant carotenoids converted to vitamin A in the body. In the conversion to vitamin A, beta carotene performs many important functions in overall health. Pumpkin is also rich in the important mineral potassium.

Oats contain more soluble fiber than any other grain. Soluble fiber is the kind that dissolves in water, so the body turns it into a kind of thick, viscous gel, which moves very slowly through your body. One of the benefits is that your stomach stays fuller longer, providing satiety.

Soluble fiber also slows the absorption of glucose into the body. This means you can avoid those nasty sugar highs and lows.

Fresh oatsLast but not least, it inhibits the re-absorption of bile into the system, forcing your liver to get its cholesterol fix from your blood. This serves to lower your blood serum cholesterol.

Pair up these two nutrient-packed foods of pumpkin and oats and create delicious Pumpkin-Oat Bars.  The bars are also diabetic friendly!

Pumpkin and Oatmeal Bars

Ingredients:
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 egg
1 cup canned or cooked pumpkin
1-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins (dark or golden)
1/4 cup coconut

Directions:
Cream together the sugar, oil, egg, and pumpkin until light and fluffy.

Stir in the flour, baking powder, soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, coves and orange juice. Add the walnuts and raisins. Mix to blend.

Stir to blend. Pour into a lightly oiled 9-by-13-inch pan.

Sprinkle on the coconut. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool the pan completely on a wire rack for five minutes. Cut into bars.

Recipe yields about 24 Pumpkin and Oats bars.

Best Burger EVER!

Best Burger EVER!

Best Burger Ever
Best Burger EVER!

And it’s not made on the grill. Take it inside and use a cast-iron skillet instead. On your stove-top.

The juices that drop into coals on your grill are better when they don’t leave the patty. When juices collect and caramelize, they produce a crust you can’t match on the grill.

The cooking process:

Mold 1/4 pound of freshly lean ground beef into a ball. Preheat a cast-iron skillet for at least 5 minutes on high heat. When the skillet is ready, spread a tablespoon of oil on the surface, set a timer for 3 minutes. Drop the meat in the pan and salt the uncooked top.

After 1 minute, use a spatula to flip the ball over. Then press down forcefully on the meat with the spatula until it’s 1/2 inch thick. The edges may look a little ragged, but the cracks just mean more opportunity for caramelizing. Salt and pepper, then leave alone for 60 seconds.

Loosen the patty carefully from the griddle and flip one last time, seasoning again. If you’re a cheese-burger person, add your cheese now.

After exactly 3 minutes total, you’ll have a perfect rare burger. A fourth minute gets you to medium rare and another 45 seconds for medium.

Dressing the Best Burger Ever

Dressing the burger.
Dressing the burger.

Green Leaf Lettuce. The wrong lettuce can be watery. Green leaf is not as rigid as iceberg but is still firm.

Plum Tomatoes. Plums have a higher percentage of firmness for that cool crunch.

Potato Bun. Absorbs stray juices without falling apart. Have a nice “sponginess”.

American Cheese. A square slice is the classic flavoring – not too strong, not too weak, and not too gourmet.

How about a Secret Sauce for the Best Burger Ever?

Take 1/2 cup of mayonnaise and stir in a tablespoon each of ketchup and Dijon mustard. Add 4 finely chopped kosher dill pickles, half a clove of chopped garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of adobo sauce from canned chipolte chilies. Blend, serve.

The Best Burger Ever To-Go-With Fries

French fries on serving plate

Cut 6 peeled potatoes into 1/4-inch thick sticks. Soak the sticks in cold water for several hours. Drain and pat dry.

Pour peanut oil into a large, heavy pot or deep fryer to a depth of 3 inches. Heat to 300 degrees. Add the sticks to the oil – don’t over crowd – and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until they are soft and have a light color. Remove potatoes and let them air-dry completely on paper towels (this may take a few hours).

Once the sticks are dry, reheat the oil to 375-degrees. Fry the potatoes in batches until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with sea salt.

These just can’t be beat. In the US, we love firing up our grills like millions of others – some starting on Superbowl Sunday already! So when you do, know how to Remove Carcinogens When Grilling Meat – and enjoy those burgers!

Burger Layers