'Low-fat' doesn't have to mean 'no-taste'


I took a cruise last summer that held all the usual perils of the sea. You know the kinds I mean -- the sumptuous buffets, seductive desserts and nonstop eating that can turn into a test of gastric endurance.

It was obvious I was sailing into a sea of trouble, and when I returned home, the computer printout from the hospital lab confirmed my suspicions. I needed to get serious about changing my lifestyle. My doctor's directives, in plain English, were: "Decrease fat. Increase exercise."

OK, I was willing to make some changes. I picked up as many low-fat cookbooks as I could find. They made quite a stack.

Most of my kitchen adventures turned out rather well. I learned to substitute low-fat or nonfat cheese, milk, sour cream, cream cheese and mayonnaise for the fatty version. Other ideas: Saute onions and garlic or other vegetables in water, broth or wine instead of oil. Use herbs -- especially fresh ones -- as flavor boosters. Substitute two egg whites for one whole egg. Use nonstick vegetable cooking spray instead of butter for greasing pans and griddles. Thicken sauces with arrowroot instead of flour and butter. Use nonfat evaporated milk in place of cream.

The recipes that follow incorporate some of these ideas to reduce fat but not flavor.

Herbed Turkey Burgers

To get the leanest possible ground turkey, have the butcher grind a piece of skinless turkey breast for you. Or, chop the turkey at home in a food processor. Commercially ground turkey may contain dark meat, which is fattier than white.

Makes 6 patties

3 medium green onions

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup packed parsley sprigs

1 pound ground skinless turkey breast

1/2 cup fine, unseasoned bread crumbs

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 egg white

1 teaspoon dried thyme


1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

Mince green onions, garlic and parsley in food processor.

Combine minced vegetables with turkey, bread crumbs, mustard, Worcestershire, egg white, thyme, salt to taste and pepper in medium bowl. Mix to blend well. Divide mixture into 6 equal portions and form them into patties 1/2 inch thick.

In large nonstick skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add turkey patties and cook until well browned on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes for first side and 2 to 4 minutes for second side.

(From "The Wellness Lowfat Cookbook," by the editors of the Wellness Cooking School and the University of California at Berkeley, Rebus Inc.)

Baked French Wedge Potatoes

Makes 6 servings

4 medium potatoes, unpeeled

2 tablespoons margarine, melted

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon crushed garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Scrub potatoes. Cut each into 8 wedges. Place on baking sheet sprayed with nonstick vegetable spray.

Combine margarine, chili powder, basil, garlic and parsley in small bowl. Brush half over potatoes. Sprinkle with half of cheese. Bake at 375 degrees 30 minutes. Turn wedges over. Brush with remaining mixture and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 30 minutes longer.

(From "Rose Reisman Brings Home Light Cooking," MCM Books.)

Garlic, Chili, Corn and Summer Squash

Makes 4 servings

1/4 cup water, nonfat chicken broth, vegetable broth or wine

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 1/2 cups diced yellow summer squash

1/4 cup canned mild or hot green chilies, drained and minced

1 1/2 cups cooked fresh, frozen or canned corn kernels

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Heat water in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook and stir 5 minutes over low heat. Add squash and chilies. Cook and stir 8 minutes, adding more liquid if necessary. Add corn, parsley and pepper. Cook and stir 2 minutes longer.

(From "500 Fat-Free Recipes," by Sarah Schlesinger, Villard Books.)

Ginger-Molasses Pancakes

Makes 4 servings (2 pancakes each)

These pancakes have the flavor of gingerbread. Try serving them topped with spiced applesauce.

1 cup unbleached flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

dash ground cloves

1/2 cup nonfat milk

1 tablespoon apple butter

3 tablespoons molasses

2 egg whites, at room temperature

Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and cloves into large bowl. Stir in milk, apple butter and molasses.

Beat egg whites in separate bowl with electric mixer on high until stiff. Gently fold egg whites into pancake batter.

Spoon 1/4 cup batter for each pancake on nonstick griddle or skillet, or griddle or skillet lightly sprayed with vegetable cooking spray. Turn pancakes when tops are covered with bubbles and edges are lightly browned. Cook on second side 2 minutes or until browned.

(From "500 Fat-Free Recipes," by Sarah Schlesinger, Villard Books.)

Blueberry Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

1 3/4 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup oat bran

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup nonfat milk

3 egg whites, beaten until white and frothy

1 cup frozen blueberries, defrosted and well-drained

Pulse rolled oats and oat bran in food processor 10 seconds. Reserve 2 tablespoons oat mixture. Combine remaining oat mixture with baking soda and cinnamon in medium bowl. Mix well. Set aside.

Combine applesauce, honey, vanilla and milk in small bowl. Pour into oat mixture. Stir until just blended. Gently mix in egg whites. Do not over-mix.

Dust well-drained and dried blueberries with 2 tablespoons reserved oat mixture. Gently fold blueberries into batter. Divide mixture evenly into cups of nonstick muffin pan. Bake at 350 degrees 20 to 25 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove muffins from pan.

(From "Baking Without Fat," by George Mateljan, Health Valley Foods.)

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