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Boost nutrition, cut fat

The Baltimore Sun

Cooking Light Complete Cookbook

Oxmoor House / 2008 / $34.95

Cooking Light has been getting more and more sophisticated over the years -- not to mention thicker, with larger sections on travel, beauty and health, more recipes and an increasingly global outlook.

So I was a little surprised to see the magazine's latest "complete" cookbook, released with more than 1,200 recipes just after Cooking Light's 20th anniversary, come in a modest binder form. This is a book that's less flashy than it is user-friendly.

The book begins with a subject that's of interest to many cooks right now -- an "in-season" guide to fresh produce, with recipes that follow the calendar. My only complaint about this section was that it wasn't larger; I thought more recipes could have been presented this way.

Essential for a Cooking Light book, there's a section on techniques for healthful cooking, which not only tells you how to boost nutrition while cutting back on calories and saturated fat, but also has guidance on food safety, including a handy chart on storage times.

As if to prove that light cooking doesn't mean deprivation, the book veers quickly into chapters on bread, cakes, cookies, desserts and pies and pastries before getting to main dishes, salads, soups and other staples. Vegetarians will find plenty of options in the grains and pasta and meatless main dishes chapters. There are vegan recipes, though they're not labeled as such.

The book includes a searchable "dinner tonight" DVD that has 100 menus and 40 how-to videos. You can put in an ingredient you'd like to use and search for a dinner to build around it. A printable shopping list comes with the DVD recipes.

Most important, of course, is how the recipes taste -- and whether they offer the same satisfaction as fuller-fat versions. Seafood Fettuccine passed this test with flying colors. This was one of the magazine's makeover recipes. The "before" version packed a whopping 721 calories and 42 grams of fat a serving. The lightened dish was decadent, delicious and had just 438 calories and 15 grams of fat, thanks to a reduction in butter and cheese and a switch from cream to half-and-half. Both because it's so wonderful and because all that fresh shellfish gets expensive, you'll want to save this one for guests or a special occasion.

Flank Steak With Cilantro-Almond Pesto was more of an everyday recipe, easy to whip up for a weeknight dinner and lower in calories. Lemon-Blueberry Muffins weren't quite as successful as the other recipes we tried. While they were tasty and finished with a pretty glaze, our muffins suffered from a slightly gummy texture.

Seafood Fettuccine

Serves 8

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1 cup chopped green onions

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled (see note)

1 pound sea scallops

2 cups half-and-half

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 pound lump crab meat, shell pieces removed

3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated fresh parmesan cheese (divided use)

8 cups hot cooked fettuccine (about 1 pound uncooked pasta)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic; saute 1 minute or until tender. Add shrimp and scallops; saute 3 minutes or until done. Reduce heat to medium-low.

Add half-and-half, salt, pepper and crab meat. Cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly (do not boil). Gradually sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over seafood mixture, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Combine fettuccine and seafood mixture in a large bowl. Top each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese and 1 1/2 teaspoons parsley.

Note: The sauce is like a traditional Alfredo, with no flour or other thickener. Don't worry if it looks thin. It's the perfect consistency for coating the pasta. Pat the shrimp and scallops dry with paper towels before cooking so they don't dilute the sauce.

Recipe and analysis from "Cooking Light Complete Cookbook"

Per serving: 438 calories, 15 grams fat, 8 grams saturated fat, 39 grams protein, 160 milligrams cholesterol, 747 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber, 38 grams carbohydrate

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