Friday, November 2, 2007

Easy to Become a Calorie Conscious Cook

Diet Start

Standard cooking methods need some reworking to make them lowfat and low calorie, and some foods can be used as substitutes, making them great, healthy stand-ins for others. Every calorie-conscious cook should use the following tricks:

Sauté onion and garlic the low-fat way: When a recipe calls for onion and garlic to be cooked in oil, use a nonstick pan and 2 tablespoons of water in place of the oil. Use low heat and cover the pan to coax the natural juices out of the onion and garlic while they tenderize.

Make and use yogurt cheese: Spoon a 16-ounce container of plain, lowfat yogurt (made without gelatin) into a colander lined with cheesecloth or into a paper filter-lined coffee cone. Place it over a bowl in the refrigerator and allow the yogurt to drain for 8 to 24 hours, depending on how firm you want the "cheese" to be. Use well-drained yogurt as a cream cheese substitute; when softer, you can use it in place of sour cream or heavy cream.

caloryMake your own vinaigrette salad dressing: The standard vinaigrette dressing (3 parts oil to I part vinegar) weighs in at about 90 calories a tablespoon. If you used more vinegar than oil, the calorie count would be great, but your salad would be unbearably pungent. Instead, use 1 part oil; 1 part flavorful yet mellow vinegar, such as balsamic; and I part strong black tea or citrus juice, such as orange or grapefruit.

Roast garlic: When roasted, garlic is transformed into a rich, buttery, nonbiting, nonodorous spread that you can substitute for mayonnaise in potato, pasta, and chicken salads. It's also delicious when spread on bread in place of butter or oil. Bake a head of garlic, trimmed to expose the cloves and sealed in foil with a scant tablespoon of water, for 45 minutes in a 400 degree F oven. Unwrap and cool it until it's easy to handle and then simply squeeze the garlic from its skin.

Use aged cheese: The stronger the flavor, the less you need. When a recipe calls for a mild cheese, such as mozzarella or Monterey Jack, whose flavor often disappears when cooked, substitute aged cheddar, Asiago, imported Parmesan, or an aged and smoked cheese, such as smoked Gouda. For the greatest bang for the bite, use these cheeses only where you see them, like on top of a dish, or when the recipe would suffer without the taste of cheese.

Roast vegetables: You know that you need to eat more vegetables, but you may be bored by plain steamed ones. Roast them instead in a hot oven, and you'll caramelize the natural sugars that they contain and add a depth of flavor that naked veggies lack. Set the oven to 450 degrees F. Slice large vegetables in half or cut them into %z-inch thick slices and arrange in a single layer. Lightly spritz them using a pump bottle filled with olive oil to prevent them from drying. Cook them according to the following suggested guidelines:

Beet halves: Roast for 1 to 11/2 hours.

Winter squash slices: Roast for 8 to 12 minutes.

Carrots: Roast for 15 to 20 minutes.

Green beans and red pepper strips: Roast for about 12 minutes.

Onion halves: Roast for about 30 minutes.

Sweet potato slices: Roast for 15 minutes.

Summer squash or zucchini slices: Roast for 5 to 8 minutes.

Eggplant slices: Roast for 10 to 15 minutes.

To lightly and evenly coat vegetables before roasting or to lightly dress a salad, drizzle a bit of oil or vinaigrette in an empty bowl. Then add the ingredients and toss.

Use sun-dried tomatoes in place of bacon: You can easily duplicate the mellow richness and smokiness that fatty pork adds to soups, stews, and pizzas with chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Don't use the oil-packed ones unless you drain them well and blot them dry. You can soften up the dried ones in a bit of hot water.

Brown butter to use less: Heat a bit of butter in a skillet until it becomes fragrant and begins to turn nutty brown. You'll punch up its flavor, so you can use less. A tiny bit drizzled over corn on the cob, eggs, or vegetables tastes like you're using much more.

Toast nuts for greater flavor bang: Heat the oven to 350 degrees F and toast nuts - on a cookie sheet in a single layer - for five minutes or until fragrant. Stir them to prevent scorching. Treat toasted nuts in a recipe as you would cheese: Use them only where the flavor really counts or where they'll be seen, such as on the top of a bread.

Switch from chocolate to cocoa powder: You can replace one ounce of chocolate (135 calories) with 3 tablespoons of cocoa (35 calories). Dutch-processed cocoa is richer and more intense than the American varieties; dutching neutralizes the natural acidity in cocoa powder, making the flavor mellower and the color darker.

... andjoyohoxing