Kitchen Focus

Making food that's both delicious and good for you is the holy grail of cooking. But tweaking recipes to take advantage of fat and calorie cutting measures is as simple as looking to ingredient substitutions and following your taste buds. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Use condensed low-fat milk instead of whole milk. Skim milk can seem too watery in many recipes. However, condensed milk (sometimes called evaporated milk) has had some of the water evaporated away and can convincingly replace whole milk and even cream in some recipes.
  • Try ground chicken or turkey instead of beef. If you crave the taste of beef, look for the extremely lean ground beef sold in some stores. You will want to include other ingredients, like shredded vegetables or even barbeque sauce, to replace some of the moisture and flavor that are lost with lower fat options.
  • Mix whole wheat and white grains. There is a difference in taste and color between regular and whole wheat flour. By combining whole-wheat flour and white flour when you bake, you can cut calories while keeping the flavor you enjoy. When cooking rice, use half brown rice and half white rice.
  • Use egg yolks sparingly. Two egg whites can replace a whole egg in most recipes, but you may not want to ditch yolks entirely. If a recipe calls for four eggs, use two whole eggs and four egg whites.
  • Use dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. When a recipe calls for chocolate, use dark chocolate or cocoa powder, which has had the fat removed. Also, try mixing dried fruits -- cherries, raisins or cranberries -- into recipes that call for chocolate chips.
  • Use olive oil instead of butter. If you can't cut butter altogether, try adding butter sparingly at the end of cooking for flavor.
  • Use nonfat sour cream. Nonfat sour cream and low-fat half-and-half are great substitutions in sauces. For extra flavor, spice up your sauces and salad dressings with hot sauces, curry powder, lemon juice, and vinegars. Spices help you cut fat as well as salt in a healthy diet.
  • Reduce portion sizes. When plating, start with a smaller amount and see if that satisfies you. Sometimes having a smaller amount of the "real" thing can satisfy you more than a huge plate of "fake" food.
  • Choose a flavorful cheese. The stronger the flavor, the less you have to use to get a strong taste of cheese. Some of my favorites include aged sharp cheddar, smoked cheeses, goat cheese and feta cheese.
  • Sprinkle cheese, chocolate, or nuts on top rather than mixing into batters. As toppings, they deliver concentrated flavor and you don't need a lot of them to get a lot of taste.
  • Substitute panko, extra crisp Japanese breadcrumbs, for ordinary bread or cracker crumbs. Doing so can reduce the crust's fat, calories, and sodium by half. Look for panko in the Asian section of your grocery store.
  • Finely chop nuts, bacon, olives, and other high-fat or high-sodium ingredients. They will distribute more evenly, allowing you to use less without sacrificing taste.

Happy and healthy cooking!

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