I’m not about to quit serving our family’s favorite dishes, even though we are trying to manage our weight. None of these dishes are fancy, yet they benefit from tradition. Many were once the signature dishes of my grandmother’s, then my mother’s and now mine. When family members come for a visit, they’d feel cheated if I didn’t serve at least one of these old-time favorites.
But given everyone’s concern about keeping surplus pounds off, I’m challenged to be creative at lowering the calorie count of these standby favorites. Moreover, because I don’t want to spend more time in the kitchen than I have to (I’d rather be playing tennis), my calorie-lowering tricks must be simple and quick.
Here are four favorites:
1. Chili: Nothing satisfies like a bowl of hot, steaming chili on a night when the air outside is nippy. To reduce calories, mix one 12-ounce can chopped tomatoes with every 3 cups of chili. The chili flavor is preserved, and the calories are reduced by about one-third. Combine the chili with hearty bread and sliced fresh fruit for a complete meal. I sometimes triple the recipe so I have cartons of frozen chili in reserve for nights when we need a quick dinner.
2. Pasta with Mushrooms and Prawns in Lemon Chicken Sauce: Combine 2 cups cooked pasta, 2 cups raw prawns and 2 cups chopped mushrooms in a big mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, combine 2 12-ounce cans reduced-fat cream of chicken soup and 2/3 cup lemon juice. The sauce will be thick. Combine the sauce with the pasta-prawn-mushroom mixture and transfer it to a shallow, oiled casserole dish. Bake covered at 350 degrees for about 30 to 35 minutes. Add a salad and supper is ready.
3. Meat Loaf: In an oversized mixing bowl, combine 2 pounds ground turkey and 1 pound lean ground beef. Add 2 cups finely chopped onion (we like lots of onion), 1 cup finely shredded cabbage, 2 tablespoons parsley flakes and 2 cups crushed saltines. To add zip to the meat loaf, add 2/3 cup ketchup and 1/3 cup mustard. Season with salt and pepper according to your taste. If the mixture seems dry, add your favorite low-calorie salad dressing until you get the texture you want. To bind the mixture, add 2 eggs and 3/4 cup egg substitute. If you prefer, you can eliminate whole eggs and use egg substitutes. Usually 1/4 cup egg substitute replaces one egg, but check the product you intend to use for equivalency. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for one hour in a loaf pan.
The same recipe can be used for meatballs. Roll the mixture into 1-to-2-inch balls and bake on a cookie sheet for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees. I frequently double this recipe so I can serve meat loaf or meatballs one night and have a second meal ready in the freezer for another time.
4. Crustless Apple Pie: Peel, quarter and thinly slice 3 or 4 Granny Smith apples. Combine apples with 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon flour and 1/2 cup sugar or sugar substitute. Mix and press the apple mixture into a lightly oiled, shallow baking dish (8 inch by 10 inch) and cover lightly with 2 or 3 layers of phyllo dough. Sprinkle sugar or sugar substitute and a little cinnamon on top of the phyllo dough and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. The aroma of baking apples will fill your home. The pie can be served warm or cold with light ice cream or nonfat dairy whipped topping.
When it comes to cooking, I’m no Julia Child, but I am smart enough to figure out that no one in my family is going to give up eating anytime soon. And when my family is hungry, they look to me. Until I hang up my apron, my solution is to find guilt free ways to enjoy our favorites.
If you have clever ways of reducing calories in your family’s favorites, please share them with us.