You know the expression “rules are made to be broken?” Well, if you’re calorie watching, “break the rules” is better cooking advice than “follow the directions.” Omitting fattening ingredients and cooking techniques can save you calories, usually without compromising the results.
Leaving out the oil, omitting the sugar, cutting down on the butter or intentionally bypassing the browning step can save time as well as calories!
Here’s some rule-bending calorie-cutting advice on how to cook low calorie foods:
• Casserole recipes that call for frying ground beef in oil will be low in calories if you brown the meat under the broiler on a perforated pan. Drain well to eliminate as much fat as possible.
• Onions will have more flavor and fewer calories if you don’t brown them first.
• Plain tomato juice, simmered down to sauce consistency, can stand in for tomato soup or tomato sauce (which may contain fat and fillers, starches and sugars). Use a low-salt variety and omit added salt.
• The fat, butter or shortening called for in muffin, biscuit or quick-bread recipes can be cut in half or eliminated altogether. Add more milk or water to get the right consistency.
• Evaporated skim milk, fresh skim milk or fruit juice can be substituted for the cream or evaporated whole milk called for in pumpkin pie filling recipes. If you substitute fruit juice, you can also cut down on the sugar and lower the amount of calories.
• “Creamed” soups that call for the addition of milk will be just as creamy if you substitute skim milk. Or try half skim milk and half water.
• Cocoa powder can substitute for chocolate. And regardless of what your cookbook tells you, it’s not necessary to add fat when you replace baking chocolate with powdered cocoa. Use 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder in place of 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate
• Substitute four egg whites for two whole eggs. Or use egg substitute.
• Sour cream can be replaced by plain low-fat yogurt. Or use blender-whipped cottage cheese diluted to sour creaminess with a little water and lemon juice. Any dip mix that calls for sour cream can be decalorized with these sour cream substitutes.
• Revise the directions. Ignoring the directions can work with packaged mixes, too. If the back of the box calls for the addition of unwanted calories, why follow the command blindly? Ask yourself if this ingredient is really necessary. Often you’ll be delighted to find that the ingredient wasn’t really needed and you have saved several hundred calories. If you’re afraid to omit the ingredient, try cutting the amount in half. If the recipe still succeeds, next time you can lower the amount even further and perhaps eventually risk leaving it out altogether.
• Rice mixes often suggest that you first brown the dry rice in fat or oil. This step can be omitted. You can also ignore the suggestion that you add 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter to the mix. Or you can substitute margarine or diet margarine.
• Dressing and stuffing mixes usually call for the addition of water and fat (butter, margarine, oil or shortening), but the fat isn’t necessary – leave it out! You can improve the flavor of packaged mixes by substituting canned or homemade fat-skimmed broth for the water.
• Sometimes more is less! Try adding more onion, celery, carrots, parsley and other fresh vegetables to rice or stuffing mixes, or meatloaf recipes. You’ll stretch the number of servings and make each serving lower in calories, while boosting nutrition and natural fiber content. By following this advice alone you will learn how to cook low calorie foods.
Because fresh vegetables have lots of natural moisture, reduce the amount of water added to the mixture. Change the ratio.
• Dry salad dressing mixes direct you to combine the mix, salad oil, vinegar and water. You can cut calories by changing the ratio: less oil, more water and vinegar.
• Marinades and basting mixes often call for the addition of large amounts of oil, even though the oil adds no flavor and does nothing to promote tenderness. Cut down or eliminate the oil. To make up for the missing oil, increase the other liquids. Water, unsweetened fruit juice, tomato juice or dry wine can be used in place of the oil. Most steaks, chops, burgers and other meat foods have enough fat of their own, so no added oil is needed.
• Sauces and salad dressings based on mayonnaise can be cut in half calorically simply by substituting the low-fat (“light”) kind in place of the “real” (real fattening!) version.
• “Light,” low-calorie and low-fat bottled commercial salad dressings can stand in for the more fattening brands in barbecue recipes that call for salad dressing as a marinade. Try beef or chicken marinated with low-calorie French or Italian dressing.
• Pancake and waffle mixes that call for the addition of milk, eggs and oil can be calorie-reduced if you simply omit the oil. You can cut calories further by substituting skim milk for whole milk. Or use diluted skim milk (half milk, half water). Or simply substitute water for milk. Whole eggs can be replaced by cholesterol-free substitute or egg whites.
• Molded desserts and salads that call for sugary gelatin dessert mixes can be made with sugar-free gelatin mixes. Or make them naturally healthy and sugar-free by substituting plain gelatin and boiling fruit juice. Use one envelope of plain gelatin and 2 cups of boiling juice in place of the mix and boiling water the recipe calls for.
You will be pleasantly surprised to which extent the above tips on how to cook low calorie foods can save you time and money as well as calories.