One of my resolutions for 2010 is to make simple, small changes in my everyday life — to cook better, eat better and live a healthier, better life. Was that on your list?
If you did include making your life/ diet healthier, then here are a few food swap ideas that will give your cooking a “healthy” makeover.
Salt is a simple thing to reduce in your recipes. Look for low-sodium substitutes or add herbs and spices to jazz up the flavor of your food (i.e. Mrs. Dash seasoning). If you do not want to give up salt altogether, try usinghalftheamount. Keep cutting back slowly on your salt use, especially at the table, until eventually you cut it out altogether or you are using very little.
Sugar in most recipes, especially when baking, can easily be reduced by one-third the amount without sacrificing taste or quality. However, if you find it not sweet enough, or you would like to eliminate the sugar entirely in the recipe, try adding or using a sugar substitute such as Splenda. Besides the no-calorie sweetener, Splenda puts out a sugar blend and brown sugar blend for cooking and baking. To figure out the replacement amounts of Splenda to sugar, go to www.splenda.com/ splendaconversionchart. In addition to the chart, Splenda also provides a calculator on the same page that you can use for individual recipes.
Honey is also another good sugar substitute. I use threefourths cup plus one-tablespoon honey in place of one cup of sugar, and reduce the other liquid ingredients by 2 tablespoons.
I turned to honey when I was trying to wean off sugar in my morning coffee, then I kept reducing the honey amount until I finally eliminated it all together. Fruit juice concentrates, such as apple juice, orange juice or white grape juice concentrates, are wonderful substitutes for sugar and add interesting flavors as well. Use three-fourths cup for every one cup of white sugar and decrease the amount of liquid by three tablespoons. The substitution/replacement suggestions and amounts I have given are only basic guidelines. You should sweeten your recipes to your own taste.
Reduce the oil and butter used in baking or try substituting unsweetened applesauce for a portion of these in your recipes. For instance, if your recipe calls for one cup of vegetable oil, omit the oil and use one cup of applesauce instead.
Pumpkin or prune puree (baby food prunes work well) or mashed bananas are other good alternatives to oil or butter.
Substituting any of these for butter in a recipe is trickier because you will lose the butter flavor, but don’t be afraid to experiment.
I use olive oil a lot in my cooking and I try not to “fry” food in oil or butter.
Although, every now and then my craving for deep fried foods rears its head and I have to indulge.
Cooking sprays come in a variety of flavors, and are a good alternative for pan-frying or sautéing, and really come in handy for greasing muffin or baking pans.
When cooking or baking, use fewer egg yolks and more egg whites in your recipes.
Do this by separating the eggs and use the whites without the yolks. If a recipe calls for four large eggs, use two whole ones, then separate the other two eggs and use the whites only. A handy alternative to fresh eggs is to use a store bought egg substitute instead.
Replace a portion of your white flour with whole grain flour. This adds nutritional value to your recipes.
Another great addition to add is ground flax; it adds a host of healthy fats as well as fiber.
Substitute ground turkey or chicken in recipes calling for ground beef. Also, purchase lean cuts of meat and trim away the fat from fattier cuts.
Years ago, I made homemade yogurt on a daily basis. I used it as a substitute for sour cream in cooking, baking, topping or just plain eating. It tasted great (tangier and lighter than sour cream) on baked potatoes and burritos; it also was a good base for dips or used anywhere a recipe called for sour cream.
Most of us know what is good for us and what is not, but sometimes I find it hard to restrict my diet and ignore my food cravings.
Rather than feeling deprived or guilty for hammering down a plateful of greasy french fries, I have shifted my attitude — it is all about moderation.
2 packages Ramen Noodles
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
1 small can water chestnuts
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup cashews
Soak the noodles in warm water for 15 minutes, then drain.
In a large bowl, combine the oil, sugar, soy sauce and vinegar. Add the softened noodles, onions, oranges and water chestnuts.
Place in the refrigerator and let it sit for 4-6 hours before serving to meld the flavors together. Add the sunflower seeds and cashew just prior to serving.
Note: Chopped fresh spinach is a good addition. Any sort of pasta would be good in this salad. If you would prefer bowtie or macaroni, feel free to use those.
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 large zucchini
3 plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes (leave whole)
3 medium sweet onions
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
2-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2-1/2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped or 1-1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup Feta Cheese (or more to taste)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Oil lightly (with olive oil) an 11-by-15 shallow baking sheet.
For even cooking, cut all vegetables into the same size chunks.
In a large bowl, toss the vegetables with the olive oil and seasonings, then spread the mixture evenly onto the pan.
Roast uncovered 15 minutes, stir, and roast 15-20 minutes more.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the feta cheese.
Note: This is a versatile dish; use the veggies you like, eliminate the ones you don’t. Adjust the seasonings to your taste. If you don’t like feta cheese, leave it off the vegetables. If you prefer sweeter tasting yellow or orange peppers, use those in place of red and green peppers.
Mom Jane’s Brown Bread
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (see note)
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup molasses
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup graham flour
1 cup raisins
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix the sugar, molasses and oil together with an electric mixer.
In separate bowl, mix flours, baking soda and salt together. Add the buttermilk and flour mixture to the sugar mixture, alternating between the two; mix well. Stir in the raisins.
Place the mixture in a greased and floured loaf-baking pan and bake for one hour.
Test the loaf for doneness by sticking a toothpick in the middle. If it comes out clean, it is done, if sticky, let it bake another couple of minutes.
Note: If you don’t have buttermilk, make sour milk. Stir one cup of whole milk with one tablespoon vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar) or lemon juice. Let it sit for about five minutes.