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All-American Food Recipe Makeovers

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Recipe Makeovers for All-American Food

Cook lighter versions of American cuisine classics.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Reviewed by Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD / LD

I love all of the kitchens that make up our American food culture. Where else can you find almost any type of food under the sun, from Indian to Thai, Chinese and Japanese; Italian, Greek, French, Mexican, Cuban, Vietnamese, Indonesian and more? However, there are still foods that are unmistakably American.

There are foods that may have been invented elsewhere but turned into American phenomena, such as french fries, fruit cakes, cupcakes, popcorn, bagels, pizza, and the entire "salads" category. There are foods we made ourselves, like pancakes and waffles, grilled cheese sandwiches, and muffins. And then there is really American food invented by Americans on American soil, such as toll house cookies, corn dogs, cornbread, donuts, potato chips, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Another great American food contribution: Almost anything ice related, like ice cream sandwiches, sundaes of hot fudge, and root beer floats.

All of these all-American foods are fantastic and part of our culinary heritage. The problem is, most of them are low in nutrients and low in fiber - but a lot of calories. Admittedly, some classic American foods cannot be overworked while retaining their desirable properties - donuts, for example. But many others can be "treated" to have fewer calories and fat while still staying true to the delicious food that Americans have come to know and love.

Here are 12 all-American foods great for cutting calories, followed by some brightened up American recipes.

American Food Makeover # 1: Apple Pie

According to The Food Encyclopediasa) Apples were introduced to North America from Europe and Western Asia in the 17th century. Apple dishes have been interwoven in American cuisine ever since, from apple chips to caramel apples to apple pie.

Makeover Tips: Make a lighter apple pie by using a low-fat, partially whole grain crust and using less sugar in the filling. The filling or the top crust also does not have to be "dotted" with butter.

American Food Makeover # 2: Chocolate Chip Cookies

By most standards, the chocolate chip cookie is the epitome of an American biscuit. And one of the most famous chocolate chip cookies is the Toll House Cookie. Ruth Graves Wakefield made America's original chocolate chip cookie from small pieces of semi-sweet chocolate in 1939 at her Toll House Inn near Whitman, Massachusetts The new food lover's companion.

Makeover Tips: Use a low-fat margarine with plant sterols instead of stick butter or margarine in your chocolate chip cookie recipe. You can cut the sugar by a quarter and replace half of the white flour with whole wheat flour. Using a little less chocolate chips will also shave some calories and fat grams.

American Food Makeover # 3: Corn Bread

This is an all-American fast bread that is made in all different styles (Mediterranean, frying pan, sweet) with all sorts of features (green pepper, cheese, bacon, onion, etc.). There have been all sorts of names for cornbread, and there are many variations that are part of American culinary history, such as johnnycakes, hushpuppies, and spoonbreads.

Makeover Tips: Make cornbread recipes easier by using less fat in the batter (replace bacon fat, lard, or shortening with a low-fat margarine with plant sterols) and replace that fat with low-fat buttermilk or fat-free sour cream. For some recipes, you can make a fat substitute mixture of canola oil and non-fat sour cream. Use fewer eggs (replace two egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitutes). If your recipe calls for ingredients like bacon or cheese to stir in, consider using a low-fat option and adding less of it. Increase the fiber in your cornbread by replacing half of the white flour you need with whole wheat flour.

American Food Makeover # 4: Corn Dogs

This popular carnival and state fair, where a hot dog on a stick is dipped in thick cornbread batter and deep-fried, was created for the state fair in 1942 by Texan Neil Fletcher The new food lover's companion.

Makeover Tips: Use leaner dogs (there are several "light" brands) and bake your corn dog until the cornbread batter is firm instead of deep-frying it. If deep-frying is a must, use at least one cooking fat that is higher in monounsaturated fat, preferably one that also contains vegetable omega-3s (like canola oil).

American Food Makeover # 5: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Most of us grew up on mommy's grilled cheese sandwiches. They are also standard rates for guests across the country.

Makeover Tips: Make a healthier grilled cheese sandwich by using whole grain or multigrain bread (multigrain sourdough is delicious), low-fat cheese, or a little less of the regular cheese. Instead of buttering them, quickly spray the outsides of the bread with canola oil before placing it on your non-stick griddle or pan.

American Food Makeover # 6: Muffins

Muffins are very popular on the American breakfast and dinner table. American muffins are usually leavened with baking soda or baking soda instead of yeast. They offer a wide variety of ingredients and flavors, from savory to sweet.

Makeover Tips: You can reduce the fat in your muffin batter - you really only need about 2 tablespoons of oil for every 12 small muffins. You can also replace half of the white flour with whole grain wheat. And you can cut down the sugar and add ingredients like fresh or dried fruit, ground cinnamon, and roasted nuts to give the flavor a boost.

American Food Makeover # 7: Pancakes

Many countries have their own version of pancakes: thin or thick; small or large; filled or topped with delicious ingredients. American pancakes are often made with buttermilk, are typically thicker than other pancakes around the world, and are generally around 4 inches wide.

Makeover Tips: Make lighter pancakes by adding less fat to the batter, using low-fat milk or buttermilk, and adding very little fat (if any) to the pan. But that's only half the health battle with pancakes - it's what people do with the pancakes after they cook that can really pile the calories. Keep added butter, whipped cream, and syrup to a minimum and switch to reduced calorie pancake syrup if possible. If you really need to add butter, go for the whipped variety.

American Food Makeover # 8: Pizza

Pizza may have started in Italy, but America made it the popular food it is today. American pizza chains are constantly trying to come up with new and exciting toppings, along with crust variations like filled, deep dish, or crispy.

Makeover Tips: Avoid greasy pizza places and look for more authentic pizzerias with a bread-like crust, lots of nutritious pizza sauce, and a moderate amount of cheese. Choose vegetables as toppings instead of high-fat meat. If you're making pizza at home, replace half of the white flour with whole wheat flour. You can also choose a semi-skimmed or low-fat cheese.

American Food Makeover # 9: Popcorn

Most people can't go to the movies without buying popcorn. For many, it's the standard snack at the end of a long day at work or at school. A common equation for popcorn is that a tablespoon of oil plus 1/2 cup of corn kernels pops up to about 4 cups. And that doesn't even include the butter that is usually drizzled over it.

Makeover Tips: Use less oil when popping the corn and add less butter after popping. Basically, this is what popcorn makers are doing with their light microwave popcorn options.

American Food Makeover # 10: Potato Chips

These crunchy snack-time favorites were reportedly invented by a cook at Moon's Lake Lodge in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1853. One guest insisted on extra thin fries, so Chef George Crumb cut the potatoes thinly and made them crispy when fried.

Makeover Tips: You need some oil if you're making potato chips (without this they would just taste like dried potatoes), but the trick is to use less of them. To achieve this, bake thinly sliced ​​potatoes with a light layer of canola cooking spray or a light brush of canola oil instead of deep-frying them.

American Food Makeover # 11: Potato Salad

The American rendition of creamy potato salad - a standard at delis, picnics, and barbecues - is dressed in mayonnaise. The German-style potato salad uses a warm vinaigrette that is traditionally made from bacon fat.

Makeover Tips: Instead of using regular mayonnaise, make a light mayo dressing by using half light mayonnaise and half fat-free sour cream. Refine the taste of the dressing with honey mustard or relish, freshly ground black pepper or herbs and spices.

American Food Makeover # 12: Root Beer Float

These are on the menu in many American cities in ice cream parlors and old-fashioned soda fountains.The original root beer was a low-alcohol carbonated drink that was made in Philadelphia, according to a druggist The Food Encyclopedia. Today's root beer is of course a soda pop with flavors reminiscent of that earlier drink.

Makeover Tips: Make a low calorie root beer floating by using diet root beer and lighten the "float". Most supermarkets have delicious light vanilla ice cream and frozen yogurt.

All-American Recipe Makeovers

Here are my lightened versions of potato salad, potato chips, corn bread, and an apple dish (Waldorf salad).

All-American light potato salad

The great thing about this recipe is that you don't have to cook the potatoes!

4 rust-red potatoes with peel (large pink or white potatoes can be substituted)
1/4 cup of light mayonnaise
1/4 cup non-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon honey mustard (add 1 more tablespoon if desired)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 cup of diced or chopped celery
1/3 cup diced or chopped red peppers
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley (normal or Italian)
1/2 teaspoon paprika (optional)

  • Wash the outside of the potatoes well, then cut them into 1-inch cubes. Place the potato pieces in a large, microwave-safe vegetable cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for about 6 minutes. Stir the potatoes, cover the stove, and cook on HIGH until the potatoes are just tender (about 4-6 minutes longer).
  • While the potatoes are cooling, add the mayonnaise, sour cream, honey mustard, pepper, and salt (if desired) to a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
  • Stir in the chilled potatoes, celery, paprika, spring onions and parsley. Cover and chill until serving (at least an hour). Sprinkle a dash or two of paprika on top before serving, if desired.

Yield: approx. 6 cups of lettuce (eight 3/4 cup servings)

Per serving: 148 calories, 3 g protein, 29 g carbohydrates, 2.3 g fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 89 mg sodium (216 mg if the salt is added). Calories from fat: 14%.

Baked Spiced Potato Chips

2 teaspoons of rapeseed oil
1 large rust-red potato (or 2 medium-sized), about 10 ounces
Rapeseed cooking spray
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush canola oil over the bottom of a coated jellyroll pan.
  • Use a large, sharp, non-serrated knife to cut the potato into very thin slices (about 1 cm thick).
  • Immediately place the potato slices flat on the prepared pan (they should completely cover the bottom of the pan). Spray the tips with rapeseed cooking spray and sprinkle with the seasoned salt.
  • Bake for about 22-25 minutes and watch closely. Remove the browned and crispy french fries and continue cooking the remaining french fries until they are nice and crispy - another 5 minutes or so.

Yield: 3 servings

Per serving: 137 calories, 3 g protein, 25 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 0.2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2.5 g fiber, 239 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 20%.

mexican corn bread

This is a variation on corn bread - a savory rather than a sweet corn bread.

1 cup of yellow corn flour
1 cup of unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 large egg
1 cup of low-fat milk
1/4 cup non-fat sour cream
1 cup of corn, fresh or frozen, thawed
1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 or 2 jalapeno chillies, pitted and finely chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup crushed low fat cheddar cheese

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Put the egg, milk, and sour cream in a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until mixed. Stir in corn.
  • In a non-stick pan over medium-high heat, add canola oil. When the oil is hot, sauté the onions, chillies, and tomatoes until the onions are tender. Let cool for a few minutes.
  • Add the onion mixture and dry ingredients to the mixing bowl with the egg mixture and beat on low speed until everything is mixed, scraping the sides of the bowl halfway. Stir in the cheese and pour the mixture into an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan coated with canola cooking spray.
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the cornbread is cooked through and is slightly golden on top.

Yield: 9 servings

Per serving: 189 calories, 7.5 g protein, 31 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 1.2 g saturated fat, 28 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 500 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 20%.

Waldorf Salad

1/4 cup of light mayonnaise
1/4 cup light or regular plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream
2 teaspoons of sugar
3/4 teaspoon lemon juice
3 apples, peeled, cored and chopped (approx. 3 cups)
1 cup thinly sliced ​​celery
1/3 cup pieces of walnut (or coarsely chopped walnuts)
1/3 cup dried fruits like raisins, cherries, or cranberries (optional)

  • Add the mayonnaise, yogurt or sour cream, sugar, and lemon juice to the serving bowl and whisk well.
  • Add apple pieces, celery, walnuts, and dried fruits if desired and toss everything together. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Yield: Approximately 4 1/2 cups (9.1 1/2 cup servings)

Per serving: 90 calories, 2 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, 4.5 g fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1.3 g fiber, 66 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 45%.

Published June 29, 2007

SOURCES: Rolland, J. and Sherman, C. The Food Encyclopedia, 2004, Robert Rose Publishing. Herbst, S.T. The new food lover's companion, 2001, Barrons Verlag.

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