In this section we’ve given you lots of cooking tips on how to reduce sugar and salt in your cooking. For this holiday article, we’re going to talk about reducing fat in your holiday cooking, not only to save considerable calories, but lots of fat grams (especially saturated fat grams) and milligrams of cholesterol. The days of eating unlimited fat in the form of fudge, butter cookies, fruit cake, and others foods loaded with butter are past, but that doesn’t mean that you’re left with nothing but dull, flavorless food. You just have to know some basic tricks to reduce fat here and there to end up with some really tasty (and healthy) holiday food.
Obviously in low-fat holiday cooking and baking, heavy cream is a no-no. One-half cup of heavy (whipping) cream, which contains 36 to 40% butterfat, obtains 95% of its calories from fat), and contains 420 calories, 44 grams of fat (27.5 grams of which are saturated fat), and 163 milligrams of cholesterol. As a substitute for heavy cream in a sauce, you could use low-fat ricotta cheese or low-fat cottage cheese, whipped in a blender, then stirred into low-fat plain yogurt.
Sour cream is fermented heavy cream. Fortunately there are several excellent brands of low-fat or fat-free sour cream available for cooking or baking. Choose brands made from skim milk (you’ll need to read the label). Do not use imitation or nondairy sour cream as they are frequently made from tropical oils or are made with hydrogenated fat. You can also use low-fat or nonfat yogurt or homemade Yogurt Cheese (see recipe below).
Eggs are an essential part of holiday cooking and baking. They aid in leavening, add richness, and contribute to the texture, structure, color, and flavor of baked goods. A large whole egg contains 75 calories (62% of which comes from fat). The yolk contains all of the egg’s fat (5.5 grams of which 1.6 grams are saturated). The yolk also contains all of the egg’s cholesterol, 21.3 milligrams. The egg white is friendly to the low-fat baker as it contains zero fat and zero cholesterol. If you’re trying to reduce fat in your cooking and cholesterol isn’t a factor, you’ll get more flavor and better texture by using some egg yolk, for example one whole egg plus two egg whites for every two eggs.
Egg substitutes can also be used not only in egg dishes, but in breads, muffins, cakes, cookies, casseroles, sauces, and puddings. Don’t use egg substitutes in creampuffs or popovers as the creampuffs or popovers won’t puff or pop. Try different brands of liquid egg substitute-they don’t all taste the same. Settle on the brand that you think gives a flavor closest to the “real thing.” One-fourth cup (60 ml) liquid egg substitute equals one large fresh egg. For recipes calling for egg yolks, use three tablespoons (45 ml) egg substitute per yolk.
Cream cheese is a rich, soft cheese made from fresh milk and cream. The most popular brand in the United States is Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese. It gets 43% of its calories from fat. A Kraft’s low-fat variety, Philadelphia Light Cream Cheese has a similar taste and texture to regular cream cheese at half the fat, and is excellent in cooking and baking. Fat-free cream cheese is greasier, doesn’t have the same flavor, and should never be cooked. As another substitute for regular cream cheese, you could use homemade Yogurt Cheese (see recipe below). You can also substitute non-fat or low-fat cottage cheese that has been drained and pressed dry in a strainer, then whipped smooth in a food processor or blender.
Cheese, frequently used in holiday cooking, is also a source of fat. Reduced fat cheese has about half the calories and fat of regular cheese. We’ve found excellent brands of low-fat mozzarella, cheddar, Swiss, goat cheese, and feta cheese. Again all brands are not the same-experiment until you find one that you like. Low-fat cheese melts in the same way as mild regular cheese, but will toughen with high or direct heat. Use low heat, and if adding to a sauce, stir in only one direction, adding a smidgen of flour or cornstarch to the shredded cheese before adding it to the sauce. Fat-free cheese will not melt smoothly. We serve it cold or add it to cooked dishes knowing that we’ll get a change in texture and loss of flavor. You can also mix low-fat and fat-free cheeses when cooking to reduce calories but still retain some of the melting capability and taste.
Chocolate seems to be synonymous with the holidays. To reduce fat, and particularly saturated fat, in your holiday baking, use as little solid chocolate as possible. To give the illusion of chocolate, we suggest grating a little on top of a dessert, or use cocoa powder as a substitute for chocolate in the actual dessert. Since it’s used for flavoring, use the best brand of cocoa that you can afford. To substitute cocoa powder for solid unsweetened chocolate, use 3 level tablespoons (24 g) of cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon of canola (15 ml) oil per each ounce of chocolate.
Another good way to cut back the fat in holiday cooking and baking is to cut out or cut back on the nuts that you use. Although they impart a unique flavor and texture to cooking and baking, nuts are high in fat-64% calories from fat in walnuts and 65% in pecans. If you use nuts at all, stick to almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts. Absolutely do not use Brazil nuts, cashews, and macadamia nuts. Keep coconut to a minimum, if used at all. Sometimes to give the illusion of nut flavor, you can substitute a nut oil for part of the oil in a recipe-we keep almond, hazelnut, peanut, and walnut in our pantry for such uses.
To maintain the desired texture in baked goods, you can use fruit purees in place of some of the fat-applesauce, prune puree, and mashed bananas. To make up for the tenderness contributed by fat that you replace in an original baked goods recipe, sometimes using cake flour in place of unbleached all-purpose flour will help, but cake flour absorbs less moisture than all-purpose flour so the amount of liquid used will need adjusting. To substitute cake flour for all-purpose flour, use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (140 g) cake flour for each cup (140 g) all-purpose.
Now that you’ve learned some new lower-fat cooking techniques, it’s time to get into the kitchen and enjoy a lighter holiday.Yogurt Cheese
(makes about 1 cup)
Not really a true cheese, yogurt cheese is merely thickened yogurt with the whey drained away. It’s a staple in our refrigerators since it makes a wonderful substitute for fresh cheeses, such as cream cheese. Yogurt cheese is used throughout the Mediterranean as a spread for breakfast breads.
When you add minced fresh herbs, you get a great low-fat substitute for French Boursin cheese. You can buy a yogurt cheese drainer at a specialty cookware shop, or we find that a coffee filter or a double thickness of cheesecloth inside a fine sieve works just as well.
You’ll want to experiment with different brands of yogurt until you find one that pleases you. Be sure that the yogurt you use does not contain any added gelatin or other thickener. The following recipe is reprinted from our cookbooks: The Joslin Diabetes Gourmet Cookbook (Bantam Books) and The Joslin Diabetes Quick and Easy Cookbook (Fireside: Simon & Schuster).
2 cups plain low fat or nonfat yogurt
- Line a sieve with a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Suspend the sieve over a deep bowl. Place the yogurt in the filter and refrigerate for several hours or overnight to allow the whey to drain out. When the yogurt has the consistency of a soft cream cheese, scrape the yogurt away from the filter and transfer it to a plastic container.
- Discard the liquid in the bowl and refrigerate the yogurt cheese. Use within 1 week, discarding any accumulated liquid before using.
|Per 1 tablespoon (15 ml) serving made with low fat yogurt:||12 calories (19% calories from fat), 1 g protein, <1 g total fat (0.1 g saturated fat), 1 g carbohydrates, 0 dietary fiber, 1 mg cholesterol, 10 mg sodium|
|Per 1 tablespoon (15 ml) serving made with nonfat yogurt:||11 calories (2% calories from fat), 2g protein, 0 total fat (0 saturated fat), 1 g carbohydrates, 0 dietary fiber, 0 cholesterol, 10 mg sodium|