The Cold War may be over, but the War on Fat rages on in the culinary world.
If there's a single theme for food preparation in the '90s, it seems to be dodging fat. No more than 10 percent of the calories in a health-conscious person's diet should be in "saturated" fats, which come primarily from animal sources, according to American Heart Association guidelines. (Among the saturated sources: meat fat, lard, butter, whole milk, cheese, cream, egg yolks and chicken fat.)
Baking, surprisingly enough, is one place where you can banish the usual half cup or so of oil or butter in favor of fruit and vegetable stand-ins. And the field goes beyond the oven. What carrot cake did to cuisine in the '70s and '80s, generally both fruits and vegetables are doing in the '90s -- substituting for fats in everything from soups to desserts.
"Any time you replace fat with fruit you are gaining a nutritional advantage," says Dr. Mona Sutnick, registered dietition and representative of the American Dietetic Association.
There are double benefits. "If you use whole fruit, you are getting the nutrients of the fruit, too, depending on which one you use, plus fiber. It's a good subtraction and addition," see believes.
"I use a lot of orange juice in my kitchen, as a liquid in baking muffins. You'll need only a couple tablespoons of oil, instead of a half cup, or whatever the recipe calls for. I use orange juice to saute chicken and cook it skinless in a non-stick pan. The result is a nice, orangey sauce. You can add wine to the juice or make it plain," she says.
"Generally, a lot of fruits combine well with skinned chicken or turkey and people are certainly moving toward using more poultry in their diets. Apricots, pitted prunes and other fruits can go into cookies or muffins. You can use those with meat or poultry. The result is a nice rich flavor without butter or oil."
The nutritionist flavors rice pilaf with raisins or apricots. "Rice pudding made with skim milk is nice with some chopped, dried fruits added to enrich the flavor and keep the calories down. And any of the dried fruits will contribute iron to the diet and apricots and peaches, in particular, vitamin A. The result will taste good. And, after all, there's no fun at dinner if it doesn't taste good.
"Rhubarb will make a great sauce, even for fish. So will a pureeof red or green peppers -- or mixed together -- and served with meat or vegetables for vitamin C. Carrots are very nice, too, they give a nice color and a little sweetness as a sauce," the nutritionist concludes.
Everbody's grandma (or maybe great-grandma) used to know how to moisten a cake with some applesauce. Now the Mott's applesauce people have built a new health-food promotion out of the use of fruit as "a fat alternative in a variety of recipes."
"The use of applesauce instead of oil greatly reduces the amount of fat and cholesterol and often the calories in such homemade favorites as chocolate cake and muffins," the food firm claims. The following chocolate treat was devised by Mott's to showcase the use of applesauce as a substitute for fat in making brownies. The use of dry cocoa powder also dodges buttery fat content in chocolate cooking squares.
! Magic squares Makes 16 to 20 brownies
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 egg whites
1/2 cup evaporated skim milk
3/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-by-8-by-2-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in sugar and set aside.
In a separate larger bowl, whisk together egg whites and milk. Whisk in applesauce, corn syrup and vanilla. Add dry mixture and stir until blended. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 35-40 minutes, or until knife insrerted into the center comes out clean. Cool brownies and ice with cocoa icing and cut into squares.
Cocoa icing: 1 1/2 -2 cups confectioner's sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon cold skim milk or coffee. Water as needed. Sift together the sugar and cocoa. Add vanilla and cold liquid and beat with a wire whisk until smooth, adding water if needed.
Joseph and Bernie Piscatella, authors of last year's "Controlling Your Fat Tooth" cookbook, devised the following Provencal-type, healthy casserole that uses vegetables to ennoble low-fat chicken breasts. The calorie rating is about 40 per serving. Fats are about 9 percent.
3# Chicken and vegetable casserole Serves 6
2 chicken breasts, skinned, boned and quartered
2 teaspoons powdered rosemary
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 whole head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
12 baby carrots
1 large onion, cut into rings
4 small red potatoes, halved
1 pound fresh green beans, stemmed
1 cup dry white wine