A little of this instead of a lot of that makes favorite foods better for you. Lighten UP

November 04, 1992|By Larry Brown | Larry Brown,Seattle Times

You may be speaking lightly, but we hear you loud and strong. Many of you home cooks care passionately about decreasing fat, cholesterol, calories, sugar and/or salt in cooking while increasing the amount of fiber and generally improving the nutritional value of foods you and your family eat.

As part of the movement toward lightening up, we've come up with some recipe make-overs of favorite dishes -- adjusting ingredients in classic recipes to make them more healthful, without destroying the tastes that made them famous at your dining table.

Testers were enthusiastic about all three of the dishes presented here, giving high marks to the originals and to the lighter make-overs. In a few instances the lighter versions were preferred.

Lighter hot-sausage lasagna uses hot turkey sausage instead of hot Italian pork sausage. It uses low-sodium canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste instead of regular. It has no sugar. Instead of 3 cups of mozzarella cheese it uses 2 cups of low-fat mozzarella, and the Parmesan cheese is reduced from 1/2 cup to 3 tablespoons. One taste tester termed the lighter version "tasty beyond belief."

The nutritional data shows impressive differences. In the lighter version, the percentage of calories from fat is reduced from 42.5 to 25.9 per serving and the sodium drops from 1,012 to 576 milligrams.

Lighter Southwest chili is made with ground turkey breast instead of ground beef. Salt is cut in half. And then some. Low-sodium tomatoes and tomato paste are substituted for regular, and low-sodium chicken broth or water are subs for beef broth.

A dramatic difference in the nutritional data here. Calories are reduced from 427 to 190, for instance, and sodium from 646 to 303 milligrams.

And for dessert, lighter carrot cake with less sugar, fewer eggs and frosting made with nonfat cream cheese instead of regular, margarine instead of butter and 2 cups instead of a whole box of powdered sugar. "Very nice, who would know?" one evaluator described the lighter version.

Nutritional data: Calories reduced from 761 to 433, fat from 44 to 16 grams, saturated fat from 14 to 3 grams and cholesterol from 112 to 20 milligrams. The only flip flop was slightly more sodium in the lighter version, 524 instead of 507 milligrams. Nonfat cream cheeses sometimes have more salt to enhance flavor.

Hot-sausage lasagna Makes 12 servings.

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1 pound hot Italian sausage, cut into 1/4 -inch slices

1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 can (1 pound, 13 ounces) tomato sauce

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) whole tomatoes with juice, broken up

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon sugar

freshly ground black pepper to taste

16 lasagna noodles

1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over mediu heat, add the sausage and brown for 5 minutes. Remove the sausage from the skillet and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat. Place the onion and garlic in the pan; saute for 5 minutes. Add the sausage, tomato sauce, tomatoes with juices, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, hot-pepper flakes, sugar and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the remaining teaspoon of the oil. Add the lasagna noodles and cook according to package directions, stirring occasionally. Drain and lay out on a kitchen towel.

Spread a thin coat of the sauce over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Top with a layer of the noodles running the length of the dish, of the sauce, and half the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. Cover with a second layer of the noodles running across the dish; repeat the layers. Top with the remaining tomato-sausage sauce and the Parmesan cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 40 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting.

Data per serving: calories 431; protein 23g; fat 20g; carbohydrates 39g; sodium 1012mg; saturated fat 9g; monounsaturated fat 8g; polyunsaturated fat 2g; cholesterol 60mg.

/ Lighter hot-sausage lasagna Serves 12.

16 lasagna noodles

3/4 pound hot turkey sausage

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 14 1/2 -ounce can low-sodium tomatoes, broken into pieces, juices reserved

2 16-ounce cans low-sodium tomato sauce (or 4 8-ounce cans)

2 tablespoons low-sodium tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed

1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

2 cups grated low-fat mozzarella cheese

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the lasagna noodle and time according to package directions. Drain and rinse briefly with cold water. Separate the noodles.

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