Holiday spreads needn't include a host's waistline Tasty party foods can be fat-free, too

December 15, 1993|By Patricia Jamieson | Patricia Jamieson,Eating Well Magazine United Features Syndicate

A handful of chips, some roasted nuts, a few crackers with savory cheese spreads -- even without that glass of eggnog, the fat content of these typical party appetizers strains healthful limits for an entire day. And there is little room for the main course ahead, let alone dessert.

One alternative is to serve raw vegetables and an ersatz dip. Another is to try our selection of traditional hors d'oeuvres rescued from their high-fat pasts for the occasion.

The following recipes are excerpted from a new cookbook coming out of the Eating Well Test Kitchen, the "Recipe Rescue Cookbook: Healthy New Approaches to Traditional Favorites" (Camden House Publishing, 1993; $24.95 hardcover, $18.95 softcover). To order, call (800) 344-3350.

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Won ton skins can usually be found in the supermarket produce section. Instead of deep-fried, in this recipe they are baked until crispy.

Won ton chips

Makes about 40 chips

1/4 cup sesame seeds or 2 teaspoons dried marjoram and 2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 1-pound package won ton skins

salt to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 2 baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. If using sesame seeds, heat a small, heavy, dry skillet over medium-high. Add seeds and cook, stirring constantly or shaking the pan, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool.

Spread a clean dish towel on the counter. Fill a medium-sized bowl with cold water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 4 won ton skins, one at a time. After about 20 seconds, or when the skins look like cooked noodles, remove them with a slotted spoon and immerse in the bowl of cold water. Arrange in a single layer on the towel to drain.

Repeat until you have enough won ton skins to fill a baking sheet, then arrange them in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or herbs, season with salt. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden and crisp. (Watch carefully toward the end to avoid burning.) Remove to a rack to cool. Repeat procedure. (The chips may be stored in a closed container at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 2 months.)

12 calories per chip: 1 gram protein, 0 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrate; 6 milligrams sodium; 0 milligrams cholesterol.

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Maryland resident Ora Williamson submitted her recipe for hot crab dip, and it was simplicity itself -- eight ingredients stirred together and heated. But with 7 grams of fat in every tablespoon, it called for serious fat reduction. A touch of cayenne and lemon is the perfect foil to the flavorful crab meat in our reduced-fat version.

Hot crab dip

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1/2 cup nonfat cottage cheese, pressed (see below)

4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese

2 small cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pound fresh or frozen and thawed crab meat, well-drained, patted dry

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

PRESSED COTTAGE CHEESE: Place cottage cheese in a sieve lined with a double thickness of cheesecloth. With a spoon, press well to remove as much moisture as possible (or gather ends of cheesecloth and squeeze out moisture). The volume will reduce to about half.

DIP: Place pressed cottage cheese and cream cheese in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a medium-sized saucepan and add garlic, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay seasoning, cayenne and black pepper. Heat over low for to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until warm. Add crab and lemon juice; stir well. Heat for 30 to 40 seconds until warm. Remove from heat and serve with French bread.

22 calories per tablespoon: 3 grams protein, 1 gram fat, 1 gram carbohydrate; 29 milligrams sodium; 7 milligrams cholesterol.

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These warm, cheesy mouthfuls should be slightly crisp on the outside. Cheese puffs can be made ahead and frozen, then popped into the oven as the guests arrive.

Cheese puffs

Makes about 4 1/2 dozen puffs

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup all-purpose white flour

2 large eggs

4 large egg whites

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese

Lightly coat 2 baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment paper. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine 1 cup water, butter, oil, salt and cayenne; bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and add flour all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a smooth paste. Return mixture to low heat and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, to dry the paste slightly. Remove from heat and cool 2 minutes.

Lightly whisk together eggs and 3 of the whites. With a wooden spoon, beat 1/4 of the egg mixture into the flour paste until absorbed. Repeat with 3 more additions of the egg mixture, until the paste is smooth and glossy. Stir in 3/4 cup of the cheese.

Using a pastry bag or spoon, drop 1-inch mounds 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Lightly beat the remaining egg white and brush it over each puff. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons cheese. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the puffs are firm and well-browned. Serve warm. (The puffs may be frozen, well-wrapped, for up to 2 months and reheated for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.)

24 calories per puff: 1 grams protein, 1 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrate; 59 milligrams sodium; 10 milligrams cholesterol.

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