Heading for the promised land of healthier food Friendly persuasion: New twists on farm classics could appeal to 'health food' virgins

March 20, 1996|By William Rice | William Rice,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

At first glance, the gracefully rolling farm country in southeastern Pennsylvania, home to the butter-, cream- and pastry-loving Pennsylvania Dutch, might seem the wrong place to launch a healthy eating crusade. Over the years here, "healthy" has meant copious, as in "healthy portions."

But swimming upstream comes easily to people who direct the Rodale Press of Emmaus, near Allentown, publishers of lifestyle books and a dozen periodicals including Prevention and Organic Gardening.

Tom Ney, former restaurant chef and since 1979 test-kitchen director, food editor and food service supervisor for Rodale, says the approach is to "coach" readers and employees into a "more healthful everyday diet.

"We stay away from issues," he explains. "We don't put every ingredient under a microscope like we did in the purist era."

In part, this approach has evolved because of a link between the test kitchen and real life. Mr. Ney's food-service cooks prepare 1,000 meals each workday to be served in five cafes. These days the emphasis is on providing less fat and better-quality ingredients.

"Our employees don't want health food," he reports, "so we give them familiar, popular dishes with a healthy twist."

Among these twists: hot-turkey sandwiches on whole-wheat bread with low-fat gravy, chicken and tuna salads made with drained yogurt instead of mayonnaise, bacon made from turkey in place of pork bacon, limiting fat in muffins to less than 30 percent. No salt is used in the kitchen, but it is available on dining tables. Cooks use only olive and canola oils. At the nearby 330-acre Rodale Institute Research Center, scientists have been exploring the possibilities of organic farming for almost 50 years.

Corn, peppers and other vegetables, soybeans, apples, pears and "uncommon" fruits, herbs and flowers are grown in experimental plots.

The Rodale researchers test how well they grow organically or with minimal treatment with pesticides, methods of improving and landscaping the soil and various theories of tilling, crop rotations and garden layout and design.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ney and his staff are cooking with organic fruits and vegetables as part of a broad goal to use food to help employees lead "a more healthful everyday life.

"Whenever possible, we buy from natural food growers, some as far away as California," Mr. Ney says. "We seek out whole-grain flours; beans, carrots and other vegetables from local fields in season; ketchup made from organic tomatoes; and organic coffee. Usually it costs more, but we consider the money an investment to prime the market as organics begin to move into the mainstream marketplace."

Here are Rodale's updated versions of three farmhouse classics: corn waffles, molasses muffins and a potato casserole.

Corn waffles with creamy corn sauce

Serves 4

2 cups Bisquick Reduced Fat baking mix

1 1/3 cups skim milk

1/4 cup egg substitute

1 1/2 cups frozen cut corn, thawed

1 1/2 teaspoons dill weed

10 ounces creamed corn, frozen preferred

1/4 cup evaporated skim milk

1/2 cup chopped scallions

In a mixing bowl, combine Bisquick, skim milk, egg substitute, cut corn and 1 teaspoon dill weed. Let batter stand 5 minutes.

In a blender, combine creamed corn, evaporated skim milk, scallions and remaining 1/2 teaspoon dill weed. Blend 1 minute until thoroughly pureed. Pour sauce into a microwave-proof pitcher, cover and set aside.

Spray a waffle iron lightly with nonstick spray. Pour 3/4 cup batter on the waffle-iron grid and close the lid. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until crisp. Transfer cooked waffle to a warming oven. Repeat 3 times with remaining batter.

Microwave the corn sauce on high for 2 minutes, stirring once.

Serve one waffle per portion with hot, creamy corn sauce. Per serving: 374 calories, 2.8 g fat, 4.9 mg cholesterol, 873 mg sodium.

Magic molasses muffins

Makes 12 1 1/2 cups nugget-type bran cereal

1/2 cup apple juice

1/3 cup raisins

1 cup unbleached flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup nonfat or low-fat lemon yogurt

1/4 cup fat-free egg substitute

1/4 cup molasses

2 tablespoons canola oil

In a large bowl, combine the cereal, juice and raisins. Let stand for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the flour and baking soda.

In another small bowl, mix the yogurt, egg substitute, molasses and oil.

Lightly stir the flour mixture into the bran bowl, mixing only slightly. Stir in the yogurt mixture. Mix with a large rubber spatula until all the flour is moistened; do not overmix.

Coat 12 muffin cups with no-stick spray. Spoon the batter into the cups, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before removing the muffins from the pan. Serve warm or cold. Per serving: 129 calories, 2.7 g fat, 3.4 g dietary fiber, less than 1 mg cholesterol, 191 mg sodium.

Potato, kale casserole with turkey bacon

Serves 6

3 pounds white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

3/4 cup skim milk

dash ground white pepper

dash ground nutmeg

1 bunch green onions, trimmed and sliced into 1/2 -inch pieces

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