Cooking magazine serves up five of its best-ever recipes Tops: From chiles rellenos to Italian cream cake, these dishes not only are good for you but also come with that certain 'yum appeal.'

April 16, 1997|By COOKING LIGHT Creators Syndicate

Over the past 10 years, Cooking Light magazine has cooked, tasted, evaluated and rated more than 32,000 recipes, and that ain't baloney: It's meringues, pastas, pot stickers, salads, sauces, souffles and steaks -- for starters. Out of those recipes, only about 6,000 were chosen for publication.

Every day, the magazine's test kitchen staff, along with editors and writers from the magazine, gather to sample and discuss our recipes (yes, this is their lunch, often as incongruous as Thai Pasta Salad followed by Bourbon Bread Pudding followed by Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic).

And let us stress this important morsel: It matters not how nutritious, low in fat, or beautiful a dish is, it has to taste great, too.

Other factors are also taken into consideration in testing.

Can readers find the ingredients? Is the dish easy to make? Will many readers want to cook it? Does the recipe use ingredients that reflect our times? And does it have that magic element we call "yum appeal" -- in other words, who'd ever believe those gooey brownies are really light?

Cooking Light came up with the top-rated recipes from the past decade.

From that list, here are the top five:

With melted Monterey Jack cheese inside and on top, this casserole from our January/February 1995 issue is south-of-the-border comfort food at its most flavorful. If you're a "hotter-the-better" type, serve with a not-so-mild salsa.

5. Chiles rellenos casserole

Makes 6 servings

1/2 pound ground turkey

1 cup chopped onion

1 3/4 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 (16-ounce) can fat-free refried beans

2 (4-ounce) cans whole green chiles, drained and cut lengthwise into quarters

1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded colby-Jack cheese, divided

1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed and drained

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups skim milk

1/8 teaspoon hot sauce

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

red onion slices (optional)

cilantro sprigs (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook turkey and onion in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove from heat; add cumin and next 5 ingredients (cumin through beans). Stir well; set aside.

Arrange half of green chiles in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish; top with 1/2 cup cheese. Spoon mounds of turkey mixture onto cheese; spread gently, leaving a 1/4 -inch border around edge of dish. Top with corn. Arrange remaining green chiles over corn; top with 1/2 cup cheese.

Combine flour and salt in a bowl; gradually add remaining ingredients, stirring with a whisk until blended. Pour over casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until set; let stand 5 minutes. Garnish with onion slices and cilantro sprigs, if desired.

Note: Two (4.5-ounce) cans chopped green chiles can be substituted for whole chiles, if desired.

Per serving: 335 calories (24 percent from fat), 9 g fat (4.5 g sat, 2.7 g mono, 1.6 g poly), 26.9 g protein, 37.7 g carbohydrates, 5.5 g fiber, 112 mg cholesterol, 3.8 mg iron, 825 mg sodium, 280 mg calcium.

This lasagna from the November/December 1992 issue proves a welcome change from your standard meat-and-tomato-based dishes.

4. Four-cheese vegetable lasagna

Makes 9 servings

12 uncooked lasagna noodles

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Cooking spray

2 cups chopped broccoli

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced carrot

1 cup sliced green onions

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups 1 percent low-fat milk

1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry

1 1/2 cups 1 percent low-fat cottage cheese

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese

freshly ground pepper (optional)

Cook lasagna noodles, omitting salt and fat. Drain; set aside.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium heat until hot. Add broccoli and next 4 ingredients (broccoli through garlic), and saute 7 minutes. Set aside.

Place flour in a medium saucepan. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Bring to a boil over medium heat;

cook 5 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Add 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in spinach. Reserve 1/2 cup spinach mixture for top layer of casserole and set aside.

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