The winter holidays are here, and it’s time to prepare your favorite recipes. From savory roasts to luscious desserts – ’tis the season for stretching your cooking skills as well as your waistline. But why not trade some guilty pleasures for a few sneaky substitutes? You can lighten the calorie load on sauces, pastries – even fried foods – and your guests will never know the difference.
1. Lighten up the cream. If your holiday recipes call for heavy whipping cream, evaporated milk is a wonderful imposter. With less than half the calories and 1/4 the fat, just add powdered sugar, vanilla, and whip up a topper for your favorite pie. When you need a cream-based sauce for veggies or poultry, mix a bit of flour into evaporated milk, then combine with other ingredients for a scrumptious alternative.
2. Sweeten without sugar. Believe it or not, you can prepare many of your favorite holiday dessert recipes without a single spoonful of sugar. Stevia, a calorie-free, natural sweetener, is excellent in sweet breads, cakes, custards, and pie fillings. Stevia doesn’t measure equally to sugar, so it’s important to know the equivalents. For example, if your ginger bread recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, you’ll only need 1 teaspoon of either dry stevia powder or liquid stevia extract.
3. Try the fry-oven method. When Hanukkah latkes have a place at your holiday table, it’s easy to lighten the fat without compromising one of your favorite recipes. Traditional latkes call for a deep bath in hot oil. For a leaner version, heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a non-stick pan, and fry the latkes just until they’re firm. Place them on a cookie sheet, coated with non-stick spray, and bake in a 425 degree oven, turning once, until brown and crisp.
4. Roll out a guilt-free pie crust. The best holiday pie recipes start with a crisp, buttery crust. But the amount of saturated fat (from butter or shortening) can, easily, be replaced with extra virgin olive oil, a monounsaturated fat that actually lowers cholesterol and stabilizes blood sugar. This heart-healthy alternative will lighten the load on your arteries and still produce a flaky texture. But recipes vary, so make sure to follow exact measurements rather than general conversion charts.
5. Stir in some applesauce. Quick breads are beloved holiday staples and easy to prepare. But many recipes call for a hefty amount of vegetable oil or butter. Applesauce, with a mere 166 calories per cup, is an excellent substitute that can lighten a variety of recipes without skimping on flavor. Fiber-rich applesauce also adds moisture, preventing baked goods from drying out too quickly. It’s best to stick with unsweetened varieties to avoid sugar overload.
Not sure you want to experiment with one of your favorite holiday recipes? Try cutting back gradually. Start by replacing half of the sugar with stevia or half of the oil with applesauce. Just remember, when replacing liquids, use the same measuring cup for both.
Have you had to change your favorite recipe due to a change in someone’s diet?