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All posts for the month January, 2008

I try to cut fried foods out my diet when attempting to Keep my Resolution and lose weight.  Despite the fact that there is something insanely delicious about food submerged in oil, it is not healthy.  Yes, I realize that there are ways to make fried foods healthier but that does not mean that deep fat frying is as healthy as say baking or microwaving.

I do not want to give up my fried foods, though, so I have tried to find different ways to prepare fried foods without actually frying.  This gave birth to my wife’s and my oven fries recipe.  This recipe uses a two stage approach (baking and then broiling) to produce a perfectly cooked french fry suitable for the finest dijon ketchups.

You will need:

  • 4 large potatoes, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of seasoning salt (optional, recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. 
  2. Cut the potatoes into your favorite fry shape.  We tend to use 1/2 inch by 1/4 inch by 2 inch pieces.  There is no rhyme or reason to the size, it is just what our family prefers.  Cut the potatoes into whatever size you would like, but remember the deeper the potato, the longer the cooking time and adjust accordingly.
  3. Wash the potatoes to remove excess starch and pat dry.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the olive oil and cut potatoes until the potatoes are covered in a thin coating of oil.  This will let them brown.
  5. To really minimize oil usage, buy an olive oil spritzer and sprtitz the potatoes.
  6. Bake the potatoes for 15 minutes or until the are start to dry.
  7. Set the oven to broil and continue cooking until crispy.  In my oven this is 3-5 minutes, but depending on the strength of the broiler and the positioning of the rack, it could be less time.
  8. Immediately after removing the fries, sprinkle the salt and any desired spices on top of the potatoes.

Serve with hamburgers or sloppy joes or hot dogs as normal.

This is a little trick I have used many times when trying to remove fats and oils from cooking healthy.  Instead of sauteing in oil, many types of food can be sauted in broth or stock or soy sauce.  The liquid, especially if it is contains a little bit of fat, will prevent the food from burning and will act as a medium of transfer.

To do this:

  1. Heat the skillet and add enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan 1/8 to 1/4 inch high.  That should be less than a quarter of a cup.
  2. Add the food and cook as normal.   

Now, the texture of the finished product will be different.  The broth or stock is not going to crisp up the food being sauted like an oil would, but it is going to be much lower in fat and, for many dishes, the cooking liquid will add flavor.

Other Tips About Oil

Whenever possible, cook with heart healthy oils like olive oil.  Olive oil contains a good amount of fat, but doctors have shown how the fats from olive oils can be good for the body when taken in small doses.  So no matter which oil is used,  keep the amount of oil to a bare minimum.

When eating out, ask the chefs to limit the amount of oil they use or eliminate it entirely.  One of my personal vices is Chinese food, but it is heavy and fatty, even the non-deep fried items.  I have taken to asking the chef to make the dishes without oil.  They tend to look a little puzzeled at first, but then prepare a dish that tastes almost exactly like the heavy, oily dish.

This is something I cooked up last night as I stood before my pantry trying furiously to figure out what to serve the boy and I.  At some level, I hate to even list it as a healthy recipe since it uses so many canned goods (high in sodium) but at the same time, it was pretty easy to throw together.  

On thing to note, as printed this recipe uses Fantastic ground beef replacement (technically I used the sloppy joe mix) which tastes amazing.  Even before I became vegetarian, I would use their taco meat instead of ground beef because I got the same flavor with far less fat and calories.  It has a place in even the most die-hard meat and potatoes family as long as it is used in Mexican foods, sloppy joes, and lasagnas where the texture of the meat is not 100% important because the texture is just a bit off.  If you do not have Fantastic or another meat substitute, feel free to use lean ground beef that you have washed before putting into the lasagna.

You will need:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil 
  • pinch (1/8 teaspoon) of red pepper flake
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced (red would work well, too)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 box of lasagna noodles
  • 2 cans of dice tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, sage mix)
  • 1 box of vegetarian ground beef replacement, prepared per package instructions
  • 1 can of low-fat or vegetarian refried beans
  • 1 can of black beans, drained
  • 1 can of chili beans, drained
  • 1 bag of low-fat Mexican cheese blend
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. 
  2. Put a pan on medium flame and add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the red pepper flake and the garlic.  Wait 15 seconds and add the peppers, onions, and pepper. 
  3. While the vegetables are getting soft, bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add the lasagna noodles and prepare according to the instructions.
  4. When the vegetables are soft, add the tomatoes, a healthy pinch of salt, and the Italian seasoning.  Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce heat so that it bubbles, but it is not at a full roiling boil.
  5. Now is a good time to make sure the meat substitute is cooking.
  6. When the noodles are ready, construct the lasagna by first putting a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.  Then add a layer of noodles. 
  7. Mix the Fantastic meat replacement and the refried beans and spoon them onto the lasagna.  Add another layer of noodles.
  8. Mix the black and chili beans, then spoon them onto the lasagna and spread them out.  Add the final layer of noodles.
  9. Top with a good layer of the tomato sauce and the bag of shredded cheese.
  10. Bake in the oven until the cheese melts, usually 10-15 minutes.
  11. Serve on a plate with a good ladel of tomato sauce.

Enjoy!

(Sorry, this should have gone up Sunday night, but I had Internet woes…) 

I started watching a special on healthy recipes on the Food Network that aired last weekend that I got me thinking.  It was a clip show taken from seven different shows that purported to offer healthy meals for the home cook.  Unfortunately, I have to say that I was pretty disappointed

Even on a good day, I am pretty anti-clip show, but this one was worse than normal.  The opening dish was Ina Garten’s breakfast yogurt parfait made with fruit, honey, and toasted almonds.  Okay, sounds pretty good, despite the fact it was not exactly something that could be thrown together before running off to work.   Unfortunately, the coup de grace for this special struck about three minutes into the recipe and the whole thing got erased from the DVR after Garten toasted the almonds.  Adding heat to almonds breaks down their 14 grams of heart healthy fats in the nuts into 14 grams of their unhealthy counterparts which pretty much defeats the purpose.

I make this point not to be critical of Garten or the Food Network.  But rather as a warning.  The first is to be aware that toasting almonds makes their fats go bad (I wasn’t aware of this until recently.   I found out the morning I had an article due and had to rewrite an entire recipe because of it).  Secondly, when someone says a recipe is healthy, it may mean different things.  I have found this to be especially true of Healthy Appetite on Food Network.  The show’s host, Ellie Krieger, often makes recipes in which she hides nutritous ingredients in her recipes, but does not necessarily make them low cal or low fat (which is what I need when I eat healthy.)

To key here is to remember that eating healthy means different things to different people and so that the health-concious eater still needs to read labels and look at what is being put into the food he or she eats.  Especially when it comes to low fat foods, which often replace fats with more sugar.

Anway, this week is dedicated to helping everyone keep their resolutions to lose weight.  Come back tomorrow for my take on healthy eating low fat style.