All-American Food -Recipe Makeovers (cont.)

American Food Makeover No. 5: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Most of us grew up on Mom's grilled cheese sandwiches. They're also standard fare at diners across the country.

Makeover Tips: Make a healthier grilled cheese sandwich by using whole-wheat or multigrain bread (multigrain sourdough is yummy), reduced-fat cheese or a little less of the regular cheese. Instead of spreading them with butter, spray the outer sides of the bread quickly with canola oil before placing on your nonstick griddle or skillet.

American Food Makeover No. 6: Muffins

Muffins are very popular at the American breakfast and dinner bread table. American muffins are usually leavened with baking powder or baking soda instead of yeast. They feature a variety of ingredients and flavors, from savory to sweet.

Makeover Tips: You can reduce the fat in your muffin batter - you really only need about 2 tablespoons of oil per 12 small muffins. You can also replace half the white flour with whole-wheat. And you can reduce the sugar and add ingredients like fresh or dried fruits, ground cinnamon, and toasted nuts to give the flavor a boost.

American Food Makeover No. 7: Pancakes

Many countries have their own version of pancakes: thin or thick; small or large; filled or topped with tasty ingredients. American pancakes are often made with buttermilk, tend to be thicker than other pancakes around the world, and are generally about 4 inches wide.

Makeover Tips: Make lighter pancakes by adding less fat to the batter, using low-fat milk or buttermilk, and adding very little fat (if any) to the skillet. But that's just half the health battle with pancakes -- it's what people do to the pancakes after they're cooked that can really pile on the calories. Keep added butter, whipped cream, and syrup to a minimum, and switch to reduced-calorie pancake syrup if you can. If you really need to add butter, use the whipped variety.

American Food Makeover No. 8: Pizza

Pizza may have had its start in Italy, but America made it the popular food it is today. American pizza chains try to come up with new and exciting toppings all the time, along with crust variations like stuffed, deep dish, or crispy.

Makeover Tips: Avoid greasy pizza restaurants and look for the more authentic pizza parlors with bread-like crust, lots of nutrient-rich pizza sauce, and a moderate amount of cheese. Choose vegetables as toppings instead of high-fat meat. If you're making pizza at home, substitute whole-wheat flour for half the white flour. You can choose a part-skim or reduced-fat cheese as well.

American Food Makeover No. 9: Popcorn

Most people can't go to the movies without buying popcorn. For many, it's the standard snack at the end of a long day at work or school. One common equation for popcorn is that a tablespoon of oil plus 1/2 cup corn kernels pops up to about 4 cups. And that doesn't even include the butter that is usually drizzled on top.

Makeover Tips: Use less oil when popping the corn, and add less butter after it's popped. Basically, this is what popcorn manufacturers are doing with their light microwave popcorn options.

American Food Makeover No. 10: Potato Chips

These crunchy snack time favorites were reportedly invented in 1853 by a chef at the Moon's Lake Lodge in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. A guest insisted on extra-thin French fries, so Chef George Crumb sliced the potatoes paper-thin, and they crisped up quite nicely when fried.

Makeover Tips: You need some oil when making potato chips (without it they would simply taste like plain dried potatoes), but the trick is using less of it. Accomplish this by baking thinly sliced potatoes with a light coat of canola cooking spray or a light brush of canola oil instead of deep-frying them.

American Food Makeover No. 11: Potato Salad

The American rendition of creamy potato salad -- a standard at delis, picnics, and barbeques -- is dressed in mayonnaise. The German style potato salad uses a warm vinaigrette traditionally made with bacon fat.

Makeover Tips: Instead of using regular mayonnaise, make a light mayo dressing by using half light mayonnaise and half fat-free sour cream. Punch up the flavor in the dressing with honey mustard or relish, freshly ground black pepper, or herbs and spices.

American Food Makeover No. 12: Root Beer Float

These are on the menu at ice cream shops and old-fashioned soda fountains in many American towns. The original root beer was a low-alcohol fizzy drink created by a druggist in Philadelphia, according to The Food Encyclopedia. Modern-day root beer, of course is a soda pop with flavors reminiscent of this earlier beverage.

Makeover Tips: Make a low-calorie root beer float by using diet root beer and by lightening the "float." There are some great-tasting light vanilla ice cream and frozen yogurt options at most supermarkets.

All-American Recipe Makeovers

Here are my lightened-up versions of potato salad, potato chips, cornbread, and an apple dish (Waldorf salad).

All-American Light Potato Salad

The great thing about this recipe is you don't have to boil the potatoes!

4 russet potatoes with skin (large pink or white potatoes can be substituted)
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
1 tablespoon honey mustard (add 1 more tablespoon, if desired)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 cup diced or chopped celery
1/3 cup diced or chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley (regular or Italian)
1/2 teaspoon paprika (optional)

  • Wash the outside of potatoes well, then cut into 1-inch cubes. Add potato pieces to a large, microwave-safe vegetable-cooker container. Cover and cook on HIGH for about 6 minutes. Stir potatoes, cover cooker, and cook on HIGH until potatoes are just tender (about 4-6 minutes more).
  • While potatoes are cooling, add mayonnaise, sour cream, honey mustard, pepper and salt (if desired) to large bowl. Whisk to combine.
  • Stir in cooled potatoes, celery, bell pepper, green onions, and parsley. Cover and chill until ready to serve (at least an hour). Sprinkle a dash or two of paprika over the top before serving, if desired.


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