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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!

The Art of Altering Recipes

Posted by Jenna Smith - Holidays

I love trying out new and exciting recipes. Whether searching for recipes online or in cookbooks, I often feel the need to modify them to make them healthier. Most of the modifications I use are simple: use low fat ingredients versus the full fat version or use low sodium or no added salt canned products instead of its original counterparts. But have you ever failed miserably when trying to make a recipe healthier?

If so, you're not alone! Think of recipes as scientific equations. When changing the equation you are conducting an experiment. Some may work well, and some may fail miserably. Recipes such as casseroles and soups are more flexible than others. Herbs and spices can often be tweaked. However, modifying a recipe in baking may produce a lesser quality product. For instance, a cookie prepared with lite margarine instead of butter, shortening or regular margarine may be less tender and have little volume. A cookie made with artificial sweetener instead of sugar may produce a different texture, may not brown or caramelize, and may be less tender and moist. These changes can still be acceptable but might not taste or look the same as those made by the original recipe.

Instead of using lite margarine in baking, try simply reducing the amount of regular margarine by one third. For example, if a recipe calls for ½ cup fat, use 1/3 cup fat. This works best in gravies, sauces, puddings, and some cookies. For cakes and quick breads, use 2 tablespoons fat per cup of flour. An equal part of applesauce is a well-known substitute for oil in a baked recipe. But you can also try using pure pumpkin or non-fat plain yogurt in place of oil.

Sugar may also be reduced in many recipes. Simply cut the amount of sugar in a recipe by one third. To enhance the flavor when sugar is reduced, add vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg or other spices. If you would like to use artificial sweeteners, do so in combination with sugar or brown sugar to help maintain texture and color.

By reducing the amount of margarine, using low-fat milk instead of whole, adding turkey bacon instead of regular bacon and switching to low fat cheese, I've turned this twice baked potato recipe into a tasty lower calorie side dish.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

6 large baking potatoes

2 Tablespoons butter or margarine, softened

1 cup skim milk

¼ lb turkey bacon (9 slices), diced and cooked

1 ½ cups (6 oz) shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese, divided

2 Tablespoons minced chives

Dash pepper

Bake the potatoes at 375°F for 1 hour or until tender. Cool. Cut a thin slice off the top of each potato and discard. Scoop out pulp, leaving a thin shell. In a bowl, mash the pulp with butter. Stir in milk, bacon, 1 cup of cheese, chives and pepper. Spoon into potato shells. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375°F for 25-30 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake 2 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

Yield: 12 servings

Nutrient analysis per 1/2 potato: 240 calories, 8 grams fat, 20 milligrams cholesterol, 380 milligrams sodium, 34 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 11 grams protein

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