5 tips for making salad dressings and marinades lighter

May 20, 2008

In a quest to cut calories, many of us turn to lighter salad dressings. Unfortunately, the taste of light dressings can be either too astringent (due to reduced oil) or too bland (due to added juices, water or broths). Over the years, I’ve written a lot of salad dressing recipes and I’ve discovered a few tricks for making light dressings more palatable:

1. When reducing the oil in a salad dressing, try adding an ingredient such as chutney or honey-Dijon mustard, which will add flavour and help to emulsify the other ingredients.

2. Choose strong flavoured oils such as toasted sesame, walnut or peppery extra virgin olive oil that, even when used sparingly, contribute a lot of flavour to dressings.

3. Treat yourself to premium vinegars such as aged balsamic vinegar, which is concentrated and low acid. You’ll be able to get by with less (or even no) oil if the vinegar you use isn’t too puckering.

4. Find your light dressing too tart? Add a pinch of sugar to offset the acidity of the vinegar.

5. Use yogurt or a combo of light mayo and buttermilk instead of cream or mayonnaise as a base for creamy salad dressings.

Sweet treats for dieters

March 12, 2008

Chimes ginger chewsOnce a sweet tooth always a sweet tooth, I suppose. Although I’m trying to maintain my slim and trim new self, I do find it difficult to make the right choice when I get a hankering for something sweet. Cravings for Cluizel chocolate or Fat Witch brownies are only partially relieved by apple wedges or a yogurt. I have an aversion to the aftertaste of artificial sweeteners like aspartame so my sweet snacks, even the virtuous ones, need to be made with real sugar.

Although I’ll always love a decadent chocolate treat above all else, I have discovered a few better choices are that are satisfying and don’t leave me feeling like I’ve settled for second best.

Chimes Ginger Chews: Bonus points for coming in such a fab package, these all-natural, intensely flavoured confections are just 16 calories each. Each candy is individually wrapped, so you have to think twice before you pop a second one in your mouth.

Peek Freans Lifestyle Selections Cranberry Citrus Oat Crunch: Satisfyingly crisp and just sweet enough to cut the bitterness of coffee well, these cookies are less than 50 calories each.

Do you have a skinny sweet treat that you’d like to tell us about?

WTF Wednesdays

February 27, 2008

Cheese and champagneAs regular readers here know, I recently slimmed down by 15 pounds and pledged to lose six additional pounds before spring. Although I plan to maintain my new shape, I also realize that mental health is as important as physical well-being and certainly much more important than physical beauty. (Although if I were to wrangle a tri-fecta of fabulousness by achieving all three qualities of physical health, mental health and gorgeousness, I’d see no shame in the accomplishment!)

February is a cold and dreary month here in central Canada and, to be honest, the lack of sunshine can lead to vitamin D deficiencies that aren’t good for a girl’s mood. Not good at all. Just last Wednesday I found myself feeling a little blue and with an overwhelming urge for cheese and champagne (bubbles make me happy), so I wasted no time at all and laid out a spread of yummy cheese and popped a cork of Lanson. Immediately I felt a wave of good feelings!

A moment or two later when my chef sprocket hubby came into the room (the pop of a champagne cork is like a dog whistle for that man!) I was happier still to welcome him to WTF Wednesday, my impromptu party thrown for no reason than to spread happiness.

So if you feel your new year’s resolve slipping away as the days in 2008 accumulate, take a break. We all deserve a WTF Wednesday. Just be sure it isn’t followed by a Debauchery Thursday and you’ll be just fine!

Cooking light for one

January 8, 2008

Late in December, I received a letter from a dieting reader who needed suggestions for cooking for one.

Anne Cotter’s note revealed that she was frustrated that most diet-related cookbooks offered recipes for four and six diners. As a single person, she always had to divide recipes or deal with leftovers — something that she didn’t find desirable given her love of variety and lack of fridge and freezer space.

After reading Anne’s letter (hey, Anne’s first initial, A, is today’s mystery letter) I realized how right she was to complain about this feature in diet-style cookbooks. While I was dieting with earnest (see yesterday’s post) I was basically preparing food for one. Now that I have only a few pounds left to lose, I am just eating smaller portions of the food I prepare for the rest of the family. And, when I think about most dieters I know, it’s seldom that the whole family is eating diet food. More often, only one or two people in the household are dieting.

So, what can lone dieters do? Here are a few suggestions from my experience.

-Stick to very basic entrees such as a grilled skinless, boneless chicken breast, veal or turkey scaloppini sauteed in cooking spray. Finish these meats with small amounts of light cooking sauces, salsa or calorie-reduced salad dressing to add flavour.
-Buy 100-calorie packs of treats so that you can at least snack easily.
-Consult a book such as Going Solo in the Kitchen and use the seasoning proportions in the recipes but make the substitutions necessary to remove calories from fat such as using cooking spray instead of butter or oil and substituting light dairy products for full fat, etc.
-Making single-portion versions of most casseroles is fussy if you eschew batch cooking. So, if making your own freezer entrees isn’t desirable, buy frozen or store-prepared, refrigerated light versions of casseroles from a grocery store and save your cooking energies for making faster-to-prepare foods like the ones mentioned above.

Do you have dieter’s cooking tips you’d like to share? If so, please share them in the Comments section below.

See my blog archives at homemakers.com/danasblog.