Low-Fat Cooking : Sending Some Old Favorites to the Fat Farm

TIMES FOOD STYLIST; Deane is co-author of "Simply Healthful Cakes" (Chapters Publishing: 1993; $9.95)

While trying to watch the fat in our diets many times we have to sacrifice some of our favorite dishes, which tend to be rich in butter, cheese or eggs.

But in this series of low-fat recipes for spring we've converted some of these favorite foods into low-fat versions so you can you enjoy them without ruining your diet.

For example, in our recipe for chicken enchiladas we reduced the fat to about one-third of what it would normally be--from 37 grams of fat to 10 grams per serving--by making several small changes. To soften the tortillas, we dipped them in the warm enchilada sauce right away, rather than frying them in oil first (the traditional way). Also, we used poached, skinless, white chicken breast meat for the filling rather than the higher-fat dark meat. And the use of low-fat Jack cheese saved us half the fat calories of regular Jack cheese. Finally we topped the enchiladas with nonfat yogurt rather then sour cream.

For the garlicky baked potatoes with salsa we reduced the fat to one-fourth that of the original recipe, from 32 grams of fat to 8 grams for each serving. A very small amount of olive oil along with the minced garlic was brushed on top of the potatoes for flavor and to crisp the top. The addition of paprika also helped to color the potato tops. A very small amount of olive oil was used in the salsa, and nonfat yogurt was served with the potatoes rather than high-fat sour cream.

The use of nonfat milk, egg substitute, and very thinly sliced bread helped to reduce the fat in the asparagus custard puff from 14 grams to 6 grams per serving. That enabled us to use a small amount of butter to add flavor while sauteing the mushrooms, though you can eliminate even this fat by dry-sauteing the mushrooms in a non-stick pan.

On the other hand, in the mixed green salad we nearly eliminated the fat by spraying won ton skins with butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray and then baking them, rather than using high-fat deep-fried chips. This saved 4 grams of fat for each serving of four chips.

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Most of the fat in the Mediterranean-style stuffed tomato recipe was eliminated by using baked eggplant to give a creamy texture to the filling, and by using less oil for sauteing the rice. Doing this lowered the fat by almost 80%--from 14 grams to 3 grams per serving.

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It's the cheese -- and the common step of frying tortillas before they're stuffed -- that makes enchiladas so fattening. But in this recipe we use low-fat Monterey Jack cheese, which has half the fat of regular Jack cheese. And rather than frying the tortillas in oil to soften them, we simply dip them in the enchilada sauce. Another option is to heat the tortillas over an open flame, then lightly brush with enchilada sauce. Also, instead of topping the finished enchiladas with high-fat sour cream, we use plain non-fat yogurt, which has a nice tang.

CHICKEN ENCHILADAS 1 (1-pound 13-ounce) can enchilada sauce 8 corn tortillas 3 cups shredded cooked chicken breast meat, skin removed 3 green onions, minced 2 canned whole long green chiles, cut into quarters lengthwise 1/2 cup low-fat Monterey Jack cheese 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro 1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt or nonfat sour cream

Heat enchilada sauce in skillet until hot. Dip tortillas, 1 at time, in sauce to coat lightly on both sides. Sprinkle about 1/3 cup chicken down center of each tortilla. Sprinkle over 2 teaspoons green onion, then top with 1 piece green chile. Roll up. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Arrange filled tortillas in 9-inch-square baking dish. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over top of tortillas. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 400 degrees 20 to 25 minutes until hot and cheese is melted. Just before serving sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Serve with yogurt. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving, with yogurt topping, contains about: 443 calories; 1215 mg sodium; 99 mg cholesterol; 10 grams fat; 36 grams carbohydrates; 40 grams protein; 0.04 gram fiber.

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The usual dieters' way of eating a baked potato is to simply sprinkle some herbs and lemon juice inside the hot potato. But season a potato with garlic and spoon over a slightly spicy Southwestern-style salsa, and you have a dish that can be proudly served to both your dieting and non-dieting friends without any hesitation.

GARLICKY BAKED POTATOES WITH SOUTHWEST SALSA 4 Idaho potatoes, cut in half lengthwise Salt, pepper 4 cloves garlic, minced 2 tablespoons olive oil Paprika 1 ear corn, husk removed 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed 1 small tomato, minced 2 long green chiles, roasted, peeled, chopped 1/2 cup chopped red onion 2 green onions, sliced Juice 1/2 lime 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro 1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt or nonfat sour cream

Score cut surface of each potato half in diamond pattern. Put potatoes on 15x11-inch jelly roll pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine 3 cloves minced garlic and 1 tablespoon olive oil in small bowl. Brush mixture over surface of potatoes. Sprinkle to taste with paprika. Bake at 400 degrees about 40 minutes or until potatoes are browned and fork tender.

For salsa, remove kernels from ear of corn. Combine corn, beans, tomato, chopped chiles, onion, green onions, lime juice, cilantro, remaining clove minced garlic and remaining tablespoon olive oil in bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, spoon salsa over potatoes. Serve with plain yogurt. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about: 465 calories; 113 mg sodium; trace cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 87 grams carbohydrates; 16 grams protein; 4.05 grams fiber.

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Fresh asparagus is now available in the markets in abundance. Of course, the best way to eat great asparagus is plain. But the mushrooms and delicate flavor of the custard in this dish won't mask the flavor of this favorite spring vegetable. Think of this as a sort of quiche without the fat.

ASPARAGUS CUSTARD PUFF 1 tablespoon butter 3 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced 1 teaspoon minced rosemary 2 tablespoons chopped pancetta Salt, pepper 1/2 cup shredded manchego cheese 8 very thin slices white bread, lightly toasted 24 fresh asparagus tips, blanched 3 cups nonfat milk 1 1/2 cups nonfat egg substitute (equivalent to 6 eggs) Dash cayenne pepper 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat butter in skillet and saute garlic until tender. Stir in mushrooms and saute until mushrooms give up liquid then reabsorb it. Stir in rosemary and pancetta. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle cheese over 4 slices toasted bread to cover. Spoon mushroom mixture evenly over cheese on bread. Place 4 asparagus tips on each bread slice. Top each with another slice toasted bread to make sandwich. Cut each sandwich in half diagonally and arrange pinwheel style in 11-inch round quiche dish.

Combine nonfat milk, egg substitute, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Pour mixture over toast halves in baking dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Bake at 350 degrees 30 to 40 minutes or until top is puffed and golden and center tests done with knife. Garnish with remaining warm blanched asparagus tips. Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains about: 171 calories; 782 mg sodium; 15 mg cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 16 grams carbohydrates; 13 grams protein; 0.63 gram fiber.

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You can buy high-calorie fried won ton at the market; you can even deep-fry your own. But these chips--great accompaniments to salads, such as the one below, or excellent for snacks--are low in fat because they are boiled, then baked with just a light dose of nonstick cooking spray--no oil.

MIXED GREEN SALAD WITH LOW-FAT WON TON CHIPS 8 cups mixed salad greens, rinsed and patted thoroughly dry 2 cups assorted fresh-cut vegetables, such as sliced radishes, broccoli florets, julienned carrots, cherry tomato halves Low-Fat Asian Dressing Low-Fat Won Ton Chips

Toss greens and vegetables and divide among 4 chilled plates. Serve with Low-Fat Asian Dressing. Arrange Low-Fat Won Ton Chips on top. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about: 166 calories; 615 mg sodium; trace cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 28 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.96 gram fiber.

LOW-FAT ASIAN DRESSING 1/3 cup rice vinegar 1 tablespoon peanut oil 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 tablespoon sugar 1 tablespoon minced green onion 1 teaspoon minced ginger 1 clove garlic, minced 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil Dash salt

Combine vinegar, oil, soy sauce, sugar, green onion, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and salt in bowl. Stir. Makes about 1/2 cup dressing.

Each 1-tablespoon serving contains about: 24 calories; 156 mg sodium; trace cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 2 grams carbohydrates; trace grams protein; 0.01 gram fiber.

LOW-FAT WON TON CHIPS Kosher salt 32 won ton skins, cut diagonally into quarters Butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray Sesame seeds, optional 4 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary, optional

Fill 3-quart saucepan 3/4 full with water. Bring to boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt. Add won ton quarters to boiling water. Cook 30 seconds. Using slotted spoon, remove to bowl of cold water. Drain won ton skins and arrange on baking sheet sprayed with butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray in single layer. Lightly spray won ton quarters with cooking spray, then sprinkle with sesame seeds and rosemary.

Bake at 375 degrees 10 to 15 minutes or until won tons are golden and crisp. Lightly sprinkle with salt to taste. Remove to wire rack to cool. Makes 128 chips.

Each of 4 servings of won ton chips contains about: 93 calories; 286 mg sodium; trace cholesterol; trace fat; 19 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.07 gram fiber.

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This is no ordinary diet-plate stuffed tomato--it's prepared more like a stuffed pepper. You won't feel deprived. Eggplant, which gives meatless dishes a feeling of substance, goes into the rice stuffing. To give the filling a smoky, earthy flavor, we left the charred skins on the roasted eggplants when they went into the stuffing.

STUFFED TOMATOES 2 Japanese eggplants 6 large, firm tomatoes Salt, pepper 1 tablespoon olive oil 1/2 cup minced onion 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 cup short-grain rice 2/3 cup chicken broth 1/4 cup minced basil 6 basil leaves

Grill eggplants over open flame or under broiler until skin is blistered all over, eggplant smells roasted and interior is soft. Remove stems. Chop and set aside.

Remove tops from tomatoes. Scoop out insides, leaving 1/2-inch shell. Puree pulp through food mill, discarding seeds left behind. Season inside of tomatoes to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in skillet and saute onion and garlic in skillet until tender. Add rice and continue to saute until lightly browned. Stir in 1/2 cup chicken broth and all but 1/2 cup tomato pulp. Simmer until rice is partially cooked, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in minced basil and reserved eggplant. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon rice mixture into shells. Top each with whole basil leaf. Replace tops. Place in 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Combine remaining broth and reserved pulp. Pour around tomatoes. Lightly season tomatoes to taste with salt. Bake at 350 degrees 45 minutes to 1 hour or until rice and tomatoes are tender. Spoon juices over tomatoes while baking. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold. Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about: 180 calories; 148 mg sodium; trace cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 35 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 1.08 grams fiber.

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