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Becoming a Calorie-Conscious Cook to Help Your Dieting

4 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Healthy Weight Loss

Dieting may mean changing your cooking habits. Standard cooking methods need some reworking to make them lowfat and low calorie, and some foods can be used as substitutes, making them great, nutritious and healthy stand-ins for others.

  • Sauté onion and garlic in water: When a recipe calls onion and garlic cooked in oil, use a nonstick pan and 2 tablespoons of water. Cover the pan over low heat to coax the natural juices out of the onion and garlic.

  • Make and use yogurt cheese: Spoon a 16-ounce container of plain, lowfat yogurt (made without gelatin) into a colander lined with cheesecloth or a paper filter-lined coffee cone. Place it over a bowl in the refrigerator and allow it to drain for 8 to 24 hours. Use well-drained yogurt as a cream cheese substitute.

  • Make your own vinaigrette salad dressing: The standard vinaigrette dressing (3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar) weighs in at about 90 calories a tablespoon. To make your own, use 1 part oil, 1 part balsamic vinegar, and 1 part strong black tea or citrus juice, such as orange or grapefruit.

  • Roast garlic: Transform garlic into a rich, buttery, nonbiting, nonodorous spread that you can substitute for mayonnaise in potato, pasta, and chicken salads and on breads. Bake a head of garlic, trimmed to expose the cloves and sealed in foil with a scant tablespoon of water, for 45 minutes in a 400 degree F oven. Unwrap, cool, and then squeeze the garlic from its skin.

  • Use aged cheese: When a recipe calls for a mild cheese, such as mozzarella or Monterey Jack, substitute aged cheddar, Asiago, or imported Parmesan. For the greatest bang for the bite, use cheeses only on top of a dish.

  • Roast vegetables: By roasting vegetables in a hot oven you caramelize the natural sugars that they contain. Set the oven to 450 degrees F. Cut large vegetables into 1/2-inch thick slices and arrange in a single layer. Lightly spritz them with olive oil and cook them as follows:

    • Beet halves: Roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

    • Winter squash slices: Roast for 8 to 12 minutes.

    • Carrots: Roast for 15 to 20 minutes.

    • Green beans and red pepper strips: Roast for about 12 minutes.

    • Onion halves: Roast for about 30 minutes.

    • Sweet potato slices: Roast for 15 minutes.

    • Summer squash or zucchini slices: Roast for 5 to 8 minutes.

    • Eggplant slices: Roast for 10 to 15 minutes.

  • Use sun-dried tomatoes in place of bacon: You can easily duplicate the mellow richness that pork adds to soups, stews, and pizzas with chopped sun-dried tomatoes softened in hot water.

  • Swap fruit for most of the fat in baked goods: Reduce the fat in baked goods to about one-quarter of the original amount by replacing the rest with prune pie filling, apple butter, or applesauce.

  • Brown butter to use less: Heat butter in a skillet until it begins to turn brown. A tiny bit drizzled over corn on the cob, eggs, or vegetables tastes like you’re using much more.

  • Toast nuts for greater flavor bang: Heat the oven to 350 degrees F and toast nuts — on a cookie sheet in a single layer — for five minutes or until fragrant. Stir them to prevent scorching.

  • Switch from chocolate to cocoa powder: You can replace one ounce of chocolate (135 calories) with 3 tablespoons of cocoa (35 calories).

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