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Super-Skinny Super Bowl Snack Swaps
On Super Bowl Sunday - chicken wings, nachos, and chili - the calories can add up quickly. This year, you can still enjoy tasty snacks while watching the game - without breaking the bank on your calorie budget (but, there's no self-denial here).
My favorite choice for such occasions is a scrumptious spread of dips - creamy, chunky, spicy, and tangy - the stuff everyone loves. Hot or cold, spooned or dipped - the possibilities are endless. As a cook, it's a slam-dunk because there's nothing easier to prepare for impromptu get-togethers. But my favorite part is that they can be made well ahead of time so I can enjoy my parties with my guests.No, you won't find me stirring up a zippy sour cream-based French onion dip or melting handfuls of gooey cheddar over crispy fried chips - not in my kitchen. I am still a nutritionist, after all. There's no doubt that high fat ingredients add flavor and texture to just about anything. But as a chef, I've learned how to make recipes sing without a boatload of fat grams.
Instead of loading on goop, let nature do all the work. Instead of focusing on a rich sour cream or cheese base for a dip, I use vegetables or beans as my primary ingredient. A rich, unctuous puree of eggplant or garbanzo beans is a scrumptious place to start. A spoonful of healthy fat such as olive oil or tahini is all that's needed to add layers of texture and flavor to just the right mélange of spices and seasonings.
The other thing I love about dipping is that it's a great way to kick up your daily vegetable intake. A colorful array of crisp dippers can include crunchy sticks of bell pepper, fennel, jicama or celery and baby carrots. Asparagus spears work well too but should be blanched first to soften them slightly.
And then you have the "other" dippers known as chips. When I first started cooking, there were no products such as fat-free chips on the market. I made my own by cutting corn tortillas or whole grain pita bread into eighths by triangles. I gave them a mist of olive oil and baked them slowly until they were crisp and lightly browned.
This Super Bowl Sunday, try one or both of these Super Swaps. The next day, let me know how you did and we can Monday Morning Quarterback the results.
Baba Ghanouj (Roast Eggplant Puree)
The flavor is regal and the texture of this creamy appetizer is truly imperial. (No surprise there: my inspiration for the recipe came from a chef for the Saudi royal family). This addictive Middle Eastern eggplant dip is traditionally served with warm pita bread and an assortment of salads. It's a great make-ahead hors d'oeuvre. It keeps refrigerated for several days.
Yield: 4 cups (plenty for 16 individual 1/4-cup servings)
2 large eggplant (about 1-1/2 pounds each)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup tahini
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 cup fat-free Greek-style yogurt or plain soy yogurt
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley, without stems
2 teaspoons salt (optional)
Wash and dry the eggplant. Cut off stem end. Pierce skin with a fork to prevent eggplant from bursting during roasting.
For stovetop roasting or grilling: Place eggplant directly on grill rack or over gas burner at medium heat. Grill for about 18 minutes, turning frequently to cook evenly. Remove from heat when eggplant has become very soft. Set roasted eggplant aside to cool.
For oven roasting: Position rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly coat a 15 x 10-inch baking sheet with olive oil spray. Place eggplant on prepared baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, turning eggplant three or four times to roast evenly. Remove from oven when eggplant becomes soft.
When cool enough to handle, peel and discard eggplant skin. Remove most of the seeds and cut eggplant into chunks.
Combine remaining ingredients except parsley and eggplant in a blender jar or the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth. If mixture is too thick, add hot water by tablespoons to achieve the right consistency. Add eggplant chunks and blend until smooth. Adjust seasoning with salt if necessary. Garnish with finely chopped parsley and serve with whole grain pita chips.
Nutrition Facts (per 1/4-cup serving): Calories 70; Total Fat g 4; Sat Fat g 0; Cholesterol mg 0; Sodium mg 300; Total Carb g 7; Dietary Fiber g 3; Sugar g 2; Protein g 3
Fabulously Faux French Onion Dip
It takes a little time to simmer the onions, but the result is so worth waiting for. This tastes just like the real thing with a fraction of the calories and fat. Serve with jicama chips instead of potato chips and you have a double swap recipe.
Yield: 3 cups (Twelve 1/4-cup servings)
2-1/4 pounds yellow onions, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
4 ounces low fat cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek-style yogurt
Cut the onions in half vertically, and then slice them horizontally into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds. Heat olive oil a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and salt. Stir well and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Continue to simmer stirring regularly for about 20 to 30 minutes, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. The onions will be light to medium golden (not dark) brown and caramelized. Cool onions completely.
Place onions in bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times until onions are slightly chopped. Remove half of the onions and transfer them to a mixing bowl.
Return the remaining onions to the food processor. Add the onion powder and process until completely pureed. Add the cream cheese and yogurt, and process until just smooth. Add to the chopped onion mixture. Stir well. Taste for seasonings.
Chill completely. Transfer to serving bowl. Garnish with Italian parsley leaves. Serve with your favorite baked chips.
Nutrition Facts (per 1/4-cup serving of dip with 1/2-cup jicama slices): Calories 80; Total Fat g 3; Sat Fat g 1; Cholesterol mg 5; Sodium mg 230; Total Carb g 10; Dietary Fiber g 2; Sugar g 4; Protein g 4
For more recipes and weight loss secrets, visit Cheryl's blog.