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By Melissa Roberson, BiggestLoserClub.com
I don't know about you, but when I saw The Biggest Loser cast of season 3 chowing down on Chef Devin Alexander's hamburgers and pizzas in episode 5, I thought there just might be justice in the weight loss cosmos.
Tears came to my eyes as I watched the contestants enjoy what looked like forbidden fruit to me. I mean, that burger was worthy of subterfuge ("honey, I forgot to pick up milk") and sneaking out the back door for an illegal drive thru at the local fast food joint.
But hold on to your car keys. Chef Devin's burger clocks in at only 280 calories, compared to the typical fast food 560, and has only 9 grams of fat instead of the usual 30. In other words, guess what? You can get a fast food-type fix without all the guilt and pain--and heartburn.
It gets better. These heavenly and healthy remakes of dishes we all love but thought we could never eat again and still face ourselves in the morning are featured in The Biggest Loser Cookbook: More than 125 Healthy, Delicious Recipes Adapted from NBC's Hit Show (Rodale 2006). Many are Devin's own recipes and others are from Biggest Loser cast members with healthy tweaks from Devin.
More than Just Burgers And for those who don't bow down before golden arches, this cookbook features not only dishes like the "Almost Fast Food Burger" or "Thin-and-Crispy Sausage and Mushroom Pizza" and--sigh--"One-Serving Chocolate Cheesecakes," but more wide-ranging "Pan 'Fried' Catfish with Southwest Tartar Sauce" and "Indian Chicken Salad Pockets." But, oh, that burger.
The thing is, Devin is slim and energetic and outgoing-she looks like she could eat burgers all day long and not sprout an extra inch. Not so. Like the rest of us, Devin has battled the bulge. The thing is, she waged her war in the kitchen-and thank heavens for the rest of us, won.
So how did this talented chef conquer her weight problems through cooking? I called Devin recently at her home in Los Angeles.
How It All Started
"I had food issues growing up," she said. "I started dieting when I was 7, and I proceeded to start every diet on the planet."
As she relates in her book's introduction, by the time she was 15, she stopped weighing herself because she couldn't bear to see the scale creep over 175 pounds.
So, of course, like most of us, she went cold turkey and stopped eating her favorite, fattening (often fast) foods. And like most of us, she lost a lot of weight quickly, about 25 pounds, but got a real serious case of crankiness. "The notion of giving up something forever was too much for my brain to handle," she said. "Never have chocolate cake again? I couldn't do it."
Playing Around in the Kitchen
Courtesy of two Italian grandmothers who led her by the hand and into the kitchen at an early age, she had the courage to start playing around with recipes, trying to recreate healthy versions of the dishes that were "banned" from her diet.
"And it worked," she said in the introduction. "I was able to make great, healthy food that made me feel that I wasn't being deprived. And although I was around food all day, I lost 55 pounds."
From cooking for herself, Devin turned to cooking for friends in college. After graduation, she went to LA to pursue a career as a screenwriter. But her healthy and delicious catering for celebrity parties just led her down the road to chefdom.
To keep calories and fat down, Devin believes in using really lean, quality cuts of meat which means--look! There's no tofu in these meatballs! "My meatballs are made with beef and turkey. Sausage is always made with turkey..."
She has other tips, too, like using yogurt in baked goods instead of applesauce, "It gives a really moist texture. And I use low-fat mayo a lot--the one with 2 grams of fat.Never eat it plain." Instead, she combines it with tandori paste for a delicious Indian chicken salad with a wonderful texture. She also uses low-fat mayo with horseradish on roast beef sandwiches.
But about that burger.
Devin Alexander's "Almost Fast Food Burger"
Devin notes: "This burger is much, much leaner than any you're likely to find at a fast food restaurant, but the sauce makes it taste so reminiscent of them. I often make this burger in a low-carb tortilla instead of using the bun and I always add a few more pickles. If you're watching your sodium closely, you may not want to stick to it "as is" below."
In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard. Stir to mix. Set aside. Shape the beef into a patty that is about 1/2" wider than the bun.
Preheat a medium nonstick skillet or grill rack on high heat.Place the patty on the pan or grill. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until desired doneness is reached. (Do not smash the burger with the spatula.) About 30 seconds before the burger is cooked, top with the cheese, if desired.
Place the bun halves, cut sides down, on the pan or grill. Cook for about 45 seconds, or until toasted.
Place the bun bottom on a serving plate. Top with the patty, lettuce, onion, and pickles. Spread the reserved sauce evenly over the inside of the bun top. Flip onto the burger.
Makes 1 burger.
281 calories, 26 g protein, 27 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 1 g polyunsaturated fat, 3 g monounsaturated fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 736 mg sodium
Courtesy of BiggestLoserClub.com