07.15.11

Foods That We Love But Shouldn’t

From Caesar salad to cheesecake, Lydia Brownlow has recipes for making your favorite unhealthy foods deliciously healthy.

It's that time of year again, when we peel off layers of clothing to reveal figures that are maybe not quite as trim as we had hoped. If you, like me, should be on a diet, but feel twice as hungry for something rich and creamy the moment you hear the word "diet," then why not try the following, the Hungry Beast's healthy take on some all-American classics. That way this summer you can have your cake and eat it!

CAESAR SALAD

With its rich dressing, garlicky croutons, and loads of Parmesan cheese, the original Caesar salad is not so good for the waistline! By making the dressing lighter and reducing the amount of cheese and croutons in it, we have brought this calorie-loaded dinosaur up to date. If it is a little too light for your taste, then toss strips of grilled chicken into the salad with the croutons.

1 thin baguette

4 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 garlic clove, crushed

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

8 anchovy fillets, in oil

1 or 2 romaine lettuce heads, washed, dried and chopped

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Ground black pepper

Thinly slice the baguette, brush each slice with the oil, place on a cookie sheet, cook at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until golden, set aside to cool. Place the mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce in a food processor. Add the drained anchovy fillets and process until smooth, add 2 tablespoons of water and process again. Pour the dressing into a large salad bowl. Add the lettuce leaves, grated Parmesan cheese and the croutons. Toss well to combine, season with black pepper and serve at once.

CRAB CAKES

Makes 8 crab cakes

By baking rather than frying the crab cakes and reducing the quantity of mayonnaise, these are now better for you without sacrificing any of their succulence or flavor.

1 tablespoon oil

1/2 cup each chopped red peppers and green onions

2 garlic cloves

1 pound white crab meat

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise

2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream

Salt and ground black pepper

All-purpose flour

Lemon wedges for serving

Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the chopped red peppers, green onions, and crushed garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes then spoon into a large bowl. Add the crab meat, breadcrumbs, egg, mayonnaise, and sour cream. Season well and shape into eight 2 1/2 inch patties. Dust with flour and chill for at least an hour.

Brush a nonstick cookie sheet with oil and arrange the crab cakes. Cook at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until crisp and golden. Serve with the lemon wedges.

BURGERS

It is a mistake to make a burger with very lean beef as they need some fat for flavor and to stop them from drying out. To cut down on the calories, do away with any pound-piling extras such as mayonnaise, cheese, and bacon. Serve the burgers in toasted pita bread with lots of arugula, thinly sliced red onions, and roasted red peppers. Plus a spoonful of the juicy salsa for a fragrant tomato and chili hit. 

2 pound minced beef

2 red onions, finely chopped

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

2 eggs

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Salt and ground black pepper

Pitta bread, rocket, roasted red pepper and sliced red onion to serve

In a large bowl, combine all of the above ingredients and then shape into four burgers. For added flavor cook on a barbecue or under the grill.

Serve in warm pita bread with arugula, roasted red pepper, sliced red onion, and the following salsa.

Tomato and chilli salsaroughly chop 2 large red tomatoes, place in a bowl with 1/4 small red onion—finely chopped, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander, 3 jalapeño peppers—finely chopped, 6 radishes—sliced, and a crushed garlic clove. Season and serve.

LEMON AND VANILLA CHEESECAKE

Meltingly creamy and deliciously smooth, no one will believe that this cheesecake is a healthier option! Your guests will certainly be coming back for more!

8 ounces low-fat Graham crackers

1/2 stick butter, melted

12 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese

6 ounces cream cheese

1 cup superfine sugar

3 free-range eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 lemon, the zest and juice

A few drops vanilla extract

1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

Place the crackers in a food processor and process until it forms crumbs, stir in the melted butter, and spoon into an 8-inch springform pan. Press down to form a base, then chill.

Beat the cheeses with the sugar and eggs until smooth. Stir in the cream, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla extract. Pour the mixture onto the crumb base and place the tin on a cookie sheet. Cook at 300 degrees for 1 1/4 hours, by which time the cake should have set, with the center still slightly wobbly but not runny. Leave to cool, then refrigerate overnight. Spread the sour cream over the surface just before serving. Serve with lots of strawberries and/or raspberries.

CARROT, APPLE, AND PECAN MUFFINS

Our wholesome muffins will put their rich calorific cousins to shame! They are extremely tasty and bursting with flavor and spice.

Makes 8

For the Topping

1/4 cup mixed sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds

1/4 cup whole rolled oats

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

2 tablespoons brown sugar

For the Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

1/3 cup sunflower oil

1 cup brown sugar

2 carrots, grated

1 green apple, grated

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup pecan nuts, roughly chopped

1/2 cup coconut flakes

Combine all the topping ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, oil, sugar, carrot, and apple. Stir in the oats, nuts, coconut, and the flour mixture, do not overmix. Spoon into the lined muffin tins and scatter the topping. Cook at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave to cool. The flavor of these muffins seems to improve if they are eaten a couple of hours after baking.