The Art of Substitution

Written by  Sydne George
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Signaling the start of the New Year is the relentless ripple of setting resolu­tions. It seems like everywhere you go, there’s the buzz of becoming-better pledges and promises. For many people, eating smarter, getting healthy and losing weight top their lists of ways in which they’ll improve their well-being in the year to come.

If that rings true for you, you may be interested in some simple substitutions in the kitchen that yield big health ben­efits. While you already might have implemented switches such as eating whole grain bread instead of white bread, sweetening with honey rather than refined white sugar, and serving meals on smaller plates to reduce por­tion sizes, there are many more quick fixes that could make a big difference in your diet.

Like a lot of things in life, banning the baked goods is much harder than it sounds. One way to cut fat and calories when baking is to substitute apple­sauce for the sugar and part of the fat. I did a bit of experimenting when baking with applesauce and came up with a satisfying, though admittedly less sweet, Apple Oat Bran Muffin recipe. The absence of sugar and addi­tion of applesauce achieves a dense structure, pleasing to the palate when served hot from the oven. It’s a recipe worth a try if you’re in search of high­fiber, low-fat baked goods for break­fast.

While salads seem like the way to go for weight loss, a common pitfall lies in the dressing, often laden with fat. One easy solution is to swap salsa for salad dressing. A personal favorite is roasted corn, black bean and red pepper salsa. Loaded with flavor and spice, this salsa gives a kick to mixed greens tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper, without adding any fat.

If you’re steering clear of saturated fats and decreasing the amount of but­ter you cook with, try sauteing in olive oil. Doing so can reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering bad choles­terol levels. The Food and Drug Admini­stration states that consuming as little as 2 tablespoons of olive oil a day can reduce a person’s risk of heart disease. The most beneficial way to incorporate olive oil into your diet is to use it as your healthy fat of choice when cook­ing.

Baby steps like baking with apple­sauce, swapping salsa for salad dress­ing and sauteing with olive oil may seem like simple substitutions. But over time, these smart choices can save calo­ries, cut saturated fat intake and improve cholesterol levels in your body, contributing to a new and better you.

APPLE OAT BRAN MUFFINS

Ingredients

1¼ cups raisin bran cereal
1¼ cups flour
½ cup oatmeal
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup applesauce
¼ cup oil
1 tsp. almond extract
1 apple, finely chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°.

Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and stir until well-mixed. Scoop into prepared muffin tin with ice cream scoop to make 10 muffins. Bake for about 25 minutes. Do not overbake.

Serve warm from the oven. Makes 10.

ITALIAN CHICKEN CUTLET MEDALLIONS

Ingredients

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups Italian bread crumbs
¼-½ cup olive oil
4 lemon slices

Directions

Cut chicken breasts into small medallions, 2-inch square pieces, ½-inch thick. Soak chicken medallions in butter­milk for five to 10 minutes.

Put Italian bread crumbs in large Ziploc bag.

Remove chicken medallions from buttermilk and place in Ziploc bag with bread crumbs. Toss to coat chicken medallions with crumbs.

In a large heavy saucepan over medi­um high heat, heat ¼ cup olive oil to cover bottom of pan, adding more if necessary. Saute chicken medallions and turn to cook other side, browning both sides, cooking for a total of five to six minutes.

Serve Italian Chicken Cutlet Medal­lions over pasta with lemon slices. Serves four.

Sydne George is a food journalist spe­cializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. Contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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