Flavor without the calories: How to Lighten up your dishes with out sacrificing flavor.
When entertaining or simply cooking for your family, usually we are most worried about our guests enjoying the food, right? It’s easy to go overboard on fat and calories when cooking for gatherings because we want to make sure that everyone’s taste buds are delighted.
Here are some great ways to lighten up your meals with out sacrificing the most important ingredient, the taste!
1) Use recipes as a guide: The first step to healthier cooking is to take recipes as suggestions. Before you start chopping and mixing, scan the recipe to see if there are any unnecessary calories. Look for excess cheese, butter and oils, as well as sugar and see where you can make healthy substitutions.
2) Be choosy about cheese: When using mildly flavored cheese like Monterey Jack or mozzarella, you need more cheese to taste it. Try to look for recipes that call for bold cheeses like feta, sharp cheddar, and Parmesan. These cheeses are super flavorful and a little can go a long way. Instead of topping your salad with cheddar, sprinkle with a little feta and see how your taste buds delight!
3) Go for bold ingredients: Make sure to use bold flavored ingredients like olives, balsamic vinegar, capers, and citrus that provide a lot of flavor and go a long way without adding a ton of calories. They are a great way to impart healthy flavor but not calories.
4) Light on the bacon?: Yes, I said it go light on the bacon. Instead of using all of the bacon/pancetta or other flavorful meat a recipe calls for, use half the amount but chop it very finely. Now the dish is lower in fat and calories but the flavor was not sacrificed at all.
Here is a delicious recipe that really utilizes most of the tips above! I lightened this recipe up by decreasing the amount of oil, switching the cheese from mozzarella to feta and making it meatless by adding more beans! Enjoy!
No Cook Mediterranean White Bean Salad
Recipe adapted from The Clever Carrot
Basil Marinated Tomatoes
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- ½ c. basil
- ⅓ c. thinly sliced red onion
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- salt & pepper
White Bean Salad
- 2- 14 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained (reserve some marinate for tomatoes)
- 14 oz. can white beans, drained & rinsed (I used cannellini beans)
- 1 large celery stalk
- ¼ cup feta crumbled feta cheese
- ¼ c. red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- roughly chopped basil, parsley, chives & celery leaves to taste
Notes: *If you are making this in advance, add the basil marinated tomatoes to the rest of the salad right before serving (otherwise the juices will turn the chicken & mozzarella pink! Not that it’s a bad thing…)
- To make the basil marinated tomatoes; add the sliced tomatoes to a large bowl. Stack the basil leaves on top of each other, roll them up, and thinly slice into ribbons. Using a mandolin, slice the red onions as thin as possible. Add the basil and onion to the bowl. Top with olive oil and ~1-2 tablespoons marinate from the artichoke hearts and season with salt and pepper. Mix well to coat. Let sit at room temperature minimum 30 minutes- 3 hours.
- Using a big beautiful serving bowl, add the artichoke hearts and beans. Thinly slice the celery directly into the bowl. Add the feta, crumbling with your fingers.
- Add the basil marinated tomatoes and all of its juice.
- Add the red wine vinegar and toss well.
- Taste the salad and season with extra salt and pepper. Drizzle with ~1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and vinegar to taste.
Garnish with roughly chopped basil, parsley, chives & celery leaves. The awesome thing about this recipe is that so many of the ingredients can be substituted for pantry staples. You can use chickpeas instead of cannellini beans, sun dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives and roasted red pepper instead of the artichokes. You can also add rotisserie chicken to pack in more protein! Also, if you have an herb garden – utilize what you’ve got! Throw in a ton of different herbs to give it all kinds of fun flavors!
Now it is your turn. How do you add extra flavor to your favorite dish? Let us know two ways in the comments below, then SHARE the love by sharing this post with the button below.