Today in the Hasty Tasty Meals Kitchen we’re experimenting with creamy textures. Real cream sauces with butter, cheeses, and/or heavy cream contain too much saturated fat. How can the health-conscious cook satisfy the “cream” tooth?
Products on the market available in any supermarket can help you make fake-out creamy sauces or soups. Fat free evaporated milk, fat free half & half (I prefer Land o’ Lakes brand), lowfat sour cream, Neufchatel cheese, and plain ol’ cornstarch work in recipes traditionally laden with butter and heavy cream and/or cheese.
Consider this crustless cherry cheesecake.
Cherry Cheese Dessert
- 12 ounces softened Neufchatel cheese (or lowfat cream cheese)
- 1 large package sugar-free, fat-free instant vanilla pudding mix
- 1 can no-sugar-added pie filling (I like cherry, but any will work)
- 3 cups cold skim milk
- 12 squares graham crackers, crushed
- In a blender, combine pudding mix and milk and mix just until blended. Add Neufchatel cheese. Mix until smooth and thick.
- Pour mixture into a pie plate (or 8 individual parfait dishes).
- Top with the pie filling. Refrigerate.
- Before serving, sprinkle the crushed graham crackers evenly over the top. Scoop into individual dessert bowls.
Makes 8 lowfat servings of a delicious dessert. You won’t miss the fat or the sugar!
You can make your own cream soups, too. Here is a recipe for fish chowder, but you can vary it by substituting clams, shrimp, additional potatoes, corn, mushrooms, chicken, or whatever kind of creamy soup you want to make.
- 1 cup diced potato
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 cup celery, thinly sliced
- ½ cup bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup fish, any kind, coarsely chopped
- 1 10 oz can chicken broth or stock (or bouillon dissolved in 10 oz. water)
- 2 cups fat free half-and-half (or 2 small cans evaporated skim milk)
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
- Using a 3-quart pan over medium heat, dry-sauté onion, celery, and bell pepper (or you may spray bottom of pan with nonstick spray)
- After about 3 minutes, add broth and potatoes
- Dissolve the cornstarch in the half-and-half, then add the mixture to the pan
- Add fish. Cover pan, reduce heat to a low simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes or until fish and potatoes are tender.
- Remove from heat. Add herbs. Stir and serve.
Makes about two bowls or 4 cups.
Make mock sour cream by blending lowfat cottage cheese with lemon juice, or adding artificial sweetener to plain nonfat yogurt. Cottage cheese blended with skim milk and seasonings makes a light cream sauce for pasta dishes. Here’s a recipe for easy cheese sauce. I use a Vita-mix but you can also make it in a skillet.
Cheese Sauce in the Vita-mix®
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 cups skim milk
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- 12 oz reduced-fat cheddar cheese, cubed or shredded*
- Add milk and salt to Vita-mix container. Cover but leave plug in middle of cap open.
- On the lowest setting, run the Vita-mix while adding cornstarch through opening in cover.
- Replace cover plug. Gradually increase the speed to High. Run 3-4 minutes or until steaming
- Stop Vita-mix. Remove cover plug. Add the cheese through opening in cover.
- Run Vita-mix (start low, stepping up to High) for one minute or until cheese is completely blended.
- Turn off Vita-mix and immediately pour cheese sauce over its intended dish (macaroni, taco salad, etc.)
*Any lowfat cheese works with this recipe
To adapt this recipe to the skillet, just remember to dissolve the cornstarch in cold milk then heat to boiling to thicken. Cornstarch doesn’t dissolve easily in warm liquid. Use a whisk to thicken the milk then a wooden spoon to blend in the cheese.
One last word on creamstyle cooking: Cream based soups or cream sauced foods don’t keep well in the freezer. It’s better to freeze what you want to save for later and then add the creamy textures to the dish right before serving. As you experiment in your kitchen, you’ll find more ways to fake the fatty creams, butter, and cheeses in your own dishes.