Recipe Makeovers for All-American Food
Cook up lighter versions of American cuisine classics.
I love all the cuisines that make up our American food culture. Where else
can you find almost every type of food under the sun, from Indian to Thai,
Chinese and Japanese; Italian, Greek, French, Mexican, Cuban, Vietnamese,
Indonesian, and more? Yet there are still foods that seem unmistakably
There are foods that may have been invented elsewhere, but have morphed into
American phenomena, like French fries, fruit pies, cupcakes, popcorn, bagels,
pizza, and the entire category of "salads." There are foods we've put
our own spin on, like pancakes and waffles, grilled cheese sandwiches, and
muffins. And then there is truly American food, invented on U.S. ground by
chips, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Another great American food
contribution: almost all things ice cream, like ice cream sandwiches, hot fudge
sundaes, and root beer floats.
All these all-American foods are fantastic and part of our culinary
heritage. The problem is that most of them provide few nutrients and little
fiber -- but a load of calories. Some classic American foods are admittedly
impossible to make over while retaining their desirable characteristics -
doughnuts, for example. But many others can be "doctored" to be lower
in calories and fat and still stay true to the yummy food Americans have come
to know and love.
Here are 12 all-American foods that lend themselves to taking the calories
down a notch, followed by some lightened-up American recipes.
American Food Makeover No. 1: Apple Pie
According to The Food Encyclopedia, apples were introduced to North
America in the 17th century from Europe and West Asia. Apple dishes have been
woven into American cuisine ever since, from apple crisp and caramel apples to
Makeover Tips: Make a lighter apple pie by using a lower-fat, part
whole-wheat piecrust, and by using less sugar in the filling. No butter needs
to "dot" the filling or the top crust, either.
American Food Makeover No. 2: Chocolate Chip Cookies
By most standards, the chocolate chip cookie is the quintessential American
cookie. And one of the most recognized chocolate chip cookies is the Toll House
Cookie. Using small pieces of semisweet chocolate, Ruth Graves Wakefield
created America's original chocolate chip cookie in 1939 at her Toll House Inn
near Whitman, Mass., according to The New Food Lover's Companion.
Makeover Tips: Use a lower-fat margarine with plant
sterols in place of stick butter or margarine in your chocolate chip cookie
recipe. You can decrease the sugar by a fourth, and replace half the white
flour with whole-wheat flour. Using a bit fewer chocolate chips will also shave
some calories and fat grams.
American Food Makeover No. 3: Cornbread
This is an All-American quick bread that's made in all different styles
(Southern, skillet, sweet) with all sorts of possible accoutrements (green
pepper, cheese, bacon, onion, etc.). There have been all sorts of names for
cornbread, and it has many variations that are part of American culinary
history, such as johnnycakes, hushpuppies, and spoon bread.
Makeover Tips: Lighten cornbread recipes by using less fat in the
batter (substitute a less-fat margarine with plant sterols for bacon grease,
lard, or shortening) and replacing that fat with low-fat buttermilk or fat-free
sour cream. For some recipes, you can make a fat substitute blend using canola
oil and fat-free sour cream. Use fewer eggs (substitute two egg whites or 1/4
cup egg substitute). If your recipe calls for "stir-in" ingredients
like bacon or cheese, you can use a reduced-fat option and add less of it. Up
the fiber in your cornbread by substituting whole-wheat flour for half of the
white flour called for.