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Don't get sacked by fat

By Detroit Free Press

DETROIT -- Is it possible to set out great snacks and trim back fat and calories?

According to a recent survey by the National Restaurant Association, 42 percent of Americans say they want healthful foods on their party tables.

Do you love chicken wings? Bake them. "But keep in mind -- they are still the fattiest part of the chicken," says Bethany Thayer, a wellness manager at Henry Ford Health System and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Or try Boneless Buffalo Chicken Wings made with leaner chicken tenders.

For dips, Thayer advises using low-fat or fat-free cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream. Also, try plain nonfat Greek yogurt. Its custardy texture and tangy flavor make a good match for dips.

Thayer also recommends keeping in mind the U.S. Department of Agriculture's My Plate guidelines.

"Offer half of your choices as fruits and vegetables, making some healthy dips to go with them," Thayer says.

And if you plan on pizza, load it up with vegetables, she says.

Joe Nader, executive chef for Levy Restaurants at Ford Field, knows people are still doing the New Year's diet in February. He likes meatballs because "you can eat just one, or three or four." But his Chicken Verde Meatballs are made with ground chicken instead of beef or pork. And even though the recipe calls for cheese and heavy cream, both are used sparingly.

"You're getting a meatball that's more fun and leaner and healthier," Nader says. "And it's something you can do ahead of time and they hold well."

Chicken Verde Meatballs

Makes 32 meatballs. Prep time: 35 minutes (plus chilling time). Total time: 1 hour. You can make these meatballs smaller than 1 ounce if you choose. Look for Cotija cheese in the specialty cheese section of grocery stores. Cotija is a crumbly, salty cheese similar to feta. Adapted from Joe Nader, executive chef at Levy Restaurants, Ford Field, Detroit.

1     large egg

1/4     cup heavy whipping cream

6     whole-corn tortillas (6-inch size)

1     tablespoon olive oil

1     medium yellow onion, peeled, diced small

1     large poblano pepper, diced

1     tablespoon cumin

1     tablespoon dried oregano (Mexican, if desired)

1 1/2     pounds ground chicken breast

1/2     cup chopped cilantro leaves

1/2     cup grated Cotija cheese

2     teaspoons kosher salt

2     teaspoons black pepper

1     to 2 tablespoons canola oil

Salsa Verde (recipe below)

COMBINE in a blender or food processor fitted with the steel blade the egg, cream and tortillas and purée till smooth.

HEAT olive oil in a medium-size sauté pan. Add the onion, poblano pepper, cumin and oregano; sauté until soft. Let cool.

PLACE in a large bowl, the ground chicken, cilantro, cheese, salt, pepper, tortilla mixture and onion mixture. Mix well, but do not overmix. Refrigerate for 30 to 40 minutes to let flavors come together.

(If desired, take a small amount and form into a patty to sample. Sear in a sauté pan till fully cooked and taste to ensure that seasonings are correct.)

SCOOP 1-ounce (or smaller) portions using a small ice cream or cookie scoop to give yourself a consistent measure. Once you have scooped out all of the mixture, roll the balls in your hands to make them uniform in shape.

HEAT oven to 350°.

HEAT 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large skillet. Working in batches and adding more canola oil as necessary, place the meatballs in pan and sear them on all sides to get a nice brown crust. Once all meatballs are seared, place them in a baking dish and finish in the oven for about 10 minutes or until cooked through. Add Salsa Verde Sauce to meatballs and let simmer on low heat on the stove for 30 minutes.

Nutrition information: Per 1 chicken meatball (about 1 1/4 ounces): 51 calories (42 percent from fat), 3 grams fat (1 grams saturated fat), 3 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 229 milligrams sodium, 24 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.

Salsa Verde

Makes 2 1/2 cups. Prep time: 15 minutes. Total time: 45 minutes. Adapted from Joe Nader, executive chef at Levy Restaurants, Ford Field, Detroit.

2     cans (26 ounces each) whole tomatillos, drained

1     tablespoon olive oil

1     medium yellow onion, finely diced

1     serrano chili, stemmed, seeded, chopped

2     large cloves garlic, peeled, chopped

1     to 2 tablespoons sugar

1     chipotle pepper in adobo sauce with 1 tablespoon of the sauce, chopped

1     cup water

Juice of 1 fresh lime

1     to 2 teaspoons kosher salt

2     tablespoons heavy whipping cream (optional)

3     green onions, washed, ends removed, minced

PLACE in a food processor the tomatillos without the liquid from the can and pulse to coarsely chop. Set aside.

HEAT the olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add onion and serrano pepper and cook until soft.

ADD the garlic and until just beginning to brown. Once the garlic is browned, add the sugar, chipotle with sauce, water, lime juice and salt. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

TASTE and adjust seasoning if needed. It may be a bit spicy, but the heavy cream added later should help tone it down. If desired, blend the mixture with a hand blender until smooth.

COOL and whisk in the heavy cream, if using, and green onion.

SERVE with Chicken Verde Meatballs.

Nutrition information: Per 1 tablespoon sauce: 10 calories (44 percent from fat), 1 gram fat (0 grams saturated fat), 1 gram carbohydrates, 0 grams protein, 160 milligrams sodium, 1 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.

Hot Artichoke and Asiago Cheese Dip

Makes about 2 cups. Prep time: 10 minutes. Total time: 45 minutes. Adapted from www.bhg.com.

1     package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened

1/2     cup Asiago or Parmesan cheese, finely shredded

2     cloves garlic, peeled, minced

1     can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained

1/3     cup chopped roasted red sweet peppers

3/4     cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained

1/2     cup sliced green onion

For serving:

Baked pita chips

Assorted vegetables

HEAT oven to 350°.

PULSE in a food processor to combine the cream cheese, Asiago cheese and garlic. Add artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, spinach and green onion. Pulse just to combine and chop. Transfer mixture to a shallow baking dish or 9-inch glass pie plate, spreading mixture evenly in dish.

COVER and bake about 25 minutes or until heated through. Or microwave, uncovered, on 70 percent power (medium-high) for 6 to 8 minutes or until heated through, stirring the dip and turning the dish halfway through cooking time.

SERVE warm dip with baked pita chips and vegetables.

Cook's note: If you don't have a food processor, in a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and Asiago cheese with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until combined. Finely chop garlic, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, spinach and green onion. Stir into cheese mixture. Transfer to baking dish and bake as directed.

Nutrition information: Per 1 tablespoon dip: 33 calories (58 percent from fat), 2 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat), 2 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 61 milligrams sodium, 7 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.

Boneless Buffalo Chicken Wings

Serves 8. Prep time: 30 minutes. Total time: 45 minutes. For the blue cheese dip, you can use all reduced-fat sour cream instead of the sour cream mixed with yogurt. If you desire more spiciness, serve extra hot pepper sauce on the side. Adapted from Fine Cooking magazine, February 2007 issue.

For Spicy Blue Cheese Dip:

1/3     cup reduced-fat sour cream

1/3     cup nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt

2/3     cup crumbled blue cheese

1     tablespoon distilled white vinegar

1/4     teaspoon cayenne pepper

For Wings:

3     tablespoons low-fat or nonfat buttermilk (see note)

3     tablespoons favorite hot pepper sauce, divided

3     tablespoons white vinegar, divided

2     pounds chicken tenders

6     tablespoons white whole-wheat flour, such as King Arthur

6     tablespoons cornmeal

1/2     teaspoon cayenne pepper

2     to 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

2     cups carrot sticks

2     cups celery sticks

To prepare dip:

MIX together in a small serving bowl all the ingredients, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To prepare wings:

WHISK in a large bowl the buttermilk, 2 tablespoons hot sauce and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Add chicken tenders and toss to coat. Refrigerate and marinate at least 10 minutes or up to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

WHISK flour and cornmeal in a shallow dish.

WHISK in a separate small bowl the remaining 1 tablespoon hot sauce and 1 tablespoon vinegar; set aside.

REMOVE the chicken from the marinade, letting the excess drip off, and roll each piece in the flour mixture until evenly coated. (Discard remaining marinade-and-flour mixture.) Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with the cayenne.

HEAT 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add about half the chicken. Cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving platter. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and chicken, reducing the heat if necessary to prevent burning. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil if needed. Transfer to the platter. Drizzle the chicken with the reserved hot sauce mixture. Serve with carrots, celery and Spicy Blue Cheese Dip.

Cook's note: If you have no buttermilk, you can use buttermilk powder prepared according to package directions. Or make sour milk by mixing 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup nonfat milk.

Nutrition information: Based on 2 chicken tenders with 1/2 cup vegetables and 2 tablespoons dip: 256 calories (35 percent from fat), 10 grams fat (4 grams saturated fat), 12 grams carbohydrates, 31 grams protein, 353 milligrams sodium, 83 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.


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