Trimming calories will not leave holiday feast tasteless

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 15, 2009

It is possible to be tightening instead of loosening your belt after Thanksgiving dinner this year. And it is possible to do that without loosing the flavor associated with a traditional turkey feast.

Doug Hosford, owner and chef at High Cotton in Natchez, said trimming calories and fat out of turkey day doesn’t meant trimming out taste as well.

“If you are cooking food that your family won’t eat, there is no point in cooking,” Hosford said. “If we can cook lighter, and they don’t know or don’t really care, that’s the point.”

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Hosford said the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the trimmings totals up to approximately 4,000 calories — and that doesn’t include the leftovers or the extra slice of pie.

“If we can trim that down to about 2,500 calories, then we are all doing a little better,” he said.

But Hosford said doing that doesn’t mean skipping the sweet potatoes or cornbread dressing, it just means making smarter decisions when the food is being prepared.

Hosford suggested cutting the fat back in cornbread dressing by cutting the fat and oil used to prepare the actual cornbread.

“Make the cornbread as light as you can,” he said. “Make it dry, then add more chicken stock to the dressing. You won’t be able to tell a difference in the end.”

When it comes time for the turkey, Hosford said smaller is better. Instead of roasting a whole turkey or even a turkey breast, Hosford suggested simply grilling a turkey tenderloin or two is a great option.

Turkey tenderloins are 97 percent fat free and can be seasoned simply with salt and pepper.

“They are a good option for great, moist meat,” Hosford said. “It isn’t a hard process or a long process.”

And to trim the turkey, Hosford uses all the traditional flavors, just a lighter version.

Instead of green bean casserole that is smothered in cream of mushroom soup and topped with fried onion strips, Hosford suggests a marinated green bean salad that uses very flavorful ingredients like olives, garlic, basil and capers that are not filled with calories.

“You have to ask yourself, after you eat, if you missed the extra calories, and you aren’t (going to),” Hosford said. “The key is using highly flavorful ingredients but using less of them.”

To replace the sweet potato casserole that is traditionally topped with marshmallows or pecans and brown sugar, serve roasted sweet potatoes with caramelized onions. Hosford said they are just as flavorful with a fraction of the calories.

“We aren’t talking about fat free or diet food or low calorie,” Hosford said. “We are just cutting as many calories and as much fat out along the way to end up with a meal that is better for you.”

Hosford said it is even possible to caramelize onions without adding fat from oil.

Hosford said to slice Spanish onions thinly, pile them high in a skillet, and let the natural oils and sugars in the onions do the work. If they start to burn, simply add a little water, Hosford said.

And in the end, Hosford said using better ingredients is always better because you can use less of the more flavorful ingredient.

“And with the better ingredient, you are going to use less and cut calories and fat that way,” Hosford said.

Marinated green beans

1 1/2 pound fresh green beans

12 large green olives

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

3 tablespoons fresh basil, shredded

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

1 tablespoon capers

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

Cook beans in boiling water until tender, about eight minutes. Drain well. Combine olives, garlic, basil, oregano and capers in a salad bowl. Add hot beans and vinegar, toss well. Add olive oil and salt, toss well. Let stand for three hours. If desired, remove garlic before serving.