Light and Easy: 4 low-cal cooking tips from Rocco

Inspired by Rocco DiSpirito's new cookbook of 350-calorie-or-less recipes, Now Eat This!, we asked the chef to give up a few of his great low-cal cooking tricks.
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1. THE FAST FRY
salmon

The amount of fat that deep-fried foods absorb has nothing to do with how much oil is used; it depends on the temperature of the oil and how long the food sits in it. That's why Rocco poaches meat in low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth until almost cooked through, then finishes it off with a quicker -- and healthier -- classic fry.

Try our recipes:

Poached Salmon with Parsley Couscous

After poaching the fish in white wine, it hardly needs a flash fry, getting a boost from a refreshing sour-cream sauce dressed up with dill, lemon, capers, cucumbers and radishes.

 
Meat with Shaved Veggies

Poached Chicken with Grape Relish

Adding fresh thyme to the poaching liquid gives additional flavor to the chicken breasts as they cook.

 
2. BREADING REDUX
Fried Meat with Fries

Nothing beats a crispy fried coating...except a light version that's just as delicious. Rocco uses egg whites instead of whole eggs for dipping, then breads with whole wheat panko, which is naturally crispier than regular breadcrumbs.

Try our recipes:

Crispy Chicken and Fries

Made with a small amount of heart-healthy extra-virgin olive oil, our fried chicken is breaded with egg whites only and lightly pan-fried, then baked until crisp.

 
Crispy Baked Fish Sticks

Crispy Baked Fish Sticks

Kicking store-bought sticks doesn't mean you have to stray too far from the familiar: Making them from scratch gives you way more control over quality, ingredients and fat.

 
3. FAKE-O MAYO
Honey Yogurt Dip with Fresh Fruit

Parties call for dips, and dips usually call for mayo -- leaving healthy snackers doomed from the get-go. Instead, Rocco relies on the tang and texture of greek yogurt. "If you cut the calories in the base, you can do whatever you want for the rest and you're still ahead of the game," he says.

Try our recipes:

Honey-Yogurt Dip with Fresh Fruit

This trick works for dessert, too: Stirring honey and cinnamon into the yogurt makes for a sweet dip that's great to set out at the end of the meal, with fruit-and-mint skewers.

 
Spinach Dip

Good-for-You Spinach Dip

This reinvention of a classic slashes the fat by reining in the mayo, eliminating sour cream and using low-fat cream cheese. Fresh onion and garlic mean no high-sodium powdered onion soup mix, and doubled-up veggies add good fiber.

 
4. TASTE-BUD TRICKERY
Black Bean Tacos

"Fat makes food juicy and rich," Rocco says, "but other things can do that!" Case in point: His turkey enchiladas feature less cheese than typical enchiladas, yet still have a luxuriously cheesy texture. How? He adds a green salsa made from pureed tomatillos for a similarly rich mouthfeel.

Try our recipes:

Good-for-You Huevos Rancheros

Scramble eggs in a nonstick skillet slicked with cooking spray instead of frying them, and keep the cheese, just reduce the amount. This leaves room for a dollop of sour cream.

 
Pudding Dessert

Good-for-You Double Chocolate Pudding

Drop the egg yolks and butter and use cornstarch as a thickener. Then up the amount of chocolate and cocoa powder to get much richer results.

 
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