Classic Recipes, Updated
Years ago, back when I subscribed to Cooking Light, I remember they had a feature where they’d re-vamp a reader-submitted recipe – mostly replace a lot of the butter and try to trim it down, fat- and calorie-wise. (For anyone who currently subscribes, do they still do that? Because if so, I’d like to just feed in every single one of my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and get all new recipes back out, still tasting the same, mind you, but with half the fat.)
I applied this idea to two family standbys last week – lasagna and tacos – with mostly favorable results. The lasagna is a family recipe I’ve had for years. It’s typed out on white paper, clearly copied on an old-school “ditto” machine, and says at the top: ”A very unusual and delicious recipe.” Yes, because, back in 1992 when my mom acquired this recipe, any lasagna involving chicken and vegetables must have seemed so Out There.
This recipe is my go-to meal for bringing to a new mom since it can be made ahead, baked whenever you want it, and freezes beautifully in individual portions. I occasionally make the whole 9×13 pan, serve it once for dinner, and freeze all the rest of it in little foil-wrapped pouches for my husband to bring to work for lunch. Though it’s a white sauce, there is only 1/4 c. butter (half a stick) in the whole recipe, which isn’t too bad compared to traditional lasagna. This time, I made it even healthier by adding a bunch of grated carrots to the mix and using whole-wheat lasagna noodles in place of regular. Not surprisingly, everyone ate it up anyway.
Here’s the recipe, as originally written:
9 lasagna noodles
1/4 c. butter
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1 c. matchstick sliced zucchini
3/4 t. salt
1 t. lemon juice
1/4 c. flour
3 chicken boullion cubes
3 c. skim milk
3 c. cooked and shredded chicken
2 c. shredded mozzarella
Prepare noodles according to package direction. Melt butter, saute garlic. Add flour, salt, lemon juice, and chicken boullion and stir constantly to make a paste. Slowly add milk, one cup at a time, and stir until thickened. Add chopped veggies and cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken, turn off heat.
In 9×13 pan, layer chicken sauce, 3 noodles, and cheese. Repeat 2 times. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Let it rest for 15 minutes before cutting. (Can be refrigerated before baking; increase baking time slightly. Can be frozen after baking.)
Later in the week, I tried a new twist on tacos. I came across the recipe on epicurious.com, one of my favorite food sites. It contains all of the old and current Bon Appetit and Gourmet recipes, plus it generally includes helpful reviews by experienced cooks who have tried the recipe. I found it in “Fast, Flavorful, and Full of Fiber” and put it to the test. Called Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw, it did not disappoint. Here are most of the ingredients:
I made this on a day when we’d lingered outside enjoying the spring weather longer than I’d planned, so I really did need it to be fast. It was. I chopped up the red cabbage, mixed it with lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, green onion, and a little sour cream (my modification, since I didn’t buy pre-made slaw).
Then I smushed up some black beans with a little cumin:
I poured a (very) little bit of olive oil into a pan, threw a corn tortilla on it, filled the tortilla with the beans, folded it over, and cooked it for a minute or two on each side. I added a little shredded cheese at the last minute. When they came out, they looked like this:
At the table, we topped them with the cabbage slaw and, because I didn’t have feta, crumbled goat cheese. My husband and I devoured this and fought over the last taco. My two-year-old loved it, too! My four-year-old was the lone hold-out; she tried the black beans but then picked them out so her taco just held melted cheese and goat cheese. Three forks out of four, I guess.
Overall, I was impressed that a vegetarian recipe could satisfy my husband (who, as I’ve noted before, really thinks he needs meat at a meal), and I would make the slaw again as a side for any Mexican-themed dinner. I think this recipe could be made even healthier by using whole-wheat tortillas and baked instead of fried, although then you’d lose out on the crispy texture.
Has anyone else had success in making updated, healthier versions of old classics without losing the flavor? Share, please.