How to savor the delights of cheese, chocolate, caramel, and meat in light, smart, delicious ways.
Recipes By Julianna Grimes, Photography By Romulo Yanes
November 14, 2012
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Secret #1: Portion Control
Portion control is perhaps the hardest thing about eating healthfully in the holiday season, when desserts are everywhere and the temptation is to slice generously. Single-serving cheesecakes bake in muffin tins, so there's no guesswork. Our individual desserts don't feel skimpy, except with their numbers: Each has about half the calories and one-fourth the sat fat of a typical serving of caramel cheesecake.
Baking individual desserts in a muffin pan is the smart way to pre-portion a rich treat. Each serving is still full of big sweet-salty pleasures.
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Secret #2: Keep Servings Small But Satisfying
A healthy portion of pork is 4 ounces raw, which cooks down to about 3 ounces. Now, a 3-ounce cut of the holiday centerpiece could look puny on the plate if it's naked, but not when you dress this roast up with a filling that features licorice-like fennel, tangy dried cherries, and lots of herbs. Slices are larger with the stuffing, and the port wine sauce that drapes over the meat is sop-it-up satisfying. All this pleasure, and the entrée is well under 300 calories!
Use the gorgeous flavors of dried cherries, pungent herbs, and rich port wine to keep servings small but satisfying.
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Secret #3: High-Flavor Ingredients
The indulgent "cream" sauce for this gratin is actually a low-fat white sauce made from 2% milk thickened with flour—not a speck of cream or butter in sight. The flavor gets seriously delicious when good aged Gruyère cheese, nutty and salty, melts in. Our gratin is wildly delicious, hitting all those comforting starchy-creamy-cheesy notes, and has roughly half the calories and 83% less saturated fat than a classic gratin.
When you start with high-flavor, nutty-intense Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses, you don't need heavy cream or butter to yield a comforting potato dish.
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Secret #4: Indulge in the Best Decadent Chocolate
Chocolate is a food that, at its best, delivers a hit of pleasure that is mostly unrelated to the quantity of the treat. Here, creamy milk chocolate gets a hazelnut kick from Nutella, Frangelico, and the nuts themselves. While you can certainly enjoy two or three truffles without going overboard calorie-wise, we suggest serving one perfect treat on the saucer with a cup of coffee or espresso.
When indulging in chocolate, indulge in the best. For about the same calories and sat fat as a generic mini candy bar, here are some decadent, two-bite confections.
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Secret #5: Pick One Indulgent Star
The key with this decadent appetizer is to exploit the indulgent texture of burrata (a rich cheese that's made up of a thin "skin" of mozzarella encasing a runny center of mozzarella and cream) while dialing down the calories of the accompaniments. This is our updated version of the classic puff pastry—wrapped Brie cheese. No need to use a butter-rich pastry because the cheese itself is so divine. You'll save about 40% of calories, total fat, and saturated fat.
Pick one indulgent star, and then surround it with low-fat embelishments. Here, milky-oozy burrata bakes inside crisp phyllo dough and gets a bright flavor boost from garlicky roasted tomatoes.
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Secret #6: Add a Luxurious Topping
Oysters always feel special, even when served simply raw on the half shell. But to make them superindulgent, we embellish with lavish touches. The oysters get pan-fried in panko breading so they're crispy on the outside, juicy within. The oyster liquid is cooked down with wine and herbs for a delicious sauce that's made silky with crème fraîche. A final crown of sparkling fish roe takes this into sexy new territory. A happy portion of three has less than 130 calories.
Make an already healthy treat—the oysters—extra special with luxurious toppings: crème fraîche sauce and a jewel-like garnish of salty fish roe.
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Secret #7: Make an Expensive Ingredient Affordable
With pine nuts at $35 per pound, we wondered if it made any sense at all to make a butter out of them. Then we tasted it: the richest, most indulgent nut butter ever, and satisfying in minuscule bits, so that a little 2- or 3-ounce jar makes a fine food gift, like a present of caviar.
We took an insanely expensive ingredient and found that it makes a treat so rich that it's actually affordable.