Well, hmmmm... It all sounded so ... diet-like. I said that I don't use any diet foods or artificial sweeteners or any of that sort of thing. But they assured me that Joy is into local fresh foods and they'd be interested in my take on her recipes.
Okay, I can do that.
Two books arrived. One was Food Cures. At first I thought it was going to be some sort of hocus-pocus book that would claim to cure whatever ailed me. Instead, it was more about what nutrients are in which foods and what those nutrients are good for. So if you've arthritis or dull hair or whatever, there are foods that are better for you than others. That makes sense. Eat the right food to give your body what it needs.
The second book was Slim & Scrumptious which is a cookbook. I browsed through it a couple times, looking for a recipe that I wanted to try, but ... sigh ... the book uses a lot of low-fat products. I'm not morally opposed to low-fat products, particularly if the fat is removed in a non-weird way. Like milk. That's normal. Low-fat natural cheeses are fine, too.
Some of it, I don't care for. Like the products that use thickeners and stabilizers. Again, I'm not morally opposed to that stuff. Most of it is pretty normal, like adding gelatin to make the products thicker. It's just not something that I like, compared to the original versions. And frankly, some of that stuff is ... weird.
I realize that a lot of people like low-fat products, so I just didn't want to make a recipe from the book and substitute full-fat products for low-fat and call it a day. I wanted to stick to the theme and make something diet friendly.
It's not like I'm a fat addict or anything. When I think it's necessary for a recipe, I use full-fat products. On the other hand, I've been known to substitute my home made full-fat Greek-style yogurt for sour cream. It's got less fat than regular sour cream and none of the weird thickeners that I avoid. Sure, it's fatty for yogurt, but it's light compared to sour cream.
So I browsed through the book looking for a recipe I could modify for my style of cooking, but without upping the calorie count by a huge amount. I settled on the creamed spinach recipe that called for low-fat cream cheese.
The rest of the ingredients were pretty typical - garlic, red pepper flakes, onion ... not a lot left to be modified.
But then I figured that switching the main ingredient would do the trick. Spinach cooks down to nothing. But if I used kale ... well, it cooks down quite a bit, but it doesn't disappear the way spinach does. Leave the full-fat cream cheese in the recipe, but the number of servings would increase because the kale wouldn't shrink nearly as much. Problem solved.
The resulting dish didn't seem very creamy compared to creamed spinach that I've had in steakhouses. I thought the flavor was good, and the creamy flavor was actually discernible. To be honest, if I wasn't following this recipe, I probably would have skipped the cream all together and added some lemon juice or a flavorful vinegar and eliminated the fat issue entirely. But that wouldn't be a good adaption of the recipe, would it?
If I made it again and wanted it creamy AND lower calorie, I think I'd use my home made yogurt to add a lot of creaminess. To keep it from breaking down, I'd add it after taking it off the heat. I ran the numbers on it (using some estimates for the probable calories in my home made yogurt) and I figure I could add up to 1 cup of my homemade yogurt - which would be a lot - and end up with fewer calories per serving than the original recipe. I imagine I'd use a lot less yogurt, though, which would be even better.
To be clear, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the original concept - just that I don't buy low-fat products. If you use them, you'll probably love this book. And even if you don't use them, you could make these recipes with a few alterations.
Creamed Spinach (Original Version)
Adapted from Slim & Scrumptious by Joy Bauer
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 10-ounce bags fresh spinach, large stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) low-fat cream cheese
1/4 tablespoon kosher salt
Liberally coat a large saute pan with oil spray and preheat it over medium heat.
Add the shallot and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
Add as much of the spinach as will fit. Using tongs, turn the spinach over in the pan, adding more spinach as it wilts and makes space until it's all in the pan. Continue cooking until the spinach has wilted but still has some texture, 3-5 minutes.
Move the spinach to make space for the cream cheese. With the back of a spoon, mash the cream cheese to make it melt. As the cheese melts, stir it into the spinach until the cheese is completely melted and incorporated into the spinach.
Season with the salt and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Based on Slim & Scrumptious by Joy Bauer
1/4 of a medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 bunches kale, ribs removed, torn into pieces, and washed
3 ounces cream cheese
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan on medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring as needed, until the onion begins to soften. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt, and continue cooking until the garlic is fragrant and the onions are soft.
Add the kale, along with any water still clinging to the leaves. Cook, turning the kale over with tongs, until the kale has wilted. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the kale is tender, about 10 minutes. If you need extra water to keep it from burning, add it as needed.
Uncover the pan and cook until most of the liquid is gone. Move the kale over in the pan, add the cream cheese, and mash it down to help it melt. Stir to coat the kale with the cheese. Serve hot.