Food & Drink

Five Weight Watchers recipes that don’t taste like diet food

Chocolate marshmallow fudge
Chocolate marshmallow fudge St. Louis Post-Dispatch via TNS

We’re two weeks into the new year, so how’s your diet resolution going?

The healthiest way to lose weight, and the only successful way to keep it off, is to strive for balance, variety and moderation, said Rabia Rahman, assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at St. Louis University.

You should find a balance not only in the different types of food you eat but also a balance between the amount of calories you consume and the ones you work off through exercise and other activities. If you consume as much as you burn off, your weight will stay the same. If you can burn off more than you consume, you will lose weight.

To get into the dieting spirit, I prepared several dishes from Weight Watchers’ recipes. And they were good. Not just good for diet food, they were actually good. Even the fudge.

Yes, Weight Watchers has a recipe for chocolate marshmallow fudge, and it’s actually relatively low in calories.

How can that be? Well, it uses fat-free evaporated milk instead of the regular kind, reduced-calorie margarine instead of real butter and melted marshmallows to give it body and flavor. Plus, the portions are small.

It is surprisingly excellent.

Equally satisfying is what I am calling a Tex-Mex casserole (they call it a Mexican casserole, but I can’t in good conscience do that).

You begin with lean ground beef, and then you render and drain the remaining fat out of that. You season the beef with a package of taco seasoning mix, I’m embarrassed to say, and then saute it with typical Tex-Mex flavors: onion, jalapeño, corn and black beans.

You bake this between layers of tortillas, add nonfat sour cream and top with shredded low-fat cheese. It is an perfectly balanced blend of flavors, and the portions are big enough that you won’t want anything more for dessert than a tiny piece of fudge.

For another entree, this one cooked in the slow cooker, I went with a classic Southern dish. Hoppin’ John is seasoned black-eyed peas and a ham hock, and it is traditionally served on New Year’s Day to bring good luck.

The Weight Watchers’ version is made with turkey sausage and shrimp instead of ham, and it contains a lot of kale for flavor, nutrients and, to be honest, filler. It’s warming and filling, a delicious comfort food that just might bring you good luck. You never know.

No less good, but quicker and easier, was a honey-glazed salmon with wasabi. Salmon, of course, is beloved by dieters because it has a high amount of flavor while still being good for you (though salmon tends to be fattier than other fish).

This version uses a popular combination of Japanese seasonings, with a hint of honey for sweetness and a blast of wasabi paste for heat. It doesn’t take long to cook, but you will probably gobble it up faster than that.

Finally, I made baked spicy french fries. One thing that diets often try to do is to satisfy the dieters’ cravings for fattening foods by attempting to replace them with a more healthful version. Usually, that doesn’t work and the dieter winds up craving the original even more.

But these baked-not-fried fries are different. The spices adhere to the potatoes with egg whites, so they don’t need fat, and the fries go through two stages of cooking — they are first baked and then broiled. This mimics the best way to make regular fries, cooking them first at a relatively low temperature and then relatively high.

You get fries that are flavorful and crisp on the outside and creamy in the middle.

All of that, and you can feel good about eating them, too.

Chocolate marshmallow fudge

Makes 36 servings

  • 1  2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup fat-free evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-calorie margarine
  • 12 ounces semisweet baking chocolate, chopped
  • 14 large marshmallows, chopped

1. Coat an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.

2. Stir together sugar, evaporated milk and margarine. Bring to a boil in a saucepan, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in chocolate and marshmallows. Remove from heat and stir until smooth.

3. Pour into prepared pan and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. Cut into 36 squares — 6 rows of 6 —and serve.

Nutritional analysis per square: 96 calories, 3 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, no cholesterol, 1 gram protein, 18 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams sugar, 1 gram fiber; 7 milligrams sodium, 14 milligrams calcium and 28 percent of calories from fat.

Weight Watchers

Tex-Mex casserole

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 pound extra-lean ground beef
  •  1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup canned jalapeño slices, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped, or 1 (15-ounce) can diced canned tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (1 1/4-ounce) package taco seasoning mix
  • 8 small corn tortillas
  • 3/4 cup nonfat sour cream
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat Mexican cheese blend, shredded
  • 1/3 bunch cilantro, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown ground beef and chopped onions in a large skillet over medium-high heat; brown 10 to 12 minutes or until thoroughly cooked, stirring constantly. Drain well in a strainer and rinse with warm water to remove all fat. Return beef and onions to skillet.

2. Add jalapeños, tomatoes, corn, black beans and taco seasoning mix; mix well. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, spray a 12-by-8-inch (2 quart) baking dish with nonstick spray. Cut each tortilla in half. Place 8 halves in bottom of dish, overlapping slightly.

4. Spoon half of beef mixture evenly over tortillas. Spread sour cream evenly over beef mixture. Top with remaining 8 tortilla halves and the remaining beef mixture. (Casserole can be frozen at this point; refrigerate overnight before cooking).

5. Bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle top with the cheese. Cover, let stand 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Serve with fresh chopped lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, black olives or other garnishes of your choosing.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 306 calories, 7 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 52 milligrams cholesterol, 25 grams protein, 38 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams sugar, 8 grams fiber, 267 milligrams sodium, 199 milligrams calcium and 21 percent calories from fat.

Weight Watchers

Hoppin’ John with shrimp

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  •  1/2 pound sweet or hot Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed diced tomatoes with green peppers, celery and onions
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag chopped fresh kale
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup roasted sweet peppers, drained and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

1. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage, onion and garlic. Cook, breaking up sausage with wooden spoon, until browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, paprika and red pepper flakes. Bring to boil, scraping up browned bits, if any, from bottom of skillet.

2. Transfer sausage mixture to a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker. Stir in kale and black-eyed peas. Cover and cook until kale is tender, 2 to 4 hours on high or 6 to 8 hours on low.

3. Stir in shrimp, roasted peppers and oregano. Cover and cook on high until shrimp are just opaque.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 201 calories, 5 grams fat, 1 grams saturated fat, 68 milligrams cholesterol, 16 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams sugar, 6 grams fiber, 674 milligrams sodium, 208 milligrams calcium and 22 percent calories from fat.

Weight Watchers

Baked spicy french fries

Makes 4 servings

  • 2 egg whites
  •  1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large potatoes, cut into thick fries

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Toss to coat the potatoes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

3. Bake until potatoes are barely tender, about 15 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to broil; broil until crispy, about 5 to 10 minutes. Watch closely to avoid burning. Serve at once.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 153 calories, no fat; no saturated fat, no cholesterol, 6 grams protein, 33 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams sugar, 4 grams fiber, 343 milligrams sodium, 29 milligrams calcium and 0 percent calories from fat.

Weight Watchers

Honey-glazed salmon with wasabi

Makes 4 servings

  • 3 tablespoons mirin, see note
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 teaspoons wasabi paste, see note
  • 1 pound salmon fillet or steaks, cut into 4 equal pieces
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced

1. To make the sauce, bring the mirin, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, ginger and wasabi to a boil in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat until the flavors are blended and the sauce is thickened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm.

2. Meanwhile, season the salmon with the salt and pepper. Spray a large nonstick skillet with nonstick spray and set over high heat. When hot, add the salmon and cook, turning once, until the fish is browned on the outside and opaque in the center, about 4 minutes on each side.

3. Spoon the sauce over the salmon, sprinkle with scallions and serve at once.

Note: Mirin is a sweet cooking rice wine. It can be found in the Asian specialty aisle of most grocery stores. Sherry is an adequate substitute. Wasabi paste can also be found in the Asian specialty aisle of most grocery stores.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 234 calories, 12 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 61 milligrams cholesterol, 25 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams sugar, no fiber, 702 milligrams sodium, 23 milligrams calcium and 46 percent calories from fat.

“Take Out Tonight!,” by Weight Watchers

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