Cooking with Fat-Free Dairy Products
What You Need to Know About … Cooking with Fat-Free Dairy Products
By Leslie Fink, MS, RD | 5/25/2005
In the world of light cooking, swapping olive oil for butter is one
thing; using fat-free cheese instead of regular cheese is another. Here's how
nonfat sour cream, skim milk and fat-free yogurt (to name a few) can help
you work wonders in the kitchen.
Fat-Free Ricotta Cheese can be used in both sweet and savory
preparations. Beat some with Splenda and ground cinnamon for a lovely fruit dip
or fruit compote topping, or substitute skim ricotta for regular ricotta
in your favorite (whole-wheat) lasagna recipe. You can puree skim
ricotta until smooth and use it as a base for dip recipes, too.
Fat-Free Cheese (American, Cheddar, etc.) does not work well as
toppings in baked recipes since it does not melt and bubble like regular – or
even low fat – cheese (although broiling does help the cheese to brown
a bit). Your best bets are to use fat-free shredded cheese in a baked
dish so it's mixed in with other ingredients, or to sprinkle some on top
of dishes for a dash of color.
Plain Fat-Free Yogurt is so versatile that it can be used to tenderize
meat, add thickness to sauces (instead of heavy cream), replace some
mayonnaise and sour cream in dips, and serve as a base for salad
dressings and marinades. Try flavoring some with fresh basil, ginger and sugar
substitute for a refreshing sauce for grilled fruit. One note: If
regular fat-free yogurt is too "runny" for you, try plain nonfat Greek-style
yogurt instead which is creamier and has a thicker consistency.
Fat-Free Sour Cream can be used for much more than dip recipes – it can
add a little creaminess to your favorite chicken, tuna or potato salad
recipes, and smoothness to frittatas. If the consistency of your
renovated dish seems a little "off," try cutting back on the sour cream and
subbing some for plain fat-free yogurt or fat-free mayonnaise instead.
Fat-Free Mayonnaise is far from the real thing but if you flavor it
with a homemade Core Plan friendly pesto sauce, fresh dill or even minced
red onion, it can be much more than just a passable substitute.
Skim Milk is not a true substitute for heavy cream but it can help add
a nice, creamy taste to some pureed soups (like butternut squash) when
the milk is added just at the end of cooking. Skim milk mixed with a
little fat-free sour cream can add non-fat creaminess to mashed potatoes,
Evaporated Skim Milk is canned, unsweetened fat-free milk that has had
about 60% of its water removed making it a great substitute for heavy
cream in recipes. You can also try swapping whipped, chilled evaporated
skim milk for regular whipped cream in some recipes.
Tofu, although not a fat-free dairy product, can be used like one as a
cheese or cream alternative: Mash soft tofu and add it to egg dishes
for a cheesy texture, puree it in smoothies, or mash and season it for a
ricotta substitute in some Italian recipes. You can also puree silken
tofu and use it as a mayo substitute in salad dressings and as a cream
replacement in some soups and pasta dishes.
SUGGESTIONS FOR USE
Recipes are not doomed without whole milk and cream: "Fat-free dairy
products such as milk, yogurt and sour cream, work just like their
high-fat counterparts," says Robin Vitetta-Miller, MS, nutritionist and
cookbook author. "And tofu works great when it's pureed and substituted in
dips and smoothies," she says.
"Fat-free cheeses don't always melt well so put them in something
forgiving," says Jodie Shield, RD, recipe developer from Chicago. Hide them
in a lasagna filling, an omelet or scrambled eggs. Or sprinkle some on
a taco – but jazz it up with a dash of cayenne or cumin.