Faux Food

Continuing my theme from last week’s food related column, I thought I’d share some kitchen experiences. Even with all the pandemic restrictions, eating is one of the only things that has not been canceled. But since many restaurants are closed or open with limited capacity, many of us have been forced to learn how to cook for ourselves as a matter of survival. I had flashbacks of some of my own faux-food creations when I heard news reports that Subway tuna subs contain no tuna. I’ve been doing research but I can’t find a follow up story to find out exactly what their “tuna” consists of, but it remains a mystery. At least Burger King’s Impossible™ Whopper® is “plant based” (whatever that means).

Over the years, I’ve discovered a few delicious food recipes that swap out ingredients to make them healthier. I’ve shared them with family and friends to mixed reviews (okay, mostly bad reviews). But there have been some successes in the mix.

At one of my pre-pandemic Sunday Football parties, I surprised my guests by serving a sausage and pumpkin pizza. Pumpkin puree took the place of tomato sauce, feta cheese replaced mozzarella, and ground sausage topping tied the whole thing together. Sounds yummy, I know. It’s a good thing I didn’t have the recipe for cauliflower pizza crust at the time. That would have pushed my pizza over the top as my guests tried to push their way out the front door.

I waited a sufficient amount of time before I treated my test subjects to my no-avocado guacamole recipe. My Brocco-mole was made with, you guessed it, Broccoli! Simply puree your broccoli in a food processor with cream cheese, onions and Mexican spices. Serve with tortilla chips and your guests will never know the difference. I got lots of compliments from the crowd, mostly from people saying “What is this?”.

As a hot dog connoisseur, I always had a problem with the unhealthy mix of chemicals, sodium and by-products listed in the ingredients. I never believed the “All Beef” label on the package. I tried healthier varieties but the 98% fat-free dogs were 98% taste-free. The clouds parted when I discovered Carrot Hot Dogs. This recipe was a life changer. Simply marinate fresh carrots in a mixture of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, maple syrup, olive oil, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. After marinating for a few hours (or overnight) bake the carrots in the oven until cooked through. Then toss them on a grill for some nice char marks. Serve in regular hot dog rolls topped with yellow mustard, cole slaw and French’s onion strings. With enough toppings, you’ll never know your eating a carrot. Unless you’re my grandchildren. I believe their exact words were “What is this?”. You can Google the recipe at www.foodnetwork.com and search for “Katie Lee Carrot Hot Dogs”. I had to play around with the proportions of the ingredients to get just the right taste, but it was worth it.

I’m all about finding healthy alternatives for high calorie dishes. It’s hard to find foods that are good for you and taste great at the same time. My lo-cal sour cream is made with plain Greek yogurt, a drop of lemon juice, a touch of horseradish and some salt and pepper. It’s my go-to topping for baked potatoes, nachos or anything else you would put sour cream on. Like all my recipes, it’s an acquired taste. 

Over time, you can get used to eating healthy substitutions. My pasta side-dish is now Spaghetti Squash with marinara sauce. Think of it as even thinner angel hair pasta but with less taste. I’ve discovered MorningStar Farms® Buffalo Chicken Patties which have nothing to do with buffalos or chicken, but with enough lettuce, tomato and bleu cheese dressing, they taste like…well…chicken (almost). 

Healthy desserts are more complicated but not impossible to create. If you use your imagination, a rice cake with a little peanut butter, some fat-free whipped topping, and a tiny drizzle of chocolate sauce can become your own version of an Italian pastry. You’ll never have to go to the bakery again (sorry Colarusso’s). 

There are lots of roadblocks to swapping tasty high-caloric ingredients for healthy alternatives. Try as I might, I still haven’t found a substitute for good old-fashioned potato chips. Although, I’ve got plenty of time to experiment and a cabinet full of uneaten rice cakes. I wonder if you can deep fry them?

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