Stir frying is a nutritious way to cut calories while creating healthy and delicious meals using low fat cooking techniques.

Selecting wholesome, nutritious foods is the first step to creating healthy, low fat meals. But ingredients are just part of the process. The preparation and cooking techniques you use to turn those ingredients into low fat meals are equally important. For instance:

  • When you switch from pan-frying to roasting, or from sautéing to stir frying, you dodge countless calories and fat grams.
  • When you use tofu in place of meat, you not only cut fat but you save on cooking time, too, because tofu takes just a few minutes to heat through.
  • With tofu you'll also be getting a dietary dose of soy isoflavones, which may reduce the risk of some kinds of breast and ovarian cancer and ease hot flashes and may impede the growth of tumors.

So, this month, try the new techniques described in these three pages. You might like the results so much that pressing tofu, stir frying and cooking fish could become new habits.

1. Low fat cooking technique: stir frying

Stir frying is a great low fat cooking technique because it calls for keeping the ingredients moving constantly in the pan, so very little oil is needed to prevent sticking. Oil is mostly used to add flavor.

To start:

  • Set a wok or wide skillet over high heat until hot.
  • Add seasonings like garlic and ginger first, followed by meat, then vegetables. (Meat is often cooked first, then removed so the drippings can flavor the vegetables; the meat is returned to the wok at the end.) But stir fries do not require meat: You can whip up satisfying vegetarian low fat meals in minutes.
  • The trick to the perfect stir fry is preparation: cut and measure all ingredients before the wok is hot; once cooking starts there's little time for anything else.
  • Constant stirring is critical so that all ingredients come in frequent contact with the hot pan.

[header = Cooking fish by roasting: tips about this technique for your low fat meals.]

Roasting fish involves very little prep time and no added fat, making cooking fish by roasting a terrific way to cut unwanted calories.

You can incorporate roasted fish into many of your delicious low fat meals!

2. Low fat cooking technique: cooking fish by roasting

Roasting, especially at 450° F or higher, is an excellent (though not commonly used) way to prepare fish. Roasting involves minimum prep work and little or no added fat, and you can pop the dish in and let the oven do all the work (vs. the constant attention pan cooking fish demands) for your low fat meals.

Roasting is best for:

  • whole fish (such as trout, red snapper and grouper)
  • fish steaks (such as tuna and salmon)
  • thick fillets (such as cod, flounder and monkfish)

You can roast any variety of fish, but note that thin fish fillets will cook in just a few minutes. The technique is low fat because very little, if any, fat is added to the pan. The flesh will remain moist while the outside becomes a golden, crisp, flavorful crust.

Before roasting fish, make three to four 2-inch-long, 1/4-inch-deep, evenly spaced slits along the top (either whole fish or fillets), so the marinade can permeate the flesh. These slits will also make it easier to determine when the fish is finished: The flesh should turn opaque throughout. You can also roast fish on a bed of vegetables (zucchini, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers), which will cook right along with the fish.

[header = Pressing tofu: discover how this technique adds versatility to low fat meals.]

Pressing tofu is a terrific way to add versatility to your low fat cooking repertoire.

There are two reasons to press tofu:

  • to remove water
  • to compact the bean curd

3. Low fat cooking technique: pressing tofu

Pressing tofu eliminates any crumbliness (a quality many people dislike), and the result is a wonderfully springy soybean cutlet for your low fat meals. Tofu is a low fat form of protein compared to animal meat protein (3 ounces of firm tofu contains 2 grams of unsaturated fat vs. 6 grams of fat, 2.4 of which are saturated, in a 3-ounce lean sirloin steak).

Pressing tofu is a fun technique to add to your low fat cooking repertoire because it changes the consistency of the tofu, making it denser and chewier and giving it a more "meatlike" mouthfeel.

To press a block of firm or extra-firm tofu (firm and extra-firm tofu contain less water than the soft varieties, so they retain their shape and are better suited for this technique; soft tofu is better for dressings, dips, puddings and shakes):

  • Pat the tofu block with paper towels to dry it.
  • Wrap the tofu in a clean cotton kitchen towel, place it in a shallow pan (to collect any water).
  • Top the tofu with a heavy cutting board.
  • Top the cutting board with pots (to weigh the board down).
  • Let the tofu stand for 30-60 minutes (depending on how compact you want the block to be).
  • Drain the pan halfway through pressing, if necessary.
  • Use this technique before marinating and grilling tofu, or before adding the tofu to stir-fries, stews, casseroles and salads and other low fat meals.

3 Low Fat Cooking Calorie Cutters

  1. Thickening the sauce with cornstarch instead of a traditional butter-flour mixture.
  2. Using fat-free chicken broth instead of the full-fat variety.
  3. Using an intensely flavored oil (sesame) so low fat meals need less oil.

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