Choosing Fats for Holiday Baking

Do you ever have trouble figuring out which fat to use for your holiday baking?  I know I do.  I want to find the right balance between a great tasting baked good and making a healthy choice for myself and my family.

When I walk through the cooler section in the grocery store, I notice many different fats at a variety of prices.  Butter is more expensive than stick margarine, and the tubs of margarine vary in price from less expensive than butter to more expensive than butter.  Then, when I head down the baking aisle, I see oils that vary from vegetable and canola oil that are less expensive to olive oils that are more expensive.  I also find vegetable shortening and lard in the baking aisle.

Here are some simple guidelines for picking fats that I use at holiday time and throughout the year:

  1. Vegetable oils like corn, soy, and canola are made from healthy fats so they are great to use in salad dressing, sautéing and roasting vegetables, marinades, etc.  They also have a low cost per serving.
  2. Butter and stick margarines are best for baking cookies and cakes because they hold air in a product when you cream them, make products more tender, and give pie crusts that beautiful golden brown color.  Butter works well when making candy.
  3. Small amounts of spreads (See the blog from a while back, What should I buy as  a spread?), butter or stick margarine can be used as toppings for rolls, toast, or bagels.  Personally, I like butter the best, but, since it is more expensive and high in calories, I use it in moderation.

How do you deal with holiday baking?

PS If you want a great overview of how fats react in cooking the King Arthur site as a great article called Fats: the baker’s friend

Justine Hoover, MS, RD, LD

Dry Cream Soup Mix

Last week my daughter emailed to ask if I had a recipe to substitute for cream soups. She said she didn’t want to use the condensed canned soup anymore. I was glad to send her the recipe below, as well as a fact sheet from the University of Minnesota Extension.

I’ve had this dry soup recipe for many years, although I just recently made the mix and started using it again. (I don’t make many recipes that include cream soups, so I made a half batch). I forgot how much lower the fat, sodium, and cost really is for the homemade version. According to the label for the commercial soups, when they lower the sodium, the fat goes up; and when they lower the fat, the sodium goes up. I also love the fact that the homemade costs at least 50% less than the canned.

You can use cream of celery, mushroom, and chicken interchangeably in most recipes.  If you are using the soup mix, you could add a little chopped celery, chopped mushroom, or substitute chicken broth for the water to flavor the cream soup.

Cost and Nutrition Per 10 Ounce Can Or Equivalent Dry Soup Mix
  Calories Total Fat g Sodium mg Cost
Dry Cream Soup Mix 149 0 111 $.63
Store Brand 98% fat free 200 6.25 g 1850 $1.23
Brand Name Regular 250 15 g 2175 $1.58
Brand Name “healthy” 175 5 g 1025 $1.58
Brand name 25% less sodium 275 20.5 g 1625 $1.58
Brand name 98% fat free 175 8 g 2100 $1.58

Dry Cream Soup Mix
Equal to 7 cans cream soup

2 cups instant nonfat dry milk
¾ cup cornstarch
¼ cup sodium free dry chicken bouillon
2 tablespoons dried minced onion flakes
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
½ teaspoon ground pepper

Combine all ingredients and store in air tight container.

To use as a substitute for one can condensed soup:
Mix 1/3 cup dry mix and 1 ¼ cups water.
Stovetop: cook and stir with whisk until thickened.
Microwave: Using a large microwave safe bowl; cook on high for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring with whisk every 30 seconds until thick.

Nutrients per can-equivalent: 149 calories, 7 g protein, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 111 mg sodium, 4 mg cholesterol, 28 g carbohydrate, 0.5g fiber

If you really like homemade mixes, the University of Maine has a 40-page booklet online with mixes for biscuits, oatmeal, cream soup, minestrone soup mix, ground beef mix, meat and tomato freezer mix, shake and bake mix, and lots of recipes using them.

We also have a great little cookbook you can buy for $2.50 from the ISUE Store. It’s called Healthy Meals in a Hurry.

-pointers from Peggy

What is Greek Yogurt?

Greek yogurt is becoming more popular. Last week one of my friends asked me what Greek yogurt was…was it yogurt from Greece?

No, rather it is a type of yogurt that is more concentrated that what we are used to.  Manufacturers strain the yogurt and remove some of the whey which produces a thicker, creamier yogurt with more fat, protein, and calcium. Just like regular yogurt, reduced fat and fat-free versions are available.

Greek yogurt is more expensive than regular yogurt because it takes twice as much milk to make it. There are several varieties in larger supermarkets and specialty shops with Greek sounding names like Voskos, Oikos, Fage, etc. Yoplait also sells plain and flavored Greek yogurt for around $1.20 for a 6-ounce cup, and I read that AE Dairy is going to start distributing it this fall.

Yogurt is sometimes used instead of cream cheese or sour cream to reduce fat and calories.  Greek yogurt would be a good choice for substitutions because it is thicker. 

You can make your own “Greek” yogurt by straining regular yogurt. Just set a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or a plain white paper towel over a bowl and spoon plain yogurt into the sieve. Refrigerate and allow the liquid to drain off for at least 2 hours. One cup of yogurt yields about ½ cup of Greek yogurt.

– pointers from Peggy

Kid Tested Homemade Chicken Tenders

Almost every child I know loves chicken tenders…it might be because they can pick them up with their fingers, or it might be they like dipping them. Actually I like finger food and dipping myself. What I don’t like about the prepared chicken nuggets is the amount of fat and sodium you get along with the chicken. The chicken tenders recipe and video we feature this month has a sauce you mix up to dip the chicken in, then coat with pretzel or cereal crumbs, and bakeinstead of fry. The chart below compares the cost and nutrition of these tenders compared to a chain fast food outlet. You’ll note from the chart that our tenders provide more food (look at the weight) for much less fat and sodium and more protein. If you choose a whole grain cereal as the coating, you could add some fiber and other nutrients.

Since I have the oven on, I start the meal by putting some potatoes in to bake (my favorite is baked sweet potatoes). Prepare the chicken tenders and while they are baking make a salad!


 -pointers from Peggy