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Chef's Hat: After the Holidays, It's time to lighten up

The Christmas cookies, fudge, stuffing, gravy, and fancy holiday drinks all add up to a lot of extra calories. It doesn't take a university study to conclude that people gain weight during the holidays. Studies do vary in the amount of weight people gain — some studies come to a conclusion that people gain just a pound or two, while other studies point to people gaining 7 to 10 pounds from Halloween to New Year's.

Of course, you can stick to eating only fruit and vegetables, but most of us like a little more variety in our meals. And there are better ways to cut down on fat and calories without giving up taste in meals.

Even if you're in a hurry, a good breakfast can jump-start your metabolism. Waffles are time consuming to make, but you can make a large batch, keep them in the refrigerator and then quickly warm them up in the microwave before heading out the door in the morning.

The Crispy Cornmeal Waffles are a bit more work than opening a box of waffle mix. They also have a strong "wheat" taste. Give them a try though and you will find out just how delicious they are.

If you want to keep using that boxed waffle mix you can still cut out some of the fat and calories by replacing ¾ of the oil with low-fat buttermilk or applesauce. Also, substitute 3 egg whites for every 2 whole eggs in the recipe. Make sure to whip the egg whites to soft peaks before folding them into the batter.

This waffle recipe calls for buttermilk. When buying buttermilk read the label and look for one that is low fat - no more than 1 percent milk fat. If you don't have any buttermilk on hand you can easily make a substitute that works just as well. Simply place one tablespoon of vinegar (plain every day white) or lemon juice in a one-cup measure and then fill to the one cup mark with milk (use skim milk for the lowest fat content). Let the milk sit for five minutes and use in place of buttermilk.

Feeling a bit bloated after the holidays? Try a low-fat recipe to start out your day. Waffles are a great dish to prepare as they can be kept in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks and quickly warmed up for meals or snacks. Enjoy the lighter side of food and Happy Eating!

Crispy Cornmeal Waffles

From the book Secrets of Fat-Free Cooking

by Sandra Woodruff, RD

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup whole grain cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1-1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk

Spray waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray. Heat according to the manufacturer's directions.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Stir until well mixed. Set aside.

Place the egg whites in a medium sized bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on high until soft peaks form. Set aside.

Add the buttermilk to the flour mixture. Stir until well mixed. Gently fold in the egg whites.

Spoon 1 to 1-1/4 cups of batter into the waffle iron. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until the iron, has stopped steaming. The waffle will be crispy and brown.

Serve with Honey — Orange Syrup.

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Honey Orange Syrup

From the book Secrets of Fat-Free Cooking

by Sandra Woodruff, RD

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup honey

Combine the cornstarch and orange juice in a 1-quart saucepan. Stir until the cornstarch is dissolved.

Stir in the honey. Place the pan on the stove and bring up to medium heat. Cook and stir for 5 to7 minutes. The mixture will be bubbly and thickened.

Serve over waffles or French toast. Refrigerate any leftovers.