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Hold back! Take only a small bowl of chicken soup, a smidgeon of macaroni and cheese or a spoonful of bread pudding. Keeping within the boundaries of nutritious eating isn't always easy.

These dishes represent the homey foods we've known since childhood. Now, in the interest of healthier eating, we deny ourselves - counting on just a little to satisfy.So where does that leave us when we get a yearning for the old family favorites? Home cooks are learning that heirloom recipes don't have to be relegated to the back of the recipe file.

Several classic American recipes - with just minor changes in ingredients - demonstrate how easy it is to update dishes for modern eating habits. In most cases, the updated dishes take less time and are easier to prepare. Simple ad justments can make a huge difference in the nutrition of a dish. These might include substituting skim for whole milk, small amounts of olive oil or vegetable oil for butter, egg whites for whole eggs or canned evaporated skim milk for heavy cream.

Other changes can include replacing butter with polyunsaturated margarine or sour cream with plain low-fat yogurt. Cholesterol-free egg noodles also are available as a substitute for the traditional variety.

Few foods are as soothing and rich as macaroni and cheese. The 1990s version contains a creamy cheese sauce, but with less fat and more fiber than the original. Fat busters include substituting reduced fat Cheddar cheese and skim milk. Cheese and margarine also are decreased. Wheat germ stirred into the sauce and sprinkled on top before baking boosts the amount of fiber.

Squid, a relatively inexpensive seafood, usually reaches the table battered and deep fried, in a heavy sauce or in the form of a hearty salad.This updated presentation whips the squid dish into shape in a stir-fry with only a small amount of oil. Extra flavor comes from vinegar, sesame oil and garlic, while a healthy mix of green beans and red pepper adds color.



2 tablespoons margarine

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup flour

2 cups skim milk

1 cup low-fat Cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons wheat germ

2 cups cooked macaroni

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt margarine in medium saucepan. Stir in onion; cook over medium heat until tender. Add flour; heat until mixture is smooth and bubbly, stirring constantly.

Gradually add milk and heat until boiling, stirring constantly. Stir in cheeses, hot pepper sauce and one-half cup wheat germ; mix well. Stir in cooked macaroni. Spoon into 1-quart casserole. Top with remaining wheat germ.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until heated through. Makes 4 servings.


4 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Dash hot pepper sauce

2 tablespoons white vinegar

3 tablespoons tomato paste or ketchup

1 tablespoon sugar

3 to 4 tablespoons sesame oil

1 pound cleaned squid, sliced into rings

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound green beans, cleaned

1 red pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

3 to 4 slivers ginger root

Salt and white pepper to taste

Toast sesame seeds in a 400-degree oven for 3 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, hot pepper sauce, white vinegar, tomato paste or ketchup and sugar until well blended. Set aside.

Heat sesame oil in wok or large, heavy skillet over medium high heat until very hot, but not smoking. Add squid and stir constantly for 1 minute. Remove squid from heat and place in medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

Wipe wok or skillet with a paper towel. Add olive oil and heat over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add green beans and pepper strips and stir constantly for one-and-one-half minutes. Add garlic and ginger and stir for an additional 30 seconds. Remove from heat and place in bowl with squid. Sprinkle with salt and white pepper to taste.

Pour soy sauce mixture over squid. Toss thoroughly. Divide mixture evenly on 4 plates. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Note: Scallops, shrimp, imitation crab, mussels, shucked oysters or clams may be substituted for the squid.


4 medium fresh tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups chopped onions

1/3 cup golden raisins

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel

1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup water

Use fully ripe tomatoes when possible. Core tomatoes; coarsely chop; set aside. (Makes about 4 cups.) In a medium saucepan, heat oil until hot. Add onions; cook until softened, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add reserved tomatoes, raisins, vinegar, sugar, orange peel, red pepper, salt and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over broiled fish fillets, chicken breasts or pasta. Refrigerate any unused portion in a covered container up to 2 weeks. Makes 3 cups.


2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about one-half pound each), cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided

1 cup chopped onion

2/3 cup chopped red bell pepper

1 medium clove garlic, minced

2 quarts water

1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 dried bay leaves

1/3 package cholesterol-free noodles

1 cup string beans, cut into 2 to 3-inch pieces

1 cup sliced carrots

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Saute chicken in 2 teaspoons oil in Dutch oven over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove from pan; reserve. Saute onion, red pepper and garlic in remaining 1 teaspoon oil, if needed, about 3 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Add water, bouillon, black pepper, salt and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Stir in string beans and carrots; cook for 10 minutes. Then add noodles, chicken and parsley.

Continue cooking until heated through and noodles are tender, about 2 minutes. Remove bay leaves before serving. Makes 6 servings.


3 tablespoons reduced-calorie mayonnaise

2 large eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped celery

1 tablespoon finely chopped onion

1 pound surimi seafood (imitation crabmeat) or crabmeat, chopped or flaked

2 cups fresh whole wheat bread crumbs (4 slices whirled in food processor)

Vegetable cooking spray

Lemon wedges

Combine mayonnaise, eggs, lemon juice, mustard and pepper sauce in large bowl. Stir in parsley, celery and onion. Gently stir in seafood and bread crumbs. Shape into 8 to 12 half-inch thick patties.

Coat large non-stick skillet with cooking spray. Place over medium-low heat until hot. Add patties and cook 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Serve with lemon wedges. Makes 4 to 6 servings.