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MORE THAN FLUFF

Jeanne Jones is known as the "Dear Abby" of the food world.

No wonder.Her internationally syndicated column, "Cooking Light" reaches 30 million readers each week (including those of the Deseret News).

Jones revises old favorites - recipe "gems" - by reducing the calories, fat, sodium and cholesterol without removing the character and taste of the original dish.

And her recipe revisions really work. (In our opinion, a revamped recipe "works" when you can't tell that it's low-fat, low-calorie.)

"I don't think we should ever have to apologize (for a dessert) by saying it is certainly good considering it is so low in calories and fat," Jones says.

"It should be able to stand on its own as simply `delicious.' "

She's been zapping fats and calories since 1972, when she wrote her first cookbook based on the diabetic exchange list.

The passion behind Jones' quest for cutting the calories from concoctions lies in tragedy.

Jones' husband, an apparently physically fit surgeon, died at a young age of a heart attack.

The couple had travelled extensively, attending cooking schools all over the world, learning the latest techniques of classic cuisine.

Upon their return home, they entertained friends, preparing rich sauces swimming in butter and thick cream - unaware of the danger inherent in the fat-filled food.

After her husband's death, Jones started to rethink her cooking style.

"I didn't want to give up that part of my life (cooking and entertaining). But I was killing my friends with kindness and fat," she said in a recent visit to the Deseret News.

She continued to study the world's fine cuisines. But this time around, she altered the ingredients to suit a healthy diet.

There was a niche for low-fat gourmet cooking, and Jones nestled in and took over the territory.

After revising most of her own gourmet recipes, Jones began attacking the fat-filled comfort foods of friends and family.

"I'm not a believer in deprivation," she says. "Food is fun, and showing off for friends and cooking is a positive thing."

She encourages children to start cooking - to experiment. Perhaps learning how to use a pastry tube.

Jones' degree in fine arts is apparent in her food styling. A signature dessert, featured often at fitness resorts or at fine hotels is her "Fantasy in Fruit" (recipe follows).

This colorful treat is simply two fruit purees "painted" on a large plate, decorated with a variety of fresh fruits and then decorated with "cream" rosettes, swirls and squiggles.

Sine this is the time of year when rich holiday foods are plentiful, Jones shares her expertise on how to watch your dietetic intake:

- Concentrate on any one statement here that makes you control your eating.

- Eat less. Control the portions of food you consume.

- Always stop eating when you are no longer hungry.

- Make dinner a social thing. Enjoy every bite.

- Don't eat the food left on plates.

- What you have left on your plate won't help ANY starving child, so don't worry about leaving it.

"You were issued one body at birth and it has to last you until you depart this earth," Jones says.

With more cookbooks to be crafted out of outdated nutritional nightmares, Jones will undoubtedly remain in the forefront as a well-regarded writer of well-balanced food.

She said it best.

"If you stay in this business long enough, you become a pioneer."

*****

Additional Information

Recipes

VANILLA YOGURT TERRINE WITH FRUIT COULIS

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup cold water

1 cup nonfat milk

2 teaspoons grated lemon rind

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups nonfat plain yogurt

1 1/2 cups fruit puree (such as mango or strained raspberry)

6 tablespoons toasted wheat germ

Fresh mint sprigs for garnish (optional)

Melon balls for garnish (optional)

Combine the gelatin and water and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Combine the milk and lemon rind and place in a saucepan over low heat. As soon as it starts to simmer, remove from the heat (watch carefully to make sure the milk doesn't burn). Add the softened gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Add the vanilla and yogurt and mix until smooth.

Spray six ramekins or decorative molds with nonstick vegetable spray. Pour 1/2 cup of the yogurt mixture into each. Refrigerate until firm. To serve, "paint" the bottoms of each of six plates with 1/4 cup of the fruit puree. Place 1 tablespoon of wheat germ in the center of each plate and unmold the terrines on top of the wheat germ. Garnish with mint sprigs and melon balls if desired. Makes 6 servings.

- Each serving contains 115 calories, 1 g fat, 84 mg sodium, 2 mg cholesterol.

- From "Cook It Light Desserts" by Jeanne Jones

FANTASY IN FRUIT

1/2 cup fresh fruit puree strained, (or use 2 colors, 1/4 cup of each - mango or papaya and raspberry are most colorful)

1 1/2 cups assorted seasonal fresh fruit sliced in different shapes (melon balls, wedges of citrus, slivers of peach, whole grapes, etc.)

1/4 cup Pastry "Cream" (recipe follows)

Place 2 tablespoons of each color puree on each of two large round plates, preferably white. Spread the puree out in an interesting pattern with the back of a spoon. Arrange 3/4 cup of the various fruits in an interesting pattern on the puree, creating a work of art on each plate. Decorate the fruit with the "Cream." For a truly exciting treat, use a pastry bag and pipe squiggles, swirls and rosettes onto the fruit. Makes 2 servings.

- Each serving contains 154 calories, 3 g fat, 22 mg sodium, 33 mg cholesterol.

- From "Cook It Light Desserts" by Jeanne Jones

PASTRY CREAM

1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons sugar or honey

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine the ingredients in a food processor and blend until satin smooth. Store, covered, in the refrigerator. Makes 1 cup.

- Each 2 tablespoon serving contains 18 calories, 0 g fat, 4 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol.

- From "Cook It Light Desserts"by Jeanne Jones

BAKED PINEAPPLE PUDDING

1 15-ounce container low-fat ricotta cheese

1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 large egg whites

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple packed in natural juice, drained

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine all the ingredients, except the pineapple, in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Blend just until smooth, about 10 seconds. Add the drained pineapple and blend just until well-mixed. Pour the mixture into an 8-inch-square glass baking dish sprayed with nonstick vegetable spray. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 more minutes. Serve warm, at room temperature, or refrigerate and serve cold. Makes six 1/2 cup servings.

- Each serving contains 187 calories, 8 g fat, 118 mg sodium, 22 mg cholesterol.

cholesterol.

- From "Cook It Light Desserts" by Jeanne Jones

WALNUT BISCOTTI

2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon corn oil margarine

1/4 cup sugar

2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the chopped walnuts on a baking pan and toast until they are a rich golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Watch them carefully as they burn easily. Set aside. Combine the margarine and sugar, mixing until completely blended. Add the egg whites and extract and mix well. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and mix well. Add the egg white mixture and toasted walnuts to the flour mixture and mix well. Spoon the dough into a standard-size loaf pan that has been sprayed with nonstick vegetable spray. Spread evenly over the bottom of the pan by wetting your hands and pressing down on the dough. Place in the oven and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn onto a cutting board. Just as soon as the loaf is cool enough to handle, cut into sixteen 1/2-inch slices. Place the slices on a baking sheet either covered with parchment paper or sprayed with nonstick vegetable spray. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the slices over and bake until golden brown on both sides, about 5 more minutes. Makes 16 servings.

- Each serving contains 55 calories, 1 g fat, 37 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol.

- From "Cook It Light Desserts" by Jeanne Jones

CRANBERRY BARS

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 16-ounce can whole-berry cranberry sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated orange rind

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted in a 350 degree oven until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup unsalted corn oil margarine, softened

1/3 cup buttermilk

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons of the flour and the granulated sugar. Set aside. In a heavy, medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cranberry sauce to a boil, stirring often. Stir in the flour and sugar mixture, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the cranberry mixture until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and orange rind. Set aside to cool slightly. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, the remaining 11/2 cups flour, brown sugar, toasted walnuts, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the margarine, buttermilk, and egg white until the mixture is well combined and crumbly. Using your fingers, press half of the dough firmly and evenly onto the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan sprayed with nonstick vegetable spray. Spread the cranberry filling evenly over the dough. Sprinkle the remaining dough evenly over the cranberry filling. Bake until the top layer is light brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool completely. With a sharp knife, cut into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container. Makes 24 bars.

- Each serving contains 166 calories, 7 g fat, 43 mg sodium, 0 cholesterol.

- From "Cook It Light Desserts" by Jeanne Jones