What do you want to know about healthy cooking? The EatingWell Test Kitchen team is answering your questions about healthy cooking. Submit your healthy cooking questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or check out some of our favorite questions from readers, answered by Test Kitchen Manager Stacy Fraser.
Find out the answer to:
• How Do I Make a Lighter Muffin?
• How Do I Make My Tofu Crispy?
• Is Coconut Oil Healthy?
• Can I Exchange Pureed Vegetables for Oil When I Bake?
• How Do I Make Perfect Rice That's Not Sticky?
Reader Question: I want to make my favorite muffins this weekend, but I'd like to experiment with making them a little healthier. They have 1 stick of butter and 1 cup of sugar in the batter. Is there a way to reduce the butter and sugar without making them taste too healthy?
Answer: Try substituting canola oil for up to half of the butter in the muffins. Canola oil has just 1 gram of saturated fat per tablespoon versus 7 grams in butter. And, in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, we've had great luck reducing sugar in baked goods by up to 25% without sacrificing flavor or moisture. Try using 3/4 cup sugar next time.
Reader Question: I'm wondering how I can get my tofu crispy on the outside and still light on the inside. I always try to get the excess moisture out of the tofu by pressing it with a cloth before cooking it, but most of the time it gets mushy, and I waste many, many paper towels! Any tips?
Answer: Don't just dry it with a towel. Try pressing it for about half an hour before you cook with it. Here's a recipe that explains the setup: Sesame-Crusted Tofu over Vegetables. Another tip for awesome textured tofu is to coat it in cornstarch before cooking it in hot oil. That'll give you that great crispy texture on the outside. Here's a recipe that uses that method: Szechuan Tofu & Green Bean Stir-Fry.
Reader Question: Is coconut oil healthy for cooking? I heard there are some health benefits, but I can hardly imagine using it with the amount of saturated fat it contains.
Test Kitchen Answer: Here at EatingWell, we still advocate cooking and baking with olive oil or canola oil. To learn more about why we are not cooking with coconut oil, read this article and this blog by two of our nutrition editors.
Reader Question: I've read that when baking cakes and muffins, you can substitute any pureed vegetable or fruit in place of oil. We use a bread machine to bake our own bread and thought I'd try substituting the 1/2 cup of oil with 1/2 cup of applesauce. The bread rose out of control and didn't bake evenly. I know the function that salt and sugar have in baking but what is the function of the oil when baking bread? And is it something that can be substituted successfully?
Answer: We've had great luck replacing some or all of the fat (oil and/or butter) in baked goods with pureed fruit or applesauce, but we have not experimented with replacing the fat in bread with fruit fat-replacer. When working with yeasted bread, there is more "chemistry" going on when the yeast combines with the sugars. When you replace a no-sugar item (butter or oil) with an ingredient that contains natural sugars (like applesauce), I would expect you to get the same results that you are reporting—over activated yeast and out-of-control rising. The good news is, yeasted bread does not need very much added fat at all. I would recommend trying to reduce fat calories elsewhere in your diet and leaving the oil in your bread. Here's a great recipe for bread made in a bread machine that uses just 2-3 teaspoons of oil: Triple-Rich Whole-Wheat Bread.
Reader Question: I can never get the right consistency for rice, whether as a side dish or in sushi. It's either too dry or too sticky. What's the magic ratio of water to rice? How long should I be cooking it? And when do I lower the heat?
Answer: To make the perfect brown rice, follow these instructions. Bring 1 cup rice and 2 1/2 cups water or broth to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 40-50 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Makes 3 cups. To cook rice for sushi, just follow this recipe for Brown Rice & Tofu Maki.
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