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Getting full on less than 500 calories

January 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Calorie wise a typical dinner will run you anywhere from 700 to 1000 calories and you can double that if you're eating out. But, how would you like to make a tasty 3-course meal for just 500 calories? That's what spa chefs have cooked up. "There are ways to drive flavor besides fat and salt, and that's really one of the keys to spa cuisine is the balance of flavors," said chef Dean Rucker from Golden Door Spa.

Rucker was one of three chefs from three popular spas who teamed up to make the point that lean and healthy doesn't mean bland.

"We try to incorporate all of our philosophy, which is lots and lots of fresh vegetables, salmon which is high in omega-3 and very healthy and also something that tastes great," said Rancho La Puerta Spa chef Deborah Schneider.

Schneider created salmon en croûte, it looks difficult to make but isn't. Schneider simply sprays previously frozen phyllo dough with a light coat of oil and sandwiches a salmon filet with a veggie filler. Salmon en croûte is about 325 calories per serving. All you have to do is wrap, spray, bake and slice then serve it up with roasted root vegetables.

"Get a pan hot on top of the stove, you put a tiny, tiny bit of oil on the vegetables, just get a sear, and then you put them in the oven to finish," says Schneider.

Browned and glazed baby potatoes, rutabagas and baby cauliflower, turnips, beets and onions add a mere 56 calories.

While the recipes may be easy to make, creating the recipes wasn't all that simple.

"It took a bit of work, and a little trial and error, and alot of working with other chefs and nutritionists," said Rucker.

Most chefs know that culinary school is an education in butter, cream, and other full flavor foods, but Golden Door's Dean Rucker says balancing acidity can be key in a good spa meal. His salad made with fresh greens, ruby red grapefruit , oranges and buttery avocado compliment the dressing of grapefruit juice, dijon mustard, sherry vinegar and honey. Only 2 tablespoons of oil are in the 1 cup of dressing for a winter salad that offers 120 calories.

The salmon, veggies and salad meal top out at only 493 calories. Which is why Cal-a-Vie's Jason Graham says, how about dessert?

His sweet potato cheesecake involves ingredient swaps that cut fat in half and drastically lower calories, but not the flavor.

"We're using part skim ricotta, fat free cream cheese, using a yam instead of a pumpkin," said Graham.

But no surprise this pie is petite. Graham says a couple of bits is really enough to start filling you up.



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