Eating healthy is harder than it seems. A third of people who responded to an Australian survey said they weren’t sure what a healthy diet consisted of or how to improve their diets. And is it any wonder people are confused with different fad diets and miracle foods all promising to make us happy and healthier? Still, there is one thing most people can agree on: Eating too much fried food is not a great idea. Diets high in fried foods have been linked to diabetes and heart disease, and these foods are also usually high in calories, which means they can contribute to weight gain.
Unfortunately, fried foods are also delicious. But you don’t always have to drop something in a pot of hot oil to enjoy the flavors you know and love. Sometimes, baking can yield results that are just as delicious as frying. These five recipes prove it.
1. Baked French Fries
When dietitian Lisa Koo wanted to whip up a healthier batch of poutine, baking the French fries rather than frying them was an obvious choice, but she worried that skipping the hot oil would result in an inferior final product. Fortunately, the healthier baked option “ended up tasting better and was easier to prepare.” Here’s her recipe for baked French fries, which you can use for poutine or enjoy on their own. Recipe from Confessions of a Dietitian.
- 2 medium baking potatoes or sweet potatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut potatoes into matchsticks about ¼-inch wide. Add the potatoes to a bowl filled with water and soak for about 20 minutes.
Remove potatoes from the water. Pat dry using a paper towel, removing as much of the moisture as you can.
Place potatoes in a bowl with the olive oil and salt and toss to coat. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet, making sure the potatoes don’t touch each other. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, then turn and bake for 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove from oven and serve immediately with your favorite condiments.
2. Baked Buffalo Wings
Buffalo wings are traditionally deep fried, but the food experts at Serious Eats wondered if that was really the best way to prepare this classic bar snack. They found frying the wings, then coating them in sauce was the “most disappointing” cooking method, since the sauce didn’t penetrate the meat. But when they marinated the wings and then baked them in the oven, “the sauce melted slowly into the meat, penetrating it with flavor all the way to the bone.” Here’s their recipe for better-than-the-original Buffalo chicken wings.
For the wings
- 5 pounds chicken wings
- 4 tablespoons neutral oil
- Salt and pepper
For the sauce
- 1 cup hot sauce
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
For the blue cheese dip
- ¼ pound blue cheese
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup sour cream
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- Salt to taste
- 6 ribs celery, cut into 4-inch long sticks
Directions: To make the blue cheese dip, put the blue cheese in a bowl and mash with a fork until a paste forms. Whisk in the remaining ingredients until you have a smooth sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Using a heavy knife, cut through the joints in the wings to separate then into three pieces. A sharp knife should slide through the joint easily; you shouldn’t have to cut through any bone. When slicing, turn the wings so the underside is facing up, so it’s easier to see the joints.
Discard the tips of the wing or save them for stock. Rinse the wings and pat them dry, then toss in a bowl with the oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper.
To make the sauce, melt the butter over low heat in a sauce pan and add the remaining sauce ingredients, whisking well to combine. Keep the heat low and only cook for as long as is necessary to melt the butter. Taste for spiciness, and add cayenne if desired. Toss the wings with a quarter of the sauce and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a baking sheet with a neutral oil such as canola, using a paper towel or brush to ensure it coats all of the surface. Arrange the wing pieces skin-side-up. They should be snug, but not too crowded.
Bake undisturbed for 30 minutes, until golden brown, and until the wings release easily from the baking sheet. Using a pair of tongs, turn the pieces over and return to the oven to bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until crisp.
When the wings are finished cooking, pour some of the Buffalo sauce into a shallow bowl and add a few wings at a time. Turn them in the sauce until well-coated, then transfer to a platter. Repeat with the remaining wings. Serve with the blue cheese dip and celery sticks.
3. Baked Mozzarella Sticks
Melty cheese is the perfect indulgent snack, and it doesn’t need to be deep-fried to taste good. These mozzarella sticks are coated in panko breadcrumbs, baked in the oven, and served with marinara dipping sauce, so you can enjoy this snack without the extra calories. This recipe from Taste of Home yields 4 to 6 servings.
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 cup dry bread crumbs
- 2½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 12 sticks string cheese
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1 cup marinara or spaghetti sauce, warmed
Directions: Place flour in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, beat eggs and water. In a third shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and pepper. Coat cheese sticks with flour, then dip in egg mixture and coat with breadcrumb mixture. Repeat egg and bread crumb coatings. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Place on an ungreased baking sheet; drizzle with butter. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 6 to 8 minutes or until heated through. Allow to stand for 3 to 5 minutes before serving. Serve with warm marinara or spaghetti sauce for dipping.
4. Spicy Baked Shrimp
Seafood is a key component of a heart-healthy diet, but not the deep-fried variety. Studies have shown that eating five or more servings of fish per week can cut your risk of heart failure, but only if the fish was broiled or baked, not fried. To add more healthy seafood to your diet, try this recipe for spicy baked shrimp, which you can enjoy as an appetizer or as a light dinner with a salad. Recipe from Epicurious.
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Cajun or Creole seasoning
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 pound uncooked large shrimp, shelled, deveined
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- French bread, for serving
Directions: Combine the first seven ingredients in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Refrigerate 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake until shrimp are cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve shrimp with French bread.
5. Beef Empanadas
Empanadas — flaky pastry pockets stuffed with meat, cheese, and other savory (or sometimes sweet) fillings — are a staple of Spanish and Latin American cuisines. Sometimes, these tasty hand pies are fried, but they’re just as often baked. This recipe for Argentinian-style beef-filled empanadas from A Cozy Kitchen is in the latter category.
For the empanada dough
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- ½ cups unsalted butter, frozen
- ¼ cup cold water
- 1 large egg plus 1 tablespoon water, beaten together in a small bowl
For the empanada filling
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 5 green olives, minced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground paprika
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Salt to taste
Directions: To prepare the empanada dough, mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Grate the frozen butter into the bowl. Using your hands, mix the butter into the flour until the dough has a pebbly consistency.
Add 4 tablespoons of water to the dough and mix. Continue adding water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. You may or may not need all the water. Flour a work surface, then turn the dough out onto it. Knead the dough a few times, then shape into a disc. Wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour and preferably overnight.
To prepare the empanada filling, add the olive oil to a medium saucepan and turn heat to medium. When the oil is hot, add the ground beef. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and cook until the meat is mostly browned, breaking up any large chunks of meat as you do so. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, until vegetables are soft. Add the olives, tomato paste, cumin, paprika, crushed red pepper, and a little more salt. Cook for about 5 more minutes. If the mixture seems too dry, add a splash of water.
To assemble the empanadas, roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Use a 6-inch round cutter to cut out circles of dough. Gather together any scraps, re-roll the dough, and cut out additional circles. You should have about 9 circles.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the rounds of dough to the baking sheet, then lightly brush each with the egg wash (reserve the remaining egg wash). Spoon a tablespoon of meat filling onto one side of the dough, then fold the dough over to create a half-circle shape. Use the tines of fork to seal the empanada. Repeat until you’ve assembled all the empanadas.
Transfer the baking sheet to the freezer and chill for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush the empanadas with the remaining egg wash. Pierce the top of each with a knife. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown in color. Remove from the oven and serve immediately with salsa or chimichurri sauce.
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