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Valerie Phillips: Cookbook features low-fat fare

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 3 2012 4:00 p.m. MST

"Biggest Loser" contestant Burgandy Keel in the kitchen with her family working from "The Biggest loser" cookbook.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

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Is there anyone who DOESN'T include "Lose weight" on their list of New Year's resolutions?

The holiday excesses are usually followed by lots of diet books such as the new "The Biggest Loser Quick and Easy Cookbook," written by Devin Alexander and staff and cast members from NBC's popular weight-loss reality series.

Soon beginning its 13th season, "The Biggest Loser" has spawned a number of cookbooks as well as exercise DVDs, water bottles, protein powders, calorie counters, two fitness resorts among its "branded" products.

The cookbook's author, Devin Alexander, appeared on an episode of last season's "The Biggest Loser" and where contestants were challenged to create a dish for the cookbook. The winning recipe, Black Team's Slimmer Summer Slaw With Pork Medallions," weighed in at 210 calories per serving, and yes, you'll find the recipe in this book (and on NBC's website.

Although the recipes are billed as "quick and easy," most are not the "rip open a bag of processed food and add a can of something" type of convenience recipes. They use fresh fruits and vegetables, which may require a little peeling and chopping; and whole grains, which take some time to cook. They also call for ingredients such as all-natural, low-salt, agave- or honey-sweetened ketchup, or all-natural low-fat cheddar cheese, and all-natural bacon bits. These can be hard to find in a general supermarket.

It may seem like a bit of effort for one serving. But, maybe that's the point, to tell yourself your health and well-being are worth it.

Sprinkled throughout the book are quotes from various contestants about their "go-to" snacks or dinners. They offer quick ideas when the alternative might be running to the fast food drive-through.

"I love to spread a couple of Crispbread crackers with a little bit of goat cheese," wrote Joe Mitchell of Season 12. "I then throw one or two pieces of lean ham on top, and it's like a fast and healthy crispy sandwich."

"When I get a chocolate craving, I snack on Greek yogurt mixed with cocoa powder, Truvia and vanilla," wrote Hannah Curlee from Season 11. "It's a little more than 100 calories, and it tastes like chocolate pudding!"

Jesse Atkins from Season 10 wrote that he adds a cup of raw spinach in his smoothies (along with a cup of frozen strawberries, a half-cup of frozen raspberries, a cup of milk and a cup of water). "The spinach doesn't change the taste at all. It's just a great way to get an extra serving of veggies in there!" he said. If you need more sweetness to the smoothie, he advises using a packet of Truvia sweetener.

Miggy Cancel of Season 9 said she likes to combine a variety of beans, such as white, red and black. "Add cucumber and tomatoes, some fresh cilantro, and olive oil. Let the salad marinate for a few hours. It's a high source of protein and a convenient meal!"

"My favorite dish is a very simple BLT that uses thin wheat bread, turkey bacon and lettuce," said Dan Evans of Season 11. "When I really splurge, I add a dab of low-calories cream cheese instead of low-fat mayo. It's just something I invented with what was in the Ranch kitchen, and it's only about 150 calories!"

Deni Hill, the Bountiful woman who won Season 11's $100,00 at-home prize, contributed a recipe for Gazpacho Quinoa. Last summer when I did a Deseret News story on Deni and other Utah contestants (see www.deseretnews.com/article/700145948/Biggest-Loser-contestants-give-tips-recipes-on-shedding-weight.html ), she shared a recipe for a black bean and quinoa salad.

"I'd never heard of quinoa until The Biggest Loser," she said. "But now I make it and add veggies to create a wrap sandwich with it, or have it as a side salad. I love it."

Deni is now involved in a program called Sponsor Me Slim, and talks about her weight loss journey on her website denihill.com.

Here is a recipe from the book:

Crunchy Cajun Chickpeas

Olive oil spray (propellant free)

1 tablespoon all-natural egg substitute

½ tablespoon whole grain oat flour

1 teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 can no-salt-added chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mist a large nonstick baking sheet with the olive oil spray. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg substitute, flour, paprika, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder together until combined. Add the chickpeas and toss to coat. Place them on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer so they do not touch.

Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the chickpeas with a spatula. Bake for 17-20 minutes longer, or until crispy and hot. Serve immediately. Makes 2 heaping ½-cup servings.

Nutrition per ½ cup serving: 222 calories, 12 grams protein 39 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fat, trace saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 8 grams fiber, 210 mg sodium.

Valerie Phillips is the former Deseret News food editor. She blogs at www.chewandchat.blogspot.com.

Email: vphillips@desnews.com

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