Think about it: With all the recipes clipped and stashed away in tins and drawers, all you and your family probably ever depend on, over and over again, are 10 of them. So wouldn't it make sense, when we're trying to cut down on fatty foods, added salt and extra pounds, to turn those 10 family staples into 10 healthier ones?
That, according to Dr. William P. Castelli, medical director of the noted Framingham Heart Study, is at the crux of it all. You meet Mr. or Ms. Right, you settle down and you drift into dietary trouble, says Castelli. To reverse the American dilemma means a change in The Big Ten.
To help make the switch, we've gathered recipes from health-conscious cooks and put them into life-style categories. There are no stringent nutritional guidelines for the lot; instead they are designed to get your repertoire on the right track. But just so you know what you're eating, we've included the nutrients per serving, as computed by local nutritionist Ann Litt.
So, clean out your files and make room for the new Big Ten. The Weekend Brunch
Bag the Sunday pancakes slathered with butter and syrup in favor of The Better Blintz. Although blintzes are no fat bargain, this is a delicious and moist lower-fat version that uses skim milk and buttermilk for the crepes and low-fat cottage cheese for the filling. The recipe is part of the "Eat Well, Be Well" series, which aired on PBS stations, produced by the Amram Nowak Association and funded by the Metropolitan Life Foundation, in consultation with the NIH Nutrition Coordinating Committee. The Quick Dish
Parmesan chicken is a favorite among her clients, says local caterer Linda Treadway, who provides Washington families too busy to cook with nightly staples. It's simple to prepare and should take, tops, 30 minutes from start to finish. Treadway says kids love it, too. It has the taste of fried chicken without being fried, and it hits a satisfying balance of cheese and seasoning without masking the chicken. Like the other recipes, this one will never grow old. The Side Kick
Dr. William Castelli makes a brown rice dish with a zing. And it's one that he "tells everyone to use," says Eleanor Flagg, who works with him at the Framingham Heart Study headquarters. As a matter of fact, he talks about it so much that it's become a standing joke in the office, says Flagg. Castelli, who makes his own whole-wheat pasta, eats the dish with beans or a piece of fish and a salad. The Fish Dish
Every family needs a baked-fish dish to replace the batter-fried recipe. The Golden Door fitness spa in Escondido, Calif., makes a fish fillet with dilled cucumber slices that is simple to prepare and requires few ingredients. A drop or two of sesame oil, a sprinkling of dill and white pepper and a layer of paper-thin cucumbers is a delicate way to treat white-fleshed fish, which get overwhelmed by too many flavors anyway. The Cupboard Is Bare
There are a couple of carrots and half a head of cauliflower in the hydrator, a can of water chestnuts next to the spices in the cupboard and a cook who can't make it to the store. What to do?
Mollie Katzen, in her book "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest," aims to dispel the notion that a meal of vegetables is "(a) underseasoned and mushy; (b) inadequate; (c) depressing; and (d) just generally low-class." It's how you cook it and how you cut it that can make all the difference. Refer to Katzen for details. All-Purpose Dip
Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, makes a bean dip with a cause. The tasty pinto bean mixture not only is eaten with baked corn tortilla chips or sliced peppers as a dip, but it serves two other functions as well. For an interesting packed lunch alternative, whole-wheat pita is spread with beans, sprinkled lightly with shredded cheese and stuffed with a bright and refreshing vegetable salad. And with whole-corn tortillas, it turns into a bean tostada dinner with a side salad. The Sandwich
Tuna never had it so good. Low-fat cooking teacher Robin Rifkin makes a tuna-minus-mayonnaise sandwich that should show up even the most adamant pro-mayo family members. In this version, tuna is spiked with dijon mustard and dill weed and moistened with low-fat yogurt. Crushed pineapple is optional, but it gives it a sweetness you don't usually expect with tuna. This dynamite sandwich can be repeated for a light and quick dinner, a Saturday lunch or without the bread, on a cold salad plate. Company Main Dish
Splurge for you and your guests on Chicken with Pine Nuts and Tangerines, a delicious dish that is a bit high in the fat department due to the nuts. Lightly browned pine nuts, bright orange tangerine sections, green scallion tops and a salmon-colored sauce make this chicken dish a stunner for guests. The recipe is from one of the many creations of Rodale Press. The Dessert
Who needs chocolate mousse when there's Lotte Wolfe's Orange Souffle'? Wolfe, director of Slender Shore, a local diet spa, is a meticulous cook concerned about presentation as well as taste. This light fruit souffle' is pretty, quick and could easily become part of the family dessert collection, as it has in the Wolfe household. It can be made with any seasonal fruit; Wolfe alternates oranges with strawberries and mangoes, to name two. The Casserole
This dish is a good way to introduce newcomers to tofu, says local nutritionist Ann Litt, who has been making a tofu spinach lasagna for years. Soft tofu, substituted for half the low-fat ricotta in the dish, is virtually unnoticeable in taste. The final product is a lighter, lower fat version of "real lasagna."