Q&A With Jackie Newgent, Author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes

Find out how RD and recipe developer Jackie Newgent developed the healthy, delicious recipes for her new book, 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes.
jackie newgent

RD and recipe developer Jackie Newgent has done it again. Read more about her new book (of 1,000, yes 1,000 low-calorie recipes!), get her kitchen secrets and find out her inspiration for creating deliciously healthy recipes.

HE: We love your new book, 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes! What was your inspiration for creating all of the recipes?

Jackie Newgent: I take inspiration from just about everything. I enjoy reinventing foods that everyone knows and loves to fit with today's trends. Dining out a lot, I'm often inspired by what accomplished chefs are whipping up. I’m lucky enough to travel, which enables me to bring other local and global influences into my recipes. And growing up with a Lebanese mother (who I was cooking with from the age of 3!), I always find a way to bring Middle Eastern and regional Mediterranean flavors into many of my recipes.

1000 low-calorie recipes
HE: One thousand recipes is an amazing accomplishment! How did you go about creating and testing all of them?

JN: Luckily, I’m a type-A personality, so that probably came in handy! But I knew the only way to meet my deadlines for this gigantic project was to be extraordinarily logical and methodical, and to map out a detailed plan that I could stick to. First, I drafted an outline of chapters and sub-chapters. I then wrote out every recipe name that I wanted to include. Next, I drafted every one of the thousand recipes. That took me about 3½ months, but it helped immensely as it looked like I had a completed book. The testing then began. I tested every recipe, in nearly the exact order it appeared in the cookbook. I had an assistant come in one day a week to help out with a bit of the testing—especially with the shellfish, since I'm allergic to it. From there, I ran the nutrition analysis for every recipe and wrote the headnotes and the rest of the text. That whole process took a little over 2 years. As you can imagine, my stomach was quite full for most of those 2 years. Fortunately, because the recipes are calorie-friendly, I actually lost a few pounds during the process!

HE: Since there are so many recipes to choose from, where would you suggest home cooks get started?

JN: Have an idea of what you want to prepare before you open the book—or e-book -- then browse for recipes accordingly. So if you want a burger, just go to the chapter "Sandwiches, Burgers, Burritos, and More." You'll find all of the recipe titles for that chapter at the beginning of it. For instance, in the section "Burgers and Dogs" there are 11 recipes to choose from. Another option: browse through some of the recipe photos on my Web site  to see if something inspires you. Of course, there is an index in the cookbook which can help, too.

HE: What are your 3 best tips for making low-calorie recipes taste fabulous?

JN: It's tough to narrow it down to just three. But here are three that you might find intriguing. Don't fear salt! There is absolutely no replacement for salt. And when you start with fresh plant-based ingredients, you start with nearly zero sodium. So please don't forget to add a pinch of a salt that you prefer (like sea salt) here and there; it can bring out full flavors and help you keep desiring healthful dishes. Give food the sniff test. The majority of flavor appeal begins with aroma—the scent will enhance your lean eating experience. So include an appropriate amount of ingredients that give your dishes whiff appeal. Keep these key terms in mind: stinky, strong, sharp and smoky. For instance, Robiola is stinky; fresh ginger is strong; citrus is sharp; and smoked Gouda is smoky. Use the real thing. Even when rich, it's usually better to stick with the real ingredient than opt for an inferior or fat-free substitute. For instance, mayonnaise is divine—and rich in healthful fats; simply use a smear of it. Or you can try one of my six "mayos" made with 100% natural ingredients. If you want bacon or pepperoni without all the calories, don't go for fake bacon or pseudo-pepperoni; consider a focused, mindful use of the real thing.

HE: What are 5 of your must-have pantry items for healthy cooking?

JN: Garlic, onion, low-sodium vegetable broth, no-salt-added canned organic white beans and various vinegars

HE: What do you bring to a potluck?

JN: For potlucks, I generally opt for bringing something fun, flavorful and familiar. Though, I often one-up the flavor ante with a unique ingredient for extra enjoyment. I might bring my Layered Baja Bean Dip (which is topped with mango for added flair), rather than a traditional Mexican layer dip. Or instead of an all-American potato salad, I’d likely serve up my Dilly Avocado Potato Salad (avocado provides the creaminess).

HE: Can you share one of your favorite recipes from the book with us?

JN: Here's one of my favorite small plates recipes. Hope you enjoy it!

Goat Cheese Medallions With Caramelized Onions
Makes 8 servings: 1 medallion each
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, halved and very thinly sliced
2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1⁄2 cup whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

1 (8-ounce) log soft goat cheese, at room temperature, sliced into 8 rounds

2 teaspoons honey, white truffle honey, or agave nectar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion, vinegar, and 1⁄4 teaspoon of the salt, cover, and cook until the onion is fully softened, about 8 minutes. Uncover, and cook while stirring occasionally, until the onion is fully caramelized, about 15 minutes. Cover and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Combine the panko, pepper, and remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Firmly dip each goat cheese round into the panko to fully coat the top, bottom, and sides. Place coated goat cheese rounds into an attractive baking dish. Coat with cooking spray.

Bake until the coating is crisp and golden and cheese is warm, but not runny, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Pile 1 rounded tablespoon of the cooked onion on top of each medallion, drizzle each with 1⁄4 teaspoon of the honey, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve while warm.

Per serving: 130 calories, 8g total fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 15mg cholesterol, 260mg sodium, 9g total carbohydrate, 1g dietary fiber, 4g sugars, 6g protein

For more information, visit Jackie Newgent’s Web site
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1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes by Jackie Newgent, RD (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012) can be purchased nationwide, including on Amazon.com

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