“Everything in moderation … including moderation.” This is one of my favorite Julia Child quotes.

The Grande Dame of French cooking understood that some dishes should not be altered or modified in any way, especially for the purpose of creating a healthier version. Just eat a bit less.

I couldn’t agree more. Who wants a big bowl of chocolate mousse made with reduced-fat whipped topping instead of cream? I think I’ll pass. I’d prefer a small bowl of the real thing.

That said, I’ve spent many years writing both healthy and not-so-healthy recipes. What I’ve noticed is sometimes when I’m creating a healthier version of an otherwise more decadent dish, there are ways to reduce fat or sodium without sacrificing any of the deliciousness. In fact, you can often remove a considerable amount and not notice it at all.

For instance, I almost always reduce the oil or fat a recipe calls for when sautéing meat or vegetables. I know if I preheat my pan before adding the oil, I won’t need nearly as much fat to prevent the food from sticking. If a sauce calls for 3 tablespoons of butter to be swirled in just before serving, I add one and taste it to see if that does the trick. It often will. If it doesn’t, I add a little more until I like what I’m tasting.

The point is that we sometimes follow a recipe to the letter because that’s what we’ve always done. If our mother added a stick of butter to her famous hot dish, so do we, even though it’s possible that half the amount could have been omitted and no one would have noticed the difference.

Don’t believe me? This weekend might be the perfect opportunity to test the theory. Many of us will be watching the Super Bowl and I think it’s fair to say we may also be mindlessly munching on any number of full-fat snacks. One of my family’s favorites is a layered Mexican dip. Traditionally, the dip consists of refried beans, layered with loads of cheese, sour cream, guacamole and salsa. Of course, it’s usually served with a bag of tortilla chips.

To lighten this dip a bit, I simply took a can of black beans and mashed them together with some sautéed onions, garlic and spices and used these as the base of the dip. Instead of guacamole, which could easily have taken two or three avocados to make, I fold one diced avocado into my favorite salsa. A little light sour cream mixed with chipotle chiles and fresh lime juice replaces the full-fat sour cream. A sprinkling of cheese on the top, rather than several layers of cheese throughout, does the trick, and homemade baked tortilla chips make perfectly satisfying dippers.

I’d say my family feels good about eating these healthier versions of their favorite dishes, but that would be a lie.

The truth is that they don’t know they’re eating healthier, because they don’t even notice the difference. Your family probably won’t, either. Perhaps it’s best if we keep that little secret to ourselves.

 

Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at meredith@meredithdeeds.com. Follow her on Twitter: @meredithdeeds.

Mexican Layered Dip With Baked Tortilla Chips

Serves 8.

Note: You won’t miss the fat in this lighter version of a favorite game day classic. From Meredith Deeds.

• 12 (6-in.) corn tortillas

 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus 1 tsp., divided

• 1/4 tsp. salt

• 1 small onion, chopped

• 2 garlic cloves, minced

• 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

• 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained, liquid reserved

• 1 avocado, diced

• 1/2 c. store-bought salsa

• 3/4 c. light sour cream

 1 tbsp. finely chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce

• 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice

 1/2 c. shredded Cheddar cheese

• 2 tbsp. cilantro, chopped

• 2 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush both sides of each tortilla with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cut each tortilla into 6 wedges. Arrange wedges in a single layer on 2 large baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp, stirring occasionally and switching pan positions halfway through baking.

In a small skillet, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 4 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic, cumin and oregano, and cook, stirring, for another minute, or until fragrant. Transfer the onion mixture to a medium bowl and add the beans. Mash with a fork until well combined and slightly creamy. (If you prefer a smooth texture, pulse a few times in a food processor.) If the consistency is too stiff to dip a chip in, add a tablespoon or two of the reserved bean liquid.

Spread the mixture onto the bottom of a (1-quart) shallow edged serving dish.

In a small bowl, combine the diced avocado with the salsa and spread over the bean mixture.

In another small bowl, combine the sour cream with chipotle and spread that over the avocado salsa.

Top with the cheese, cilantro and green onions and serve with the baked chips.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 263 Fat 13 g Sodium 425 mg

Carbohydrates 31 g Saturated fat 4 g Calcium 140 mg

Protein 8 g Cholesterol 16 mg Dietary fiber 8 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 2 bread/starch, 2 ½ fat.