HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Need something impressive and low cal/low fat

I need it for a weight loss class that's having a potluck.

It should be something that inspires people to think of good nutrition as an enjoyable challenge.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Israeli Salad - My Family's Version
    2 English Cucumbers - diced
    1 bag of radishes - diced
    2 bell peppers - go for colors - diced
    Several Plum Tomatoes - seeded and, you guessed it, diced

    Dressing -
    I never measure this. but I combine extra virgin olive oil, juice of two lemons, some fresh mint, some dry mint, minced garlic, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Unlike my family, I don't just shake and serve since the mint will brown in the acid and clump. I blend mine with a stick blender and it stays emulsified for a few days and just gets better.

    It's colorful and delicious. It also feeds a crowd easily.

    1 Reply
    1. re: TampaAurora

      I make a really yummy dip that can virtually fat-free if you wish. First, I reconstitute some sun-dried tomatoes (I use a dozen of my home-dried grape tomatoes, but 6 or so regular sun-dried plum tomatoes would do) and rough chop them. Don't discard the tomato water. I take a couple of 15-ounce cans of organic low-sodium beans (the recipe calls for cannelini/great northern beans, but the choice is yours -- I've used kidney, black and pinto with equal success), drain and rinse them, then toss them into a food processor. To the beans, I add 2-4 cloves of garlic, to taste, a couple of pinches of salt, black pepper to taste and about 4 tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar (mine is aged 12 years). Puree completely, adding the tomato water a bit at a time until you have the desired consistency, ie. not cement!). When you're happy with the consistency, add the chopped reconstituted tomatoes. Pulse a few more times to combine, but stop when you can still see small flecks of red throughout the dip. Turn out dip into a bowl or container. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. For taste, I add a tablespoon or two of really tasty extra virgin olive oil instead of the equivalent amount of tomato water, but if you're looking to keep the fat to an absolute minimum, the hearty flavors of the other ingredients will stand up just fine without the oil.

      I'd serve the dip in an attractive bowl, with nice flatbreads or crackers. I've also used the dip to spread on freshly toasted multigrain baguette slices, then topped each with some lightly sauteed greens, such as baby spinach, rapini, chard or beet greens. It makes for a very nice starter or a side to a hearty soup. The best part is that the recipe only requires a few ingredients, all of which you might already have in your cupboard. Once your tomatoes are reconstituted, the dip can be made in moments.


    2. Roasted red pepper dip w/ vegetables and ww pita:


      1. Thai turkey wraps; I got the recipe from CH a while back. Sautee 1 lb of ground turkey, add a diced onion and some diced hot peppers (adjust amounts according to heat tolerence; I use a couple of serranos if I don't have Thai bird peppers). Cook until onion is soft, add a splash of fish sauce, a couple of splashes of soy sauce, a bunch of green onions (diced), a few drops of sesame oil, and about a half cup of chopped cilantro, cook a few minutes more to incorporate. Then, just separate and wash some romaine leaves along with more diced hot pepper, some cilantro, some more chopped green onion, and some Thai basil. You can add some chopped peanuts, too, but that's not quite as diet-friendly. Folks just grab a romaine leaf, put a tablespoon or so of the turkey mixture in, and top with the herbs and peppers to taste. It's great at room temp and has become one of our summertime favorites for healthy picnics, etc.

        1. are you assigned a course? otherwise that seems like the kind of thing where everybody will bring salad.

          poached salmon with mint or dill and fat-free yogurt dressing
          summer veggie rolls with shrimp or poached chicken
          chicken chili
          roasted zucchini boats stuffed with cumin chicken and cous-cous
          quesadillas, either veggie or chicken, and low-fat cheese
          roasted eggplant lasagne -- broil slices of eggplant, then layer with sauce, other vegetables like spinach, mushrooms and peppers, low-fat or a reduced fat bechamel

          19 Replies
          1. re: hotoynoodle

            Yes, I need to do an entree.

            Thanks for your suggestions. I hope there will be others.

            1. re: rainey

              Oh, you didn't specify that you needed an entree. If it's cold where you are, I love moroccan chickpea stew. There are many variations, you can use canned chickpeas, boxed broth or make your own. Use chicken, or not. I vary the vegetables depending on what I can find. It's easy to bring to a potluck because you can reheat in a crockpot.


              1. re: chowser

                I LOVE garbanzos/chickpeas/cecis! Excellent suggestion. Thanks.

                1. re: rainey

                  rainey, i got distracted by the chickpea ideas yesterday and forgot to give you my other suggestion (though i really do like the chickpea ideas). if you don't want to have to worry about a crockpot or reheating, you can do an egg white-based crustless quiche or vegetable frittata, which would be easy to cut & serve at room temperature.

              2. re: rainey

                One word: veggie meat substitutes...okay that's 3:). Field Roast has the most amazing veggie sausages, just grill some Italian ones and serve with Polenta and sauteed greens, what could be better

                1. re: Rory

                  I've never heard of Field Roast - where do you buy it?

                  1. re: jacquelyncoffey

                    it looks like their distribution is finally expanding. Whole Foods carries it - i used to buy it in their San Diego & Los Angeles stores, and i just spotted it in the refrigerated case at the local WFM here in Jersey last week. it's *really* good stuff if you're looking for a meat alternative. i wish i could still eat gluten :( the smoked tomato flavor was my favorite...


                    there's a "where to buy" link on the upper right side that will help you find a store near you.

                2. re: rainey

                  Hmm how about something with a lean fish? Mushrooms are always good too and easy to dress up. Steamed asparagus makes for a great side to serve with anything.

                  1. re: junipersong

                    lean fish might not be the best idea as a make-ahead dish unless it's going to be sauced and/or served in a broth, because it could potentially dry out...but the mushroom suggestion has me thinking Wild Mushroom Rag├╣ over polenta.

                    i also love chowser's suggestion of Moroccan-spiced chickpea stew, or even Chana Masala. if you'd rather use a meat-based protein, Chicken Tagine would be another great way to go.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        hardly. when prepared without butter or cheese, a 4-ounce or 1/2-cup serving of polenta contains 80 calories.

                        i noticed that you included couscous and quesadillas among the dishes you suggested. 1/2 cup of cooked couscous contains about 90 calories...as does a standard serving of corn or flour tortillas - which is what i assume you use for your quesadillas.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet


                          1/2 cup cooked polenta has 260 calories -- without butter or cheese. i suppose if you made it with lots of water and very runny, the calories could be reduced.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            actually, i don't make it runny, but the math in that source you linked to doesn't add up:
                            - it calls for 2 quarts (8 cups) of water to cook 1 pound of polenta.
                            - assuming you're using coarse-grind cornmeal, 1 pound = approx 3.5 cups.
                            - most traditional polenta recipes call for an approximate ratio of 4 cups (1 quart) of liquid per cup of polenta
                            - hence, that 1 pound of polenta should be cooked in about 3.5 quarts of water, not 2 quarts.

                            anyway, we may have to agree to disagree here. i'm a nutritionist, i own multiple reference books and software programs that provide the information for polenta - both dry and prepared - and they all list the calorie count for the serving sizes i mentioned at anywhere from 75-110 calories depending on brand, form, and method of preparation. even at the high end, it's still nowhere near that 260-calorie quote.

                            for the record, that link you provided also suggests cooking millet at a 3:1 ratio of liquid to grain...which would result in a mushy mess. millet should be cooked in, at most, 2 parts liquid to 1 part grain...so let's just say i'm a bit skeptical about that source ;)

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              I have found a lot of references that discuss a 3:1 for millet, but I agree 2:1 max or it is mushy...

                      2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        I made your chana masala with roasted eggplant and it was great. I know it's not chana masala anymore but it was very hearty.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          I had a *fabulous* lamb tagine the other day. That was going to be my contribution until I added up the individual ingredients and came up with a fat gm count that was scary.

                          I suppose I could try to do it with chicken and serve it over couscous with a chickpea and carrot dish on the side but the flavor of the lamb was just soooo wonderful...

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            What would you think of pearl barley prepared risotto-style with caramelized onions and porcinis served with grilled chicken as an item with balanced nutrition?

                            I'll serve it with steamed carrot rounds with tarragon for a color boost.

                            1. re: rainey

                              i could help you "lighten" the tagine recipe & modify it with chicken, but i also think the barley with porcini sounds brilliant. i have a few thoughts about that (feel free to ignore me if you just want to do it as planned):
                              - instead of the caramelized onions, i'd do a combination of leeks & shallots - they pair so well with porcini.
                              - as far as herbs go, i don't know about the tarragon - i think thyme & rosemary (or even fresh oregano) would be better complements to the earthy flavors of the barley & porcini.
                              - for the carrots, i'm tempted to say you could roast them with garlic, and do a puree or mash.
                              - consider serving greens as well - kale, arugula, spinach...

                    1. I love lettuce wrapped with fresh turkey and then a slice of cucumber and then a spread of chick peas then wrapped and rolled in a sesame dressing and nuts. Healthy and nutritous. I love it.

                      1. Frittata made with egg whites and nonfat milk - fill with veggies of choice. I like to use spinach, ricotta cheese, onions, a little skim sour cream, egg whites, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and herbs on hand.

                        Potato skins - bake, scoop, fill with cooked veggies and a little low-fat cheese

                        Do a crockpot Chicken Cacciatore - easy to make these light with reduced oil, chicken skinless breasts... etc.

                        Marinated Grilled Portabello Mushrooms - i have a recipe for a great balsamic marinade if you're interested

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Emme

                          Mmmmm! Reminds me of the mushroom "pizzas" I was making last summer. Portabella caps brushed with some pesto then topped with thick slices of beefsteak tomato. I put them under the broiler until the tomato got blistered on top and then added a slice of mozarella and broiled some more until the cheese was melty and browned.

                          I kept platefuls in the fridge all summer long but this is something I'll wait for until tomatoes are vine ripe again.

                          I hafta say, egg whites leave me cold. I have tried to get on board with them but I'd rather do without or have a couple fried eggs just once a month than egg white anything. That isn't to say that the others in the class might not enjoy a frittata but I'll let someone else decide to do something along those lines.

                          1. re: rainey

                            I love the pizza idea.

                            I make small pizzas with pita bread. Whole wheat. I use some with a little cheese, but pestos, some olive oil, mushrooms, fresh vegetables, arugula, some olives, feta, simple topping. Fresh mozz is wonderful. They are fun cuz you can make several different kinds, cut in thin slices for everyone try try something different. I love some with fresh thin strips of squash, I also like to take pesto and mix it with a little more oil, makes a nice base. Not as rich as pesto but a light coating for the vegetables. I even use just a little fresh grated parm and sundried tomatoes is a good flavor. Carmelized onions is also a great flavor.

                        2. I would do something nice with quinoa - there are loads of recipes out there like stuffed peppers or casseroles. I've been enjoying it in a pilaf or salad (getting back into Weight Watchers) There's a great few threads about Weight Watchers on CH:

                          I've also been doing a lot with egg beaters if a recipe calls for eggs.
                          a nice soup would be great or even an eggplant parm with low fat ricotta.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: lexpatti

                            The stuffed peppers are a nice thought. I make mine in rings. I make my meatloaf like that too. Just cut the pepper in 3 large rings. I use red, yellow and orange, makes for a nice presentation. You could stuff some all vegetables and rice with others stuffed with either meat or chicken and rice. Same dinner just don't add meat to a couple. A great potato and leek gratain and a nice fresh salad would be great. Maybe a simple appetizer that everyone could enjoy and nothing better than fresh berries in balsamic and honey over ice cream. I know very simple, but I love it and it is so refreshing and simple. I serve it in wine glasses with a couple of elegant cookies. Catering that is become a favorite desert of many of the parties I have done recently.

                            1. re: kchurchill5

                              great idea about the rings, I'll give that a try, feeds more too. I've been making my own pita chips and crostini's recently with the low cal pita bread (think it's Joseph's) and those new Arnolds Sandwich Thins - these toast/roast up nicely and only 1 point for the whole bun. Sometimes I cut the pita chips into strips - just spray with Pam and then sky's the limit for herbs/spices. I'm a salt snacker (not sweets) so this is nice and low.

                              1. re: lexpatti

                                You will love the rings. I do a spicy turkey meatloaf in them with salsa on top. It is on my favorites. My computer is having issues so sorry I can't paste it. Sorry. Mexican Chicken Rings. It is a lot of fun and people love them because it is different. I did one once stuffed with lentil, rice, veggies and mushrooms which was great. Seafood stuffed too, anything goes. I even made my mashed potatoes stuffed in a ring. I used potatoes, cheese, scallions and mushrooms and topped with cheese. Just fun and unique. And yes, Feeds more with less. They get their own portion.

                                What is really fun, put a tomato slice on the bottom of the ring, then top with some simple fresh stuffing, then a portabello mushroom slice, some herbs and a light vinaigrette, then cheese, then stuffing and a tomato, then more cheese and bake. I did this for a girlfriend. Just nothing more. I simple easy dish. The stuffing did having onion, pepper and some squash to make it very moist. Just as good as beef. I topped the whole thing with a great fresh tomato sauce.

                          2. I make Thai Turkey lettuce wraps when dieting with WW, and they are just great for fullfilling cravings. We love to eat them with the siracha or hot chili paste, and soy sauce. Everyone that has ever eaten them at my home wants the recipe.

                            I also love to make Summer Rolls. I use the rice wrappers, soak as directed.
                            First thing down, 3 fresh pink shrimp (med size) then a red lettuce leaf, rice noodles, grated carrot, cucumber strips, cilantro, mint and or basil. Then a rice vinegar dipping sauce (you can use splenda for the sugar) with serrano sices, & carrot. - love this too.

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: chef chicklet

                              I love the wraps. I posted something similar with the cucumber blog using wraps. With shrimp they are amazing and filling. I use cabbage sometimes which is good, jicama and mango is great with the shrimp. You can add a little jalapeno or any semi mild pepper for a little spice. a mild sauce and then garnish with a little soy and honey to dip. A rice Vinegar dipping sauce is very good too. I make those for catering quite a bit, this is one of my favorites and most people gobble them up. And so easy. Much easier than most people think. It isn't hard and so healthy.

                              I make these for lunch all the time, I mix my leftovers, avacado, olives, tomatoes, cucumber onions and roll. Serve with a little dressing, diced chicken roasted veggies, fish and cabbage with tomato, steak, tomato, lettuce and onion but any combo it great.

                              1. re: kchurchill5

                                Yes and not to mention so beautiful with such little creativity! Very fresh and healthy. I made them about a month ago again. I usually wait until Spring but I just could wait!
                                I have never tried them with anything but shrimp, but certainly, steak and avocado and the rest you mention sounds awesome!

                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  I love them and lots of ingredients can be fun, crab, lobster, even oysters fried, lots of fresh veggies like you said but anything. they are so much fun. Pulled pork with cabbage and mango and pineapple is great

                                  Love that you make them. Year round for me but with spring all year basically and fresh fruits and veggies and seafood, it is hard not too. I love to cater with them and love to eat them myself.

                                  1. re: kchurchill5

                                    omg! you've got great ideas! ok, out with it kc, are you a chef?
                                    the pork, how do flavor that, like a bbq?or with hoisin?
                                    I made them last about a month ago I made quite a few shrimp, herb and rice noodles oh and I sliver scallion, grate carrot, slivers of cuke seeded. Anyway they will last over night, the rice wrappers even with really good plastic double wrapping will get rubbery, sooo I gave the rest to the nabes. They were so thrilled. Have you ever deep fried the rice wrapper? I have heard it called an Imperial roll if you do that, it's a Vietnamese egg roll made pretty much like a Chinese spring roll or pork/shrimp roll. Only they are much lighter,,,

                                    1. re: chef chicklet

                                      I'm self taught, but worked as a head chef, small restaurant, but I just cook what I like and what I enjoy. Never took a cooking class in my life. I learn by trial and error and still enjoy frozen pizza and egg mcmuffins. I enjoy great food, but still comfort food is best for me. I like to try different flavors and textures. I caterer and basically a personal chef but that is part time, I work as a part time home health care provider to 3 clients and I am a stock broker in my spare time. I work 12 hr days, I work very odd hours, never normal and cook when I can. Hence why sometimes frozen pizza and shortcuts are my life. I also crew on a fishing boat doing data research so when you leave at 5 and get home at 5 am the next day ... my short cuts are needed, lol

                                      But I love roasting chicken like I am today on my smoker3 of them plus 4 Vidallia onions and 3 squash. All smoked. Later this week ... Lots of things to be made.

                                      Spring rolls will be one.

                                      Smoked chicken, some fresh avacado, some chipolte sour cream, fresh tomato and jicama, black olives and some of those onions, wrapped up ... a little BBQ with some honey for a sweet dip.

                                      I enjoy taking favorites like steak and pulled pork leftovers and making them into a healthy lunch. Mixing with jicama, pineapple, mango crisp and soft. I often just taken a simple sauce like hoisin or soy or even terriyaki and mixing with a bit of sweet honey and some ginger to make a light sauce for the wrape. With crab I love yogurt, ginger and cilanrttro and lime

                                      1. re: kchurchill5

                                        Holy Cow! you are busy. Well creative you are for sure and not to mention, ambitious. I never see that you're shy with flavor or seasoning your food.
                                        So I love your recipes, just so ya know~
                                        Now about those smoked chicken, they really are fine to freeze? Whole?

                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                          Just took my off. 3 perfect cripsy smoked chickens 10 sweet onions and squash. Of course the halved onions and squash came off first. top shelf. They turned out great. It freezes great. I started a blog "smoked chickens now what" I make a lot but wanted to get new ideas.

                                          Someone just gave me bowtie pasta, gorgonzola, walnuts and spinach in an alfredo sauce. Sounds yummy. Tonight is just the chicken, I love it fresh smoked, nothing better. I also make my smoked chicken salad too.

                                          Seasoning and flavor. I love fruits and herbs and love different textures. I'm not into curry I admit. I wish I liked more but don't. Thai I do like but don't make too often. I'm more a comfort girl. I'm making my micro mashed potatoes with this.

                                          4 small new potatoes cut in quarters in a bowl, 1 teaspoon water with salt wrap in plastic wrap ... 5 minutes. Mash with fork and add ... whatever, milk, cream, broth, bacon, cheese, sour cream, herbs ... anything Perfect mashed any time. For a big crowd I do the traditional, but this is just a quickie for 1 or 2. It works and tastes great.

                                      2. re: chef chicklet

                                        I do make mine fresh, they do get "odd" after sitting I think, but personal preference. I haven't deep fried. I don't fry too much, but have heard and they say they are great. As you said lighter in texture. May have to try. I attempt to stay away from fried. Sometime pan fry but not too much. I love them chilled with warm dip. or the ingredients warm.

                                        Pork FYI, I love as BBQ type of flavor, fresh cabbage, jicama for a sweet crunch, carrot and then mango for sweet creamy. Even pepper for some spice, chipolte. Dip ... none needed for this. I love cucumber, jicama, mango, avacado and crab ... a favorite. But I love to dip in just simple soy, honey, and ginger. It is easy and quick. But I also have a greek yogurt sauce with a dash of ginger and honey. Smooth and creamy.

                                        I do one wrap with carmelized onions and roasted peppers, Some diced fine chicken and some sweet mango. I dip it in a creamy yogurt, honey and herb sauce.

                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                          I have left over salmon from a couple of nights ago, not much, but I froze it. Enough for 3 spring rolls dinner ... I will probably add some shredded cabbage. I need to get some anyways for St. Patty's day, Fresh onion which I love, some cucumber and red pepper. Tossed with just a light Salt and pepper and a simple vinaigrette and then wrapped. Then the dip will be dill, sour cream a dash of cayenne and lemon zest.

                                          1. re: kchurchill5

                                            These summer wraps and the Thai Turkey lettuce wraps which I use the living lettuce, or butter leaf (softer leaf and large) is perfect fare for dieters and anyone that needs to watch their fat intake. I am inspired by your suggestions for getting my booty back on WW. I love to make chicken too, I've never smoked a chicken, but I roast at least one a week one way or another for different uses. A cold chinese chicken salad is another favorite.

                                            1. re: chef chicklet

                                              And thanks for liking the recipes. I can be a bit outspoken at times and like some of my shortcuts, but when needed. My chicken I'm sure would get critics comments, but wow, they still taste great. regardless of my method.
                                              Well rambling and have a smoker to clean up.

                                2. This is the 1st thing that came to mind, it has some merit. a recipe from Sunset magazine years ago.

                                  "Roated Red & Yellow Potatoes"
                                  (It explains that after an hour in the oven, the skins are crisp, the flesh sweet.)

                                  3 small scrubbed sweet potatoes or yams, cubed about 1 inch cubes
                                  2 pounds medium red thin-skinned potatoes, cubes about 1 inch cubes
                                  3 medium onions, quartered
                                  3 tablespoons olive oil
                                  Salt and pepper

                                  Toss the potatoes and onions with the oil, bake in 425F degree oven until browned and tender when pierced (about 55 minutes). Salt and pepper to taste.
                                  OPTIONAL: Sprinkle with flavored vinegar.