Make lightened ‘drive-thru’ meals at home


Devin Alexander is a great admirer of fast food.

In her new cookbook, “Fast Food Fix” she says, “I love the way fast food tastes and I admire the folks who’ve spent countless hours creating the irresistible flavor combinations that we Americans can’t wait to find in drive-thrus.”

Although she swore off fast food as a teenager (and lost 55 pounds), she returned to the source of her cravings to try to re-create lightened, make-at-home recipes for her drive-through favorites. She is now the owner and executive chef of Cafe Renee Catering in Los Angeles.

She bought countless burgers, fish sandwiches, tacos and fries. She took them each apart and weighed the components in her quest to perfect the recipes. And she doesn’t try to sneak a veggie burger into a recipe when the original calls for the real thing.

The book has 75 recipes, including five different fries (Carl’s Jr. Chili Cheese French Fries, Arby’s Curly Fries, Popeyes Cajun Battered Fries, McDonald’s French Fries and Del Taco Crinkle Cut Fries). There are also 10 different burgers. The book spans meals from breakfast to dinner: Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino, Pizza Hut pizza, KFC Popcorn Chicken, McDonald’s Egg McMuffin, and Taco Bell Mexican Pizza are all included.

The recipes are designed to make a single serving (quadruple it if you’re feeding a family). Each page includes “Drive Thru” tips for speeding things up and an “Even Better” feature, which gives more information about lightening the recipes further if you wish.

Here’s one of the recipes Alexander included in her book. The original McDonald’s Big Mac has 560 calories, 30 grams of fat and 10 grams of saturated fat. Alexander’s lightened version has 386 calories, 11 grams fat and 3 grams saturated fat.

McDonald’s Big Mac

From “Fast Food Fix,” by Devin Alexander

3 ounces 96-percent lean ground beef (about 1/3 cup)

2 pinches salt

1 sesame seed hamburger bun, plus 1 bun bottom

1 slice (1/2 ounce) 2 percent milk yellow American cheese

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon McDonald’s Big Mac Sauce, divided (recipe follows)

1 teaspoon finely chopped white onion

1/3 cup shredded iceberg lettuce

2 rounds dill pickle

Divide the beef in half. On a sheet of waxed paper, shape each half into a 4-inch patty. Season both sides with salt. Transfer the waxed paper to a plate. Place uncovered in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until drops of water sizzle when splashed on the pan. Place the patties in the pan. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until no longer pink. Meanwhile, place the bun top and bottoms, cut-sides down, in the pan. Cook for about 1 minute, or until toasted. (If the pan is not large enough to hold the patties and the buns, first cook 1 patty with the bottom bun and then start assembling the sandwich while the others cook.) Just before patties are cooked, place the cheese on 1 patty.

Place 1 bun on a plate. Spread on 1 tablespoon sauce. Place the cheeseburger, cheese side down, on a bun. Spread 1 teaspoon sauce on the second bun bottom and place, sauce-side down, on the cheeseburger. Top with remaining 1 tablespoon sauce, the onion, lettuce, pickles, the remaining burger, and the bun top.

Yield: 1 serving

Approximate nutrition per serving (from the book): 386 calories, 11 grams fat (3 grams saturated, 26 percent fat calories), 26 grams protein, 44 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams dietary fiber.

McDonald’s Big Mac Sauce

1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise

2 teaspoon dill pickle relish

2 teaspoons ketchup

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons yellow mustard

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped white onion

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, relish, ketchup, sugar and mustard. Stir to blend well. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Stir in the onion just before serving.

Yield: About 2/3 cup, enough for 4 servings

Approximate nutrition per serving (from the book): 49 calories, 3 grams fat (55 percent fat calories), trace protein, 6 grams carbohydrate, trace dietary fiber.

Drive Thru: It’s easy to throw together a Big Mac-like burger in minutes once you have the sauce made. So to save time, make a big batch of the sauce, omitting the onions (they are the only ingredient that will spoil quickly). Refrigerate the sauce in a plastic container for up to 1 month. When you’re ready to enjoy a burger, simply add the correct quantity of onion to the amount of sauce you’re using.

Even Better: Save time and calories by omitting the second bun bottom and simply making 1 patty instead of 2 with 3 ounces of beef. This way, you’ll need only 1 1/2 tablespoons of sauce. You’ll be left with a more nutritionally balanced burger. Plus, you’ll still have room for some fries or a side salad, all the while still enjoying that great Big Mac flavor… in minutes.

The revised burger will have 310 calories, 9 grams fat (1 gram saturated, 26 percent fat calories), 24 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrate and 1 gram dietary fiber.


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