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Cookbook review: Betty Crocker lightens up 300 comfort food recipes

Quick look: Betty Crocker’s latest cookbook helps make healthy eating hearty but not heavy by replacing fat with flavorful herbs, spices and other calorie-saving substitutions. The results are leaner takes on classic comfort foods that weigh in at 300 calories or fewer per serving.

What’s inside: A few weeks into the new year, those 2014 resolutions to lose weight, eat healthier and save money might seem like a chore. This guide aims to make it easier for home cooks to eat well while staying budget conscious. Portion control is key. So are lightened versions of traditional favorites like Chicken Scaloppine, Pork Chops with Apples and Sage, Meatloaf, Coconut-Curry Chicken, Pasta Puttanesca, Paella, Posole and Black Bean Enchiladas.

There are “healthified” versions of hamburgers, pork chops, lamb chops, butterfly shrimp, chicken curry with couscous, chicken pot pie, spicy tostadas, lasagna and more. Calories – difficult to miss – are listed inside red circles in the corner of each recipe page. The 10 chapters include soups and stews, sandwiches and salads, slow-cooker suppers, grilled entrées, side dishes and breakfast items, like Bacon and Tomato Frittata using real bacon and reduced-fat cheese and sour cream.

The goal is to fill you up – not out. There are tips for healthier snacking, sample menus and substitution ideas. Side dishes and desserts – Lemony Beans with Toasted Garlic, Roasted Beets, Glazed Lemon Bars, Cherry-Raspberry Ice Cream, Cantaloupe or Watermelon Granita – run 150 calories or fewer per serving.

What’s not: If you’re looking for lots of food photographs, you won’t find them. Although they are mouth-watering, the photos in this soft-cover cookbook are few.

Healthified Italian Sausage Egg Bake

From “300 Calorie Comfort Food”

One serving is 280 calories (and contains 12 grams of fat, including 4 grams of saturated fat and 0 trans fat). From start to finish, Betty Crocker says it takes 10 hours to make, including 8 hours or overnight in the fridge.

3/4 pound lean Italian turkey sausage, casings removed

1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped (1 cup)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 box (9 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained

4 cups frozen country-style shredded hash brown potatoes (from a 30-ounce bag), thawed

2 cups shredded reduced-fat Italian cheese blend (8 ounces)

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

12 eggs

3/4 cup fat-free (skim) milk

1 teaspoon dried basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook sausage over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up with spoon, until no longer pink; drain if necessary. Add onion and bell pepper, cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, cook 1 to 2 minutes longer until vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir in spinach.

Spray a 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In baking dish, stir together the chopped sausage mixture, potatoes and cheeses. In a medium bowl, beat eggs, milk, basil, salt and pepper. Pour over mixture in baking dish. Cover; refrigerate 8 hours or overnight but no longer than 24 hours.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake covered 1 hour. Uncover, bake 15 to 20 minutes longer or until center is set. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 12

Lemony Beans with Toasted Garlic

From “300 Calorie Comfort Food”

One serving of this side dish is 50 calories.

1/4 cup butter

4 cloves garlic, slivered

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

6 1/4 cups frozen whole green beans (from two 12-ounce bags)

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

In 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic, salt and pepper; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add green beans; cook 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Stir in lemon peel.

Watermelon Granita

From “300 Calorie Comfort Food”

There are 70 calories per serving in this sweet Italian treat.

3 tablespoons lime juice (2 to 3 limes)

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

6 cups 1-inch cubes seeded watermelon

In 1-quart saucepan, mix lime juice, water and sugar. Cook over low heat about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

Place watermelon in blender or food processor. Cover; blend on high speed about 2 minutes or until smooth. Add lime juice mixture; blend until well mixed. Pour into ungreased 13-by-9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish. Cover; freeze 1 hour.

Scrape with fork to distribute ice crystals evenly. Freeze at least 3 hours longer, scraping every 30 minutes, until mixture is consistency of fine ice crystals. Scoop into chilled dessert cups to serve.