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Try some of these culinary tricks for April Fools’ Day

April 1, 2014 - 8:56am

An April Fools’ Day prank is based on the idea that something is not as it appears to be. Clever cooks are masters of illusion. They know how to use ingredients such as herbs, spices, yogurt or vegetable purees to make their recipes delicious without salt or fat. They might sneak in a few grams of fiber or a useful nutrient such as calcium, without anyone noticing. Can you imagine a creamy rich chicken and pasta salad without mayo’s heavy calories and fat? How about a chocolate cake that gets its moistness from carrots and zucchini? And try some peanut butter cookies with a delicious fiber crunch, or a luscious, rich souffle with a secret. These recipes are so good that no one will mind being fooled.

Curried chicken and pasta salad

Hold the mayonnaise (32 grams of fat per serving) and replace with low-fat mayo and yogurt (7 grams of fat per serving). To heighten flavor, the curry powder is toasted lightly in a dry skillet. Recipe from Eating Well magazine; makes 6 servings.

3/4 pound large pasta shells

2 tablespoons slivered almonds

1 tablespoon curry powder

1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt

1/3 cup mango chutney

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch ground red pepper, or to taste

2 cups cooked chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped scallions

1/2 cup diced celery

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Cook pasta in a large pot of lightly salted water until al dente. Drain and rinse; set aside. In a small dry skillet, toast almonds over low heat, stirring constantly, until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool. Return skillet to stove; add curry powder. Toast, stirring constantly, over low heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a small bowl; stir in mayonnaise, yogurt, chutney, turmeric, cinnamon and ground red pepper. In a large bowl, combine chicken, raisins, scallions, celery and reserved pasta. Add dressing; toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with toasted almonds before serving.

Better peanut cookies

There’s fiber from the cereal and whole wheat flour, and only 5 grams of fat per cookie. Recipe makes 18 cookies.

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup peanut butter

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 slightly beaten egg white

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup multigrain flake cereal

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium bowl, stir brown sugar, peanut butter and cooking oil until smooth. Stir in egg white; set aside. In a small bowl, combine flour and baking soda. Stir into peanut butter mixture; add cereal and mix. Drop dough by heaping teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten dough balls slightly. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Cool for 1 minute; remove from baking sheet to cool completely on a wire rack.

Chocolate Grand Marnier souffle

This souffle contains no dairy or eggs, yet puffs like any egg souffle. Serve immediately, as it will also collapse like any souffle. It’s rich, creamy and … tofu. Makes 6 to 10 servings.

1 cup chocolate chips

1 pound firm water-packed tofu

1/2 cup cocoa powder

3/4 to 1 cup honey

3 to 4 tablespoons Grand Marnier liqueur

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup soy milk

1/2 cup unbleached flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place chocolate chips in a bowl. Put bowl over hot water to melt, stirring with a spoon. Put remaining ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Add melted chocolate; puree a few seconds more. Pour mixture into a lightly oiled 1-quart souffle mold or glass baking dish. Bake 40 to 45 minutes until completely puffed up. Serve immediately.

Carrot and zucchini chocolate cake

Eating your veggies has never tasted so good. Makes 12 servings.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon each: ground nutmeg, ground allspice, salt

1 1/2 cups shredded carrots

1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs

Grease a 9-by-13 baking dish; set aside. Preheat oven to 325 F. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, allspice and salt. Stir in carrots, zucchini and chocolate chips. In a separate small bowl, beat oil and eggs together; add to dry ingredients and stir to moisten well. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool on a rack. When cool, sprinkle top with powdered sugar, if desired, and cut into squares. Store up to 2 days.