1. Headline
  1. Headline

Video: Jenna, Erica and Lester learn to cut calories on classic dishes

  1. Closed captioning of: Jenna, Erica and Lester learn to cut calories on classic dishes

    >>> it is day 16 of our 30 days to a better you series. this weekend we've been talking about how to make delicious food without the guilt. yesterday we tackled how to lighten your lunch. if you missed it, you can check it out on today.com.

    >>> today we're continuing our healthy food education by learning how to cook classic satisfying dishes without the fat and calories. we visited joe cameron for a lesson.

    >> can everyone take whatever favorite dish we have, make a couple substitutions and turn it into a relatively dish.

    >> totally.

    >> is it going to taste good?

    >> yes.

    >> we'll make a puffer deli out of celery root . it's carb free. using a lean cut of meet, low pasta, very little olive oil .

    >> how much am i going to save?

    >> a normal pole of pappardelle, 850 calories. this one about 300.

    >> it smells amazing.

    >> it smells better than the microwave.

    >> i did this.

    >> so we've done pasta. now mashed potatoes . instead of mashed potato , we'll put in collie flower. today a contest, erika and lester and my assistant jennifer.

    >> the other good news is jen is not a factor in whatever culinary competition we're about to do.

    >> garlic and non-fat cream cheese . this will make it creamy. nut meg and parmesan cheese . it will be up to you and your team how much of these ingredients you want to add. on your mark, get set, go.

    >> i hate this thing!

    >> the winner is, i can't believe i'm saying it, but it's jenna.

    >> mashed potatoes caloriewise, we're talking like 315 a cup. this right here 210. guys, we have been to italy. we've got the pasta going. we've been to france. we did mashed potatoes , now to china, a shrimp quinoa. what is it?

    >> it's an ancient grain.

    >> it's got protein in it and fiber.

    >> classic fried rice , there's always eggs in it. let's take out the cholesterol and the yolk. all i want is the white. this is how you do it. flat surface over the glass bowl . i want to go in with the shrimp and the ginger and garlic.

    >> you want egg white so we save cholesterol, quinoa instead of rice.

    >> big savings. a lot of protein, a lot of different vitamins you would never get with rice. we've spent the past hour replacing some of our favorite foods, cutting the calories by more than half, pumping up the nutrition. should we eat?

    >> yes.

    >> please.

    >> here is to low calorie high taste.

    >> and to dylan .

    >> and to dylan .

    >> i think we ruined it because we all had five helpings.

    >> by the time we actually sat down we were so full.

    >> dylan was supposed to join us. that day of our class you had to go cover a winter storm .

    >> like there's been winter storms every day.

    >> luckily there were leftovers which chef joe brought to the studio for us to try.

    >> welcome to our kitchen.

    >> i love it.

    >> if you have a favorite comfort meal, say mac and cheese or eggplant parm, how do you figure out how to lighten it?

    >> the first thing is you've got to be motivated. you have to jump into this type of stuff. one huge resource go to a cooking class, get a good kick start . another thing is be willing and open minded to change things, move pasta for celery root . move potatoes for cauliflower. be open minded to all the possibility.

    >> you can make mistakes. it's okay to go out and make mistakes, try something else.

    >> absolutely. make mistakes. you were in cooking school with us. make as many mistakes as you want.

    >> that's a good place to start.

    >> you also really stress that it's helpful to have certain tools in your kitchen. you brought some of your favorite must-haves with you this morning.

    >> tools are the next step. if you have all the right ingredients, what are you going to do if you have a broken pan and a dull knife.

    >> if you have a cuisinart, you'll eat so many more vegetables. i love this. you will really change the way -- also good for pur?es, things like we did with that.

    >> doesn't take up your entire kitchen.

    >> tiny.

    >> the celery root still looks like pasta to me.

    >> i thought it was pasta.

    >> you thought that was mashed potatoes . it's actually mashed cauliflower.

    >> these tools change the complete dynamic of the food and make your brain believe you're eating something that you're used to.

    >> it also takes an amazing teacher.

    >> it does.

    >> you're a great teacher.

    >> we're coming back.

    >> please!

    >> my kids love both of these. thank you. they were

TODAY recipes
updated 3/16/2014 3:14:14 PM ET 2014-03-16T19:14:14

Slash the calories of classic comfort food dishes with some easy substitutions that are still full of flavor.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Quality over quantity: New study brings time-squeezed parents relief

      When it comes to parenting, quality actually does trump quantity, according to a new study prompting sighs of relief from ...

    2. Does prayer work? Is there an afterlife? See results of TODAY's survey
    3. 3 ways to raise a spiritual child: Try these exercises at home
    4. 5 tips to nailing the natural 'no-makeup' makeup look
    5. Controversy over selfies at East Village explosion

In Jenna Wolfe’s “30 Days to a Better You” challenge, making important food choices plays an important role. Dishes like pasta and mashed potatoes often pack a hearty punch, but with a few clever substitutions those favorite dishes can be made into healthier options.

“It’s gonna taste amazing,” promised Sur La Table’s resident chef Joel Gamoran, who invited the TODAY team into his kitchen with the promise of simple, healthy dishes.

Gamoran first showed Wolfe, Lester Holt and Erica Hill how to make a pappardelle pasta out of celery root, which is healthy and packed with vitamins. It’s also carb-free.

The chef used a lean cut of meat to go with the dish, and very little olive oil. Compared to a normal bowl of pappardelle pasta with a beef ragu, which comes in at about 850 to 875 calories, this dish had only 300.

In a classic mashed potatoes dish, Gomaran used cauliflower as the main ingredient. He also said there would be a competition on who could make the most delicious version.

Holt and Hill teamed up against Wolfe and one of Gomaran's kitchen assistants.

The teams were given three minutes to combine garlic, nonfat cream cheese, nutmeg and parmesan cheese with the cauliflower.

The winner with the tastiest combination? “I can’t believe I’m saying it, but it’s Jenna!” said Gomaran. It was surprising only because it takes a lot to get Wolfe in the kitchen. “It’s not that I don’t have the desire, it’s that I don’t have the skill,” she said.

Making a mashed potatoes dish with cauliflower and nonfat cream cheese puts the dish at about 210 calories per cup. A more traditional recipe runs about 315 calories a cup.

The kitchen crew also whipped up a fried rice dish made with quinoa instead of rice, and without the egg yolks, adding in only the egg whites. That way, the fried rice ends up being healthy with low cholesterol, and choosing quinoa over rice means there’s more protein and vitamins.

The anchors sat down to feast on their dishes, but not without first toasting to their missing co-host Dylan Dreyer, who couldn’t attend because she had gone to report on a winter storm.

“Here’s to low calorie, high taste...and to Dylan," said Wolfe.

Recipe: Sesame Shrimp Quinoa (on this page) Recipe: Celery Root Pappardelle with Turkey Ragu (on this page) Recipe: Mashed Cauliflower (on this page)

Recipe: Sesame Shrimp Quinoa

  • 2 cups quinoa, rinsed
  • 4 cups water
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 egg whites
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 3 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp cut into bite-size pieces
  • 4 cups cooked and oven dried quinoa
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar (or balsamic)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Bring the quinoa, salt and water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Remove quinoa from pan and place on a parchment-lined half-sheet pan. Place pan in the oven to dry out quinoa for 15 minutes. Alternatively, use cooked and cooled quinoa.

Heat a wok over medium-high heat until hot. Coat the wok with one tablespoon vegetable oil and just as it begins to smoke add the egg whites to the wok and scramble until cooked through (about 1 minute). Remove the egg whites from the wok and set aside. Return the wok to the heat and add one tablespoon oil.  Add the ginger, garlic and shrimp and stir for about 2 minutes or until the shrimp turns pink and is cooked through. Remove and set aside. Coat the wok with the remaining tablespoon oil, add the cooked quinoa and toss until it is toasted and brown.

Return the cooked egg and shrimp mixture to the wok and toss to combine with the quinoa. In a small bowl whisk together the soy sauce, honey and vinegar, drizzle over the quinoa and stir to combine. 

Serving Size


Recipe: Celery Root Pappardelle with Turkey Ragu

  • 2 pounds turkey breast cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 carrots, grated
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 8 ounces canned San Marzano crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large celery root, trimmed and peeled
  • 1 bunch, fresh basil leaves
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano, grated, optional

For the Sauce:

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once hot add the oil and the turkey. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the turkey until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer the cooked turkey to a plate, set aside.

Add the carrots, onion and garlic to the Dutch oven and cook for about 5 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add the red wine and stir, using a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until most of the wine has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato, thyme and bay leaf and return to a boil.

While the ingredients are cooking, shred the cooled turkey into pieces and add back to the sauce. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the mixture for 15 minutes.

For the Celery Root Pasta:

Using a long grater or a mandolin, shave the celery root into long, thin slices. Cut the celery root slices into thick ribbons and place in a bowl of cold water.

To Finish:

Add the celery root to the turkey sauce and season with salt and pepper. Cook on medium high heat for 10 minutes or until the celery root is soft.

Transfer the Ragu from the Dutch oven to a large serving bowl and top with grated Parmigiano Reggiano and torn basil leaves.

Serving Size


Recipe: Mashed Cauliflower

  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 2 tbsp light cream cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch, ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • Olive oil to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper

In a large pot of boiling salted water add the cauliflower and cook for about 5 minutes, until tender.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the cauliflower and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add the light cream cheese, garlic, nutmeg, salt and cheese to the cauliflower. Blend all the ingredients until smooth and fluffy.

Using a spatula, place the cauliflower in a bowl and top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and pepper and serve.

Serving Size


Discuss: What did you think of this recipe?

How many stars would you give the dish? If you made changes, tell us how you customized it.

Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Shutterstock

    3 ways to raise a spiritual child: Try these exercises at home

    3/30/2015 11:55:03 AM +00:00 2015-03-30T11:55:03
  1. Carrie Underwood / Instagram

    Check out Carrie Underwood's adorable baby holding dad's hockey stick

    3/30/2015 12:43:44 PM +00:00 2015-03-30T12:43:44
  1. Pilot’s last pleas to Lubitz heard on voice recorder

    video Audio recordings reportedly captured the pilot’s pleas to co-pilot Andreas Lubitz before the Germanwings plane crashed. NBC’s Katy Tur reports.

    3/30/2015 11:39:35 AM +00:00 2015-03-30T11:39:35