Creamed vegetable dishes are delicious, comforting classics. But it can be a bit troubling to take nature's healthiest foods and essentially nestle them in a pool of fat.
Many recipes for creamed corn or spinach call for using a traditional white sauce made from whole milk thickened with a butter and flour roux. Others are primarily reduced heavy cream and sour cream, which don't have a stellar nutritional profile, either.
Yet creamy lower-fat vegetable dishes can be every bit as tasty and satisfying as their full-fat cousins.
One way to go is to make a low-fat white sauce by heating 3/4 cup of skim or low-fat milk until steaming. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour with 1/4 cup of cold milk. Stir the flour mixture into the hot milk and cook, whisking constantly, until thick, 2 to 3 minutes.
Once thickened, add 1/4 cup of any extra-sharp cheese (use full fat, because with its superior flavor even a little will go a long way) and a bit of Dijon mustard to make a cheesy sauce, or add herbs and spices, such as snipped chives and a pinch of nutmeg, to make a more traditional white sauce. Mix the sauce with any cooked vegetables you like.
You also can thicken a cup of skim or low-fat milk by stirring in 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch as it heats, then seasoning in the same way as when thickened with flour.
This recipe for smoky creamed corn with green chilies uses some cornstarch as a thickener, but also gets much of its velvety texture by pureeing two-thirds of the corn in a blender. A mere teaspoon of butter goes a long way in adding a familiar richness to the complex blend of sweet and spicy flavors.
Look for smoked paprika in the spice section of most grocers or, in a pinch, just use plain paprika instead.