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Mustard makes tasty, low-fat sauce

(ran NP, ST editions)

In the face of a weak national economy, diners may feel the need to watch wallets as well as waistlines. Here are tips to help combine careful budgeting with tasty low-fat meals.

Pay special attention to mustard. It is easy to use, often has only 10 calories or less per serving and can pep up leaner, less expensive meats and fish, and fresh vegetables.

+ Toss a tasty salad dressing: Whisk together apple-cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified. Stir in shallot and toasted mustard seeds.

+ Toss together thinly sliced fennel, greens, endives and parsley, and serve with dressing on the side. Greens add fiber and give an antioxidant boost. To cut cost, buy a head of cabbage instead of greens in a "bag."

+ Skinny dipping: For a snack, dip raw vegetables into a mustard sauce. To make the sauce, mix low-fat sour cream, Dijon mustard and 2 tablespoons each of oil, horseradish and fresh tarragon. Be sure to refrigerate. This is a good substitute for high-fat, creamy dips.

+ Marinade can cut the mustard: For a more flavorful salmon or other type of fish, mix \ cup of Dijon mustard, oil and fresh chopped dill with a touch of brown sugar. Glaze over salmon or fish fillets. If possible, buy the fish at a wholesale store. It is generally more fresh and less expensive.

+ Easy appetizers: For an inexpensive one that's high in protein, slice salami on crackers and add a dollop of honey Dijon mustard.

+ A toast to the roast: For a deliciously healthy meal, mix honey Dijon mustard, dry white wine, red wine vinegar and oil as a light, flavorful marinade.

Place the chicken in a large roasting pan and pour the honey mustard sauce over it. Marinate for up to four hours. Roast it for 55 minutes at 350 degrees. For extra nutrition, serve with sweet potatoes.

+ Pass the potatoes: For low-fat potatoes, skip sour cream and serve a mustard vinaigrette. Whisk white wine vinegar with a touch of sugar until the sugar is dissolved, and add peeled and cut boiled potatoes.

Separately, whisk together shallots, whole-grain Dijon mustard and white wine vinegar in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified. Pour the vinaigrette over the potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Buy russet potatoes in bulk to reduce cost.

+ Spice is nice: Spice up meats, poultry and vegetables with a spicy mustard sauce instead of high-fat, high-sodium sauces. Whisk together extra-hot Dijon mustard and water. Combine rice vinegar, white miso, soy sauce and sugar in a saucepan. When the sauce is smooth, whisk in mustard sauce and use as a marinade. To cut cost, buy Japanese ingredients in Japanese markets, if available, rather than in the supermarket.

+ Very veggie: Serve meats, poultry or sandwiches with nutritious fresh vegetables. To marinate beets, sliced carrots and green beans, combine white-wine vinegar, water, dill seed, sugar, minced garlic and salt in a saucepan.

Bring the marinade to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Marinate vegetables for 4 hours in the refrigerator.

+ Baste with taste: Stuff the center of a pork loin with apricots and prunes for an added kick of iron. Baste the pork with honey-Dijon mustard and scatter onion, carrots and garlic cloves around the rack in the pan. Drizzle vegetables and pork with oil and marjoram.

Roast pork 1 hour 25 minutes, until thermometer registers 150 degrees F. Substitute a pork leg or shoulder instead of pork loin to reduce the cost. (Cooking times may vary, based upon cut of meat.)

+ Crudite creations: To save money, skip the pre-made dips and create your own low-fat sun-dried tomato aioli dip. Combine crushed or minced garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, pureed cottage cheese, nonfat yogurt and low-fat mayonnaise. Serve as a dipping sauce for broccoli, cauliflower and baby carrots.

+ Note: When choosing oils, opt for those with monounsaturated fat such as canola or olive oil for a heart-healthy choice.

Source: Maille Fine French Condiments (www.maille.com).cq

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