Calling All Cooks: Recipe Makeover Shows

I may not be much of a cook, but I do like to find new recipes, especially when they’re healthier remakes of some of my long-time favorites. Sometimes the healthier version becomes a new favorite (see: 100-calorie apple pies or apple-cinnamon waffles), but sometimes not (see: black bean brownies). You can’t win if you don’t play, right? Right.

You can imagine how delighted I was to find two new-to-me recipe makeover television shows recently, Cook Your Ass Off (HLN, Sunday nights) and Recipe Rehab (CBS, Saturday mornings).

On Cook Your Ass Off (CYAO), three chefs compete to make over recipes for a guest with a specific health quest (lowering blood pressure, losing weight, managing cholesterol, etc.). Most, if not all, of the chefs have overcome a health problem themselves or were influenced by the health of a family member. The judging panel includes a nutritionist, a chef, and the guest with the quest.

There are three rounds of makeovers: Snack Attack, Meal Makeover, and Ideal Meal. For the first two rounds, the makeover dish is submitted by the guest. For example, one guest who needed to lower his cholesterol wanted a healthier version of his go-to quick snack, nachos. The three offerings were chili-spiced black beans & guacamole (no chips), ground turkey taquitos & tomatillo salsa, and lastly, grilled watermelon, feta, & ceviche. Needless to say, no one bought into the idea that grilled watermelon scratched any sort of nacho itch.

One chef is eliminated after the Meal Makeover segment, leaving the other two chefs to create the Ideal Meal built upon two super healthy, if possibly disgusting, ingredients. Think: octopus.

In the end, the winner moves on to some grand finale in the future and will also work with the guest on developing healthier cooking methods.

Recipe Rehab (RR) focuses on teaching families to make healthier substitutions in the kitchen. Two chefs compete to create healthier versions of the families’ favorite high-calorie meals. The families then attempt to recreate each recipe in their own kitchens and then choose their favorites based on taste, healthiness, and ease of preparation. I found a sample recipe on YouTube: Barbecued Chicken.

I’ve only seen two episodes of RR, but it’s my favorite of the two shows, so far, and I think it’s mainly because the chefs are more focused on remaking a favorite dish in a healthier way rather than replacing it with something else completely. Also, to be honest, the recipes on RR seem more doable for the mediocre-and-happy-being-that-way home cooks, like me. Oh, and I really, really like that they’re trying to engage whole families in the process. Hence, the Saturday a.m. airtime.

Have you seen either of these shows? Maybe you have a perspective I haven’t considered. Sing out if you do!

As luck would have it, I stumbled across two recipe makeover articles the last few days, which I’ll share in case television isn’t your thing:

Bon appétit!



16 thoughts on “Calling All Cooks: Recipe Makeover Shows

  1. I just discovered these recently too and am really enjoying them! I’m on the way down weightwise (-40 today with mrmpmph mumble to go) so I like some of the ideas from CYAO that aren’t perhaps totally healthy, but healthier. Baby steps. Actually both shows … I just stumbled across Recipe Rehab last Sat and am looking forward to the next show. Also liking the two websites these shows have – I learned how to freeze avocados! (Haven’t tried it yet though.)

  2. One of the reasons I appreciate Cooking Light magazine (and their great website) is that they use real ingredients but just try to make each dish more nutritious. For example, they believe that while you should always go for healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, etc.) sometimes in a recipe only real butter will do. So they try to figure out how to use less and still keep flavor. In other words, sometimes there is NO substitution. It positively annoys me when people say, “eat kale chips they’re just like potato chips.’ NO. Just NO. I mean yes I’ll eat kale chips but in no world are they like potato chips.

    It always surprises me that people don’t understand how to make better choices but then again, I love to cook and I’ve been working on healthier versions of my recipes for years. I feel if I do that most of the time, then the few times there is inidulgence, it’s not so bad!

  3. Thanks for this Cammy! I’ve set my DVR to record Recipe Rehab so I can check it out! I’m so with you and Helen on the whole faux substitutions thing! While I think plain Greek yogurt is a fine substitute for sour cream, mashed cauliflower is never going to satisfy my craving for mashed potatoes :-)

  4. I haven’t seen either of those shows but I love cooking shows and definitely plan to check them out!
    And those links are awesome – especially the one with the healthy versions of classics!!!

  5. I have very strong opinions on what could/should be swapped out in recipes. Sometimes it is better just to have the real thing, but have less. Sometimes lightening up makes a dish taste better because it isn’t weighed down so much. I love to experiment with dishes to figure this out.

    • I agree, it’s fun to play around with the boundaries of satiety and taste vs. what makes a recipe tip over into not-so-good anymore. Fewer calories and improved nutrition are good goals, but if it’s unpalatable, what’s the point?

  6. I try lightening up recipes and it usually turns out “ok” but MAINLY BECAUSE Im not such a rock star cook to start :-)

  7. I have not seen either of those shows…but I don’t think I watch those channels – nope, I don’t watch much on 2.. :)

    Like Carla, I do my own thing & all that matters here is that I like it.. :) Hubby usually does not. 😉

  8. I haven’t seen these shows. I hope I can find them on the internet! I might have to go to the gym on a Saturday morning to watch!

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