Choose Your City
Change City

Guilt-free versions of your favorite restaurant recipes

Let author Ron Douglas show you how to make healthier versions of your favorite meals.

The unsteadiness of the economy led Ron Douglas to leave his job on Wall Street in order to pursue his passion, a website where he doles out instructions for cooking renowned dishes from popular restaurants like P.F. Chang’s and Chili’s. His site, RecipeSecrets.com, became a hit, and it’s now given him a second career as a best-selling author. Douglas’ latest book, America’s Most Wanted Recipes Without the Guilt, hits store shelves Sept. 6.

Where did the idea for this book come from?

The original idea to create copycat recipes came from a challenge from my wife to try to recreate KFC's Original Chicken at home. From there I discovered that many people online were also looking for restaurant recipes and decided to start RecipeSecrets.net back in 2003. The idea for America's Most Wanted Recipes Without The Guilt was inspired by my childhood friend and teammate Troy Escalade Jackson who passed away last year. I decided to use the popularity of my books to help educate people on healthier options for preparing their favorite dishes at home.

What were some of the challenges you faced while creating the recipes?

Through research we can usually discover the ingredients a particular dish contains, but the major challenge is coming up with the ingredient quantities and cooking procedures through trial and error. Fortunately, the members of our website are active recipe copycatters and provide a lot of intelligence to our recipes from their own test results.

Which recipes were the most difficult to recreate?

The KFC Original Chicken recipe was the most difficult because it is such a closely guarded recipe and it was almost impossible to get all the ingredients. We had to do a lot more trial and error to come up with a version that tastes like it. Some of the other dishes that take longer to make, such as Cheesecake Factory Oreo Cheesecake, were difficult to recreate because each test run takes longer to produce results.

Here are some of Douglas' recipes to get your started on your own copycatting.

Boston Market Macaroni and Cheese

1 tablespoon minced onion

2 tablespoons diet margarine, melted

1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups skim milk

4 ounces low-fat American cheese, cubed

1⁄4 cup cubed low-fat Cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons low-fat blue cheese dressing

1 teaspoon salt

Pinch of pepper

1⁄4 teaspoon dry mustard

4 ounces macaroni or pasta of choice

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. In a large saucepan, sauté the onion in the margarine until translucent.

3. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes.

4. Slowly stir in the milk.

5. Stir in the cheeses, blue cheese dressing, salt, pepper and mustard.

6. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.

7. Meanwhile, cook the macaroni until al dente. Stir the drained macaroni into the sauce.

8. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and pour the pasta mixture into the dish.

9. Bake for 20 minutes.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information (per serving)

Calories: 260

Fat: 5.04 grams

Protein: 17.5 grams

Carbohydrates: 36.32 grams

Dietary Fiber: 1.35 grams

The original Boston Market version has 300 calories per serving. By using skim milk and low-fat cheese, you save 40 calories per serving.

KFC Original Recipe Fried Chicken (Baked)

1 egg, beaten

1 cup buttermilk

8 chicken pieces (2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks), skin removed

6 slices Sara Lee diet wheat bread

1⁄4 teaspoon dried oregano

1⁄4 teaspoon chili powder

1⁄4 teaspoon dried sage

1⁄4 teaspoon dried basil

1⁄4 teaspoon dried marjoram

1⁄2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon onion salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon Acc´ent

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine the egg and buttermilk in a large bowl. Soak the skinless chicken pieces in the mixture.

3. Toast the bread until it is dried thoroughly. Crush into bread crumbs. Place the bread crumbs in a separate large bowl and stir in all the herbs and spices.

4. Roll the chicken in the seasoned bread crumbs until completely covered.

5. Place the chicken pieces on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

6. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until cooked through.

Serves 8

Nutritional Information (per serving)

Wing Breast Drumstick Thigh

Calories: 73 187 86 135

Fat: 1.01 grams 3.47 grams 1.80 grams 2.25 grams

Protein: 3.88 grams 16.59 grams 5.20 grams 7.40 grams

Carbohydrates: 6.74 grams 12.75 grams 7.45 grams 10.20 grams

Dietary Fiber: 0.68 gram 1.48 grams 0.82 gram 1.25 grams

The original KFC version has 140 calories for a wing, 320 calories for a breast, 140 calories for a drumstick and 220 calories for a thigh. By using the diet-bread crumbs and baking instead of frying, you save almost half the calories.

The Cheesecake Factory Oreo Cheesecake


2 tablespoons diet margarine, melted

11⁄2 cups sugar-free chocolate

Cookie crumbs (about 25 wafer cookies, finely chopped)


Three 8-ounce packages fat-free cream cheese, softened

1⁄4 cup sugar

6 packets Sweet’n Low (or your favorite reduced-calorie sugar substitute for cooking)

5 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour

8 ounces fat-free sour cream

5 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped

1. Have all the ingredients at room temperature before beginning.

2. Preheat the oven to 325°F.

3. To make the crust, mix the melted margarine with the cookie crumbs and press onto the bottom and 11/2 inches up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan; set aside.

4. To make the filling, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer on low until fluffy.

5. Add the sugar and sweetener and continue beating the cream cheese until well mixed.

6. Add the eggs one at a time and continue to beat until blended.

7. Add the vanilla extract, salt and flour to the cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth. Add the sour cream and beat.

8. Stir in the 5 coarsely chopped Oreo cookies with a spoon.

9. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the springform pan.

10. Place the pan in the middle of the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

11. After that time, prop open the oven door and let the cheesecake stay in the oven for 1 hour; do not turn the oven off. Remove from the oven and let cool. Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

12. To serve, run a knife or metal spatula around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake, and remove from the pan.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information (per serving)

Calories: 442

Fat: 9.22 grams

Protein: 21.98 grams

Carbohydrates: 27.63 grams

Dietary Fiber: 1.42 grams

The original Cheesecake Factory version has 869 calories per serving. By using diet margarine and fat-free cream cheese and sour cream, replacing part of the sugar with sweetener, using a fat-free chocolate cookie in the crust and eliminating the Oreo cookie topping, you save 427 calories per serving.

You Might Also Like