Category Archives for "Cooking Tips and Tricks"

Prepping for Weight Loss

When trying to lose weight, many people take a single-minded approach. Some immediately throw themselves into exercise. Others focus on calorie counting. Still others eliminate one food group in the quest for better living. Although any of these tracks can ultimately be successful, they each overlook a powerful but simple tool: preparation. Weight loss food preparation can create an environment in which you can succeed. Here are three strategies you can incorporate into any weight loss plan.

Shortcuts and Strategies for Planning Family Dinners

Most people know it is a good idea to plan menus for family dinners, but they still do not make time to do it. Here are some shortcuts and strategies to get meal planning done fast, save time and reduce your stress.

  1. Plan one night for leftovers and one night for a freezer meal. Make a double batch of select recipes and freeze one for later. Alternately, the second batch can serve as a simple leftover meal towards the end of the week.

Five Methods for Creating Healthy Recipes

Before you toss out a family recipe because it is unhealthy, consider modifying it into healthy recipes with just a few simple changes. You will find that developing a talent for ingredient substitution can help transform just about any unhealthy recipe into a healthy one, without diminishing the texture or taste of the foods that you grew up loving. Here are five methods to help you transform recipes into healthy alternatives. 

Cooking Strategies to Help Trim Down Your Waist

If you want to enjoy your meals and flatten your tummy in the process, then there are a few strategies for achieving that end beyond simply reducing portion sizes. The way you cook your meals play a great deal and can help or hinder your efforts. Following a few cooking modifications can help you shed the pounds without making your meals bland and tasteless.

Reduce Sodium

People are surprised that there is a correlation between sodium and weight gain. According to a study from the University of California San Francisco, those who ate a high sodium diet also gained more weight – about a pound more – over a five day period than those who stuck to a low sodium diet. It is believed that too much sodium leads to the production of insulin, a hormone responsible for converting sugar into fat. In place of salt, opt for alternatives like:

  • black pepper
  • cayenne pepper
  • oregano
  • cardamom
  • basil

Do not Coat the Pan With Nonstick Spray

Yes, the spray that you use to add a nonstick surface to your pan contains calories. One full spray that covers the entire surface contains about 36 calories and four grams of fat. While that does not seem like a whole lot, it can quickly add up if the spray is used daily.

Do not Dice Veggies and Potatoes Into Extremely Tiny Pieces

It seems strange that the size you cut your vegetables and potatoes into would matter a great deal. However, if you prepare the meal with cooking oil, it is better to cut the vegetables into larger pieces. When vegetables are chopped into thin and small slices, it creates more surface area for the oil to cling onto, which equals more calories from pure fat.

Rinse Your Vegetables Before Cooking

For cleanliness sakes, it is a good habit to wash your vegetables before throwing them into the pot. Not giving them a quick rinse can actually make you gain weight. According to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, unwashed vegetables may contain pesticide residue, which has been shown to inhibit thyroid function. An improperly working thyroid is associated with a slower metabolism.

Give these cooking tips a try the next time you turn on the stove. They just might give you the slight edge you need to lose those extra pounds.

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How to Cook up a Healthy and Delicious Meal on a Tight Budget

One of the primary factors that prevent people from eating healthier is the high cost of organic and natural foods. However, if you know where and how to shop, then you can save a bundle on your grocery bills while obtaining the ingredients you need for whipping up a healthy meal for the family.

Shopping Tips

Consider the following shopping strategies utilized by savvy shoppers for saving a few dollars the next time you head to the supermarket.

  • Buy in bulk; vegetables and fruits can be frozen to prolong its lifespan. Produce that is frozen at the peak of ripeness will also retain its nutrients.
  • Buy produce that is in season
  • Buy from a farmer’s market; most sellers are willing to negotiate a price
  • Grow your own; this requires some experience and trial and error, but it will pay off

Recipe Samples

Spinach and Egg Sandwich

  • English muffin or whole wheat bread
  • Two eggs
  • One plum tomato
  • One tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4th red onion

This meal makes a great breakfast, and the eggs make for a great source of low-cost protein. The meal also provides a healthy dose of vitamin A and D and omega-3 fats.

Herb-Roasted Chicken

  • One whole chicken
  • Three garlic cloves
  • Two pints grape tomatoes
  • One halved lemon
  • Three tablespoons unsalted butter
  • One tablespoon thyme or rosemary

Buying a chicken whole is typically cheaper than buying its parts. The remaining ingredients for the seasoning can also be obtained cheaply.

Spiced White Rice

  • Two cups long-grain rice
  • One bunch cilantro
  • Two garlic cloves
  • One tablespoon kosher salt
  • One teaspoon cumin
  • ½ cup beer

This is a delicious dish for vegetarians and vegans, and the beer is a secret ingredient that gives the cuisine a light alcoholic flavor. A scrambled egg or two can also be added as an optional ingredient for protein.

Eating healthy does not mean you have to spend an arm and a leg. By being a smart shopper, you can prepare healthy and flavor-rich meals while staying within a monetary budget.

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Potato Versus Sweet Potato: Which Provides More Benefit?

When it comes down to it, we may often find ourselves comparing different foods and wondering which will bring us the optimum health benefits. Two foods that seem easy to compare to one another are potatoes and sweet potatoes, and today we can discuss the benefits of both! The white potato and the sweet potato are almost identical when it comes to calories, carbs, fats and protein. However, the sweet potato does have higher levels of sodium, natural sugars, and fiber. The white potato “offers higher levels of folate, a B vitamin that boosts brain and heart health. It also beats out the sweet potato in the phosphorus department, which keeps bones strong,” while the sweet potato packs ” vitamin C and an outrageous amount of vitamin A….to strengthen the immune system.” Truth be told, they both provide a variety of health benefits that your body needs to be strong and lean. The sweet potato’s vitamins may be extra helpful this time of year to fight off any sicknesses, but you truly can’t go wrong with either spud.

Click here to read the full article for Mind Body Green.

How to Saute Vegetables- Sautéing Made Simple

Cooking with vegetables is one of the best ways to add nutrition to your diet as well as filling foods that are rich in fiber. There are many different ways to prepare and serve vegetables, including raw, roasted, broiled, boiled, stir-fried and sautéed. Here we’re going to discuss sautéing, which is a quick and easy way to add veggies to any meal.

Prep Your Cooking Area

First, you’ll want to wash and cut your vegetables. It helps in the cooking process to have your vegetable pieces all about the same size – bite-sized, if possible.

While you’re cutting the vegetables, heat up a large flat skillet or sauté pan on medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the cooking fat – vegetable or olive oil, bacon oil or butter – and swirl to coat the pan. This is so vegetables don’t stick to the pan. Once the fat is heated, about 20 to 30 seconds, add your vegetables.

Cooking

Add vegetables that take longer to cook, such as carrots or broccoli, before those that require shorter cooking times, like mushrooms or bell pepper. The goal is to have all food done at the same time. Denser vegetables like potatoes can be blanched (boiled briefly) to speed up the cooking process and keep them from falling apart in the pan.

The veggies should only take up one layer in the pan; too many and they can become soggy or stick together and not cook thoroughly. Stir only infrequently to give the vegetables a nice crisp browning on each side.

Seasoning

Once the vegetables are done to your liking – either crisp with a light browning or nice and tender – remove from heat and season to taste. A bit of salt and pepper, seasoned salt, or garlic or onion powder will all work fine. You can even add some minced garlic to the last minute or two of cooking. A splash of lemon or orange juice will add a delightful tang to the final flavor.

Now that you know how to saute vegetables, experiment with different recipes and even add meats to come up with your own favorites.

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The Best Way to Deseed a Pomegranate

No matter what method I try, it seems that deseeding a pomegranate can never go very well! From the segmenting method to the spoon beating method, getting the seeds out of a pomegranate is always a challenge. Greatist put all of these methods to the test, finding the ultimate combo move to yield the most juicy seeds. First, cut the fruit along the midline and pull apart the two halves. Don’t cut too deep, so as to not cut the seeds inside. Submerge both halves in a bowl of water, pushing the edges away to “open the fruit.” Next, turn one half upside and hit it with a spoon, letting seeds fall into the bowl of water. Get as many seeds free as you can by hitting it with a spoon, and free the rest with your hands. Do the same with the other half. Seeds should sink to the bottom of the bowl, separating from any floating pith. Drain and enjoy!

Click here to read the full article by Maria Hart for Greatist.

How to Fillet Round Fish

If you are still learning your way around the kitchen or perfecting your skills, filleting a round fish might be another method that you will want to learn. Round fish, such as snapper, sea bass, and mackerel,  require a very sharp and very flexible knife. First, slice around the head on one side, cutting through until knife meets the bone. Slice the fish from head to tail in one movement, with the tip of the knife flush against the backbone. Use gentle sweeping motions to cut the fillet away from the body with the tip of the knife. Turn the fish over and repeat the process on the other side, starting instead from the tail end and working your way to the head. Remove fins at the bottom and you are ready to go!

Click here to watch an instructional video and read more from Mitch Tonks for BBC.

How to Braise Meat

When it comes to enjoying healthy food, learning how to make it taste great is of paramount importance. If your idea of healthy food includes tasteless meat and limp greens, you are in for a real surprise. Healthy meals can be absolutely delicious if it is prepared the correct way. Since meat is one of the easiest food items to mess up while cooking, here are some tips for creating mouth-watering braised meat that you can pair with your favorite healthy vegetables and complex carbohydrates.

  1. Season and Sear

In order to make your meat juicy and bursting with flavor, season it generously with your favorite spices. Once all sides of the meat are covered in flavor, place the meat into a pan with heated oil and cook it just until the outer portion of the meat becomes a rich deep color.

  1. Add Vegetables

Once the meat has been seared, set it aside and add your preferred vegetables and herbs to the pan (examples include onions, celery, leeks, garlic, and carrots). Sauté over medium heat until the ingredients begin to soften.

  1. Simmer Flavorful Liquid

Remove glaze from the pan by using wine, stock, or broth to the pan and scraping off any bits of food that may be stuck to the bottom of the pan as part of the searing process. Bring the liquid to a simmer.

  1. Add the Meat

Put the meat back into the pan and add an acidic ingredient that will help reduce toughness by softening connective tissue within the meat. Diced tomatoes are a flavorful option, or the wine from step 3 will work as well. Make sure there is enough braising liquid to just barely cover the top of the meat, then add additional seasoning as desired to the braising liquid.

  1. Simmer

Once the braising liquid has returned to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid and place in an oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately one hour per pound.

If these steps are carefully followed, the end result will be a healthy, delicious piece of perfectly-braised meat. Learning how to braise meat is a great opportunity to expand your culinary skills in the kitchen.

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