6 healthy changes I’m making to my cooking game
It’s that time of year again when thoughts turn to fitness and weight loss. As soon as I hear the word “diet”, I immediately think of deprivation, boring food and no wine. This year, it doesn’t suit me. After taking a few press trips that involved food and wine and then returned home to find that I hadn’t gained weight and sometimes even lost a pound or two, I realized that there had something to eat fresh, to eat from the farm to the table and to drink wine with a meal. This year, I’m making changes to my cooking game so that eating healthy isn’t a punishment. This is important to me due to a recent health crisis which has highlighted the importance of nutrition to me.
I received a Seasider gift set from Ciao Italian Food Artistry to try and it is mentioned in this article.
Please note: I am not a dietitian. I write from my own experience.
1. State of mind
It’s a big change for me. I focus on healthy eating and wellness versus dieting. Instead of thinking I can’t eat this and feeling deprived, I start to think I can eat this because it’s a healthy, good quality item. I constantly remember how good I feel when I eat better. I choose foods that I like so that I don’t feel deprived. It was the key for me. Rather than following a rigid diet that often includes meals that I am not really keen on, I plan my own meals. It allows me to look forward to a meal knowing it’s the food I love. For example, decadent avocado is packed with nutrients such as vitamins C, E, K, and B6, as well as riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and potassium. They also provide lutein, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids. An avocado contains healthy, beneficial fats that help you feel full and 6-7 grams of fiber for each half. It’s a nutritional powerhouse that tastes so good. So dive into this guacamole without any guilt.
2. Top quality ingredients
I recently received a gift box from Ciao Italian Food Artistry. The Seasider was packed with premium ingredients that I used to make Salsa Cruda pasta. In Italy, a sauce that you don’t cook is known as salsa cruda. I was skeptical about using tuna in a pasta dish but, oh my gosh the difference when using the premium As do Mar tuna. To make this dish I crumbled the tuna into a bowl. and I added San Giuliano roasted artichokes, Agostino salted capers, Gentile Piennolo Vesuvio whole red tomatoes and Le Ferre lemon extra virgin olive oil. When the Marella Pasta del Mare was made, I mixed everything up. I added a little pepper and grated Pecorino Romano. It was such a simple dish to prepare yet incredibly delicious. The premium ingredients elevated this humble meal to something I would serve to guests. It was so good.
My lesson learned is that the premium ingredients are worth the extra cost. My husband and I are now empty nests and only cook for two so I use less which helps justify the cost. Shopping is half the fun. I love an upscale grocery store to research new ingredients. Find a place that offers cooking demonstrations. You can try the dish and get the recipe if you like it. My new mantra is, “Is it good for the taste?” I’m not going to waste calories on something that’s just average.
Meal Kits, while not premium ingredients, are a good way to try out new ingredients and recipes. I will order from time to time when I get a deal. Pretty much everything you need comes with the kit. I have the opportunity to learn a new recipe and I love the suggestions on how to prepare it for visual appeal. Meals are portion-controlled, and looking around I thought, “Oh, that’s not a lot of food,” but eating slowly it’s a lot. It helps to know what the correct serving size is. I have meal kit recipes that are now in my permanent rotation because they were so good.
3. From farm to table
In the Pacific Northwest, I’ve noticed more and more restaurants are going with a farm-to-table ingredient sourcing style. Chefs look to local farmers and suppliers for fresh ingredients. When dining out, this is where you want to go for a healthier meal without feeling deprived. One trend I have noticed this year is what I call “gourmet vegetables on the menu as a starter”. The most common are Brussels sprouts and roasted carrots. I have tried so many different versions of these dishes and loved everyone. How cool is it to be able to savor a healthy vegetable that you will love compared to fried calamari?
The takeaway is that you can make these meals at home. At the restaurant, I photograph and write down the ingredients. Back home, I try to recreate the dish. I have found some great recipes by using a search engine and listing all the ingredients and the word recipe. Roasted carrots taste like such a treat. Once roasted, they soften and the outside caramelizes. Embellished with seasonings and condiments, it is a worthy dish. Brussels sprouts taste so much better when they are thinly sliced and roasted in the oven. I had them prepared sweet and savory, and both are equally good. The sweet version had a buttery maple syrup sauce which was so good. To make it healthier, my homemade version just had a drizzle of sauce.
4. Professional equipment
To elevate your cooking game, you really need good quality equipment. In my opinion, the most important is a well-designed cutting board and a well-made knife. Healthy eating involves a lot of hashing, so you want tools that can do the job. You will also need transparent stackable containers to use in the refrigerator for preparing meals. I like to plan my meals for the week, and it’s nice to have all the ingredients ready to go. Look for cookbooks on the Mediterranean diet. Experts considered it one of the healthiest types of diets in the world and that’s what my nutritionist recommended to me.
I received a pizza oven for Christmas and can’t wait to experience it. In addition to pizza, you can cook steaks and other meats on cast iron pans. I want to see what he can do with vegetables. Can pizza be a healthy dish? Yes, if you practice portion control. The traditional Neapolitan pizza is a thin crust made from flour, yeast, water, salt, oil, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. It is a simple dish and can be part of a healthy diet. You can increase the nutritional value by using whole wheat flour for the dough and garnishing it with nutrient-dense vegetables and lean protein like grilled chicken. Limit the amount of cheese.
I find that I eat better during the day when I have breakfast. Eggs are a filler protein, but can be a bit boring. I eat a frittata almost every morning. I load it with a combination of leftovers and fresh cut veggies. Just about everything tastes great in a frittata and is a great way to avoid food waste. I love leftover roasted sweet potatoes, asparagus or zucchini combined with fresh onions, chopped bell peppers and spinach or super greens. I add a little meat and usually pieces of bacon or sausage. Sauté all toppings in a non-stick ovenproof pan, then pour in the beaten eggs with a little milk on top. Cook on the stove for 2 minutes, then grill until the eggs are set. I put the rack in the middle of the oven so the frittata wouldn’t burn.
I love a glass of wine with dinner, and it’s good to know that it has positive effects. An article in JAMA Internal Medicine, the researchers concluded that “compared to non-drinkers, women of normal weight initially who consumed light to moderate amounts of alcohol gained less weight and had a lower risk of becoming overweight and / or obese for 12.9 years of follow-up. The interesting thing about this study is that the subjects were women aged 39 to 89, our demographics. I have read other studies that show the positive effects of red wine on blood sugar. In my experience, I have found this to be true when I take a blood test 2 hours after drinking a glass of red wine.
In terms of improving your cooking game, having a glass of wine with a meal encourages you to slow down and enjoy your food. Set the table each night and enjoy a meal that you have prepared and know is good for you.
If your New Year’s resolutions include weight loss, consider refocusing on wellness. Make healthy eating part of your routine with meals you’ll love to eat as you improve your cooking game.
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