There are a lot of tricks and gadgets out there for losing weight. It’s quite easy to end up with an old ratty Soloplex Machine (do those still exist? did I just show my true age?) collecting dust in a corner of your living-room. Since setting my new goal of maintaining a healthy weight by eating more whole foods and limiting my use of overly processed foods (that are usually filled with excessive amounts of sugar, salt, and things like Red & Yellow #9), I’ve come to realize that the underbelly of my goal is eating healthier but with robust flavors. All this being said I’ve been trying to look at the details of food making that really pack flavor and how much of an ingredient do I really need to get the most flavor and most satisfying feeling.
So here they are. 5 little kitchen
tools tricks I’ve been using to add flavor and cook in a healthier way:
The Microplane… don’t get scurred it’s just a supper fancy word for a grater. What makes this grater different from others is that it’s specifically for getting the zest off of citrus fruits like limes, lemons, and oranges. If you haven’t already tasted the zest from these fruits, you are totally missing out, and I urge you to. No. Better yet, I demand you do. You will thank this bossy chic later. The zest of these lovelies carry an immense amount of flavor simply because all the oils of the peel are in the zest. And what does that really mean? Well, in a 1/4 teaspoon of lime zest you can taste 1 whole lime and much more. But what’s even better is that you can add this zest to dishes and bring them to a whole new level. Try adding them to yogurt, marinades, salad dressings, rice, pasta, meat, the whole shebang.
So here’s a funny story. FunnyGirl can be a bit picky sometimes. So what does a cook like me do? I try to sneak certain flavors into food she argues to the death that she hates or is reluctant to believe would taste good. A while back I made the mistake of asking her if it was ok for me to put lemon zest in some homemade whipped cream I had made to use as a pancake topping and she of course gave me that flatlined look which always means “Ummm welllll no not realllllly, not sure i’ll like that”. So there went our pancakes with plain old whipped cream (plain old whipped cream is good any day, but with some zesty flavor, it turns to greatness).
Here’s the proof that I will totally be one of those moms that sneaks in veggies into meatloaf or ice-cream to get my kids to eat greens. The next time I made whipped cream I decided not to tell her I had added a little secret ingredient, HA! So as we sat down to eat breakfast I casually mentioned, “I actually put just a smidge of lemon zest in the whipped cream”. Now because FunnyGirl, is much more polite than picky, she said oh okayyy. And then it happened. She took a bite of her pancakes smeared with a touch of lemon whipped cream and she gave me that silent yet mouthful of Mmmmmmm. “Baby I know I said I didn’t like lemon zest in the whipped cream, but can you make it like this from now on?” That is all I needed to hear. I of course nonchalantly said “sure no problem”. Inside though, I was doing the running man dance and hi-fiving it up. Game over. Sneaky cook 1 – Picky eater 0. Now, let’s just hope this is the reaction I get from my unborn kids one day when I secretly add spinach juice to their milk shake.
So the morals of this story? Be creative in hiding flavors, it works. Use a microplane to get insanely intense flavor without sugar or fat, it totally works.
Measuring cups and spoons. Ok before we go any further I want to make sure you and I are on the same page. These cups and spoons are NOT and I repeat NOT for carrying around like a mad person measuring everything from a cup of McDonalds french fries to BBQ’s ginormous margaritas. If you’re gonna, on occasion, indulge in foods like these, a measuring cup or spoon has no invite to that party. And by the way guilt is also not invited to those occasional types of parties.
What I’m suggesting is that you use these measuring tools to bring about awareness to yourself. You know what they say, the first step to dealing with a bad habit or addiction is becoming aware that it really is a problem. So let’s just become aware of proper portions at home so that when we are at a family party where there are platters of pernil asado, arroz con gandules, flan, cheesecake, or my favorite, pastelitos, you know what a decent portion looks like.
Go buy yourself a set of measuring cups and spoons and test yourself out. How much sugar is there really in a teaspoon? Or even tastier yet, look at how 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract can turn plain low-fat yogurt into a dreamy dessert.
The scale. Ok, so I know the word scale immediately conjures up nasty little or big thoughts in most of our minds. I have a lot to say about scales, but I will leave that for another post. The scale I speak of is the kitchen scale for weighing foods. Again, like the measuring cups and spoons, this is a tool for bringing clarity to your mind about what it means to have 4 ounces of meat vs. 1/2 lb burger.
Here’s another story. A few years back my classmates and I were asked by my Evolutionary Science professor to perform an experiment using a scale. I suspect he also had a sneaky lesson about the amount of sugar in soda aside from the one for how to use a scale. My partner and I each had our own roles to play in this seemingly silly yet eye-opening experiment. She was in charge of going up to the front of the classroom and picking out a can of soda from the many different brands up there, and then directing me to pour the same amount in grams of table sugar listed on the can into a bowl sitting on the scale. And so the experiment began. I gingerly placed the bowl on the scale, zeroed out the bowl’s weight so it didn’t add to the real weight of the sugar being measured, and proceeded to slowly add sugar to the bowl. As I added the sugar I could already hear huge gasps from the other groups on how much sugar they were measuring out. I kept adding spoon after spoon after spoon into the bowl as my partner said “keep going, keep going”. There are roughly 39 grams of sugar in a 12 oz can of regular Coke. Do you have any idea what 39 grams of sugar looks like??? It scared the crap out of me and had me thanking the lord I wasn’t a regular soda drinker. Our bowl of sugar pretty much overflowed. It was the best science experiment I had ever performed. So go ahead get that scale and amaze yourself!
Ramekins are another fancy word for a small bowl that you usually use for baking but can definitely double as a bowl to have indulgent foods in. I love ramekins. Yessss you can love your kitchen equipment, it’s ok. These babies are sooo darn pretty. They make things look girly and dainty, I like that for desserts. Eating is not just about shoving food in and chewin it up like a cow. It’s about savoring the sight, smell, taste, and feel of your food. So by using nice looking dishes to put your food in, you are adding to your dining experience. Another great thing about these bowls is that they are perfect for portioning out things like rice, custards, mini cakes, and gravy. Notice these examples are of things that are super tasty and very easy to over indulge in. Pour them into ramekins and you won’t over do it, well, that is if you don’t go back for seconds. But if you add enough intense flavors, seconds aren’t as necessary.
Last but not least.
Muffin pans are amazing. Sure you can bake up sweet blueberry muffins in them. But their personal-size portions make eating sensibly much easier. Picture baking up mini cheesecakes. Cheesecake is already a very dense and flavorful dessert so really you don’t need that hunky size they serve you at The Cheesecake Factory. Poached eggs are also a great thing to make in muffin pans to make them look prettier. So don’t shy away from the muffin pan, it’s not just for baking desserts.
And the moral of this post is, when trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight it’s the little details that count.