5 Kitchen Timesavers

16 Oct

Cooking a meal doesn’t have to take up your whole day.  Try these 5 kitchen  tips to save time and make cooking fun.

Get Organized.  
Before you begin cooking, clear your kitchen counters and set up a prep space.  Keep your most used cooking utensils within reach – unflavored cooking spray, cutting boards, and spices – and pull out all ingredients you’ll need before you begin.  Keep your work space clean as you go, it will make cleaning up after your meal much easier!

Make Extra.
When chopping vegetables and fruits, cut up more than you require for your recipe.  Freeze the extra servings and next time you need it, you can skip a step!  Save/freeze extra servings of food for a quick and easy dinner later.

Plan Ahead.
Create a meal plan for the week and commit to it.  This will save you from standing in front of the fridge after work worrying about what to make for dinner.  Make sure you have all needed ingredients ahead of time so you won’t have to make any last minute grocery shopping trips.

Go Simple.
If you’re just learning how to navigate your way around a kitchen, choose simple recipes to start.  Read through the entire recipe when meal planning (to make sure you have all ingredients on hand), and there won’t be any surprises when you begin cooking.

Use the Right Knife.
It seems obvious, but most individuals end up using the same cooking knife for everything from chopping to peeling.  Different knives are made to perform specific tasks, so use the knife that is intended for the task at hand to save prep time when cooking.

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4 Fruits & Vegetables to Eat in October

5 Oct

People tend to think of apples, pumpkins and falling leaves when it comes to October, but with autumn’s generous harvest, there are many fruits and vegetables at their peak. Here are four seasonal favorites to look for this month.

Image result for brussels sprouts stalk knife

Brussels Sprouts
These green gems thrive in cool weather so they are abundant and affordable at their peak in October. One of the most nutritious vegetables, they are also filled with fiber, folate and cancer-fighting phytonutrients. Roasting them can char the edges, imparting a rich flavor and texture. Top them off with a touch of vinegar for a delightful side. They can also be shaved or thinly sliced to add dimension to salads. Try this delicious Apple Brussels Sprouts recipe!

Grapes
Many think of grapes as a summer fruit but in the U.S., they are actually grown from May through January making fall the perfect time to enjoy them. Red, green and black grapes are a natural source of polyphenols and antioxidants that contribute to heart health. High levels of resveratrol are believed to play a role in healthy aging. Roast halves with other fall vegetables like Brussels Sprouts or add them to a salad. Freeze clean grapes in a baggie or container and they can double up to keep the contents of your lunch container cool and help keep you hydrated when it’s time to snack.

Mushrooms
Although you can find mushrooms all year long, many are at their peak in the fall. Unlike any other plant food, mushrooms have a wonderful meaty texture making them ideal for vegans and vegetarians. Mushrooms are high in vitamins and minerals such as selenium, copper and vitamin B and potassium. Add diced mushroom to ground beef or turkey burgers to boost flavor without adding fat or enjoy them in soups.

Pears
Pears are technically in season from August through December but they are at their peak in October. An average pear of any variety can be packed with 6 grams of fiber. At least one study revealed that eating white-fleshed produce like pears helps reduce the risk of stroke as much as 9%. Ripen them by storing at room temperature and eating within a few days for best taste. Slice a pear over an arugula salad or add a dash of cinnamon and clove for a low-calorie dessert.

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Freezing Fresh Fruit

3 Oct

Interested in preserving your fresh fruit for future use?  Follow these steps to freeze your fresh fruit with ease!

  1. WHAT YOU NEED
  • Ripe fruit
  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Freezer
  • Freezer bags or containers
  • Knife
  • Spatula

Wash and dry your fruit by rinsing under cool, running water.  Lay the fruit in a single layer on a clean, dry dish towel and allow the fruit to dry.  The layer of fruit will need to be completely dry prior to freezing or it will quickly develop freezer burn.

  1. SLICE THE FRUIT

Prepare or slice the fruit the way you expect to be using it. Cut it into chunks or wedges if you will be using the fruit in a pie. A rough chop works well if you will be blending it into smoothies. Remove the pits or any seeds/core from apples, pears, peaches or nectarines then cut them into slices or chunks. For melons, remove the rinds and chop into chunks. Berries can be left whole.

  1. ARRANGE THE FRUIT IN A SINGLE LAYER ON A PARCHMENT PAPER LINED BAKING SHEET

It’s OK if the fruit touches slightly, but avoid layering or overlapping the fruit. This allows the fruit to freeze individually, making it easier to store and, eventually, use.

  1. FREEZE UNTIL FRUIT IS SOLID

You can leave the fruit overnight, but package within a day or two or they will start to develop freezer burn.  It should take approximately 4 hours to freeze fruit to a solid.

  1. LABEL THE CONTENTS

Jot down the date, type of fruit and the amount inside the bag or container. This makes it easier to find the fruit you want so you can pull out the specific quantity you need.

  1. ONCE THE FRUITS HAVE FROZEN SOLID, PACK THEM INTO FREEZER CONTAINERS

Lift the edges of the parchment to dislodge sticky fruit and use a spatula to transfer the fruits to the freezer bag or container. Handle the fruit as little as possible to prevent quick thawing and seal tightly. Press out as much air as possible and return the fruit to the freezer.

  1. GRAB WHENEVER THE MOOD STRIKES

Fruit keeps for several months — at least 3 months and sometimes longer — before starting to develop ice crystals and freezer burn. There is usually no need to thaw the fruit before using it.

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How To Easily Zest Lemons, Limes, Oranges and Grapefruits

27 Sep

Grating the outer peel of lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits releases highly concentrated flavors that reside in the oils of the fruit’s skin. A little zest goes a long way towards punching up salads, stews, grilled meat, and beverages. The zest can also provide a beautiful garnish to any drink or dish. This Real Simple video shows how to zest like a pro.

Wash fruit in soap and water
Wash and dry your citrus fruits thoroughly to remove the wax coating.  If you plan on using the juice and zest in a recipe, you will want to zest first.  Zesting little lemon wedges is no fun!

Choose the right grater
A Microplane is an ideal tool, because its fine holes zest only the peel, not the bitter white membrane beneath. If you don’t have a Microplane, the fine side of a box grater or a vegetable peeler are good alternatives.

Glide the fruit across the plane
Hold the handle of the Microplane or box grater in one hand and hold the fruit in the other. Glide the fruit down the grater from top to bottom, pressing hard enough that you take off the outermost layer of skin. Repeat, rotating the fruit in your hand as you go so that you only grate each section of peel once.

Grate lemon from end to end
Glide the blade of a vegetable peeler over the fruit with enough pressure to remove long strips of the outermost layer of colorful skin, avoiding the bitter white pith.

Tip: Strips of zest can be cut into thinner pieces or finely diced with a small knife.

 

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WSYM The Morning Blend 9/25: ProTeens

26 Sep

Learn more about ProTeen, Medical Weight Loss Clinic’s program designed to how to make healthy food choices.

Tracy joined Bob & Mary from Fox 47’s The Morning Blend to discuss how families can work together to to set children up for a lifetime of healthy decision making starting within the kitchen.  For recipes, visit www.mwlc.com/recipes

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The Benefits of Home Cooked Meals

24 Sep

Did you know that home cooked meals contain 60 percent less calories than the average restaurant meal, which can typically cost $9 to $25 per person?  That adds up to more than $200 per week for an average family.  Your waist line and pocket book will thank you for choosing to cook at home instead of dining out or convenience foods.

Improves Family Dynamics

  • Initiates Conversation. Everyone could use a break from screen time.  Cooking and eating at home provides a better opportunity to have meaningful face-to-face conversations with your loved ones in a less distracting environment.
  • Learning Opportunity. Time in the kitchen with your toddlers is a great opportunity for them to explore their senses.  Touching, tasting, smelling while helping you prepare can help foster healthy eating habits and practice food safety.

Encourages Healthier Habits

  • Healthier Portions. While dining out, servings are normally two to four times larger than recommended. At home, you have the power to control your portions and weigh or measure your ingredients.
  • Healthier Prep. Cooking at home can eliminate the temptation of making poor food choices that may be high in sugar, fat and sodium. Eating in can also appease picky eaters or those with dietary restrictions.

Supports Healthier Futures

  • Better Grades. A Columbia University study found that adolescents who enjoy between five and seven family dinners per week were twice as likely to see mostly A’s and B’s on their school report cards, compared to those teens who have fewer than three family dinners together per week.
  • Improves Mental Health. Facilitating conversations during meal times can help families increase their bonds, having a significant positive impact on children. Time Magazine reports that teens who eat with their family at home often show fewer signs of depression and feel more supported than those who do not.
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The Importance of Implementing Healthier Habits Earlier in Life

22 Sep

Nearly 1 in 3 Michigan children are overweight or obese.  Choosing convenience foods and sugar filled beverages over healthier options has become the ‘norm’ in many diets of Americans spanning all ages.

In addition to making poor food choices, serving sizes are increasingly exceeding what the body actually needs.  Implementing healthier habits earlier in life can ensure your child’s body is functioning properly while lowering risk of chronic conditions, and they are also more likely to make better choices as they get older.

Ensuring a Healthy Future

  1. Be a role model. Cooking meals at home encourages your loved ones to make smarter choices on their own and also is a great way to dive into healthier choices.
  2. Limit screen time. Signing up for a sport, playing outside or finding other creative ways to play and move around the house can stimulate young brains, endorsing healthier habits. Ensuring children get a break from phones, tablets or video games can positively impact their physical and mental wellbeing.
  3. Stop the Pop. Taste buds crave higher amounts of sugar, perpetuating an addictive sugar craving over time when children are allowed to indulge in sugary beverages on a regular basis.

Healthy Development

  1. Bones. Diets that include nutrient rich foods strengthen bone density and promote growth.
  2. Brains. A balanced nutritional diet helps young brains grow and function. A deficiency of glucose, vitamins, minerals and proteins can lead to a higher risk of mental disorders.
  3. Muscles. Well rounded nutrition also plays an important role in maintaining muscle function and skeletal development.

Lower Risk of Chronic Conditions

  1. Ensuring your child’s nutritional health helps to avoid serious issues later in life. Including chronic conditions such as: obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, depression and eating disorders.
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Boiling the Perfect Egg

20 Sep

How do you like your eggs?  Check out this ‘Egg Doneness Guide’ to determine the perfect cook time when boiling eggs. 

Once you’ve got your eggs cooked to perfection, try whipping up one of these recipes!

Deviled Eggs

Servings:
1 Protein
1 Dairy

Ingredients:
1 serving Hard Boiled Egg
1 serving Plain Non-Fat Yogurt
1-2 servings Mustard
Sweetener to taste
Paprika to taste

Preparation:
Separate the egg yolk and egg whites. Blend egg yolks with the yogurt, mustard and sweetener. Fill egg whites with yolk mixture. Sprinkle tops of eggs with paprika to taste.

Dill Yogurt and Egg Salad

Servings:
1 Protein
1 Starch
1 Dairy

Ingredients:
4 Hard Boiled Eggs, shells removed
1 serving Plain, Low-Fat Yogurt
Fresh Dill, chopped
1/2 tsp. Ground Mustard
1/4 tsp. Garlic Powder
Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste
1 serving Diet Snack Crackers, for dipping

Preparation:
In a bowl, use a fork to smash up the eggs. Add yogurt, dill, mustard, spices and combine mixture. Add spoonfuls to snack crackers. Top with fresh black pepper and fresh dill.

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Meal Planning Rules for Weight Loss

18 Sep

Meal planning isn’t only essential for losing weight, it is vital.  In a study of 40,500 adults, published in The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity earlier this year, more than half of the participants reported they meal plan at least occasionally. Those who did so were more likely to eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight. There are several possible reasons for this association, study authors say.

  1. When you plan, you eliminate the “What should I eat for dinner today?” dilemma that keeps many from making their own meals, and resorting to overeating when they walk through the door at dinnertime.
  2. Meal planners may strategically pick recipes that take, say, less than 20 minutes to make, which means “I have no time; calling delivery is quicker,” is no longer a valid excuse.
  3. You’re prepared and have all necessary ingredients on hand when you plan ahead.

Meal planning nixes pretty much every excuse you have for not cooking. But just like your overall weight-loss plan, your meal plan needs to be individualized to work. Practice these three meal-planning rules and you will be planning like a pro in no time!

Meal Plans Need to Taste Good

You don’t need to be deprived to lose weight, but planning your meals to be delicious is a must.  After all, you’ll only eat that zucchini pasta with marinara if it actually appeals to you. Otherwise you’ll be calling your favorite take out place.

The hard thing about this is you can’t always anticipate what will taste good later in the week. Just because you crave Mini Taco Salads on Sunday doesn’t mean you’ll want them on Wednesday. Learn how you can sub out different options that still meet your objectives for a healthy meal. This could mean everything from having lunch for breakfast and a smaller version of breakfast for snack, to choosing steak rather than chicken and quinoa rather than brown rice at dinner.

Delicious meal plans also include Lemon Meringue Cheesecake for dessert on Thursday or Apple Pie Pancakes and a Watermelon Martini for brunch with your friends on Saturday. Ditch the idea of deprivation and let yourself be excited about what you’re going to eat.

Develop an Adaptable Meal Plan

As much as meal planning is about, well, planning, it’s also about learning how to adjust when life happens. Specifically, it’s about learning how to make decisions in key moments so that, in the future, you know how to navigate those situations with a positive outcome.

Try this: Look at your day or week and be realistic. It’s not just listing each meal for each day. It’s thinking, ‘I know I have a work dinner tonight, so if I have the ravioli, what do I have for my snack?’ How do you make sure you cover your nutritional bases to stay satisfied and healthy? (Yes, you can have both.)

As you develop that skill, you’ll be able to better deal when life happens and you leave your healthy lunch at home or your manager declares she’s treating everyone to lunch. And you’ll know how to select an option from a restaurant near your office or off the menu that still meets your nutritional goals for a particular meal.

Meal Planning Isn’t Necessarily Cooking In Batches

Now about those color-coded containers. For some people, prepping meals for the week on a Sunday is easy. This could mean cooking and portioning out entire meals, or it could mean prepping vegetables, fruits, proteins and starches and keeping them separately in the fridge. Then, when it’s meal time, you toss things together and add your seasonings.

For others, this screams extreme boredom. There will be a day that week when you won’t want anything to do with that meal. This can backfire, especially if you get on the scale and don’t see any change, despite the fact that you’ve been eating greens, cauliflower rice and lean proteins.

What feels easy for you? A weekend warrior cooking session?  Great!  But that’s not the only way to succeed. If it has a stick-with-it-ness, your strategy won’t fizzle out after a week or two. Figure out your personalized meal plan based on what’s healthy and delicious to you – and consider talking to us!  We can help!

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Planting Fall Herbs

15 Sep

Fall is a prime time for planting the hardiest of herbs that actually can grow very well outdoors in areas with mild winters or brought inside.  Plant them in a container to easily shelter them from the elements and you can have a pinch of fresh herbs any time right at your fingertips.

Some herbs like cooler weather such as parsley (flat Italian or curly), sage, rosemary, thyme, chives, lavender, cilantro and mint. Within a few weeks, you will be rewarded with the freshest flavors that you can add to any of your dishes.

Dill can add a lemony tartness to subtle fish.  Rosemary can replace the flavor of fat in lean chicken.  Sage can draw out the earthy flavor in pork.  Thyme can amplify the savory and robust flavor of beef.

Give it a try – you have nothing to lose, but everything to gain in terms in flavor!

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