Sunday, January 1, 2012

Healthy Not Boring

Here's my January column from the Petaluma Post.  I usually wait until mid-month to re-publish their articles, but this one is the start of a series this month.  It's that time of year when we try to make up for what we ate over the holidays.  Hubby says he's a spoiled dieter;  I don't like my food to be bland or boring, so he gets a rather gourmet treatment for a diet.  So the theme this month is what makes a good meal and what makes a healthy meal and how they fit together.  There will be lots of recipes, too.  I'll aim at writing 2 or 3 per week to keep your menus fresh for the whole month.  Enjoy...

Pumpkin pie, stuffing, Christmas cookies, if you are anything like me just the thought of foods that are rich and sweet are probably not sounding too appetizing this time of year.  As we head into January everyone has had their fill of treats and goodies, time to get back to basics.  Whether you are hitting the gym or just trying to eat better, here are a few hints from my kitchen.  Healthy cuisine or “diet food” does not have to be boring or bland.

Roasting and Grilling vs. Sautéing
I love butter, there is no question, but when trying to cut back on the fat I often turn to other forms of cooking that don’t require so much fat.  Taking the time to roast meats adds an extra layer of flavor from caramelization that can make up for the loss of butter you would have used sautéing.  This caramelization (despite the name) does not need any added sugar, it just takes advantage of the natural chemistry of the meat to bump up the flavor.  You could also brave the chilly weather and turn on the barbeque, even just searing your meats and veggies on the grill and finishing them in the oven will add that extra flavor.  But no BBQ sauce, yummy, but often with lots of sugar and fat; instead try a dry rub.  Our most popular dry rub at the catering company is:

PSC’s Signature Dry Rub
1 cups Brown Sugar
½ cup Kosher Salt
2 Tbl Paprika
2 Tbl Chili Powder
2 Tbl Black Pepper
2 Tbl Granulated Garlic
2 Tbl Granulated Onion
2 Tbl Italian Seasoning
1 tsp Cayenne

Just mix all the ingredients together.  Stores well in an air tight container.

Change up the vegetables to keep the plate full and bright
It is the middle of January and all of your favorite summer vegetables are not around, but look for something new and bright, they may cost a bit more but your saving money not eating out.  Buy the beautiful red bell pepper, try some purple carrots, use a variety on the plate.  Color adds eye appeal and you know they say that you eat with your eyes first.  Don’t use just one vegetable on your plate, make a couple separate vegetable dishes; perhaps replace a starch with another veg.  Also think about a different cooking method, for instance roasting cauliflower is incredible.

Roast Cauliflower
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 Tbl olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Toss the florets with olive oil, salt and pepper, layout a single layer and roast at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes until golden and tender.  Very good.

Switch to whole grains, avoid the whites
We have been hearing this for years now, and it really is true.  Whole grains take longer to breakdown so you will feel fuller longer, and your blood sugar will be more stable.  They take more time to cook and in our busy world you might not have time to simmer barley for an hour, but I often will cook grains on my day off and just have them on hand in the fridge to reheat during the week.  With the heartier texture they also reheat better than rice or pasta.  If the day has been really hectic you can also just add them to a quick can of soup to make it hearty enough for meal.

Barley Risotto
Barley preparation
Simmer 1 cup of barley in 3 cups of water or stock for approximately 50 minutes, till tender.  This can be done up to 5 days in advance and refrigerated.
Rosemary Barley Risotto with
Thai Grilled Chicken and Broccoli Florets
 2 cups pearly barley (prepared)
2 cloves garlic
1 small onions (diced)
1 Tbl olive oil
1 lb mushrooms (sliced)
2 sprigs thyme
1 cup rich chicken or mushroom stock

Sauté onions, garlic, mushrooms and thyme in olive oil.  Add the barley and stir well.  Then add in the chicken stock ¼ cup at a time and allow to reduce.  Repeat until barley is tender and creamy.  The total cooking time is about 15 minutes.

This column is the beginning of a set of blogs I’ll be posting throughout January for the healthy gourmet.  See my blog two or three times a week this month for fresh ideas. I’m already looking forward to some miso-glazed salmon, and tilapia tacos, and my almost savory instead of sweet black cocoa cookies; all good choices for this time of year.

An apple a day, it’s true. Try adding one in approximately 1 hour before your major meal to help offset eating too much from being overly hungry.  But remember to keep up the creativity; if you are going to eat healthy and want it to last, you need good food and an ever changing variety.

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