Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tips and Tricks

Several of you have asked for favorite recipes, tips and tricks. I linked some of our current favorite recipes in the left hand side bar.

I do a lot of recipe modifications. I don't have "diet" or low-fat recipes, per say. My weight loss journey is about making a switch to a healthier eating life-style. Here are some tricks I use (you probably know of most of these):

  • If a recipe calls for 1 cup of oil, I'll use 1/2 cup canola oil and a half cup of unsweetened applesauce. This works well in muffins.

  • If a recipe calls for all-purpose flour, I usually use whole-wheat flour instead. My husband isn't a fan of whole-wheat, so if I'm cooking for him too, I'll use half unbleached all-purpose, half whole-wheat. I have recently begun to enjoy King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour. It tastes less "wheaty," for lack of a better word.

  • In a recent muffin recipe calling for tree cups of flour, I substituted a 1/2 cup of Organic Whole Wheat Pastry flour and they came out really tender and delicious.
  • I buy plain yogurt instead of flavored (it tends to be cheaper anyway). When I was in the States in August, I noticed that HFCS is in a lot of yogurt. Mostly the cheaper, non-organic types. It's an issue here too. So, I sweeten plain yogurt with local honey or maple syrup. Often, I'll use my handheld blender and add bananas, strawberries, blueberries and make a yogurt smoothie. Frozen fruits work well for this.

  • I use muffin tins when making meatloaf. Helps with portion control and the kids think they're pretty fun looking.
  • "Skinny" mashed potatoes are a hit even with my husband. I use chicken broth and garlic to flavor them instead of butter. A dollop of low-fat sour cream on top of each serving is a tasty addition.
  • We've switched to mostly whole wheat pasta. See benefits here.
  • We rarely keep ice cream, cookies, candy, chips, chocolate, soda or even juice in the house. It's all too tempting to have around (Matt has a stash of junk that the rest of us do not touch - but, he has much better self-control than I or the kids do). The girls eat a ton of fruit daily and if I have juice in the house, they beg for it all day. We eat out, as a family, once a week. We absolutely let the kids have ice cream, juice and most anything in the menu they choose at that time. With all the other events/playgroups that come up during the month, they get plenty of stuff that we don't have in the house. They are NOT deprived. I think this is a good rule to have if you're like me and have a hard time resisting sweets and rich foods when out a restaurants, gatherings,work parties, etc. These things pop up often enough that I feel it best to keep tempting not-so-great foods out of the home so that I feel less guilty about indulging on occasions outside the home. This one was a bit redundant. However, I feel pretty important, especially if you, like me, have issues with self-control.. In my opinion, it's best to keep all of your "weakness foods" out of the home.
  • While I'd love to boycott McDonald's. It's just not going to happen (read: something to do with my husband). We eat there about once every three months and the girls know (Olivia especially) that it's a REAL treat. Olivia will say, "You're letting us eat JUNK today?!"

Please do not get the impression that we are perfect eaters. Yeah, right! We are far from it. I know plenty of parents who are very very strict. I've seen a mother grab a cupcake out of a child's hand during a playgroup because their kids never get sugary foods. But, realistically, junk walks into every house. Just yesterday, Olivia was sent home from school with candy. What am I supposed to do as she's ripping open the box and sharing with Lila before I even have time to think? Sometimes, I just let it go. Most days, we eat very well and most days, is my goal.

I'll add to this list as I remember them. Do you have any tricks and/or common recipe modifications?

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