Thursday, January 18, 2007

Top Five Kitchen Essentials for Losing Weight

Since I've started this journey I have been eating in a lot more. I used to dine out 1 - 3 times a week. However, I now try to stay away from outside meals because I can never be too sure what's in my food. When you cook your own meals you are more likely to eat healthier that if you had went out to eat or ordered in. Cooking at home puts you in control of the ingredients and portions sizes. Restaurants have many hidden fats and tend to give you double portions. My cousin lost 20 lbs. by not eating out and exercising more, he wasn't even concerned about calories. I've made a list of top kitchen essentials for making healthy, and quick, meals that will help you along your weight loss journey.

1. Kitchen Scale - Precision is key in making sure you keep your portion sizes in check. A good kitchen scale will help you stay on top of your calories (or points if you were on Weight Watchers). Can you "eye" one ounce of cheese or the recommended 3 - 4 ounces of meet? The difference between one and two ounces of cheese on WW is whopping 2 points. Just toss your questionable consumable on the scale and you will be able to determine the amount with ease. I currently use a spring scale, but I will be purchasing a digital scale soon.

2. Food Processor - A food processor makes the cooking processor much easier by chopping those healthy vegetables, fruits, and even meets in seconds as opposed to painstaking hours at the chopping board. Hopefully this convenience will inspire you to cook more frequently. The Asian Slaw I made yesterday? While the prep time was quoted as 15 minutes (2o in reality), I made it in about 7 minutes with the aid of my food processor.

3. Blender - Smoothies are key to a quick healthy meal that will keep your stomach satiated for hours. Smoothies are great because they cure that constant sweet tooth and they have unlimited combinations. A good blender will help you create smoothies better than Starbucks, Jamba Juice, or any other overpriced retailer.

4. Crock Pot / Slow Cooker - Yet another time saver must for your kitchen. Soups, especially broth based ones, are a wonderful addition to each meal and they take up room in your stomach. Like most people, I hate to be hungry, when starting a diet and limiting your portion sizes there will be an adjustment that will have your stomach growling. Sipping on soup will help you adjust more quickly in a tasty way. Like smoothies, soups are also limitless in their creative potential and very easy once you have the hang of it and keep the basics in your kitchen.

5. Fresh Herbs - This year I vow to start an herb garden in my kitchen because I am always buying fresh herbs for my dishes. In the meantime I frequent the grocery store in search of fresh basil, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, and parsley. Flavor is essential in cooking low fat meals AND enjoying them. While dried herbs are great, fresh herbs are one thing you can add to any meal to give it an amazing taste. I've thrown some basil leaves on every sandwich I've had this week and it made them so tasty adding a depth and complexity that can not be achieved any other way.

In honor of fresh herbs and a food processor, I will be making Angel Hair Pasta with Spinach Walnut Pesto this evening. For the pasta I will be using. The walnuts in the pesto provide a great source of protein and healthy fat. You may add meat to this meal but a vegetarian meal 1 - 2 a week is a good idea. It not only cuts calories from the meat but it also helps you focus on eating more vegetables.

4 ounces chopped walnuts
1 cup chicken stock or broth 10 ounces
(1/2 - 1 package) baby spinach, reserve a few leaves for garnish
2 cloves garlic
2/3 cup (a couple of handfuls) grated Parmigiano or Romano
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or freshly grated
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Basil Leaves (I reccommend starting with a small handful and adding more to suit your personal taste)
Salt and pepper Edible flowers

Toast walnut pieces in a small pan or toaster oven until lightly browned. Remove from heat and cool. Place a large pot of water on to boil. Heat 1 cup chicken stock or broth to a boil and remove from heat. Using a food processor, working in batches, grind spinach and basil leaves with nuts, chicken stock, and garlic. Transfer ground spinach nut paste to a large bowl. Stir in the cheese, nutmeg, and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Coat hot, cooked tortellini with sauce, tossing in the bowl you prepared sauce in. Turn pasta out on to a serving platter and garnish with a few baby spinach leaves.

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