Friday, February 13, 2009

Just for the record....

Lifestyle is what this is all about, right? So here are some habits I have built that really help keep me on the straight and narrow. Especially on those days when you are just sick and tired of being a food Nazi. If the food is in the house, and you enjoy it? You are not tempted to step in front of a moving train of carbs!

We like to eat in courses. Even if we have only one thing on a plate at a time, it just seems to agree with me. Eat a bit of soup first - even a tiny bowl, then protein and vegetables, hot or cold. A bit of sweet at the end in the form of fruit or JELLO is a treat that makes you feel as if this has been something...a significant, important event. For instance, try fresh sliced pineapple drizzled with a mixture of vanilla yogurt, honey and cinnamon. All of a sudden? Those tortes just do not appeal! I am one of those chubby people that doesn't like cookies, but the odd time? An oatmeal raisin cookie has even found its way to my dessert plate! You can stretch its goodness by sprinkling it on a baked apple and all of a sudden, two people are eating one cookie, rather than the other way around!

Make homemade stock or broth every week. This week, I had a lot of tired vegetables in the frig. So, to make room for the crispy fresh stuff, I tossed it all in the stock pot with a couple of onions (skins give the stock colour)and simmered for an hour. I ended up with four cups of really tasty vegetable stock this week to use in soup, sauces and if there is a little extra? As a flavour boost for making rice.I usually get four cups of stock out of a pot of veggies or bones, and keep it in the refrigerator in a lidded batter bowl. Quick and easy to use in daily cooking.

Another thing I always have on hand, is fruit. I have fruit as a snack daily. Rarely juice. It is a big treat for me to have a glass of orange juice when we go out for breakfast, let me tell you! But usually? A nicely sliced orange will do just fine. This week I bought a big bag of frozen strawberries to make smoothies. Added to my daily milk allowance and a 1/4 cup of good yogurt with a sprinkle of Splenda - ahhhhhh. So soothing. They should really call them Soothies! I was able to find a big juicy cantaloupe, so with the apples and oranges I already have, there will be plenty of choice for snacks and desserts in the house this week.

Another thing I prefer to do, is to purchase whole chickens. They come in a bag of three at Costco, so it is convenient to buy them this way, and as to the price? I haven't quite figured out if there is a savings or not, but definitely it is more work...but how much better the chicken is! So, this is the drill. On grocery day, I leave one chicken to be roasted whole for a Sunday dinner, and cut the other two into pieces. (I am collecting the wings until I have enough for a party!) We have two meals of dark meat (2 thighs, 2 legs per meal) and two meals of breasts. Then, the backs and scraps go into the stock pot for that week's broth. I find that using up meat is a real problem for us, so it is best to have this arrangement to provide freshness and variety, so we can use it up before the freezer burn sets in!

Another staple in our house, is shrimp. I buy a big bag of large pre-cooked shrimp to have on hand for a quick meal, a low cal/carb snack with a quickly mixed dip of hot sauce, horseradish and ketchup or a bit of 'fancy' in a salad for a vegetable based meal. I think the trick to getting the dieting thing down, is to have food you love to eat, that fills you comfortably with the best "numbers". Shrimp is one of those foods that still feels like a luxury to me, and can make my day!

Lately I have been allowing myself to indulge in a bit of cheese. I am very careful with it, but by buying a new kind each time? We end up with a flavour booster for not too many calories. One of my must haves is real Parmesan cheese. I was hesitant to buy a such large wedge of this, but it has kept perfectly for is a real bargain, because a few quick grates of the good stuff equals a half cup of that chalky stuff that comes in a shaker. Rich, flavourful goodness. For a light supper, I have been known to indulge in good crackers with smears of Boursin cheese served with a bowl of vegetable soup, the calories are not out of range for supper, and what a treat! Not to be forgotten, is the joy that Feta brings to a salad. And how about thin slice of Jalapeno flavoured cheese melted on a chicken breast? Or grated mozzarella sprinkled on a pesto glazed tortilla and topped with mushrooms for a fake out pizza? All of a sudden life isn't so dull, is it? A little goes a very long way. So much better than abstinence!

Soup is a secret weapon. You will never be hungry if you learn to make good soup. It is a trial and error thing. Right now, I am experimenting with bean soup - there are so many things you can do to soup to change it up, that a lot of flavours can fly under one mast. So many beans, so little time! I am happily exploring the possibilities of canned beans. Who knew? No soaking, or fussing. Just crack the can, and it is almost instant soup. Life need not be dull when you are watching your calories. And don't get me started on lentils. So good, so easy, and so filling.

Pickles. Big ones, beet ones, olive ones, onion a little burst of vinegary goodness can jazz up anything. I love them, and every time I have a few olives on a weeknight, I feel positively extravagant!

Nuts. Quickly toasted and lightly salted, almonds bring a richness to a simple salad. For instance, adding a finely chopped dried apricot, a few toasted almonds will add an extra dimension to your simple tossed salad. A few pecans, glazed with a spoon of honey? Life doesn't get much better when you use them to garnish a tiny scoop of really good ice cream at the end of a simple low cal meal of soup and salad. Another good dessert, is candied ginger - the kind you put in fruit cakes. Looks like a "gummy ginger slice" with a sprinkling of sugar on the surface. A sliver of it really refreshes your mouth and signals the digestive system that the feeding session is over! Calories are negligible, but oh, my. It is a treat.

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