Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Voodoo Tuesday: Recipe Renovations


As I while away the hours/days/weeks/years on this stage of my journey, I've built a lot of new habits, changed some thought processes & accumulated some "best practices" that work for me...I've also periodically realized that I've FORGOTTEN some of those best practices as time goes by.  Then one day someone asks me, "Hey, Sara, what do you do about ____?" & I realize that I've biffed again.  So, in the hopes that I can capture some ideas for my steadily daffier self & possibly spark some ideas in others, I'm starting something new: Voodoo Tuesday.  Why voodoo?  A) it's one of my favorite & most overused words & B) because none of this is rocket science, most of it is trial & error & all of it is stuff that has worked for me but might make others want to poke their eyes with swizzle sticks.  Just a little voodoo.  And so, for my first piece of Voodoo:

*Renovate Your Favorite Recipes*
I have often said that I am quite thankful that I didn't cook before I came to my quest for healthy & slim.  I didn't have a whole lot of bad habits to fix in the kitchen...mostly because I was never in the kitchen.  That being said, when I did bother to cook, I would blindly follow a recipe without giving it another thought.  It didn't occur to me that I could practice a little critical thinking & make some better choices.  Now when I'm trying a new recipe, I read it over & make the following non-negotiable changes right off the bat:
  • pasta = whole wheat pasta
  • rice = brown rice (not instant)
  • milk = skim milk
  • sour cream = non-fat, plain Greek yogurt (click here for my recipe)
  • flour = whole wheat flour
  • cheese = 2% milk, reduced fat cheese
  • cream cheese = reduced fat cream cheese
  • cream soup = 98% fat free, reduced sodium cream soup
  • fried = baked
  • salt = omitted (I can always salt the food on my plate after I take a bite)
Depending on the recipe or type of food, I might also stir in a couple of these changes, but these are on a case by case basis:
  • oil = unsweetened applesauce (works great in cake mixes on a 1:1 ratio)
  • sugar = stevia, honey or agave nectar
  • ground beef = beans (I make my taco meat with half meat, half kidney beans...mmmm)
  • eggs = egg whites
Then I'm going to put a critical eye to the quantities that the recipe calls for:
  • Can I use less oil?
  • Can I use less sugar?
  • Can I trim the meat or use a leaner cut?
  • Can I use less pasta/rice?
  • Do I really need the butter?
After I've done all of that, I get to the best part...the piece of the puzzle that helps me the most.  I'm a volume eater.  I like to have a quantity of food.  Portion sizing is one of my biggest hurdles.  So, how's a girl to get a pile of food at a bargain caloric price?  Vegetables!  The final step in my recipe renovation is veggetizing the crap out of my food.  Allow me to demonstrate with an example straight out of tonight's dinner (Happy Birthday, Dave!): Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef.

For comparison, the original recipe can be found here.  Because I have a disease that leads me to believe that I'm always cooking for an army, my version is 8 servings, so keep that in mind if you're flipping back & forth. 
  • 1 1/4 lbs flank steak, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 Tbs minced garlic (in water, not oil!)
  • 1/3 cup unpacked brown sugar
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 bunches green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 15 oz water chestnuts, drained
  • 15 oz bamboo shoots, drained
  1. Place flank steak and cornstarch into a resealable plastic bag. Shake the bag to evenly coat the flank steak with the cornstarch. Allow to steak rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir steak until evenly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Place garlic, flank steak,  soy sauce, water, brown sugar, and hoisin sauce in a slow cooker. Cook on Low setting for about 4 hours.
  3. Add vegetables in final hour of cooking.
  4. Serve over 1/2 cup cooked brown rice.
In Weight Watchers speak, I shaved 4 points off of the final meal (including the rice) & I bulked it up with nearly 2 lbs of additional vegetation, so I'm actually getting a larger serving than before.  And it's one of my husband's favorite meals.  And it's in the crock pot.  Winning.

The bottom line, if I don't like the food I'm eating, I won't feel satisfied & I won't continue eating it.  But I will go lie in wait for the Krispy Kreme truck to deliver the doughnuts to the gas station at 3:00 AM.  Sooooo, I've found that the far superior choice is to modify the foods that I already love to make them healthier & workable in a lifetime of great choices as opposed to eating rice cakes & celery sticks for a limited-time-engagement diet of misery.  So let's hear it, what are some of your sneaky substitutions or trimming tricks?  How do you make the food you love work harder for you?

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