Saturday, May 20, 2017

EAT MORE - WEIGH LESS!

 
I learned a fantastic lesson a while back.  I found that by eating more veggies with every meal, I lost weight. I didn't eat less food overall - just more veggies.  The key is to make them yummy.

What happens is that by eating more veggies at meals, I was not so hungry for the other heavier foods or even for sweet desserts.  I truly believe that this is because when the body is getting better nourishment (via veggies), it isn't continuing to trigger a hunger action in the brain.  In other words - when you don't get certain nourishment you think you are still hungry.  I believe it may be impossible to overeat vegetables! The more veggies you eat with your meal, the less you will eat the stuff that keeps weight on.  When you go for seconds - go for veggies!

By my mid-20s I had normally been a little chunky.  I experienced an epiphany after a long bout of flu -- I decided to try to eat more veggies for my general health.  I realized the reason I didn't eat enough vegetables was because either 1) there weren't many veggie options on the menus at restaurants where I ate; and 2) they usually weren't delicious.

I realized that the first priority is to make veggies at home and make them delicious. Later tackle the restaurant question.

For emergencies keep some celery, cucumbers, and tomatoes on hand. In a pinch you can simply slice cucumbers into big chunks and drizzle with virgin olive oil and a little good quality salt. Or make a quick salad with any combination of the 3 (cucumbers, celery, tomatoes) tossed with your olive oil and salt, adding fresh herbs like parsley, mint, tarragon, oregano.  For cooked green goodness, I will start in this post with a recipe for green veggies that has won fabulous feedback from family and friends.  (Look for additional veggie recipes in posts coming soon) One way to make quick, edible green veggies is to cook them quickly on high heat in a cast iron skillet.
At every family holiday I make broccoli or kale. My young niece requested "Stefanie's Signature Kale" for her birthday dinner.   Wow, that is a compliment. Okay - This is how I do it.

Some cooks like to use a steamer - broccoli and kale only need a minute or two - but I prefer the following method:  I use a pre-seasoned cast iron skillet (mine is a 12 inch) with a lid. These are perfect for some kinds of high heat cooking, quick cooking, and beginner cooks, because they are very durable in high heat. I keep the following recipe simple for starters.  You can get fancy with garlic, onions, or other variations once you get the hang of the basic method.

RECIPE
For quick and tasty kale, broccoli, green beans, sweet peas, snow peas.
1 cast iron skillet
Green veggie of choice (broccoli, snow peas, kale, rapini, etc.)
High quality salt (i.e. Himalayan or other mineral salt)
1 1/2 Tbsp of water

Get the empty skillet good and hot, but not too hot to the point of smoking.
Transfer the broccoli or kale into the hot pan, quickly add about a tablespoon of water (if the water is already hot, even better), and close the lid.  For best and most consistent results, don't overfill the pan.

The idea is to steam the veggies quickly at high heat. For broccoli, green beans and peas, this means they will come out just barely tender and bright green - not mushy and gray. For kale it means the leaves are tender, not chewy, and bright green. The pan needs to be hot enough that a small amount of water should turn immediately to steam.

After about 1 minute, I open the pan, stir, and see if I need to add another dash of water, close again and wait 30 seconds to one minute.  I use a timer so I won't miss the point of perfection.  I turn off the flame and add olive oil and salt.  You can add other spices that you prefer - pepper, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, etc.

TECHNIQUE:
There is a perfect point of cooked-ness where the veggies are just soft, tender and bright.  It is a fine line between this perfection and overcooked, mushy veggies.  If I have to transfer the veggies to a serving bowl, I prefer to undercook them just slightly, since they soften while waiting to be served and eaten.  Don't wait too long between skillet and plate.

CARE FOR YOUR CAST IRON
My recipe is not typical use for cast iron - so I find I must to keep seasoning the skillet after each use (otherwise it can get rusty). Never let moisture sit in the pan. Rinse the skillet well after use (I use a little hot water and a plastic scrubber to clean the surface of the pan), dry with a paper towel or heat the skillet until it dries (do NOT leave the skillet unattended).  Once the pan is dry, add a little high-heat oil (macadamia nut, coconut oil) and let the oil heat up so you can spread it to thinly cover the skillet's cooking surface with a spatula or paper towel.  Other care instructions can be found here or here. Seasoning tips can be found here (or for vegan seasoning, here).  Even if you buy a pre-seasoned pan, most cooks recommend seasoning again before use.

I got a good deal on my last cast iron skillet with lid at my local hardware store.  If you don't have this option, know that a good skillet is an important investment that will pay for itself by allowing you to to cook delicious food at home and avoid restaurant bills, so when necessary, order online and spend the money for a skillet with good reviews.  I can usually find a lid in my kitchen that covers the skillet, but a heavy cast iron lid is also a good tool to invest in.

NEED THE COOKING TOOLS?
Cast iron skillet
Cast iron lid
Mini measuring glass
Unprocessed mineral salt
Macadamia nut oil
Coconut oil
Spatula
Serving Bowl


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