Monday, February 1, 2010

Kitchen Secrets to a Healthier Wastline

One of my resolutions for 2010 is healthier living without sacrificing the "good" stuff. I want to eat healthier but I have no interest in munching on diet bars that taste like cardboard. I want to loose weight but I don't want to be a slave to the gym. I've been perusing the internet, library and taking notes when interesting information hits the TV and now I want to share a few kitchen secrets I've learned over the past few months with you. My most recent "Ah Ha" moment happened while watching Joy Bauer's Diet SOS segment on the Today Show last Friday.

You can actually convert high fat ground beef into the same quality as lean ground chuck.  Brown the "cheap" higher fat ground beef, drain then rinse with super hot (almost boiling) water to remove excess fat. I would think you could also boil the meat, breaking it up into chunks as it boils, and drain well through a colander. Talk about making it from scratch! With all the ground beef dishes I make, especially during football and NASCAR racing season, this will definitely help me trim extra fat and calories off the family's waistline!

It should be noted, you pay for both ground beef and chuck by the pound (fat and all) so you need to assess the cost of the ground beef vs chuck in order to maximize your food dollars. If ground chuck in on sale for a great price, then I would go ahead with the purchase but most of the time ground beef is overall cheaper and worth washing some of the fat down the drain! 

Complex carbs (brown rice, whole wheats breads and grains, etc) are also recommended versus their simpler carbohydrate cousins like white rice, pasta and breads. Complex carbs take longer for the body to break down which gives us more energy for longer periods of time. They also fill us up faster so it takes less complex carbohydrates to feed a family. It is also suggested we eat complex carbs with a protein. This further slows the break down of those carbs which prevents a blood sugar spike. I've heard both Joy and Alton Brown talk about this on their respective shows. Now I can have my bread and eat it too!!!

Reconstituted non-fat dry milk, skim or 2% milk can be substituted in MANY recipes calling for whole milk or cream. Reconstituted non-fat dry milk contains no calories or fat (per the label's nutritional data) so I use this in most of my recipes. I've also used skim milk PLUS a little non-fat dry milk powder to give a creamy boost to my dishes.

Vegetable and fruit purees added to recipes give a valuable nutritional boost to your dishes with little impact to the taste and total calories or fat content of the recipe. In some situations, you can actually reduce the calorie and fat content by substituting purees for some of the ingredients like oil and sugar. Jessica Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld's wife and mother of three) published a cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, I borrowed from my local library a few months ago. She purees all sorts of veggies and fruits without any added spices or oils, places the liquid in ziploc baggies by 1/4 cup measurements and freezes them so they are ready at a moments notice. Simply boil them in hot water for a few minutes to thaw and use. I know this isn't an original idea and may not even constitute a secret to some of you but after seeing her amazing recipes for wonderful treats like Blueberry Oatmeal Bars (with Spinach), I was certainly enlightened!

What are some of you kitchen secrets to a trimmer healthier dinner?

Jenn also blogs about family, food, and crafts at Frugal Front Porch.


  1. Thanks for the lead on that book! I just reserved it at the libray!

  2. Instead of skim milk powder, I use canned evaporated (not sweetened condensed) milk. It is also a much healthier alternative to cream in your coffee. I've also been known to use the vanilla flavored 2% milk to go as creamer in my coffee.

    For ground beef, I don't rinse it because it washes a lot of the flavor away. What I do is brown it, drain it in a colander, then lay it out on paper towel on a plate. This soaks up most of the grease, but leaves the meat more flavorful. I cook up a couple large packages at once, then freeze it in small portions for easy meals later.

    Also save the drainings from the ground beef. Refrigerate, then remove the fat from the top and discard. The juice underneath is great for making gravy (so much for the health thing) or adding to soups, stews, or anything else you would use canned beef broth for.

  3. Save that fat! It's great stuff. I use it in my 10 grain rolls and I can't taste meat at all. The rolls are nice and soft and I didn't have to use oil or butter. Nice. I use bacon grease and such with sauting my veggies or in soups. If you spread the fat/lard out over your cooking you can keep the calories down and not waste so much.

    If nothing else dogs and cats love a little fat mixed in their kibble.

  4. I like substituting applesauce for half the oil in a recipe like brownies. I wouldn't recommend replacing all the oil or the texture of the final product is compromised.

    One thing I do is use cooking spray instead of butter or oil for greasing pans.

    I also own a George Foreman grill which is awesome for cooking bacon, burgers, any meat with fat really. I love seeing how much fat runs off that didn't end up in my body!

  5. I've been rinsing my beef for years and think it tastes great. I'm always amazed how much grease comes off when I do this.

  6. Foy - I'll have to try using the burger grease in baking, never thought of that. I sometimes fry veggies etc. with it, but I usually prefer bacon grease for the extra flavor.

    I'm sure my cats would love the grease on their food, but as somewhat overweight apartment cats, it probably wouldn't be so good for them.

    You should try making biscuits with your bacon grease. They are awesome. Just substitute some or all of the shortening/butter with bacon grease. This gives them a hint of bacon flavor, and is especially good with some cheese in them.


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