I have a crazy bad food hangover, and today is the day of reckoning. During the holidays, I overdid it on carbs and foods I don’t normally eat, all the while planning for a January 2 start of a new diet protocol which requires more cooking at home.
True confession: I am not an experienced cook. My NYC kitchen is super small and tight to navigate. I can’t turn the oven too hot because it’s right next to the refrigerator which in turn then gets super-hot and threatens to melt. The apartment also gets really warm which is especially problematic in the summer.
Whatever we cook, the smell permeates throughout the whole apartment so although scallops yummy and healthful, the aroma infiltrates the whole living space, making it unpalatable.
The pans are stored in the oven, so in order to use it, I have to temporarily put the cookware in the bathtub to be out of the way. It is a challenge indeed!
Perhaps you too are starting the new year off with a goal of eating more healthfully. If so, cooking at least some of your own meals is critical to success as it allows you to control what’s in your meals.
Restaurants and markets often marinate meats and prepared foods overnight with hidden ingredients that may sabotage your nutrition plan. They may use a lot of salt, partially hydrogenated cooking oils and inflammatory spices. Sigh!
That’s not to say you can’t eat out at all, just limit it to an achievable number of times per week.
I actually can be a pretty good cook. With access to a nice big kitchen at a house we rent we friends, I nailed it over the holiday! I cooked a roast lamb and potatoes, and a new recipe for a “skinny” version of a zucchini casserole. It got rave reviews!
But even large kitchens outfitted with all the resources can have its challenges.
For kitchens large and small, use these 4 tips to make cooking a more easeful process:
- Clean as you go – there is nothing worse than a huge pile of dishes to tackle. As you finish one step, soak or clean what was used and you will find an empty sink instead of an overflowing one. This is especially useful in a small space!
- Limit the number of ingredients and tools you use—the lamb I made had just 6 ingredients: lamb, salt, pepper, rosemary, garlic and butter. AND, I asked the butcher to trim and tie the lamb. BAM, that was done for me! Even the potatoes just had to be cut, brushed with olive oil and then set in the bottom of the same pan. Easy peasy!
- Chop, cook, store, organize ahead of time – Choose a prep day. In just one hour on a Sunday, you can prepare lots of veggies or breakfasts for the week. More time allows you to cook multiple meals to grab or reheat. Rotisserie chicken, sautéed vegetables, rice, quinoa, oatmeal, chopped meat are all simple options. This article on Greatist has some fabulous suggestions.
- Acknowledge your accomplishments – Roast chicken made at home is infinitely more juicy and flavorful than the one picked up at the market. I have tried the cheapest and most expensive places near me, at least 5 and none of them come close to the chicken I can make myself. YES, it takes more time, but the reward is plentiful. Note similar wins in your kitchen and give yourself a pat on the back.
- On those days when you just can’t cook and you do choose to eat out, be proactive and ask the chef to prepare your order a way that works best for you. YOU ARE PAYING FOR IT! Don’t be afraid or shy.
I have a “when-harry-met-sally” way of ordering, and so what? Some simple requests that make a big difference include:
- No added salt – The food is usually already salted, so no need for the chef to add another layer as it leaves the kitchen. Plus, if it still needs salt you can add it yourself at the table.
- Sauces and dressings on the side – Often the sauce is piled on and masks the flavor of the dish. With it on the side, you can control how much you use.
- Grilled, baked, broiled or steamed not fried – Almost all orders can be grilled or broiled if preferred. And while you’re at it, ask them to hold the batter or breading.
- Half to go please! – Plates and portion sizes can be huge. Don’t be compelled to eat it all. If the temptation too much, ask the server to have half wrapped up to go. Think of all the wonderful left overs you’ll have for the next day! If that's too hard, just commit to leaving at least one bite on your plate.
Whatever you decide, each small decision you make has the ability to make a BIG impact on your nutrition. Whether you employ one of these suggestions or all, you can expect to see a difference. Small changes right!
So, let’s tackle that food hangover head on! What will you cook this week?
Whatever it is, today is a new day and a new year, and I have confidence you will tackle it with gusto. Happy New Year!
Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™
P.S. Start off the new year right with a complimentary health history consultation with yours truly! Just email me by January 15th with the code 2018IsMyYear and set up an appointment by January 31st. Cheers!