Diet Season Is Coming! Plan Now for After the Diet

Does that title sound like negative, defeatist thinking or what?  Let’s just call it factual.

Pic of Day Planner

Just like planning for a successful day, plan for success after the diet is over.

By definition, a “diet” is an interlude of eating differently than normal, and at some point, that interlude has to end.  Since we know that’s the ending to every diet story, why not plan for a good exit strategy?  What will eating look like for the rest of your life, once your diet interlude is over?

Take Luann.  She faithfully attended a commercial exercise and eating program for 12 weeks and came close to achieving an ideal weight.  As her program was winding down, she had the good sense to see a dietitian to set up a long-term healthy-weight eating protocol.  But then she faced the most challenging job of all:  making meals that fit those healthy eating guidelines, morning, noon and night, day after day, seven days a week, month after month and year after year–without getting bored silly or stressed to insanity.

You might find yourself in exactly this position two short months from now:  The holidays will be over, New Year’s resolution will have been made and you will have faithfully stuck to a diet for a few weeks.  Now what?  Default and stumble into defeat or gracefully execute the exit strategy?

Why not plan ahead for this fairly inevitable point in time, probably around January 31, when you’ll be tired of dieting, the rest of the year will be looming and you can’t bear the thought of eating any more turkey breast salads.  You’ll look with satisfaction at your weight loss, but then wonder, maybe with a little trepidation, “How can I do healthful eating for the next month, the next six months, the next year?”

Here’s how you do it:  You head to the kitchen, have fun, and eat lusciously!  “What?!” you say.  How can the kitchen be a place for fun, much less healthy meals that are luscious, and all for the long term?

Despite what every fast food ad would like you to believe, the kitchen can absolutely be fun when it’s not an annoying obstacle course but is instead set up for smooth meal making, with interesting recipes and new flavors.  And healthy eating can be completely luscious when you are familiar with  healthful foods and have the building block cooking skills to transform them, easily and confidently, into delightfully delicious meals.

Here’s the best news.  You don’t have to figure how to do this on your own.  Join one of our upcoming Whole Kitchen classes.  Learn an entirely manageable system for putting together wholesome meals, day in and day out, naturally and easily.  Don’t just dream about deliciously healthful meals–find out how to make them show up on your dinner table.  Have the support of others, from beginners to advanced cooks, all journeying to the land of Everyday Good Eating.  Find out how fun, engaging and exciting the world of real foods can be.

Monday, November 29:  Healthy Holiday Cooking and Eating

Starting in Early January:  New Sessions of Whole Kitchen Cooking Classes (just in time to get prepared for after the diet)

Immersion Blenders: Economical Alternative to Food Processor for Creamy Soups

Food processors can be expensive, not only in terms of dollars but also in terms of the counter space they consume (a “cost” that runs especially high in small kitchens.)  But don’t let these barriers prevent you from experiencing the comfort and warmth of creamy winter soups.  An immersion blender is a much smaller and less expensive alternative that serves as an effective substitute for most jobs.

Pic of Immersion Blender with Attachments

Blender with whisk and chopper attachments

Tips for Buying and Using

Maximize your dollars by buying a three part unit with not only the blender wand but also a whisk (great for quickly beating egg whites and pancake batter) and a chopper (great for nuts, breadcrumbs, fresh herbs, etc.)  Kohl’s features a Wolfgang Puck model for $59.99 that is the most attractive deal I could find.

Don’t bother with a mini-processor.  They don’t have the power or capacity to be of much help.  For the money and space, an immersion blender is much more effective and versatile.

Anti-Splatter Tip:  When blending small amounts, splattering is common.  Tipping the pot or other container creates a deep enough pool of food to immerse the blender fully and prevent splattering.  For extra protection, set the pot in the sink

Pic of Soup Blending Tip to Prevent Splatters

Blending a Spinach-Red Pepper Soup. For small amounts, tip pot so soup pools together and blender gets fully immersed

before blending.

Creamy Roasted Pear and Butternut Squash Soup

Although this recipe starts by roasting the pears and squash, these ingredients can be roasted in advance to save time.  Roast a big batch for dinner one night, then a couple nights later, making this soup will be a cinch.  Although it may sound unusual, the squash-pear combo makes a delightful soup base or pasta sauce.

Step 1:  Roast Squash and Pears

  • 3 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cut in roughly 1” cubes
  • 3 med. pears (summer or winter), cored and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 1/2  Tbsp. olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 (F).  Place cut squash and pears on separate rimmed cookie sheets.  Drizzle squash with 1 Tbsp. of oil and pears with remaining 1/2 Tbsp oil.  Sprinkle both with salt and pepper, then toss, spread evenly across respective cookie sheets and bake 20 to 40 minutes, until tender when stuck with a fork.

Step 2:  Puree Squash and Pears

Once roasted, measure out 3 cups roasted squash and puree with pears in a food processor until fairly smooth, but with a little texture remaining, as desired.  Reserve.

Step 3:  Saute Vegetables and Spices

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 med. red (or yellow) onion, diced to 1/4”
  • 3 stalks celery diced to 1/4”
  • 1-2 shakes ground cayenne pepper (red pepper), to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg

While squash and pears are cooking, heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat until hot but not smoking.  Add onion and saute, stirring every couple minutes to prevent burning.  When onions are just beginning to brown, stir in celery and cook 5-7  more minutes.  Reduce heat to low, then stir in cayenne and nutmeg and saute another 2-3 minutes.  Add pureed squash and stir/whisk gently with a large fork to combine.

Step 4:  Add Broth and Milk: Simmer

  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups rich chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup plain (not vanilla) soy milk (or milk)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Gradually pour broth, then milk into soup, stirring/whisking constantly with large fork to combine.  Cover pan, bring soup to a simmer over low or medium low heat and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.  Taste and add more salt or pepper or 1-2 more shakes nutmeg or cayenne, to taste.  If desired, thin with more broth or milk and heat through before serving.

Step 5:  Serve

  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Serve soup topped with a sprinkling of cheese.

Serving Options

Pasta Sauce Serve leftovers as a sauce for cheese ravioli, thinning slightly if necessary.  If possible get a whole grain ravioli or tortellini.  Pappardelle’s in the Denver metro area sells fresh, whole grain varieties and online ordering is available.

Mediterranean Style Odd as it may sound, this soup can go an entirely different direction when topped with a little plum (or other dark-fruit) chutney and maybe even a dollop of plain, whole milk yogurt.  There are many good chutney recipes on line, or buy a ready made chutney that is reasonable in terms of sugar content.

Mission IMpossible: Making Good-for-You Meals in NO Time

Time Crunch GuyLike Comparing Apples to Oranges

Here’s a fact:  Making vegetable-rich meals takes more time and effort than popping a frozen meal in the microwave.

Why am I telling you this completely obvious and unsurprising fact?  Over the 20 years I’ve been in the healthy cooking business, I’ve been constantly under the gun to “make healthy eating easy” (translation:  as fast as fast food.)  Not until recently did I realized that the game is rigged:  Fast foods aren’t “food” in the sense of being a significant source of true taste bud satisfaction and bodily nourishment.  Only real foods fit this description.  That’s why comparing the prep times of fast foods to nutrition-rich, real foods is like comparing apples to oranges.

Imagine buying a window cleaning product advertised to “Clean Windows in Minutes!”  You head home, spray it on and wipe down the windows in minutes.  Just one problem:  While some surface dirt has been eliminated, your windows are hardly “clean” in the way you had hoped, i.e., glass sparklingly free of sun-baked pollen and wind-slammed grime–the way they look after a professional window cleaner takes the time to scrape and wash them very carefully.

In the same way, fast foods and frozen meals are “food” only in a limited sense.  They fill us up and eliminate immediate sensations of hunger.  But they do little to fulfill our taste buds’ craving for balanced and deeply satisfying flavor. And they are dismal in terms of providing the hundreds of nutrients required to keep our infinitely complex bodies working optimally.

Because fast and real foods are completely different products, we can’t really compare them, but only choose between them:

Apples:  For times when you just want plain  old calories to keep you alive and put an end to uncomfortable feelings of hunger, choose food that takes NO time to prepare.

–OR–

Oranges:  For times when you want food that supplies our bodies’ vital nutrients and the exciting flavor that will turn off taste bud cravings, ditch the myth that good food can be made in NO time and choose to prepare real foods.

It’s always been the law that “you get what you pay for.”  The dawn of instant convenience food didn’t suspend this immutable law.  Once we accept it as a given, and make peace with the fact that good things take time, then wonderful possibilities open.

  • Time and energy is no longer wasted chasing the impossible grail of nourishing food with NO investment of time.
  • Disappointment and stress about “taking too long to make a meal” dissipates with the shift in our time expectations from meals in NO time to meals in a REASONABLE amount of time.
  • With time and energy freed from worthless worry, we can create a positive and productive meal making system.
  • We discover dozens of ways to maximize time in the kitchen so cooking time is minimized.
  • In a pleasant surprise, we discover that making Everyday Good Eating meals can be ease-ful, natural–and fun!
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