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Saturday, December 26, 2009

'Twas the Night Before New Year's

'Twas the night before New Year's and all through the fridge,
nothing in there was healthy, not even a smidge.

The holidays are over, the gorging's all done.
It's time for my New Year's resolution!

The pantry gets emptied, the cupboards cleaned out,
No more junk food for us! Keith is starting to pout.

I in my "onion goggles" -- no more tears, no more sorrow!
We're starting "A Month of Main Courses" tomorrow!

Skinny Lasagna, Prosciutto Pork, Fancy Breakfast for Dinner,
And what? It's all healthy? This book must be a winner!

A whole month of main courses that are tasty and good,
No more boredom, fad diets or food that's like wood.

My mission, you see, is to help you get svelte!
Healthy food can taste great, and the pounds will just melt!

Off love handles, off double chin, off growing derriere!
Off laziness, off lethargy, just GET OFF THE CHAIR!

These recipes are ready to answer the call,
Sweets away, fat away, bad carbs away ALL!

It's "A Month of Main Courses," healthy cooking done right,
It's available now at The Svelte Gourmet website!


Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 14, 2009

I'm not Superwoman! (and other shocking discoveries)

Boy, am I tired! No one warned me that running a household was so stressful! A lot has changed for me in the past few months -- I got married, built a house, inherited two beautiful children, got a dog, got a cat, started a new business and published a cookbook. Whew! Just typing that makes me tired.

I've figured out this month that I'm not Superwoman (I've suspected this for quite some time, but now I know for sure). I take on too much, like I'm sure most of you do. The extra stress and running around does burn off some calories, but that's all counteracted by the "grab-and-go" mentality when it comes to eating.

I know when I grab a handful of junk food on my way out the door that I'm doing myself an injustice. So I'm careful later. What sneaks up on me, though, is the junk food that's disguised as health food. I've seen this happen so often that I have to mention it -- just because it says "lowfat" or "light" doesn't mean it won't contribute to weight gain.

Case in point: In college, fat free frozen yogurt was a staple of my diet. I have a big appetite, so my portions were a little off -- but since it was fat free, I wasn't doing any harm, right? WRONG. I've since figured out that the yogurt I was eating still had 600 calories. OUCH! A serving size is 1/2 cup, but I was eating 4 times that, probably more, several times a week. No wonder!

Now that I'm cooking healthy food and sharing it with others through this blog and my business, I've seen this type of self-sabotage happening more and more. "This is healthy!" followed by overeating. When we see something that's obviously fattening, we know to watch our portion sizes (or at least be more careful later). But when we're faced with healthy choices, all bets are off. Sure there's more breathing room with the healthy food, but if you are trying to lose weight, portion size still matters. After all, it's a numbers game -- calories in, calories out.

For me, it's not the endless holiday party buffets that get me. I know what to do with those (the veggie tray is my best friend, but watch the dressing!). The problem is eating on the run, being too tired to cook dinner and snacking during all the great holiday movies! So here are a couple tips. If you have more, please share them!

Read labels. In my opinion, the most important information on a nutrition label isn't the calories or fat, it's the serving size. Read the label and measure a serving size -- even if you eat more, you'll be conscious of what a serving size should be and you'll learn to cut back on other things to balance it out. This will be discouraging at first -- you'll be shocked at how little a serving size actually is for most things. But the lesson is worth it!

When it seems too good to be true, investigate! Spray butter that tastes really good and has 0 calories? Yahoo! I was so ecstatic, I used it on everything. But then I dug a little deeper and learned that the nutrition label can say 0 calories if one serving has less than 5 calories and 0 fat if one serving has less than 1/2 a gram. So guess what? That bottle has over 900 calories. OUCH! I've heard similar reports about diet soda (which has no nutritional value, anyway), so stick to water!

Don't snack with an open bag. When you want a snack, measure out how much you should be eating, put it in a bowl and put the bag away. Trust me, you'll think twice about going back for more. But if you sit in front of the television with an open bag of anything, you'll eat WAY more than you intended. Even a bag of rice cakes (ew!) has a ton of calories if you eat the whole thing! I'm speaking from experience. This is also why I love fruit -- it's perfectly portioned!

Chew gum. Want to fend off cravings or between-meal snacking? Chew a piece of gum. My friend shared this tip with me, and it's worked for her. She's lost 9 pounds so far! Awesome! And during the holidays, too. While gum keeps your mouth busy longer, I also find that popping a mint or brushing your teeth works, too. That minty flavor makes just about anything that follows taste bland or bitter. Perfect!

Take time to eat regular meals. When I don't eat regularly, my hands shake, I get irritable and I can't function. Thus, I get desperate and grab whatever is closest. Bad idea! The best lesson I learned when I wrote my cookbook is that cooking dinner doesn't take that long. I cooked 30 dinners in 4 days and I can tell you for a fact that this is true. A chicken breast will cook in 15 minutes. Lean steak is even less! That is faster than the drive-thru! But if you're out and you need to grab something on the go, opt for Subway over virtually any burger joint. Skip the cheese, the mayo and the oil on your 6-inch sub (load up on veggies, mustard and vinegar!) and you'll come in around 300 calories. Can't beat that!

I know we can make it through this season without weight gain. I have faith! Please feel free to share the tips that work for you. Here's to a healthy, happy, and fit holiday season!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My Favorite Svelte Kitchen Gadgets: Vol. II

It's my experience that no matter how big I make my space, I'll fill it up. In this case, I'm talking about the kitchen. "What in the world am I going to put in all these cabinets?" has very quickly become "Keith, I don't know where to put this. We need a bigger kitchen." I think I may need therapy.

Not everyone enjoys spending all of their time in the kitchen -- not even me! As I worked to complete my cookbook, however, I ended up cooking 12 hours a day for 4 days straight. I'm REALLY tired. During this time, however, I discovered even more kitchen tools that I find invaluable for a convenient, svelte lifestyle and I wanted to share them with you.

Veggie Steamer
Every night, I serve dinner with The Svelte Gourmet Signature Salad and a steamed vegetable of some sort. Sure, I have recipes and variations to keep my side dishes interesting, but one thing is constant -- the vegetable steamer. These come in many varieties from fancy to simple, but my go-to is the inexpensive, collapsible steamer (the one on the right). It fits in almost any pot and can accommodate A LOT of veggies. Just put an inch or so of water in the bottom of the pan, place this on top (it has little legs that allow it to stand up off the bottom) and add the veggies. Put the lid on the pan and steam away. Crisp tender or cooked to death, veggies have never been so easy! Here in the Low Country, I'm hard-pressed to find vegetables on a menu that don't have some sort of pork product added to them to give them "flavor." Trust me, though, that isn't necessary. A light misting of olive oil, some garlic, a squirt of lemon -- fantastic and light!

Food Thermometer
I rely on my food thermometer so often that I bought an oven with a built in food probe. I know I'll get a lot of arguments about poking holes in my food ("It lets out all the juice!"), but I've found that none of that goodness escapes if you put the thermometer in raw or browned meat and leave it alone for the duration of the cooking process (including resting time). For this reason, I do not recommend the "fork" varieties that come with some grilling kits. These three, though, are great. On the right is the remote, talking variety -- perfect for my techie husband! But I'm just as happy with the $5 one on the left. Now don't tell him I said that or he'll question why I "needed" to have the fancy oven with the probe! That's the one in front. Anyway, a chicken breast cooked to 165 degrees (USDA's minimum safe cooking temp for poultry) is REALLY juicy. My father-in-law will still miss the dark meat, but you won't!

To say I love my Roomba is an understatement. This thing has saved my sanity more often than I can count. Hardwood floors that show everything plus a messy cook could equal nervous breakdown. Am I embarrassed because I rely on a robotic vacuum cleaner? Nope. It cleans up crumbs the minute they fall and keeps my kitchen floor manageable (looking good and not at all crunchy!). Before Roomba came into my life, I kept a Dustbuster in the pantry. This works just fine in a pinch, too! A quick run-around after cooking and you're good to go.

Chef's Hat
OK, maybe this is a bit of a stretch as a "kitchen gadget." However, if you want your kids to help cook, eat their dinner and learn some healthy habits, dress them up! We had the pleasure of hosting Courtney's 10th birthday party (a sleep-over!) this past weekend, and she whipped out the hat and showed her friends how to make pizza sauce right from my cookbook proof. They even ate the whole wheat crust without one complaint. Success!

The Svelte Gourmet Cookbook:
A Month of Main Courses

Perhaps my favorite kitchen gadget of all! An entire month of healthy, tasty main courses. The book will officially launch in early January, but a limited first run will be available December 21. Pre-order now at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html!

Stay tuned for more of my favorite gadgets in some upcoming posts. Trust me, I'm only getting started. If you have any you'd like to share, feel free to comment -- even though my cabinets are about to explode, I'm always looking for handy new toys! Happy cooking!