1. Read the WHOLE recipe twice. This might seem like overkill to some, but I assure you it’s the safest way to go. You might pick up on things you didn’t see the first time. It’s like that saying from construction: “Measure twice, cut once.” Except in this case we’re most likely measuring a whole bunch of butter and cutting it into a whole mess of flour. No hardhats required. Still, it’s a good rule.

2. Make a checklist of all your ingredients. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve started a recipe and then had to run to the store halfway through. Make a checklist, go into your pantry and your fridge to double check you have everything and cross off items as you have them. This step is very satisfying to me — I really like crossing things off lists. This also prevents that weird batch of chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips in them.

3. Note the time the recipe is going to take. Do you have time to make what you want to make? More often than not, your recipe is going to be straight with you and tell you exactly how long you’re going to need to complete it.This might be broken into “prep time,” “cooking time” and “inactive time.” As someone who once tried to make an icebox cake with 16 hours of “inactive time” for a party I was supposed to attend in 30 minutes, I can’t stress this point enough.

4. Respect the order of things. It might seem obnoxious that you have to separate your wet and your dry ingredients before mixing everything together.Ugh…I have to whip those egg whites before folding them in? It can all seem like a bunch of pomp and circumstance. However, I assure you that the person who created this recipe has created these steps to aid in your success. Follow along for the best results.

5. Get familiar before getting fancy. You might be a substitution queen like me, and love to sub in things like coconut oil for butter or applesauce for oil. I always suggest making the recipe as it is written first to get familiar with it. Once you see how it cooks up, you will have a better idea of what you can swap out. Also, I always like to point out that substitutions are risky, so sub in at your own risk. Only go off book when you have the time for the recipe to potentially flop.

From The Kitchn. I thought these were truly great tips for scanning through a recipe to prepare to cook. I like to keep my Out of Milk app open with me in the kitchen when I go through the ingredients list and cross-reference it with an actual ingredient so that I can add whatever I’m missing as I go. Then, all I have to take with me to the store is my phone! I am also now a substitution Queen, but when I first started cooking, I definitely always made recipes as-is first and then experimented after!

What about you? Do you follow any of these tips? Do you have tips of your own?

Why Calorie Counting is Probably not Worth Your Time

This interesting video explains the imperfect science behind calories, showing us why obsessing over them is more than likely a waste of time.  Instead, focus more on eating whole, unprocessed foods and eating mindfully.

Day 2 Assignment:  Ask yourself 3 questions about your breakfast routine

After Day 1’s assignment of writing down what you ate for breakfast over the last week, Day 2 asks you to evaluate that list. If you have been following my blog, you probably know by now that breakfast is perhaps my favorite meal of the day.  I find that what I eat/don’t eat for breakfast can really affect my mood and energy levels the rest of the day, particularly on work days. So, I’ve put a lot of thought into my breakfast routine.  Last week I ate a combination of green smoothies and whole grains/seeds, and I feel pretty good about what I ate.  Although I’ve been eating smoothies for a while now, I haven’t yet tired of them because there are literally endless things you can do with them.  As for oatmeal, I just really find a piping hot bowl of oatmeal to be extremely satisfying on these cold-weather days.

In general, my breakfast guidelines are these:

1.  Eat protein and fat.  I’ve explained how I do that in my smoothies, but I really try to do that no matter what I’m eating. If I’m having a bowl of oatmeal, for example, I’ll eat a piece of ham or smoked salmon along with it.
2.  Try to get a veggie in for fiber.  This isn’t always possible (who wants vegetables in their oatmeal??), but when I feel like my body is craving veggies, I typically end up doing the smoothies.  I honestly feel the best on the days I get the veggies in.
3.  Limit added sugar intake.  I try to go with natural sugars every time, and, even then, I try to limit the amount I’m eating.  So, instead of eating  whole banana, I always just use half–enough to provide some creaminess in a smoothie or sweetness to my overnight oats–and save the rest in the fridge for the next day.  If I need a sweetener, I try to stick with honey or dates if I’ve run out of bananas, and do not add any additional sugar if I don’t need to.
4.  Never skip.  For all the reasons I just mentioned, I have to eat breakfast.  On days, like the weekend, where I sometimes skip breakfast because I woke up late, I find my energy levels are more erratic and, most importantly, I find that I am more prone to constant snacking throughout the day, thus contributing to slight weight gain.

Last week was one of my favorite breakfast weeks.  I really loved all the things I ended up having, but I’ve also discovered a quinoa/oat breakfast bake that I will be adding to this site as well as my regular rotation.  One goal I have moving forward is that, although I do a pretty good job of limiting overall sugar intake, I am still leaning towards the sweeter side of the breakfast spectrum.  So I want to be more diligent about doing a week or two without any sugar and eat more eggs and salmon and cottage cheese.

Have you assessed your breakfast routine?  Anything you’d like to change?  Need more breakfast ideas?  Check out my recipe index!

 

You may have noticed that on this blog I tend to shy away from giving actual advice on what diet/methods/habits people should adopt.  Rather than telling anyone what they should or shouldn’t eat, I mostly remind people that what works for me doesn’t necessarily have to work for you.

This article in the New York Times is precisely why I approach this the way that I do.  I thought it was enlightening to read the way the scientific method has morphed within the nutrition industry.  What is boils down to is this: we know something is wrong in American eating culture, but we don’t really know what.  That is why my biggest piece of advice is this: pay attention to your body.

To me, my “healthy” diet means eating whole, real (not processed) food, focusing on protein and veggies.  This is why I follow a Paleo template but also include other “prohibited” foods that don’t bother me much (like potatoes).  Healthy for me also means cooking at home, because there is both a lack of knowledge and control in restaurant settings.  What does “healthy” mean to you?

The questions are endless:  should I eat less fat?  More fat?  Less carbs?  Red meat?  Should I stop eating gluten?  What is gluten??  What’s the deal with eggs?

If you are confused about nutrition, you are not alone.  In fact, if the flip-flopping nutrition industry is any indication, a lot of people are confused.  This article does a pretty thorough job of addressing a lot of these questions, citing actual scientific sources, and hopefully eliminating some of that overwhelmed feeling.

Want some short answers?  Healthy fats are healthy.  Unhealthy fats are not.  Eat carbs in the form of fruits and veggies.  Grass-fed red meat is the way to go.  Don’t go gluten-free if you aren’t allergic to it.  Gluten=wheat.  Eggs are the perfect nutrition package.