Great Article on Cooking

Posted: November 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

Cooking in Cast Iron
Learn how some heavy metal cookery can help you get healthy
Article By: Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

Spring may officially be here, meaning it’s near time for that beloved grill to assume its rightful place on the patio. But what happens when it’s raining? Or worse yet, what if digging the grill out of the garage is a project you regularly procrastinate on? Cast-iron to the rescue!

This time of year, the grill can be a forlorn piece of machinery on the deck. Rain, sleet, or maybe even those last lingering flurries can a real downer when you want to cook out.

So are we guys sidelined until Memorial Day? Hold on there, Chuckwagon Pete. Don’t put out all the man fires. That’s right, there’s an old-fashioned kitchen tool that’s been part of a real man’s cooking kit ever since Wyatt Earp set foot on the frontier. It’s the cast-iron skillet: a guy’s salvation come winter.

What Is It?
It’s like the old camping cookware skillets, but revamped for more modern times. The ones your Dad used? Strictly analog. Go digital with the new ones that come in various sizes. We like the 10- or 12-inch models. If you’re feeding the crew, consider the 15-incher.

They’re all excellent conductors of heat—and marvels of nonstick efficiency. The surface of one of these babies is full of tiny holes and gashes, rough almost like sandpaper. That’s the good news. Those holes and gashes will eventually get filled in with rendered fat and meat bits. Call it nature’s nonstick.
How Does That Happen?
By cooking repeatedly in the thing, the way the old chuckwagon cooks did.
Cast Iron Grill Pans
You can even find cast-iron grill pans. They’ve got ridges for the perfect marks over the heat. Some of them are long, flat rectangles. One side’s the grill pan for burgers and chops; the other’s a griddle for flapjacks and bacon. Season and care for them in the same way you would a cast-iron skillet.
But first, a cast-iron skillet has to be seasoned. This isn’t a weeknight task. Put it on your list of Saturday chores.

Take the skillet out of its package, then preheat the oven to 300°F. Dab a little vegetable oil on a paper towel, then rub it all over the inside bottom and sides of the skillet. Place the thing in the oven for 1 hour. Cool it to room temperature, then repeat twice.

Now those holes and gashes are starting to get filled in with fat. You’re on your way to making a nonstick coating with nary a chemical coating in sight.

Which Means…
You never wash a seasoned cast iron with detergent (which will get lodged in the pores, making soapy steaks next time around) or steel wool (which rubs off that coating you worked so hard to create).

Instead, when you’re done cooking, pour coarse-grained or kosher salt into the skillet; use its graininess and a paper towel to rub off any baked-on bits under warm running water.

Afterwards, sterilize the skillet by setting it over high heat until it’s smoking hot, at least 5 minutes. This will also inhibit rust. Cool it on the stove until you can put it away.

Store cast-iron cookware uncovered so moisture doesn’t build up inside during humid weather.

Now You’re Ready to Cook
Get ready for the best steaks ever. First, preheat the oven to 400°F. Then heat that cast-iron skillet to smoking over medium-high heat. Rub a little oil on some strip steaks, then drop them in the skillet. Don’t touch them for 4 minutes. They’ll smoke and splatter. Turn, then shove that skillet into the oven. Keep roasting them until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the center of one steak registers about 140°F, maybe about 3 minutes per inch of thickness. Done: a good crust, a nice chew, and perfectly cooked. What more do you want?

Or forget steaks—and shoving things in the oven. Try hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, brats, tuna steaks, salmon burgers, or even marinated skirt steak for fajitas. The technique’s the same: Heat the skillet to smoking, then add the food. You may turn down the heat once you get a good sizzle, but you want to cook things quickly over fairly high heat. What’s the point in having a man tool in the kitchen if you can’t play with fire?

Or do dessert. Sear off pineapple slices, pitted peach quarters, or pitted plum halves. Put them in the skillet cut-side down for a minute or two, then serve them with dollops of lowfat yogurt or even frozen yogurt.

So get out that cast-iron pan. Your spring evenings will never be the same.

Yikes

Posted: November 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

Holy Man Boobs it has been a while since I have posted and have since got off track a bit however I am in the right frame of mind and am back at it. Some things that have happened since my last post, We are the proud parents of Grace Barber. She is so damn cute and a really good baby. Many more posts to follow, just wanted to update some peeps on my whereabouts. Hope all is well

Combat Those 3 p.m. Cravings

They’ve struck again—the mid-afternoon munchies. Here’s how to fight them.
Article By: Megan Gressor
Combat Those 3 p.m. Cravings

You’ve done it by the book all day. But now, suddenly, you’ve got a full-blown case of the mid-afternoon munchies and you find yourself gobbling down chocolate chip cookies like there’s no tomorrow.

Why do we crave sweet treats around this time? Perhaps you had an inadequate lunch or skipped breakfast (sure to make you starving later in the day). The late afternoon is often a frazzling time—and stress sends many people straight to the cookie jar. You could be tired, bored or blue, and snacking is a way of passing the time.

The fact that these cravings are often related to specific foods—cakes, candy bars, chips—indicates that the problem may be psychological rather than a response to genuine hunger. So how to ward off that mid-afternoon snack attack?

“If it’s fatigue that’s driving you to the vending machine, then a brisk walk or a concerned effort to get more sleep is your best bet,” explains Karen Miller-Kovach, Weight Watchers’ Chief Scientist. “Likewise, if your desire to eat is a reaction to the building stressors of the day, a walk or some relaxation exercises will solve the problem.”

Sometimes, snack attacks are conditioned responses to cues associated with sweet treats, such as a mid-afternoon coffee break. To identify such cues, American Dietetic Association member Jackie Newgent, RD, suggests drawing a chain. “Write in each link the activities that lead up to inappropriate snacking.” This might include:

3 p.m. Stomach growling.
3:30 p.m. Anxious to go home.
4:10 p.m. Go to kitchen to get beverage.
4:15 p.m. Eat a vending machine snack.

“The best way to break this chain is to do it at the earliest link possible,” says Newgent. “In this case, you might want to plan a healthful snack at 3 p.m. since you’re hungry.”

Late-Afternoon Snack Attack Tips

  • Wait five minutes and see if the urge passes.
  • Avoid temptation: Don’t food shop at this time; don’t go near the vending machine; cut out mid-afternoon television. (Being bombarded with junk food ads will just put you in the mood).
  • Make a list of alternative activities: writing an email, go on a walk.
  • Eat a good breakfast and lunch. Favor foods that are slowly digested and will keep you full longer, such as wholegrain bread and high-fiber cereals, beans and vegetables.

It’s OK to Sneak In Snacks

There is nothing wrong with snacking: It’s WHAT you eat that matters. If you find yourself craving potato chips or chocolate bars, substitute nutritious low-calorie options such as:

Really Hungry

  • Vegetable/Bean soup
  • Slice of whole-grain bread with peanut butter
  • Unsweetened high-fiber cereal with skim milk
  • Vegetable sticks and tomato salsa

Need a Snack

  • Slice of whole-grain bread with jam
  • Sweetened, high-fiber cereal with skim milk
  • Low-fat granola bar

Just Want to Munch

  • Fresh or dried fruit
  • Low-fat, artificially-sweetened yogurt
  • Fruit smoothie made with skim milk
  • Pretzels, breadsticks or rice cakes
  • Plain, air-popped popcorn
  • Fat-free hot cocoa made with skim milk

Spits, Skewers and Kebabs

Spear your way to culinary succulence
Article By: Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough
Spits Skewers and Kebabs

Cultures all over the world have used spits, skewers and kebabs to cook over an open fire. Brazilians have their churraco; the French, their brochettes; the Lebanese, their shawarma. By spearing food over the heat, they can grill it evenly, keep it moist and get the most flavor per bite. So let’s start spearing.

Hand Cranking

There are old-fashioned hand-cranked rotisseries for open fire pits, campfires and even fireplaces. These require patience and forbearance — you’ve got to sit to the side of a hot fire, turning the meat slowly over the flames. These yesteryear gadgets are best for enormous cuts: baby goats, boars, pigs and the like. Look for solid construction: no wobbly legs! And one thing’s for sure: Even the best of these devices are not for the novice.

Spits
Don’t think Robinson Crusoe. Basically, we’re talking about the rotisserie attachment for your grill, an electric motor that slowly turns a steel rod over the grate.

In essence, the meat is self-basting. As juices come to the surface, they spill over the rotating cut, bathing it in what will become crispy goodness.

Which is why the primary meat for a rotisserie is anything fowl: chickens, turkeys, pheasants and game hens. They’re full of subcutaneous fat that melts and bastes the beast on the spit.

But the fat’s not the only reason birds are the first choice for spits. They’re also hollow — which means you don’t have to puncture the meat to get a bird on the spit. And even more important, they’re equally balanced around the spit: one wing on one side, one wing on the other.

A leg of lamb or a prime-rib roast can be poor choices for the spit because neither are balanced. A leg of lamb has a thicker, meatier side — which will cause it to turn unevenly. A prime rib has all those heavy bones.

What’s more, you don’t want to skewer the meat itself.

So what to do with these “uneven” cuts? Roast two side by side and back to front. Secure the two cuts tightly to either side of the spit with butchers’ twine, then use the prongs to hold them in place. This two-for-one technique works for pork loin, beef tenderloin or whole fish.

In short, on a spit, you need to think about:

    1. Balance. Make sure the cut is evenly balanced side to side.
    2. Security. Tie cuts tightly with butchers’ twine. In general, more twine is better. Yes, the rotisserie will come with clamps to secure items to the spit, but you still need to secure wings to birds and cuts to each other.

You’re almost ready. Now for a few last tips:

  1. Indirect heat works best. In other words, the rotating spit should not be directly over the heat of the grill.
  2. Make sure the fire is low, around 325°F. “Low and slow” are the rules of the rotisserie.
  3. Make sure there’s a drip pan directly under the turning meat to prevent flare-ups and save you a big cleanup.
  4. Want more flavor? Wrap long spears of rosemary or branches of bay leaves around the meat once it’s secured onto the rotisserie spit.
  5. Salt draws moisture to the surface. Add a little to the outside of the cuts before they go on the spit to get the most juice bathing the meat as it turns.

 

Skewers and Kebabs
When you shrink those metal spits down to size, you end up with bamboo and metal skewers.

Unlike spits, skewers and kebabs go right over the heat, preferably high heat. If spits are “low and slow,” skewers and kebabs are “hot and fast.” You want these babies to singe — mostly to get good flavor on the outsides of the smaller bits of meat or veggies before they dry out inside.

And keep this in mind: It’s easier to marinate or spice things up before you skewer. Toss everything in a bowl, add the marinade or rub and stir well. Then refrigerate for a couple hours, stirring repeatedly. Once skewered, nooks and crannies can be difficult to reach with that added flavor.

First, meat and fish.

  1. Put only a single kind of protein on a single skewer. Don’t mix tuna cubes and pork loin, for example. Proteins cook at different rates.
  2. Choose firm-fleshed, thick-fleshed fish. Think tuna, swordfish or mahi mahi. Think about fish that can be cut into “steaks.”
  3. In general, consider 1-inch cubes the rule. (Boneless, of course.) Practice good knife technique, making sure meat cubes are evenly sized for even cooking. (Our one exception: shrimp. Leave themwhole and thread them in two places on the skewer.)
  4. Don’t forget fruit. It grills great with beef, pork, chicken or turkey. Use pineapple cubes, apple wedges or halved apricots on those skewers!
  5. Finally, for mixed meat-and-veggie skewers, cook them until the meat is done, not the veggies. To know for sure, take the internal temperature of the meat with an instant-read meat thermometer.

 

Now the veggies

  1. Tomatoes and mushrooms should go on their own skewers. They cook quickly and turn soft fast, soon becoming a mess on the beef-and-veggie skewer.
  2. Firmer vegetable chunks — zucchini, peppers, yellow squash, fennel and onions — can be interspersed among chunks of meat, fish steaks or shellfish.
  3. If you’re making mixed meat-and-veggie kebabs, put chunks of meat rather than vegetable chunks at each end of the skewer — vegetables can turn soft and fall off.
  4. Forget roots and hard winter vegetables. Butternut squash and sweet potatoes will never get tender on a skewer.

That’s about all you need to know. With a little advance planning and some good technique, you’ll soon be a pro, cooking meat in one of the oldest ways imaginable.

No meat crock pot recipes

Posted: August 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

Five Vegetarian Meals Even a Meat-Eating Guy Will Love

Meatless can still be scrumptious.
Article By: Kate Elizabeth Queram
Five Vegetarian Meals Even a Meat-Eating Guy Will Love

If you’re a die-hard carnivore, the kind who likes bacon with his eggs, fried chicken with his biscuits and a little steak with his steak, the idea of adopting a vegetarian diet may be laughable. Even the term probably has you conjuring images of tofu chunks, carrot sticks and endless piles of lettuce. But take it from me: Eating vegetarian doesn’t mean you have to subsist solely on salads and celery stalks.

I decided to go vegetarian when I was 13, right before Thanksgiving. Passing up the golden roasted turkey was tough that first year, but only until I realized I could pile on the potatoes. Being a vegetarian on non-holidays works mostly the same way.

For example, unless you’re going vegan, your diet can still be loaded with all kinds of low-fat dairy products, from shredded cheese made with 2 percent milk to thick, reduced-fat sour cream. In the beginning, I’d recommend steering clear of tofu. Partly because even reading the word probably has you freaked out, but mostly because attempting the spongy white stuff right away is enough to scare off a newbie vegetarian for good. But don’t be afraid to experiment with fake-meat products, which can fill the texture void in your meatless menu. And above all, realize that occasionally eschewing beef and chicken doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite tacos, stews and sandwiches. It’s all about modification.

To get you started, try one of these five road-tested recipes. They’re all meatless and healthy, but more importantly, they’ve all been tried by current or former carnivores—the boyfriends, husbands, relatives and law-school buddies of the chefs who made them—who pronounced them delicious. Dig in.

Vegetarian Chili
Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese
Sloppy Joes
Cheesy Mushroom Broccoli Casserole
Microwave Nachos Vegetarian Chili
When I was growing up, my mom had a rotating schedule of three dinners. (My dad and my uncle always called them “Bonnie’s Big Three.”) This chili, in meat form, was one of them. When I stopped eating meat 14 years ago, she modified the recipe for me, and whenever I go home there’s always a batch of it waiting. We usually eat it on Christmas Eve with a big group of male relatives, none of whom are vegetarian, who come back for seconds and thirds. With a dollop of low-fat sour cream and a handful of low-fat cheese, you’ll never miss the beef. My mom cooks it with tofu (an entire container); if you’re not a tofu-eating vegetarian yet, sub a package of faux beef crumbles or skip entirely.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 container tofu
  • 2 Tbsp and 1 tsp chili powder
  • 12 oz (1 can) diced chili tomatoes
  • 12 oz (1 can) spiced chili tomato sauce
  • 1 can Bush’s chili beans
  • 1 can black beans (drained)
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (drained)
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • Optional: 1 cup cooked elbow macaroni noodles

 

Instructions

Brown onion in butter. Add tofu with 1 teaspoon chili powder.

Add all other ingredients and simmer for one 1 hour. Serve with reduced-fat sour cream and cheddar cheese.

Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese
Leigh Voruz, a 29-year-old elementary-school art teacher from Omaha, Nebraska, created this healthy mac and cheese recipe after failing to find an existing one that cut calories but still tasted good.

“Every time I’d find a recipe, the texture wasn’t right or it was too bland, so I mixed three or four different recipes together,” she says.

Each ingredient contributes something specific to the dish, Voruz says. The mustard brings out the flavor, and the half-and-half keeps it creamy, while the Velveeta keeps the traditional mac-and-cheese flavor. And using the low-fat versions cuts the calories per serving by more than half, but the dish still tastes decadent, she adds.

Though it contains no meat, mac and cheese isn’t strictly a vegetarian dish—neither Voruz nor her husband Johnny are herbivores—but everybody loves a good comfort food. This one allows you to enjoy it guilt-free.

“It tastes like you’re being naughty,” Voruz says, “but you’re not.”

Ingredients

  • 3 cups pasta, uncooked
  • 3 Tbsp margarine
  • 8 oz Velveeta light
  • 4 oz fat-free cream cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups 2% shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 can cheddar cheese soup
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup fat-free half and half
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Instructions

Cook pasta in boiling water for 5 minutes or until it’s just under al dente. Drain and place in slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. Cook on high for 2 to 3 hours, stirring about every 30 minutes. The pasta should hold its shape, and the cheese should be completely creamy. Makes about 8 servings.

Sloppy Joes
Sloppy Joe sandwiches, with seasoned beef tumbling out of hamburger buns, are the ultimate meat-eating-guy food. This recipe, which substitutes a mix of mushrooms and nuts for the beef, is just as satisfying as the real thing, according to Susan Schenck, author of “The Live Food Factor, The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet.”
“My husband loves this recipe because it tastes like sloppy Joes,” she said. The meat substitute doesn’t sacrifice on taste, because “the real flavor is in the sauce, and the mushrooms absorb those flavors as well as meat does. This recipe reminds me of the sloppy Joes that were a staple among my mother’s dinner dishes. For those of us raised on Joes, this is a real comfort-food dish!”

Ingredients

“Meat” Mixture:

  • 3/4 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, without shells
  • 4 cups mushrooms (preferably cremini type)
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 3 Tbsp Namo Shoyu soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp unpasteurized olive oil
  • 8 green olives, pitted
  • 1/2 to 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 green onions

 

Sloppy Joe Sauce:

  • 1 large ripe red or 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle seasoning powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 pitted dates
  • 1/8 cup fresh basil
  • 2 garlic cloves

 

Instructions

Ahead of time: Soak walnuts and sunflower seeds in water for 6 to 8 hours. Chop mushrooms (make sure they’re not too small—they should be cut into fourths or fifths). Marinate for at least 1 hour in water, Namo Shoyu and olive oil. Stir well so all mushroom pieces get a bit wet, then set for at least 1 hour.

Later, rinse and drain walnuts and sunflower seeds. Chop walnuts by hand, or in the food processor using the “S” blade. The goal here is to match the look and feel of meat, so aim for little chunks. Chop olives, green bell pepper and green onions. Fold in marinated mushrooms. Set aside.

In a heavy-duty blender, blend tomatoes into liquid form. Add remaining sauce ingredients. Fold in “meat” ingredients. Because the Joes are a raw-food recipe, Schenck doesn’t heat them before serving, but said doing so wouldn’t affect the flavor. For a traditional presentation, scoop onto whole-wheat hamburger buns.

Cheesy Mushroom Broccoli Casserole
Natasha Attal started making this dish for her boyfriend when he stopped eating meat about two years ago. Attal, a 25-year-old marketing and PR rep for a Brooklyn real-estate firm, isn’t a vegetarian, but said both she and her boyfriend find the dish filling and delicious.

“He usually is not a big fan of leftovers, but we ate it again the next night because he loved it so much,” she says. “It has become a go-to casserole dish.”

To add more substance to the dish, Attal recommends adding veggie ground round for the taste and texture of meat, but said the casserole is delicious even without it.

“It’s a very filling dish,” she says.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp butter, plus extra for casserole dish
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 lb shitake or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free half and half
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 box (10 oz) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained
  • 2 cups shredded 2% cheddar-monterey cheese blend
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Special equipment: 1 1/8-quart oval casserole dish

 

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Butter casserole dish. In a large pot, melt 3 tablespoons butter and flour over medium heat until golden to make a quick roux (it should resemble the color of peanut butter).

Add mushrooms, onion, garlic, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, half and half and vegetable broth. Add broccoli, 1 cup of cheese, and rice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour into buttered casserole dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake until cheese is melted and golden, about 20 minutes.

Microwave Nachos
Jessica Keefe, a Washington, DC–based attorney, started zapping nachos in her microwave during law school at the University of Pennsylvania. Keefe, 27, was a vegetarian for 11 years but had started eating meat again before concocting the snack food. She’s made the nachos for groups of friends, meat-eating males among them.

“They’re filling and satisfy your cheese cravings without leaving you feeling like you need a nap afterward,” she says.

For added health bonuses, add diced tomatoes and shredded lettuce after pulling your platter from the microwave.

Ingredients

  • 3 handfuls baked tortilla chips
  • 3/4 cup lowfat shredded cheese (cheddar works well)
  • 1/2 can (10 oz) black beans, drained
  • Jalapeños to taste
  • 1/2 cup lowfat sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes (optional)
  • 1 jar salsa

 

Instructions

Place tortilla chips on a large plate. Layer cheese, black beans and jalapeños on top. Microwave for 1 minute or until cheese melts and bubbles slightly.

Top with low-fat sour cream, lettuce, and tomatoes, and serve with salsa.

Hopefully, these recipes, and the meat-eaters who love them, will help you see that dabbling in vegetarian cuisine doesn’t have to mean digging into salad after salad. And if the delicious food and the guilt-free indulging aren’t enough of a reason for you to steer clear of the meat aisle occasionally, consider this: Making a creative and healthy meal for your significant other could earn you some brownie points. Low-fat ones, that is.

Salad Sticker Shock

The inconvenient truth behind our favorite fast-food salads.
Article By: Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough
Salad Sticker Shock
We’ve taken it like men—giving up our favorite burgers and fries for healthier salads. But are our favorite salads at restaurant chains and fast-food outlets better choices? Not necessarily. In fact, they can eat up as much as half a day’s worth of PointsPlus®values.

Best of the Worst Salads
Asian Style Salads:
Here, greens are topped with fresh fruit, grilled chicken, and crunchy toppings. The sesame dressing varies from restaurant to restaurant but it’s often outrageous in calories and added sugar, including corn syrup. Hold on to your lunch: all dressed up this salad can come in at a whopping PointsPlus values of 14.
Southwest Style Salads:
Piled high with beans, corn, and roasted peppers, this ground beef-topped salad can’t be bad, can it? At one favorite fast food restaurant, you’re staring at a PointsPlus value of 16!
Chicken Caesar Salads:
Don’t think diet when you think Caesar. Even though it’s only lettuce, chicken, and a touch of cheese, this classic doesn’t fare any better when you look under the label. At one chain, it’s got a staggering PointsPlus value of 12. That’s a lot for so little bang for the buck.

How’d the PointsPlus values get so astronomical? Sure, there are a few fried tidbits and some grated cheese, but the real culprits are the corn syrup-laden, fat-enhanced dressings.

Most restaurants will offer you the dressing on the side, but who wants to eat a naked salad? What’s a hungry guy to do?

Make your own at home. Here’s how:

Greens are the base for all three salads. Here’s our rule: the crunchier, the better. Shredded romaine and iceberg add sweetness while radicchio and arugula add bitter notes. If you’re in a hurry, use a pre-shredded and packaged blend of these greens, found in the produce section of your supermarket.

Use purchased, precooked protein. Pick up a rotisserie chicken at the supermarket; skin it and take the meat off the bones. Or try precooked cocktail shrimp, a nice change of pace. No, you won’t have ground beef in your Southwest salad, but you’ll save PointsPlus values—and it’ll be just as good.

Mix up your own toppings:

  • For Asian-style toppings, steer clear of canned fruit which adds lots of sugar. Peel and slice an orange into sections or peel and dice a mango off its pit. For crunch, sliced water chestnuts and some shredded jicama do the trick.
  • For Southwest-style toppings, try canned beans: just drain and rinse before using. Frozen corn just needs to be thawed, but not cooked. And red bell pepper gives the perfect crunch.
  • For Caesar salads, shred carrots and seeded yellow bell peppers through the large holes of a box grater for a lot of snap and very little effort.

Finally, dress it up.

  • Dress Asian-style salads up with a small splash of seasoned rice vinegar and just a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil.
  • A Southwestern salad needs just 1 tablespoon low-fat mayo mixed into 1/4 cup salsa.
  • And for a Caesar? Dress this baby up with 1/4 cup low-fat mayo mixed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. For the true taste, add 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and 1 finely minced anchovy filet.

Body Fuel: What to Eat Before a Workout

Learn the what, when and why of pre- and post-exercise eating, including easy snack and meal ideas.
Article By: By Meredith Bergman and Amy Leibrock
Body Fuel What to Eat Before a Workout
Just as you’d fill up your car’s gas tank before a road trip, it’s vitally important to make sure your body has the right fuel to sustain you during a workout.

Proper nutrition, both before and after, will also “speed up recovery, protect you from fatigue and get you ready for the next workout,” says Jenna A. Bell-Wilson, PhD, RD, LD, a Board-Certified Specialist in sports dietetics.So, what should you eat before going for a bike ride or heading to the gym? Use these guidelines and snack ideas to keep your engine running optimally.

Balance carbs with protein.
“A relatively high-carbohydrate, moderate protein, low-fat meal is best to consume before exercise,” says Suzette Kroll, a registered dietitian at the Canyon Ranch Spa in Tucson, Arizona. People often underestimate the importance of the carb part of the equation when fueling up for exercise, especially strength training, says Bell-Wilson. “They assume it’s all about protein. Protein is important for muscle building and repair, but in order to lift those weights you need carbohydrates for energy,” she says. Choose carbs that are easily digestible and avoid high-fat foods—or large quantities of any food—just before working out because they don’t digest well during exercise.

Time it right.
“Whether you’re strength training or going on a run, you want to make sure you have something within four hours before the workout and then a smaller snack in the hour before,” says Bell-Wilson. If you know your workout is only going to last 45 minutes, keep the snack small, she says. “If it’s going to last 2 hours, then you’re going to want to beef up that pre-exercise meal.”

Carefully assess protein bars.
When squeezing a workout into a busy schedule, you may like the convenience of protein or “sports” bars. Make sure you choose carefully; according to Kroll, most bars are “glorified candy bars, often providing even more calories.” To find the better ones, Bell-Wilson suggests choosing a bar that has about 200 calories, up to 5 grams of protein and 25 grams of carbohydrates. “If you find a bar that you really like, but it’s high in calories, just eat half of it,” says Bell-Wilson. “Save the other half for after your workout.”

Don’t eat more than you burn.
You just finish a heart-pumping, hour-long workout. You take a quick shower and then pass the gym’s café on the way out. Watch out for those healthy-looking snacks. One smoothie or even a sports drink can replace all the calories you just burned, and then some. “It’s important to realize that just because you worked out doesn’t give you free rein in the kitchen,” says Bell-Wilson. “The reward is that you went and you did it.” If you exercise for an hour or less, your best bet is to grab a bottle of water and eat at your next scheduled meal. “If it lasts longer, plan to have a snack in your locker or on your way home,” says Bell-Wilson.

5 Pre-workout Snack Ideas
1. Half a chicken, turkey or lean roast beef sandwich on whole-wheat bread
2. Low-fat yogurt with a sliced banana
3. Low-fat string cheese and 6 whole-grain crackers
4. Hard-boiled eggs, yolks removed and replaced with hummus
5. Skim milk blended with frozen fruit to make a smoothie

5 Post-workout Replenishing Meal Ideas
1. One or two poached eggs on whole-wheat toast
2. Bean burrito: a whole-wheat tortilla filled with black beans, salsa and reduced-fat cheese
3. Stir-fried chicken and vegetables (try pepper, zucchini and carrot) over brown rice
4. Whole-wheat pasta tossed with chicken, broccoli and eggplant
5. Whole-grain cereal or oatmeal, with milk and fruit (such as a sliced banana)