Week 5 Tips: Healthy Cooking

I thoroughly enjoy cooking. From looking for a recipe or making one up, to the grocery shopping, to the prep work, and then serving it the whole process is like my therapy. Eating well and living well starts in the kitchen. Here are my tips for cooking healthier at home.

  1. Saute in oil instead of butter. Look, don’t get me wrong butter tastes great but it’s also loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol. Oils like canola, olive, and one of my personal favorites grape seed are low in saturated fat and have no cholesterol. Fun fact: teaspoon for teaspoon oil and butter have the same calories and fat grams.
  2. Use tons of veggies. Just when you think you can’t add any more, try it ūüėČ But seriously half of your meal should be veggies so go for it! Instead of loading them up with butter, flavor instead with veggie/chicken broth, onions/garlic, lemon/limes, herbs, spices, hot sauce, and my personal favorite vinegar/vinaigrettes.
  3. Lean on whole grains instead of prepackaged processed grains. Sure Hamburger Helper is quick and easy but it’s also loaded with salt, fat, has no fiber, and little nutrition. To ease into the whole grain world you can definitely try the boxed grains with added flavor. They are higher in sodium than just plain grains but it’s a great start. Ideas include¬†whole wheat pasta, barley, quinoa, farro, brown rice, black, rice, and wild rice.
  4. Choose lean meats. Beef, pork, and lamb are considered red meat. Loin (sirloin, pork loin), lean ground beef, pork chops, eye of round, top and bottom round roast are the leanest. Chicken and turkey breast (white meat) is leaner than the dark meat. Dark meat is leaner than red meat. Although salmon is considered an oily fish and is higher in fat, the fat is WONDERFUL for your health. White fish like haddock and cod are super lean.
  5. Don’t be afraid to play with flavor! Adding herbs and spices to your cooking makes the flavor of your dishes pop without adding too much salt. Admittedly I use some salt in my cooking but not a lot because of herbs and spices.¬†I obviously have my favorites but will branch out depending on the type of food and recipe. Experiment with them and don’t be afraid of flavor!
  6. Gather kitchen equipment. Truth be told I don’t have many expensive items¬†in my kitchen. I like to cook but I’m also pretty simple and use¬†my favorites. These are the cooking tools I use every week: some pots and pans (I prefer stainless steel but you don’t need a huge set, just the necessities), sharp knives (I’m very picky about my knives and I don’t buy sets I just buy the ones I need), cutting boards (wood), silicon lid (to steam veggies in glass), slow cooker (I have a programmable one which helps people who work longer hours), pressure cooker (nothing fancy just works well).
  7. Keep the necessities. Herbs, spices, oils, vinegars, garlic, onions, frozen veggies (and fruits), grains, and beans can be on hand because they stay for a long time and you can use them in healthy cooking every week.

Eating out isn’t terrible. I actually think it is good to go out and try new things but make sure you’re eating in more often than out. Cooking healthy doesn’t mean you’ll be eating “cardboard” or spending a ton of money. I’ll be doing later blogs on saving money while eating well so stay tuned. Cooking well can be delicious, quick, and fun. Experiment. Being a good cook doesn’t happen over night. Ask any chef ūüôā Work at it, eat out less, and I assure you this will help with your long term goals.

Smokey Chicken

This week my family (all 5 of us) were sick. We got a bad head cold and it ran through us like the plague! I hadn’t cooked all week because we were just surviving and who feels like cooking when you can’t taste it anyway, am I right? Finally last night I could kind of breathe again so I decided to make this delicious dish.

I found a recipe on Pinterest that looked really good a few months ago. What happens when I find recipes though, is I look for ways to “Amanda-fy” them…make them more of something that I’d like to eat, cook, or try out. This is one of those recipes that went from a Pinterest idea to something different.

Nutrition Lesson

Everyone talks about chicken breast and it being super lean source of protein. It really is BUT it can be more expensive than chicken thighs or drumsticks. Not everyone in the world has an unlimited budget that they can just willy nilly spend on food. I will be the first to tell you eating well does not have to be more expensive but there are certain tips and tricks I have in order to be able to say that with confidence. Like this chicken for instance. Although boneless skinless chicken breast is lean, chicken thighs and drumsticks aren’t as high in fat as most red meats.

I want us to be clear on what LEAN really means. When dietitians talk “lean meats” we are talking about the amount of fat in meats. For instance, haddock (the fish) is in the running for the leanest meat because it has a verrrrry tiny amount of fat in a 3 ounce serving (like about 1 gram of fat naturally). So when we say “lean” we are talking fat grams per 3 ounce serving. The leaner the meat the less fat it has, the less fat it has the less saturated fat (not so good for your heart fats) it has, the less saturated fat it has¬†usually the less cholesterol it has (the stuff that can clog up your arteries), the less cholesterol it has¬†usually¬†the better it is for your heart and overall health.

Below is a nice little chart that shows how lean each meat is (I put them in order from least lean to leanest).

Meat Serving Calories Fat Grams

Saturated Fat

4 chicken wings 3 oz 426 35.9 14.1
Sausage links 3 oz 331 27 9.6
Prime rib 3 oz 276 21.6 8.7
Ground beef (80/20) 3 oz 230 15.2 5.7
Sirloin 3 oz 207 12.0 4.8
Bacon 3 slices 138 10.7 3.5
Ground beef (90/10) 3 oz 184 10.0 3.9
Chicken thigh (no skin) 3 oz 178 9.3 2.6
Ground turkey (93/7) 3 oz 128 7.1 1.8
Chicken breast (skin) 3 oz 156 7.0 1.8
Salmon 3 oz 144 5.7 1.2
Chicken drumstick (no skin) 3 oz 146 4.8 1.3
Pork loin or chop 3 oz 122 3.0 1.0
Chicken breast (no skin) 3 oz 122 3.0 0.7
Haddock 3 oz 95 0.8 0.1
Tuna 3 oz 99 0.7 0.2

Table information gathered from RD411, Calorie King, and Calorie Counter.

Yes. You read that right. Four wings. Not 6, not 12 but just 4. Regardless, the point of this blog is that skinless chicken thighs, drumsticks, and breast are all better choices than beef. Venison, grass-fed beef, buffalo, bison, and other wild game are in an awesome category of their own.

When eating well and eating on a budget needs to go hand in hand, stick with me and this blog. I won’t lead you astray!

Smoked paprika is the star of the show for this recipe. It’s not something I use often but it is good too have on hand, especially when you want to throw in a subtle hint of smoke and beautiful red color!

So here’s the recipe you voted for and were waiting so long to get your hands on!

Smokey Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 5 drumsticks (you can also use 2-3 breasts)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (more or less depending on your love of spice)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Place apple cider vinegar, canola oil, garlic, and all of the spices into an iron skillet (or oven safe pan). Heat until simmering.
  2. Place drumsticks with the skin removed or pulled down into the skillet. Cook on the stove top for 5 minutes on each side of the drumstick.
  3. Place skillet into the oven for 15 minutes or until internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees.

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NOTES:

  • For more drumsticks just double the recipe on the vinegar, oil, spices. Extra isn’t a bad thing!
  • For breasts make sure you don’t dry them out.
  • INTERNAL TEMPERATURE IS SUPER IMPORTANT! Get yourself a food thermometer ($5 at walmart) or a more fancy version (I have one that goes into the oven with the meat and tells me when it’s done).
  • For more smoke add more smoked paprika
  • I served my smokey chicken with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli…it was delicious!

How do you use smoked paprika?