One of the big things that separates a good meal from a great meal is a sauce! If you like to eat out at nice restaurants like we do, that is something that they all have in common, a fantastic sauce pairing that goes along with the main course.
It can provide a balance of flavors, it can tie a dish together, and it can provide a needed level of moisture/fat with a leaner cut of meat. After years of watching cooking shows and a little experimentation myself I've learned some basics in sauce making and how to combine flavors. If you are novice learning some basic skills in this world will certainly help.
Here is a link to an article talking about the 5 French Mother Sauces. Might sound a little fancy but most sauces that exist in the world are a spinoff of these base sauces. From this you can play with flavors that pair with your main dish. Another thing I would recommend is a book that I pull out on occasion, The Flavor Bible.
This book is fantastic in that it allows you to look up a food, say pork, then it gives you a list of other foods, veggies, and spices that pair well with it. So combine that with the basics of how to make a sauce and you are pretty much set!
The cool thing about The Flavor Bible is that it highlights the ingredients that work best. For this Bacon Apple Butter, I knew we were making pork so take a look at pairings above...
Breakfast is often referred to the most important meal of the day. Some people get this concept some don't. Breakfast for a lot of people actually looks lot more like dessert. Just yesterday we were in a local restaurant and watched a guy sitting in the booth across from us enjoy waffles à la mode. Really, ice cream for breakfast on top of a sweet bread, topped with liquid sugar and whip cream. Why is that even an option for breakfast? Seriously!!!
They all look pretty delicious don't they!
You might recognize that waffles à la mode isn't an ideal breakfast but do you know why?
#1 - The obvious one is this type of breakfast is packed with sugar. I don't think I need to explain why the sugar in this amount is bad.
#2 - We love our fat but we also love getting it from quality sources and this type of breakfast is also extremely fat dense. This combination of high fat and high sugar/carbohydrate is the reason we have the obesity epidemic that faces us in this country. The calorie density is through the roof when you combine sugar and fat, our brains just don't know when to say enough is enough when you combine those things.
#3 - Breakfast is also a unique meal. If you look at it's name "Break - Fast" this is the meal that breaks what is likely a 8-10 hour fast depending on when you last ate the previous night. It is because we are in this fasted state that our body is primed to absorb more of the energy that we provide it.
This happens mainly due to us being more insulin sensitive after a fast. That means that your body will easily transport blood glucose (carbs) into cells. Now if you worked out at 6 a.m. and you then consume a carb dense breakfast that carbohydrate/glucose will get transported to muscle tissue. That's a good thing! If you roll out of bed and have an Ego waffle, bowl of cereal, or a bowl of oatmeal topped with brown sugar and raisins, that carbohydrate will likely get stored in fat cells.
#3 - Lastly, a meal like those mentioned so far is lacking almost all nutritional value. In general, color is a sign of a food's nutritional value. If you didn't cook a waffle, that whole plate would be white = zero nutrition.
When you combine combine, calorie dense, blood sugar spiking, and nutrient poor all together in one food/meal you are either having one hell of a treat meal or trying to develop diabetes.
How do you upgrade your breakfast?
#1 - Eat a balanced meal or for some a lower carbohydrate meal depending on how sensitive you are to carbohydrates. Balanced meal means getting equal amount of calories from protein, fats and carbs. The one that is hardest for most is the protein source. Some of our favorite ways to add protein to breakfast is egg whites, protein powder via a shake or pancakes, or meat of some kind. Studies have even shown that a protein dense breakfast will help stave off hunger throughout the entire day, meaning less snacking and more calories consumed.
#2 - Add some vegetables! Yeah we said it veggies for breakfast. Not only does this up the nutritional value the meal it also adds some fiber. Try to make 1/3 of your plate a veggie! Our go to is sauteed broccoli slaw or steamed broccoli. By adding fiber you you slow down the digestion process and therefore will avoid blood sugar spikes and as much of that energy getting sent off to fat cells.
#3 - Keep it simple. The morning can be a tough time to put a fancy breakfast together. Why do you think cereal is a breakfast staple, convenience. So just make something else that fits the above criteria convenient for you. For a long time this meant have a shake for breakfast that was balanced nutritional and loaded up with some greens to get veggies. Overnight oats that contain some extra protein, greek yogurt with berries, or egg muffins.
#4 - Find something that you like and works for you and stick with it. Variety is important for diet but that means throughout the day, not day to day. Breakfast for us is almost identical 5 days a week, eggs, broccoli of some form and plantains. Find what works for you.
The common thread that connects all these tips, is having a plan. That starts with maybe building anywhere from an extra 5 minutes up to 20 minutes to prepare an upgraded breakfast. It means having some healthier options stocked in the fridge, freezer and pantry. It means knowing ahead of time what you are going to make or meal prepping earlier in the week.
We would love to hear what are your go-to breakfast options?
We are creatures of habit. When we find something we like we don't change. Brussel sprouts and the way we prepare them is a prime example. Our normal preparation is clean, cut, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and roast in the oven. If we are feeling crazy we might add a little bacon, balsamic or galic. I've learned to not mess with Laura's brussels!
This past weekend we did a Chrismtas dinner with my side of the family and my mom had found some beautiful brussel sprouts. I've tried exposing to my family to brussels before and other than my mom and sister in laws haven't had much luck. So I figured what the heck let's try something different in the hopes they will try it. It got a couple more to try but I don't know if I turned them to be brussel fans.
This recipe was simply inspired by what was in the kitchen. We had brought some fresh pecans home from Texas. We had an orange that we didn't eat on our flight up to Minnesota and I had saved some bacon grease from our breakfast that morning!
The orange definitely livened the dish up quite a bit and pecans added a nice texture contrast, so I would say this is a win and we would love to hear what you think if you make it yourself.
One variation you could certainly try would be to add bacon to the dish. We didn't since we had it for breakfast that morning. But if you wanted to, just chop and cook the bacon in your skillet until the fat is rendered out, remove the bacon and start the brussel sprout process listed below. Then just re-add the bacon pieces the same time as the pecans.
Laura almost didn't let me make these for her. Apparently she has a thing about eating chia seeds because they get stuck in her teeth. I get it... kind of. I was able to twist her arm and get her to try them and I'm pretty sure she was glad she did. We all loved these pancakes, even Eli. Another bonus: zero chia seeds stuck in her teeth too. Talk about having your (pan)cake and eating it too!
Seriously if chia seeds aren't part of your diet you need to consider adding them. Even if a few stray seeds end up in your teeth the benefits far outweigh any social anxiety from being caught with something in your teeth. Even if you do get caught it also gives you an excuse to share this amazing seed story with someone new!
Yesterday was the first time that Laura and I hosted Easter dinner for either her family or mine. It was my family plus Laura's brother, Michael, that joined us for our Easter festivities this year. I have to be honest and say it is difficult to cook for my family, we have a few picky eaters. We are from a small town and didn't grow up eating a lot of different foods. My mom always made good food but it similar in flavors and familiar so that is how the taste buds of my family developed. Meals became traditional. Just like the sun always rises in the east, we always have ham at Easter. I love tradition and there is something comforting about knowing what you will be eating and those foods will remind you have times long ago. Part of me though loves to take the traditional and tweak it and that is what we did this year with our Easter dinner.
So of course we had to make a ham, but instead of traditional oven baked ham I got the idea to grill/smoke our ham. I love smokey foods. This would also free up our kitchen oven to do other things and not have a giant ham taking up half the space. I did a little research and found that spiral cut hams tend to dry out when cooked on a grill, so opted for non-sliced ham. The process of smoking the ham was actually pretty easy. Prior to putting it on the grill, I did a light rub on it. I first added a layer of dijon mustard and then rubbed in some brown sugar to almost make a paste around the outside of the ham. This helped create a nice layer sweet and smokey on the outside.
We have a pretty big grill, so I just turned on the two outermost burners on medium, and placed the ham in the middle of the grill. This provided indirect heat, similar to an oven. As you can see in the picture I used a little smoker box that I picked up at Home Depot and kept it stocked with apple wood chips. This setup kept the temp of my grill around 250. I smoked the ham in a disposable aluminum foil tray for an hour and forty minutes, checking it every 20 minutes to make sure the temp was steady and occasionally add some more wood chips. At the 1:40 mark I added a little apple juice, maybe a cup, to the bottom of the tray, and covered the top with aluminum foil, to essentially steam the ham and keep it from drying out. After 40 minutes or once the ham got to 135, I removed the foil and begin the glazing process. I cheated and just used the glaze that came with the ham, which was a currant glaze and pretty tasty. I turned the heat up to medium high on the two side burners and glazed it twice, keeping it on the grill for another 25 minutes. That was all for the cooking process. I just let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
As for the sides there was one side that I had to keep pretty close to the original, my moms Scalloped Corn. Think gooey cornbread. We did modify a little bit and used greek yogurt instead of sour cream and almond milk instead of regular cow's milk. Sorry this is the one thing that isn't pictured above.
The other sides included mashed potatoes. Obviously I had to do something to dress up just regular mashed potatoes. I added a couple parsnips to the pot of boiling potatoes. I also sauteed some leeks and garlic in some butter, which I added to our Vitamix and blended with some more butter and almond milk, which I added as we mashed the potatoes. I couldn't sneak these past my older brother however, he knew something was up with his "regular" mashed potatoes. Fail on my part. I also did a really easy roasted carrot that I tossed with a little honey and ground ginger. If you make the carrots make sure to toss them in the honey after they are done cooking otherwise you will have a sticky burnt mess in the oven.
Baked beans aren't a traditional side for our Easter dinner but I thought what goes better than ham and beans... Also I have always wanted to make some beans from scratch. This process involved soaking dry beans and then I cooked them in the crockpot overnight. I quasi followed a recipe by The Beeroness for her Slow Cooker Maple Bacon Beer Baked Beans. I did tweak the some things in the recipe. I added some beef broth instead of water. I also ended up adding a small can of tomato paste and a little brown sugar after tasting them in the morning. I like the tomato flavor and richness that the tomato paste added.
The last couple of items in the picture above are what we refer to "individual" corn and a broccoli salad. The individual corn is named for my younger brother that never liked the Scalloped Corn so my mom always had to make a little side dish of regular steamed corn for him. That tradition has continued. The broccoli salad was a spin on the traditional broccoli salad with a mayo dressing. I opted to make a clementine vinaigrette, then added bacon, clementines, dried cherries, slivered almonds, and fresh mint. Flavor-wise I really liked it but the dressing got a little thing so it didn't coat the broccoli quite as well as I hoped.
Of course we had to finish off with some dessert. We didn't go crazy, with anything elaborate even though my mom was mentioned she wanted us to recreate a salted caramel cheesecake that she recently had vacation. We kept it simple with angel food cake and berry syrup, some fresh strawberries and fresh whipped cream.
If you have some picky eaters in your family, I would encourage you not to shy away from foods that they might not like but instead try to find ways that you can "sneak" them into dishes. Chances are their distaste for a food is probably based on either a poor preparation of it or memory from when they were 9 years old and they lived off of Fun Dip instead of broccoli. If you are a picky eater, I encourage you step out and try some new things. It's not going to kill you, unless it is sushi made from raw chicken, don't do that it might actually kill you. Who knows you might actually really like something and be missing out. Just like life you tend to regret the things you didn't do/try versus the ones you did do/try. If you want specific recipes for anything I mentioned I would be happy to share, just comment below.
Have a Great Monday!!!
We wanted to switch it up for you guys this week and give you a great breakfast option for a meal. I know we've focused more on dinner type meals but everybody loves breakfast, right? This would be a great dish/meal to throw together Saturday morning for the whole family. Feel free to scale the spice level to the people for which you are cooking. You could also double this recipe and have leftovers for the entire week. This recipe will give you about 3-4 servings of the hash.
We really love our breakfast hashes because they are super easy to prepare and usually just involve throwing together whatever ingredients are available. Some easy swaps even with this recipe would be to use regular potatoes. You could also throw in some leftover taco meat from last night. We love adding greens to our hash, so some spinach, kale, or chard would be a great add on to this dish. If you want to go vegetarian you could easily leave the bacon out of this dish and you still get a serving protein and veggies. So many options!
If you are new to hashes, start with this recipe and feel free to venture out and get creative with ingredients you like. The key is adding veggies to your breakfast. It is easy to add fruits and breads to breakfast and start your day on the sweet side and also high in carbohydrates and low in protein. This is one of the keys that we promote with our coaching clients to burn fat and manage hunger throughout the day.
We are one week away from everyone's favorite holiday, St. Patrick's Day!! Ok, that might be a stretch. After green beer the thing that screams, "Let's Celebrate!" is corned beef...am I right?? It's funny that corned beef and more specifically corned beef and cabbage is synonymous with St. Patrick's Day even though in Ireland it really isn't a staple dish. They actually serve bacon and cabbage, which is definitely not a bad alternative. Corned beef was substituted by Irish immigrants when they came to the United States. You can thank me for your food history lesson later. .
Last year was the first year where I decided to make corned beef from scratch. I thought we would have people over for St. Patrick's Day, eat some beef and drink some beer. I hadn't done a lot of research into how to actually make it, so a couple days prior to wanting to serve it, I went out and bought some brisket, thinking you just need to add some pickling spices to it as you cook it. I was a little shocked when I found out that the curing process actually takes 7-10 days depending on the size of your brisket. Oops...
Well that didn't stop me from making it. I just had to procure (no pun intended) some unique ingredients that I wasn't able to just walk into a regular grocery store and pick up. The two ingredients that I had to order online were juniper berries and saltpeter. Saltpeter is another name for potassium nitrate. Yeah, I added potassium nitrate knowingly to food that I was going to eat.
Before you go and call the nitrate police, I would suggest you read this article from Chris Kresser, The Nitrate and Nitrite Myth: Another Reason Not To Fear Bacon. The following stat is from his article which he gives reference to and I thought it was a pretty big eye opener.
It may shock you to learn that one serving of arugula, two servings of butter lettuce, and four servings of celery or beets all have more nitrite than 467 hot dogs. (2) And your own saliva has more nitrites than all of them!
Assuming you are eating fairly healthy, there is a chance you are consuming a decent amount of nitrate rich vegetables. Numerous brands, like Applegate, have cashed in on the fear of nitrates by providing meat products that are branded "No Added Nitrates." I wonder if we should start demanding nitrate free celery. Sounds kind of silly right? The funny thing about companies that claim to have "nitrate free" or "uncured" products is that a majority of them use celery powder to "naturally cure" their products. If you look at Applegate's bacon there are asterics after the saying "No Added Nitrites or Nitrates." Those asterics direct you to a statement that says "Except for those naturally occurring in sea salt and celery powder." It doesn't say how much of those ingredients are added but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that they are adding those things to essentially give you the same product as the rest of the bacon on the shelf. I will give Applegate credit for using pork that hasn't been treated with hormones or antibiotics.
There is one problem that has been linked to nitrates is if they turn into nitrosamines. I learned about this by reading an article at Authority Nutrition, which links to some research study abstracts. If you want to read it, click here. If nitrates are exposed to high heat (350 degrees and up) during the cook process than some of those nitrates will turn into nitrosamines. This goes for all nitrates but when was the last time you grilled some celery?? The way to safeguard your bacon, ham, and hot dogs is to cook them at lower temperatures. If you are grilling hot dogs in the summer time don't cook them until they are charred. With your bacon, cook it at a medium to low heat. With your corned beef, cook it slow in a slow cooker or dutch oven.
I hope this has made you think twice about the fear of nitrates in your food. If you want to make your own corned beef, I say go for it. You might be a little late for St Patrick's Day this year, but in my opinion any day of the year is a good day for corned beef. The recipe I used comes from Alton Brown and the Food Network website. The only thing that I changed was that I followed the curing instructions that were on the saltpeter container that I got rather than using the 2 tablespoons that he recommends.
I'm not sure if there is anything better than the combination of maple and bacon. If you disagree, you are wrong!!! Laura spotted someone else post about making a meat ball with these flavors so when she wants food I feed her. I have to say these turned out pretty fantastic and even though they are loaded with bacon and maple syrup they are still a pretty healthy meatball. Hope you guys enjoy!
#weirdvegwednesday this week we decided to both honor our weird vegetable choice and the fact that yesterday was National Pancake Day. Why wouldn’t we use a vegetable to make pancakes??? So if you don’t like squash don’t go near this one but if you love it, you have to try it. Kabocha squash has a very similar flavor to butternut squash but with fewer calories and similar health benefits. YES PLEASE!!! I needed to go to a smaller local grocery store in order to find one, your big chain stores probably aren’t going to carry this variety, even Whole Foods. The sauce will take 15-20 minutes to make so plan accordingly when you are timing out your pancakes.
The Cook & The Coach
Healthy is a LIFESTYLE.