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How to Maintain Your Cooking Habit During a Busy Work Week

by | Aug 14, 2017

One of the hardest things about making your healthy habits stick is finding ways to do them when you are very tired, stressed or busy.

Randi is a school teacher, which means that in the summertime she has more free time to focus on her healthstyle. During that time, she enjoys making delicious and healthy meals for herself and her family.

However, when school is back in session she no longer has the luxury of a full day to plan her meals, which leaves her feeling stressed about what she is going to make for dinner each night. This pressure causes her to avoid cooking altogether, substituting snacks for a proper meal on the weeknights.

As a breast cancer survivor Randi’s health is of the utmost importance to her. She knows that cooking nutritious meals each week is necessary to maintain her weight and stay in good health.

Luckily for Randi she has all of the tools she needs in order to achieve her cooking goal. By acknowledging some of her limiting beliefs and finding ways to work around them we come up with a strategy that enables her to cook healthy meals year-round.

Wish you had more time to listen to the podcast? I use an app called Overcast (no affiliation) to play back my favorite podcasts at faster speeds, dynamically shortening silences in talk shows so it doesn’t sound weird. It’s pretty rad.

 

Related links:

Foodist Kitchen

The No.1 Thing That Prevents You from Changing Your Habits (limiting beliefs)

 

Listen:

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If you’d like to be a guest on the show, please fill out the form here and tell us your story.

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The Convenience Illusion

by | Jul 28, 2014

Photo by dickuhne

The number one excuse I hear for why someone can’t eat healthier is lack of time. Fast food is just so convenient, they argue. Cooking is so much work, they insist. Then there’s the shopping. Who has time for that?

Why can’t there just be healthy fast food?

Healthy fast food is the holy grail for some, but if you look more carefully you’ll see it is an illusion.

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Oddly Delicious: Cabbage and Eggs

by | Jun 25, 2014
Cabbage and Eggs

Cabbage and Eggs

I must confess that I’ve been reluctant to share this recipe for a long time because, well, let’s just say it isn’t the most photogenic thing that I cook.

However, I realized that this simple cabbage and eggs dish has become such a staple of my home court recipes that it isn’t fair to keep it from you any longer.

This recipe is special for a few reasons. First, even though it may look funny it tastes (and smells) absolutely amazing. The secret is adding just a splash of soy sauce to the cooked cabbage before adding the eggs, which gives it a rich umami flavor that our mouths crave.

Second, it’s surprisingly filling given that it’s just two eggs and a handful of leaves. Something about the combination makes it feel almost luscious and decadent to eat, and it keeps me full for hours.

Last, but certainly not least, how often do you get to eat (and actually enjoy) vegetables for breakfast? Although I’ve been known to make this for any meal of the day, the egg component makes it easy to add to your morning healthstyle and double down on your veggie consumption for the day.

One final bonus is that when I use certain varietals of purple cabbage in this dish my eggs turn an almost neon blue. What’s not to love?
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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Foodists

by | May 12, 2014

Photo by 55Laney69

Have you ever searched all over your house for your phone or your keys then realized they were in your pocket (or worse, your hand) the entire time?

Sometimes we are so focused on solving a difficult problem that the simple, obvious solution eludes us. This is how I felt when I discovered the solution to my life-long battle with food and body weight.

Since food caused me so much stress I assumed it was the primary cause of my problems. It took me nearly two decades to realize that since I couldn’t fight it, my only choice was to embrace it.

Now that I’ve spent over six years as a foodist the way I eat and deal with food seems so obviously correct that it feels like commonsense. Still millions of people struggle with these issues daily, searching desperately for a fix that’s right under our noses.

A foodist knows that food is the answer to, not the cause of our health and weight issues. Eating is essential to our survival and our innate drive to do it is too strong to override for long. The solution lies in constructing habits that work with us, not against us, balancing our needs for both health and happiness through food.

While there are many different paths a foodist can take to optimize our healthstyle, the most successful rely on seven core habits that have the biggest impact on our long-term success.

You might notice that none of these depend upon a specific food or nutrient.
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Better Than Butternut: Roasted Delicata Squash Recipe

by | Nov 4, 2013
Roasted Delicata Squash

Roasted Delicata Squash

I have a confession to make: I should have posted this recipe a long time ago.

It has been over a year since I discovered delicata squash, and I instantly fell in love. But let me start at the beginning.

Like most people, I hadn’t heard of delicata squash before, but was a big fan of butternut. Butternut squash tastes rich and sweet, and has a wonderful texture. It’s also very filling, and is a fantastic substitute for more starchy carbohydrates.

But anyone who has tried to cook with butternut squash knows it isn’t easy to work with. Butternut squash are huge, have a tough outer skin and take longer than most vegetables to cook through.

Lazy people don’t cook butternut squash. And I came to accept the fact that I am one of those people.

But last winter everything changed. Somewhere around the blogosphere I heard that not all winter squash require peeling. To me the difficult (and sometimes painful) peeling is the hardest part of cooking winter squash, so I was instantly intrigued about the possibility of alternatives.

I was delighted to learn the beautiful green Japanese “pumpkin” kabocha squash don’t require peeling (woohoo!). I also discovered delicata.

Delicata Squash

Delicata Squash

Delicata are much smaller than most winter squash, making them substantially easier to get home from the market and more amenable to the needs of a small household. More important, delicata squash are a cinch to clean, cut and cook, making them any winter squash lover’s dream.

Did I mention their flavor is even richer and their texture more creamy than butternut?

I prefer to roast my delicata squash in a metal pan, allowing the outer edges to brown and caramelize. While a Pyrex or ceramic pan will also work, I’ve found that I get better browning when I use metal to cook in. Foil will likely give you the same effect, but I haven’t tried.

The caramelization creates an almost sweet potato like flavor. Fans call the recipe my “squash fries,” even though they are baked in the oven. Needless to say I make this recipe all the time.
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Mind-Blowing Japanese Carnitas Tacos

by | Jan 23, 2013
Japanese Carnitas

Japanese Carnitas

A few weeks ago I tweeted about this dish and got an overwhelming positive response, begging me to share the recipe. I have finally acquiesced.

While it was in fact mind-blowingly delicious, I’ve been resistant to publish it because bad lighting and my trusty iPhone camera really didn’t do the dish justice in the photos. To be honest, my dislike of food photography (the taking, not the viewing) is what prevents me from posting more recipes in general.

Lame, I know.

I used to spend a ton of time styling food, perfecting the lighting, then spend hours editing in Photoshop to get that one perfect photo. It’s a tedious process, and I can’t stand it. I like to cook and eat good food, but I don’t like to fret over it. And photography is fretful. Maybe one day I’ll have enough free time to spend my days mastering shutter speeds and lighting, but in the meantime you’ll just have to believe me that this is one worth making.

I’ve been messing around with my slow cooker lately, and have made several renditions of this Japanese version of carnitas. It’s so unbelievably good. It’s basically a pork shoulder (I got mine from Prather Ranch) braised in Japanese flavors like dashi, soy sauce, and ginger. I throw some Tokyo salad turnips or daikon in with the meat as well. I serve it in little cabbage cup “tortillas” with rice, cilantro and Sriracha hot sauce.

You’ll have a better time if you find a cabbage with leaves that are easy to separate, such as Napa cabbage. Smaller cabbages make this easier as well. I used some concentrated liquid dashi broth I found at a market in Japantown, but you can make your own or use the dehydrated kind if you prefer.

This is a great, simple dish for a group, though vegetarians might want to sit this one out.

Mind-Blowing Japanese Carnitas Tacos

Serves 6

 

Carnitas

Braised Pork Shoulder

Marinade

4 c. water

1 c. concentrated dashi

1/2 c. brown rice vinegar

1/2 c. soy sauce

1/3 c. mirin cooking wine

1/4 c. rough chopped ginger

1 cippolini onion chopped

1 c. coursely chopped daikon or Tokyo turnips

 

Meat

3.5 lbs pork butt (shoulder), trimmed of excess fat, cut into 4 large hunks

 

Garnishes

1 medium cabbage

2 c. cooked haiga rice (cook 1 hour before serving)

Fresh cilantro sprigs

Sriracha sauce

 

Preparation

In a large Dutch oven or cast iron pan, brown the meat on each side (about 20 minutes total). A splatter guard will come in handy during this step. While meat is browning, prepare marinade by adding all ingredients to crock pot.

Add cooked pork to marinade, liquid should cover 3/4 of meat. Cover and cook on high for 6-8 hours, turning half way through, or until pork pulls apart easily with a fork.

Before serving wash and dry cabbage and cut in half. Separate leaves and place on serving platter. Leaves should be approximately the size of corn tortillas, 5-6” across. Rinse cilantro sprigs, trim the ends and add to serving plate.

To serve, separate meat with fork into smaller, but still hefty chunks. Scoop some rice onto each plate, along with a portion of pork and a few daikon pieces. Place the vegetable serving platter in the center of the table, with a bottle of Sriracha. Fill some small bowls or ramekins with a small serving of cooking liquid for dipping.

To eat, scoop a small amount of rice onto a cabbage leave and top with pork. Add a few cilantro sprigs and a squirt of Sriracha to taste. Dip in sauce as desired.

Enjoy!

 

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How To Cook Perfect Rice Without A Rice Cooker (and store it for months)

by | Nov 26, 2012

Rice Balls

I have been getting a lot of questions about rice lately, and I am not surprised. Though some people swear by rice cookers I have found them to be inconsistent and generally unreliable, especially when it comes to brown rice.

My solution? Stove top.

A few years ago I read about this method of cooking rice that supposedly worked “every time” for every kind of rice. I had trouble believing it because I’ve found that different styles of rice have hugely different requirements in both the amount of water and time needed. However, I have had great success with the method and am extremely happy with it (sorry, I do not remember where I found it).

The reason this trick works so consistently is that it does not rely on a specific amount of time or water. Rather you need to test the grains occasionally for tenderness and decide for yourself when it is done. I have found for brown rice the entire process takes about 30 minutes, which is 10 minutes shorter than it took in my rice cooker.

Because rice does take so long to prepare, I like to make large batches and freeze individual servings so that I do not have to wait half an hour for dinner every single night.

For short grain brown rice, I use about 2 cups of dry grain and a large 2 quart sauce pan. Put the rice in the pot and add cold water until it is almost full. Use your hand to swirl the rice around and loosen any dirt and dust. When the rice settles back to the bottom, dump the water off the top and repeat. Continue to rinse rice until the water is almost perfectly clear, about 4-5 times.

After the last rinse add cold water to your rice until you have at least 3 times the volume of water to rice. Do not worry too much about the amount, and err on the side of excess. This is especially important with brown rice which absorbs much more water than white rice. Place the rice and water on the stove and turn the heat on high.

When the rice begins to boil, reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer, uncovered. This is a good time to start the rest of your dinner.

Check on the rice grains occasionally by grabbing a few out with a fork and testing them for tenderness (squish between your fingernails or taste it). Rice becomes opaque when it cooks, so there is no point in checking it while it is still somewhat translucent. Once the rice does start to turn opaque, check tenderness every 2-5 minutes. If too much water evaporates and the rice starts to look soupy, you need to add more water. You should add enough water at the beginning to avoid this.

Boil rice until it is almost tender enough to eat. In other words, imagine you are an impatient person who wants the rice to be finished as quickly as possible so you decide the rice is done and serve it, but later regret that decision because the rice is ever so slightly al dente. It is at this point you want to stop the boiling and begin the steaming.

Next drain off the remaining water. A mesh strainer or splatter guard works nicely for this (hold it over the pot and simply dump the water into the sink), but you can also carefully pour the water off and use a fork to keep loose kernels from falling out (but seriously be careful!).

Place the pot with rice back on the burner and reduce the heat to as low as it will go. Cover the rice and set a kitchen timer for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes turn off the burner and set the timer for another 5 minutes. Do not lift the lid during this process unless you are concerned that you messed up the boiling time and want to check on the doneness. After the rice has sat for 5 minutes, remove the lid, fluff with a fork and serve. Put the lid back on if you are going to let the rice cool in the pot.

If for some reason you think you overcooked the rice when you were boiling it, you can skip the steaming step and just let the drained rice sit covered with the burner off for 5 minutes. If you undershoot, you can always extend the length of the steaming process, but it will take much longer.

I usually wait until the rice has cooled down substantially before wrapping it in plastic. It is the last thing I do in my after-dinner clean up. To store rice, break off squares of plastic wrap and scoop individual rice servings (1/4-1/2 cup) into the middle. Fold over the plastic, twist the ends and tie them in a half knot so that the rice is in a ball, as shown. Put rice balls in a freezer bag and into the freezer.

To thaw, remove a rice ball from the freezer and allow to sit on counter for a few minutes until you can untie the knot without leaving little pieces of plastic stuck in the folds of rice. If you forgot to do this (I always forget!) you can run the knotted plastic under warm (not hot, heat releases toxins in the plastic that can get into your food) until you can untie it. Place unwrapped frozen rice ball in a small bowl and microwave on high for 1-2 minutes. I like to use our microwave cover for this, but you have to figure out for yourself what works best in your own microwave.

Having individual rice servings is very, very handy. Brown rice is a fabulous option to make light vegetable dishes, soups and salads more substantial.

I just dug this recipe out of the archives because it is so darn useful. Use it wisely.

Originally published October 12, 2008.

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How To Make Your Own Muesli – It’s Stupid Easy

by | Sep 26, 2012

I’ve explained before that muesli is my favorite alternative to traditional breakfast cereal. It’s minimally processed, has no added sugar and when made properly is quite tasty. The only problem is that these are features that food companies hate, because most people won’t buy it. This makes it difficult to find muesli, particularly a high-quality version at a reasonable price.

Luckily it’s stupid easy to make your own muesli. Doing it yourself is also a lot cheaper and lets you customize your mix to your preferences. All you need is some rolled grains (oats or a mixed cereal like I use here) and an assortment of nuts and dried fruits of your choosing—you don’t need a real recipe.

In the mix above I chose a 5 grain cereal that I found at my local market. I picked up a simple nut mix of roasted and lightly salted nuts, some extra hazelnuts (because I love them), some golden raisins and some dried currants. It turned out AWESOME, way better than the expensive stuff I normally buy.

I used to always eat my muesli mixed with a little plain yogurt, but these days I’ve preferred to just pour a little in a bowl, add some water and microwave it for 2 minutes. It comes out like the tastiest oatmeal you’ve ever had. I sprinkle a little cinnamon on top, and maybe add a splash of almond milk and it is amazing. If you’re still acclimating to the lack of sugar in muesli, you can try stirring in a spoonful of peanut butter, low sugar jam or a drizzle of honey.

Lastly, I love these POP containers by OXO. They come in a bunch of different sizes and shapes, and do a great job of keeping foods fresh. I use them to store all my beans, lentils, grains, dried chilies and other pantry items.

Thanks to Kevin Rose and Glenn McElhose for help with filming and editing.

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Finding The Courage To Roast A Chicken

by | Aug 8, 2012

Photo by Ms. Glaze

I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a foodie proclaim that roasting a chicken is the easiest thing in the world and the perfect place for new cooks to start.

Please.

I can think of at least a hundred things easier to cook than roasted chicken, with salad being the undisputed champion (and eggs being the runner up).

Buying and cooking a whole chicken requires a number of steps that can make a new cook uncomfortable. First you have to know where to get the chicken—and if you want a pasture-raised, antibiotic-free bird (as you should) this isn’t always straight forward. To make the purchase you must also be comfortable talking to the butcher even though there’s a good chance you have no idea what you’re talking about. You also have to be willing and able to deal with raw meat, which makes many people queasy in and of itself. Lastly, cooking meat requires special equipment such as a meat thermometer and roasting pan, which newbies might not have access to.

So no, roasting chicken is not the easiest thing on earth. But if you can get over all those things, it really isn’t that hard either.

Being a food writer, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I roasted my first chicken last month, and my second last night. I have a zillion excuses for why I hadn’t done it before. I think the main one is that a whole chicken just sounds so big, like too much work and too much food. But I was inspired by Ruth Reichl’s recipe in her book Garlic and Sapphires, so I finally built up the courage to make it happen.

I’m happy to report that both birds turned out amazing. The difference in flavor between a real farm fresh chicken and the massive “boneless skinless” breasts I grew up eating is truly phenomenal. That alone is reason enough to try the recipe, in my opinion.

I don’t want to poach Ruth’s entire recipe for chicken and roasted potatoes, but for the bird you basically just preheat your oven to 400 degrees, put the excess fat under the skin on top of the breast meat, put a fork-punctured lemon into the cavity, coat the skin with salt, pepper and olive oil and cook for one hour or until the temperature is 170 degrees in the thigh. I improvised a little since there wasn’t much excess fat on my first chicken and added a pad of butter on each side as well. I also chopped some fresh rosemary and rubbed it under the skin. The second time I forgot the lemon and it turned out fine.

Sure it’s simple, but I know I’m not the only one intimidated by the idea of buying and cooking an entire chicken. I was at the park last night when I decided to run to the store and pick up something for dinner. When a friend asked me what I was planning to make, her response was pure shock, “You’re going to cook a WHOLE chicken! Darya, can I please take cooking lessons from you?”

She seemed so impressed I couldn’t bring myself to admit it was only my second attempt and I had no idea if I could pull it off again. Then I realized she would probably like to know.

Thanks Elle for the reminder that even the “easy” stuff takes some courage if you’ve never done it before.

UPDATE: Since writing this post in 2011 I’ve roasted at least 50 chickens and used the bones to make stock. The first step really is the hardest.

What “simple” dish intimidates you in the kitchen?

Originally posted July 6, 2011.

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How To Make Cauliflower Taste As Good As French Fries: Roasted Curried Cauliflower

by | Jul 30, 2012
Roasted Curried Cauliflower

Roasted Curried Cauliflower

I’ve resisted publishing this recipe for months because I was worried it was too simple for an entire blog post. But every time I cook it for someone (which I do all the time because it is so easy and delicious) they ask me for the recipe so they can try it themselves. Now I can just send them a link 🙂

What’s weird is that this is just roasted cauliflower, it couldn’t sound any less glamorous. But for some reason roasting cauliflower completely transforms it from a vegetable people are pretty sure they don’t like into something they just can’t get enough of.

The coolest part of all is that anyone (like ANY anyone) can make this. I like to add curry powder to mine, but you can play around with whatever spices you like, or just make it plain. The trick is to use a very hot oven, around 450-500 degrees. Covering the cauliflower for the first 15 minutes steam cooks it. Then when you remove the foil the high heat browns and caramelizes it, giving the cauliflower a slightly crisp texture and complex flavor that is irresistible.

It still freaks me out how good this recipe is.

Roasted Curried Cauliflower Recipe

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large cauliflower (or several small ones), ~2 lbs
  • Curry powder
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Break cauliflower into medium-small florets and place into large bowl or baking pan. Be sure the pieces are as evenly sized as possible, or they will cook unevenly. The smaller you make the pieces, the quicker they will cook and the more caramelized they will become, which I consider a good thing.

Drizzle cauliflower pieces generously with olive oil and season well with salt and curry powder. Distribute evenly in a single layer at the bottom of a baking pan. If necessary, use a second baking pan to be sure the pieces aren’t too crowded.

Cover the pans with foil and place into the oven. Roast, covered for 10-15 minutes. The cauliflower should be slightly soft and start looking translucent. If not replace foil and cook another 5 minutes.

When the cauliflower has finished steaming, remove the foil and toss with tongs. Continue to roast, stirring every 8-10 minutes until the tips of the cauliflower begin to brown and become crisp as pictured. Approximately 30-35 minutes.

Adjust salt to taste (you will probably need another sprinkle) and serve.

Have you ever tried roasted cauliflower?

Originally published July 21, 2010, and is widely considered my best recipe of all time.

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