I am an aspiring cook.
I enjoy chopping, dicing, mixing, spicing, saucing, baking, roasting, grilling… All the -ings. You know?
Unfortunately, I am also aspiring to lose a little weight so I have been chopping and dicing healthy meals.
Problem? It is HARD to make healthy food taste good, which is probably caused by my taste buds being accustomed to added salt, fat and other bad-for-me deliciousness.
Who doesn’t looooove French fries?
Because of my tainted tasters, a regular old bell pepper doesn’t seem to make my recipes work. A simple tomato, balsamic vinegar and a touch of homemade chili powder… I am not getting the flavor I need when I make healthful, full of nutrient meals.
And nothing is worse than eating something that tastes like cardboard simply because it’s good for me.
EatingWell’s test kitchen put together cooking tips to make our favorite foods healthier, and I am putting my faith in them that their tips will make my food taste good, too. I summed up a few I liked.
Tip #3: Get crispy fried chicken in the oven
When I was 16, I waited tables at the only sit-down restaurant in my home town. Our specialty? Fried chicken. Having grown up in that town, working at that restaurant and eating that chicken… I love fried chicken. Who doesn’t? It’s just like French fries.
Husband and I have tried and failed to oven fry chicken. Every attempt has been just a bit off so that the chicken is almost inedible. We ate it. Begrudgingly.
The test kitchen advised dipping the chicken in milk, buttermilk or egg, dredging in seasoned flour or breadcrumbs, and then spraying with canola or olive oil cooking spray. The last step might be the step we were missing. Who knows how important spray can be? We also might not have had the oven hot enough. The test kitchen advised to bake at 425-450 degrees F. I think we’ve only gone as high as 400.
Tip #4: Add flavor without adding salt
My husband and I are cooks with the belief that salt is a wonderful ingredient. Without salt, meat isn’t even worth cooking and certainly not worth eating. I will never take the salt away from my meat.
The salt can come right out of the other food I cook, though, especially if I can get flavor from anything else. The test kitchen advised to add flavor with lemon and lime or fresh herbs. I don’t know which recipes I can add lemon and lime to, but I think now is a good time to start my indoor herb garden.
Tip #9: Add grains and vegetables to meaty dishes
My husband has already implemented this tip into one of our favorite meals: turkey burgers. He adds red and green bell peppers and jalapeno to the meat before cooking, and then we load on onions and tomatoes like people who enjoy bad breath.
The test kitchen advised, though, to add at least three-fourths of a cup of grains, such as brown rice, and vegetables, such as mushrooms, for every pound of meat.
Bonus: If we shmoosh the mushrooms, and then stuff them in our meatloaf, we might actually be able to eat them. Otherwise, they are disgusting.
The test kitchen’s other tips are basic tips to reduce calories and fat, such as reducing the amount of oil we cook with and removing the cheese from our meals. (Getting rid of cheese is easy for me.)
How do you make your healthy meals flavorful? How do you escape the bland without adding calories, fat and sodium?
I need all the help I can get.