Tag Archives: kitchen

Spice Up Your Kitchen (& Your Taste buds)

2 Dec

Yesterday, my roommate came home from a long day at work, and asked me to the usual question, “What should I have for dinner?” As I listed off a bunch of foods, she continued to say she either didn’t have the ingredients or was simply sick of that concoction. After all, she always sticks with the same exact thing: sweet potato with salad, pasta with toast or a turkey burger. After a long day of work, it’s hard to get creative in the kitchen; I hear you. I too sometimes find myself getting into the routine of eating the same exact thing every day…simply because it works. Eggs or oatmeal for breakfast, big salad for lunch, chicken and veggies for dinner. While it’s easy to get caught up in a comfortable routine in the kitchen, it’s way more fun to spice it up. And with the right tips, you can spice up your fridge and pantry pain-free! 

Try At Least One New Item Every Week: The other day, I bought spaghetti squash (something I never buy) to make “Spaghetti & Meatballs.” It was so refreshing to enjoy an out-of-the-norm, nutritious meal for a change, and it came out absolutely delicious. So trade up your pasta for some Spaghetti Squash, buy avocados for your salad if you usually go with tomatoes, try a new flavor of hummus (like spicy chipotle) or pick up a box of brown rice to experiment with. Purchase something you can’t pronounce (or have never even heard of) and give it a try. It can’t hurt, right? 

Prep Meals Ahead of Time: Of course you settle for a bowl of cereal or boring old pasta for dinner when you’re starving, and the last thing you want to do is create a feast. But if you prep meals during the weekend (or the night before) you can freeze them so they’ll be ready to eat in a jiff. I love freezing Turkey Chili, pre-made turkey burgers, chicken cutlets, rice dishes and even the pierogies my grandma just made for me. Simply place your pre-made meal in the fridge the morning you want to eat it, and it’ll be ready for you to eat when you get home from work! 

Spice it up (Literally): Play with spices and herbs to give any ordinary meal a kick. Snazz up your boring pasta with some basil, oregano and parmesan cheese. Add a kick to your morning omelet with cayenne pepper, chili powder or even a scoop of fresh salsa. Play with cumin, turmeric and red pepper flakes in your veggie and rice dishes. The possibilities are endless! Good news is most spices cost around $2 so you can grab a bunch and have them ready for any kind of meal. 

Make Your Own Creations: Quite frankly, I’ve never been a fan of “following the rules,” and same holds true in the kitchen. Recipes are great as a guide, but take them as just that. If you’re missing a few of the ingredients, substitute in what you have! If you don’t feel like buying 1,000 new sauces just for one freakin’ recipe, make something up. The kitchen is your place to be creative and let your inner-chef shine. I love the combo of mayo and mustard on my salmon, but didn’t want to load on a bunch of cals so I substituted the mayo with plain nonfat greek yogurt. Who knew it tasted just as good? If a recipe calls for walnuts, I’ll use slivered almonds or sunflower seeds. If I’m all out of broccoli, I’ll use spinach or asparagus. Play with what you’ve got and I can assure you you’ll have much more fun in the kitchen.

Plan Special Meals: Of course we can’t eat glorious, home-cooked meals every day, or I honestly probably wouldn’t be able to afford my electric bill. But, special, extravagant meals are exciting, so save them for a special time. Maybe every Sunday you and your roommates can cook together, and whip up something fabulous? Or take turns cooking for each other once a week. My roommate and I are planning on making Eggplant Parmesan this weekend, something I haven’t had in a looong time. Decide on something ahead of time so you have something delicious to look forward to!

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10 Kitchen Staples for the Healthy Chick

15 Sep

Tonight for dinner I made one of my favorite quick and easy dishes:  Light ‘n’ Healthy Summer Pasta (or shall I call it Fall pasta?) Really, a dish like this can be made every season, with minor veggie variations of course. Anyway, back to the point: as I was running around boiling the water and sautéing my veggies, I thought about how terrible it’d be if I didn’t have some extremely vital kitchen staples. You know, the things you take for granted when cooking but it’d be a complete kitchen nightmare if suddenly you were all out. Yes, those lovely lifesavers. Anyway, I put a quick list together of my personal gotta-have-it supplies and thought I’d share with you fine ladies!

1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil- The perfect “dressing” for a salad, the best and only way to cook veggies, and the most wonderful combination with pasta. EVOO is definitely a MUST in my book (er…kitchen). 

2. Fresh herbs: I always like to have a few fresh herbs around the house. Right now I have basil and dill, but I like to change it up depending on what I’m cooking that week. Other faves are cilantro, parsley, mint leaves, and rosemary. I love using them to season meats, sprinkling them into my pasta dishes, adding them to veggie entrees and mixing them into dips ‘n’ spreads. Oh, and garlic! It’s not really an herb but I’m adding it into this category. Garlic is a must in every gal’s kitchen and I add it to nearly everything. 

3. Dried herbs and seasonings: Just as important as fresh herbs are all my dried herbs/seasonings and trust me I have plenty of ’em! From oregano, basil, turmeric, parsley, ground pepper, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, chili power, garlic salt, celery salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika and mustard seed, I pretty much have them all and use them frequently. I LOVE playing around with these herbs and seasonings to kick up a boring dish or add an interesting flavor to something that you may have never thought of before. 

4. A Nut Butter of Choice: I go for Teddie All Natural Peanut Butter. If I don’t have it I FREAK. I also love all natural almond butter, and have even tried sunflower butter (although I still don’t know how I feel about it). Anyway, I need some sort of nut butter to spread, dunk, dip and indulge at any given time. If I run out of a peanut butter, I am not a happy girl in the kitchen.

5. And…Nuts! As much as I love nut butter, I also love nuts. I snack on raw almonds usually, but sometimes have walnuts and sunflower seeds on hand too. Pine nuts are also a favorite, especially when cooking veggie and pasta dishes. You can also use walnuts or pine nuts to make homemade pesto too : )

6. Eggs: I use eggs every week, whether it be in my morning veggie egg white omelet (or special Caprese omelet) or baking some healthy muffins. Eggs are simply a staple to every healthy chick’s kitchen.

7. Seasonal Fruits ‘n’ Veggies: Every week at the grocery store, I purchase fruits and veggies that are in season, fresh and (ideally) local. This week I stocked up on spinach, cucumbers, zucchini, squash and tomatoes. Last week I played with eggplant. I also always have some red and sweet onions on hand to add to omelets, salads and many homemade dinners. As for fruit, I always have apples and bananas for a go-to snack, but I also buy what’s fresh and in season, like berries, watermelon and cantaloupe. 

8. Lean Meats: You’ll never catch my freezer bare of lean meats. In particular, skinless boneless chicken breast and lean ground turkey. You can do so much with them, and are both healthy proteins to jazz up any dish! (This Squash ‘n’ Turkey Burg Medley is one of my favorites). I buy them fresh, use it the day of and then freeze the leftovers into plastic baggie portions for future use. Just take it out of the freezer the day of, plop it in the fridge and you’ll be good to go by dinner time!

9. Whole grains: Whole grains are just oh so good for us, as women have finally come to realize carbs are not the enemy! I always have a stock of Ezekiel bread I keep in my freezer (I like the original and cinnamon raison variety), gluten free rolled oats, brown rice, quinoa, brown rice pasta, and some whole grain wraps on hand. I honestly don’t know what I would do without these kitchen essentials. 

10. Dark Chocolate: I gotta have it! Just a few dark chocolate chips after dinner does the trick for me every time, and dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants good for heart health. It’s a win win situation : ) 

EXTRA: 11. Greek Yogurt: I can’t believe I left this favorite out. I’m eating it for dessert now with fresh veggies, so this is my extra #11 must (sorry I left you out greek yogurt). Hey, why not save the best for last? 

What are your gotta-have-’em kitchen staples? 

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