Learn to Love Your Brussels Sprouts

Learn to Love Your Brussels Sprouts

For many years, it seemed cool to make fun of the poor Brussels sprouts. They smelled funny when you cooked them. They usually only showed up at Thanksgiving. And often, they were steamed within an inch of their poor lives.  But no more.

Learn to Love Brussels Sprouts

They can be easy to cook, and work well with a variety of flavors like bacon and apple. Here's a video on cooking them simply.

Did you know that those mighty little sprouts can enhance DNA repair in cells and help block the continued growth of cancer cells. They are best cooked by steaming, roasting, or boiling, and combined with a variety of spices and dressings. They vegetables make a fabulous base for casseroles and salads or work as a satisfying side dish.

And here are lots of light Brussels sprouts recipes to get you inspired.

The Favorites

Hubby and two friends all loved shaved Brussels sprouts salad. It's not my personal favorite way of preparing them. I'd suggest trying one and see if you like it. The difficulty is getting the sprouts shaved finely enough. But put it in front of my hubby and two friends? It's gone in a second and they're asking for more.

Want More Ideas?

Pasta with Bacon, Shredded Brussels Sprouts, and Lemon Zest
I love that this uses orecchiette pasta.  I think that means “little ears.” It's a fun shape and gives you a happy experience eating. And instead of  bacon slices, you could use pancetta. I have a bunch of Myer lemons right now that would go great with this.

Braised Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo and Garlic
There are a few types of chorizo available.  I'm more used to the Mexican style than the Portuguese or Spanish style.  Chorizo is spicy so go carefuly with additional seasoning. That doesn't mean it's hot. I found that out once when I was in a Caribbean restaurant and wanted Cajun style spicing.  I was young and didn't know there were vast differences. Anyway, seasoning matters. Taste as you go and find what you enjoy.

Brussels Sprouts Braised with Cider and Bacon
I have braised sprouts before and didn't like it. But I think it was my recipe. I want to continue trying braised veggies. This could be good with plain cabbage as well.  Or I may be fooling myself and will never actually like them and always prefer roasted or grilled or steamed. The thing is you should try and get comfortable with different methods. You don't have to like it.  Just go on to the next method and find the way you do enjoy them.

Even MORE Ideas!

Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce
This is a whole meal. I love that it calls for whole-grain Dijon mustard which has a nuttier flavor to me. You can also add in 1 tablespoon of light cream to add a little bit of lovely luxurious flavor into a sauce without adding a lot of calories. I like the mouth-feel of a finished sauce that seems to be creamy.

In this Craftsy course Love Your Vegetables (w/ Anna Bullett), AnnBullett said that overcooking vegetables can take you past the sharp flavor and into a sweeter, more mellow flavor. When I overroasted Brussels sprouts the other night, they were very soft, and very sweet.

So are you ready to try preparing them?

Resources

Roasting Pans

Craftsy Classes

Love Your Vegetables (w/ Anna Bullett)
Roasting Techniques Every Cook Should Know (w/ Molly Stevens)

Cook Yourself Thin is the resource hub for women 35-55 looking to lose stubborn pounds by cooking and eating the foods you love.

Cast Iron Steak Tips with Mushrooms

Cast Iron Steak Tips with Mushrooms

I love cooking steak tips with mushrooms. It's such a satisfying meal and goes great served over brown rice.

I found this recipe at America's Test Kitchen where they cook the steak tips in cast iron and make a gravy with the mushrooms and onions. Cast iron is a great way to cook. It keeps the temperature much more even than aluminum or steel pans. Plus, they're so heavy that you can skip the gym when you use them. Just kidding. Sort of.

What Are Steak Tips

This is the mystery of the ages. Chances are, it's whatever the butcher had on hand and mixed them all up. Some may be tender and some may be tough. You could work around this by buying regular meat and cutting it up into smaller chunks. This will save you money usually. Whole chickens are often less per pound than a package of cut-up parts.

While you could use stew meat, it may be a bit tough unless you cook it for a long time. (that's called braising)Then you could add in the mushrooms and onions and finish it.

The video above also recommend flap, skirt and flank steaks.

The truth is that the tougher cuts of meat do have more flavor. I'm going to be making this tonight with some tips from tri-tip. I bought two untrimmed tri-tip roasts for $2.99/lb and will be practicing my butcher skills. The leftovers will make a great dinner. I just need to pick up some mushrooms and onions!

If you're interested in learning more about butchering your meat, check out this Craftsy class on Make the Right Cuts: Butchering Basics. I'm in the middle of it, and have learned so much about the grain and looking for natural places to cut.  Now I just need to get my knives sharpened.

I also highly recommend Cooking Essentials: All About Beef (w/Raquel Pelzel)

Cook Yourself Thin is the resource hub for women 35-55 looking to lose stubborn pounds by cooking and eating the foods you love.

Apple Pie In An Apple

Apple Pie In An Apple

If you don't want to make a whole apple pie, then make an apple pie in an apple.

Watch this video. I was amazed at how easy it is to make.

It's kind of so crazy that it just might work, right?

It's going to naturally be healthier since you can control what goes in, and you're not getting so much crust. You can find the official recipe here.

Do you think it would work with pears?

Alternative Recipes

Of course, if you want to do it in the slow cooker, then just make baked apples.

And you can poach apples or pears and put a little brown sugar on them for a decadent yet healthy dessert.

 

Broccoli and Bacon Salad

Broccoli and Bacon Salad

With broccoli coming into season soon, this broccoli and bacon salad will make a healthy and delicious side with most main dishes.

Watch how easy it is to make

You can find the full recipe here. I love the idea of the dried cranberries to add a tart balance to the creamy dressing.

You know, I'd probably quickly blanch the broccoli. Sure it's nice to be super crisp, but you do have the water chestnuts for that. I think very lightly cooked broccoli can be just as crisp in texture and is easier to eat as well as digest. You could also cook it very lightly in your microwave.

If you do, just make sure the salad has time to cool down before you mix it with the dressing.

What Else Can You Do With Broccoli

I love buying pre-made broccoli slaw from my local Trader Joe's. You can mix it with some shredded cabbage for a more traditional tasting coleslaw.

You can mix it with a variety of dressings as well so you're not just having to do the standard three coleslaw dressings (buttermilk, mayo and sour cream).

Here's a lovely lemon dressing recipe. And this broccoli slaw recipe uses a touch of lime juice.

If you want more protein, here's a recipe for a quinoa and broccoli slaw salad with a honey mustard dressing.  And finally, here's a paleo friendly broccoli slaw recipe.

Cook Yourself Thin is the resource hub for women 35-55 looking to lose stubborn pounds by cooking and eating the foods you love.​​​​​​​

9 Fun Ways to Use Cauliflower

9 Fun Ways to Use Cauliflower

Here's nine fun ways to use cauliflower instead of bread, rice and potatoes in your low carb diet. Down below, I have links to my other posts with cauliflower as a substitute.

Watch this video to get inspired.

 

You can see the links to the recipes here.

So Why Does Cauliflower Work Well

I think it comes down to the texture and moisture level. You can chop it fine and it absorbs flavors like rice. And you can get it to roast nicely without tasting bitter, and that's why it can replace things like pizza crust.

What Are Some Other Fun Ways to Use Cauliflower

I've already written some good posts:

Skinny Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Cauliflower Steaks

Make Farmer's Casserole Lighter

Shepherd's Pie with Tater Tot Topping (you can use the recipe for the Cauliflower Parmesan Tots in this)

But Will I Like It?

That's the question of the ages, right? You don't want to go into this thinking “Well, I'll learn to like it.” I did that with eggs, and I still have inner resistance when I go to make my veggie scrambles in the morning. I tell myself I'm eating cheesy veggies.

So some of you will love the cauliflower substitute and some of you will never like it. And that's OK. I will say I've tried the frozen cauliflower tots and they're not a perfect substitute when you're craving Ore-Ida. But they're a good side, and they go well on top of my veggie scrambles.

I do love cauliflower in place of rice. I love mashed cauliflower in place of potatoes (or in addition to…)

All I can recommend is try it out. Add it in. Substitute completely. Find what works for you as you move towards incorporating more vegetables in your diet.

Cook Yourself Thin is the resource hub for women 35-55 looking to lose stubborn pounds by cooking and eating the foods you love.

Make Your Own Marinara from Scratch

Make Your Own Marinara from Scratch

One of the most fun things to do when you're overrun with plum and Roma tomatoes is to make your own marinara from scratch! It's easier than it sounds, and the results are far healthier.

Where to Find Tomatoes

photograph of my garden tomatoes

You can also buy a load of tomatoes from your CSA or a farmer's market if you have that as an option.

I love growing tomato plants. I use GrowBoxes. Self-watering containers are great. During the heat of the summer, I probably have to water every other day.

This year, I didn't get as good of a crop as prior years. I still grew a bunch of different Roma varieties including San Marzano.

They tend to be sweeter than most and are perfect for making a tomato sauce.

And of course, they aren't always ripe at the same time. So I'll pick what I can, and then process them a little bit, and I'm storing them in a jar in my fridge.

 

How to Process The Tomatoes

Now, I'm fortunate in that I have a 6 quart Instant Pot. (although, if I had an 8 quart, imagine how many more tomatoes I could process….)

You could also do this with a steamer, in the microwave, or using a special steaming pot on the stove.

You will want to have some way of separating the tomato from the water. I use a simple metal vegetable steamer insert. You can find plastic ones that will work for the microwave. You can also use the steamer insert right in a pot on the stove.

Put in some water, insert the steamer and then go prep the tomatoes.

How to Prep the Tomatoes

I cut out the top core of the tomato but leave the rest alone. Steaming will make it easier to get the skins off. And I like to pre-stew the tomatoes a bit. This is a bit of a personal thing, honestly. You'll need to play with a few tomatoes to get the hang of it.

I like to use the steam function for 0 minutes. Then I do a quick release and try to get the tomatoes to cool down quickly. Finally I'll peel off the skin and toss the tomato into a jar.

Another way that people used to do this was to stick a fork into the top of the tomato and plunge the fruit into boiling water for a little bit. Then you shock it by putting it into ice water. I have blanched food before (broccolini needs it), but if it's hot out, the last thing I want to do is be standing in front of boiling water. (This is probably why I gave up canning)

But What If I Don't Have Fresh Tomatoes

Not a problem. The reason why I want you to make your own marinara from scratch is because it's healthier and so much better tasting. You won't get all the sugar that the jarred sauces have.

Buy some good canned whole peeled tomatoes. I personally find Hunts to be the best quality. You may want to choose organic. My mom always used S+W.

One big bonus with canned tomatoes is you can get them seasoned. Some are made with basil so the flavor gets infused.

Make Your Own Marinara From Scratch

Your tomatoes are prepped. So let's get to work.

First, look in the mirror. Are you the kind of person who likes fresher tasting marinara or the kind that likes the slow cooked earthier flavored marinara?

And what do you want to serve it with?

I make marinara from scratch using canned tomatoes for my holiday manicotti.  I'll put in the recipe here some day but it's not going to make you thin eating it, believe me.

Also, you want to think about if you're going to serve it as is or if you're going to add in meat with it like Italian sausage or ground beef or turkey.

I think the fresher marinara is better with zoodles and angel hair pasta. You can also use it for dipping sauce for breadsticks.

And I think the slower cooked marinara is better with baked pastas, meat added (aka bolognase), or the thicker spaghetti.

I recommend Craftsy's Classic Italian Pasta Sauces: Meat & Tomato with Giuliano Hazan class. I learned oodles and think you will too. I'm always watching Craftsy classes when cooking and getting ideas for next week's meals.

Let me know if you enjoyed this style of blog post. Leave a comment below or contact me.

Cook Yourself Thin is the resource hub for women 35-55 looking to lose stubborn pounds by cooking and eating the foods you love.

Cheesy Hasselback Sweet Potatoes

Cheesy Hasselback Sweet Potatoes

If you're trying to go lower carb but you're not sure about swapping out your Idaho's, check out this fun video for cheesy Hasselback sweet potatoes. I really liked the cool chopstick trick:

What Else Can You Do with Sweet Potatoes

My husband complains that sweet potatoes never get as crispy as regular potatoes. That's why he doesn't want sweet potato fries or crusts.

I think I just haven't found the right recipe yet. Since he loves tater tots, I'll try these sweet potato tots. They're baked and since they're cut small, they'll get crispier.

Sweet potatoes don't always have to be used as a tuber in stews. Here's a fun recipe for fritters and another for shrimp cakes.

Cook Yourself Thin is the resource hub for women 35-55 looking to lose stubborn pounds by cooking and eating the foods you love.​​​​​​​

Cauliflower Steaks

Cauliflower Steaks

Cauliflower rice is a great low carb alternative, but did you know you could make cauliflower steaks as well?

It's a wonderful way to get more fiber and satisfaction if you're looking to cook yourself thin. Also, if you've been wanting to eat more vegetarian but don't want to give up some favorites, embrace your cauliflower.

This video shows how to make it into “chicken” fried steak.

What Would I Change

Well, we should talk about the gravy, of course. I mean, that seems like a lot of cauliflower. And yet, it's a good way to use up a small head if you're the only person, right?

But it's not easy to make a good gravy that's healthy.

If you wanted to keep the gravy vegan, you could check out VegWeb's Vegan Sausage Gravy recipe or BrandNewVegan's Country Gravy recipe.

If you think adding some sausage to your gravy would make your cauliflower steak better, you'll want to make it with turkey sausage along with the low fat milk. To make your sausage gravy paleo, you'll need to use arrowroot or for the thickening agent instead of flour. Also, you'll want to use almond milk in place of cow's milk.

Variations on Cauliflower Steaks

If you're enjoying the idea of a cauliflower steak but want a few more ideas, check out

That should get you started! Leave a comment with your favorite recipe!

Cook Yourself Thin is the resource hub for women 35-55 looking to lose stubborn pounds by cooking and eating the foods you love.

Spaghetti Squash Ideas

Spaghetti Squash Ideas

I've told you before that spaghetti squash is wonderful in place of pasta. I also enjoy adding it in so you can have some with pasta for a heartier meal.

Most people want to know how to cook since it's a squash. And it looks scary. Plus, if you're used to cutting up butternut squash, you may think all winter squash is difficult.  It's not so.  It does help if you have the right tools.

There's two ways to use spaghetti squash. You can cook and use the strands in place of pasta like with a carbonara sauce. Or you can bake things into the squash like Enchilada Stuffed Spaghetti Squash.

Cooking a Spaghetti Squash

I'm going to talk about how to cook the squash if you're going to use it in a recipe. If you're going to use a recipe where you put the ingredients in, and then bake it, don't cook the squash first.

I personally use an Instant Pot multi-function cooker. You can pressure cook a whole squash without cutting into it for 6-10 minutes depending upon the size. The skin then just peels off, and you can scoop out the seeds. Some people prefer to prick the skin or cut the squash in half before pressure cooking. Find what you're comfortable with.

You can also use a slow cooker to cook for 4 to 6 hours. It's a good idea to prick the skin a few times with a fork before putting it in.

If you have a microwave, slice the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Then put the squash cut side down on damp paper towels. Cover with more damp paper towels and microwave on high for approximately 20 minutes. Then let it sit for ten minutes. And you can scoop out the squash fibers.

Finally, you can bake in an oven.  Cut in half, scoop out the seeds, and put cut side down in a pan with a cup of water. Then bake at 400F for 45-50 minutes.

The important thing to remember is you do not need to skin the squash before cooking.

Make Spaghetti Squash Into Fritters

Here's a video for a delicious recipe in using the spaghetti squash to make a fritter with spinach.

Turning Spaghetti Squash Into Casserole

You can add the cooked spaghetti squash into a casserole like a frittata or a quiche. It adds in vegetables without seeming like a vegetable. And don't forget to add in additional vegetables like spinach. Go easy on the cheese. You want just enough for the flavor, but you don't want it to add in too much fat.

Resources

Cook Yourself Thin is the resource hub for women 35-55 looking to lose stubborn pounds by cooking and eating the foods you love.​​​​​​​

Much Ado About Root Vegetables

Much Ado About Root Vegetables

Root vegetables are still in season at the moment I'm writing this. Don't turn up your nose at the turnip.  It's a wonderful and inexpensive vegetable that can be a great part of your meals.

How to Choose the Vegetables

If you buy organic, the veggies won't be completely free of blemishes. Some find that organic veggies taste better. I subscribe to a CSA and I have a garden. Since I grow in self watering containers, you might think I won't get as good of root vegetables as if they were in the ground. But you'd be surprised!

Plus some like celery root and kohrabi look pretty crazy to begin with.

So how do you choose? Well they should be firm and a bit springy in general. Secondly, it depends upon what you want to do with them.

There are two types of root vegetables – older and younger. The young root vegetables can be good raw or lightly cooked. I have some young turnips that I'm going to steam. You can think of these like new potatoes. They're best when kept fresher.

The older root vegetables are better roasted or stewed.

Watch this fun video with Jamie Oliver. I adore him and saw him live once about ten years ago making risotto and pasta.

But What About Radishes?

Ok, you got me. There are root vegetables that are grand raw like radishes, carrots and jicama. But they do fall sort of into the younger category. If you have old radishes, you should try roasting them rather then trying to slice them for a salad.

Root vegetables are quite nutrient dense. You can make a lovely vegetable soup or stew out of them and feel quite satisfied. I use kohrabi and celery root (also called celeriac) in place of potatoes sometimes and you can't taste the difference.

If I have a younger celery root, I'll dice it up and cook it with my eggs in the morning and I don't miss potatoes.

Roasting vegetables brings out a sweeter side to them. So be careful of seasonings and sauces if you serve roasted vegetables.  You can also roast veggies and puree them as the side to the meat rather then putting the vegetables directly on the plate. Also, if you have leftover roast veggies, you can puree and then thin it out with some broth for a lovely soup.

Start by adding in one weird root vegetable and see what you think.

Cook Yourself Thin is the resource hub for women 35-55 looking to lose stubborn pounds by cooking and eating the foods you love.