Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dietary Stocking: Cupboard, Refrigerator, and Freezer

To cook low calorie, you don't need to keep many bottled salad dressings, canned cream soups, and oils in your kitchen. Instead, stock your pantry with canned tomatoes, a flavorful olive oil, vinegars, and herbs and spices. Keep reading to find out about some good foods to keep on hand, by category.

Diet Start

On the shelf

You may have to dig a bit deeper into your pockets for these basics, but after you taste them, you'll agree that paying more is worth the extra flavor they deliver.

A good stock: Use stock (or broth) in salad dressings in place of some of the oil, to cook vegetables for more flavor, to start a homemade soup, or in place of butter or oil when a recipe says to saute in oil. Store extra> stocks (or broths) frozen in an ice cube tray to punch out. 2 tablespoons whenever needed. You also can buy cannedcookware lose weight broth. We think low-sodium chicken broth has the best flavor. For beef or fish, try stock base. They're super concentrated, and you must add water to them before use. Look for them in gourmet shops. They're pricey but worth it.

A selection of vinegars: Sherry, rice, raspberry, wine, and balsamic vinegar are all milder than acidic white or cider vinegar. To make a lowfat vinaigrette, you must cut back on oil as you do when you cook low-cal. But oil helps tame the punch of vinegar's acid, making the dressing taste mellower. Therefore, you need a milder vinegar. Also consider using vinegar to saute chicken breasts, or add a splash instead of fattening butter or cream sauces.

Hills of beans: You can keep beans dry and cook them or stock many different kinds in cans. Either way, beans can be pureed into sandwich spreads and dips, added to soups, and sprinkled on salads as a nearly fat-free yet protein-packed alternative to meats and cheeses.

Tomatoes galore: Take advantage of the variety of canned tomato products sprouting in the supermarket. Many of them are already seasoned, which is a time-cutting, but not calorie-building, bonus for you. Thicken them with a little cornstarch (about 1 teaspoon to an 8-ounce can) or reduce them simply by boiling, and you have the start of a sauce for pasta, vegetables, grilled fish, or chicken.

In the refrigerator and freezer

Of course, your fridge will be stocked with many fresh fruits and vegetables and plain frozen ones, which are a lot lower in calories than the frozen ones packaged in sauce or butter. But leave room for these diet helpers, too:

Lowfat and reduced-fat cheeses: These can help you save fat and calories. Lowfat American, Monterey Jack, cheddar, and Havarti are good bets.

Good extra-virgin olive oil: You should use less oil on a reduced-calorie diet, so flavor counts. The earlier the press, the more flavor the olive delivers. Extra-virgin oil is made from the first press and has much more flavor than oil made from olives pressed several times.

Olive oil spoils quickly. In a hot kitchen, it can turn rancid in as little as six months, so keep it in the fridge. It thickens and turns cloudy when chilled, but a few minutes at room temperature returns it to a golden liquid without damaging the flavor.

Lowfat and reduced-fat cheeses: These can help you save fat and calories. Lowfat American, Monterey Jack, cheddar, and Havarti are good bets.

Aged cheese: Compared to soft cheese, aged ones are typically high in fat, but because their flavor is so pungent, you can use less - a cooking bonus. (See the section "Becoming a Calorie-Conscious Cook," earlier in this chapter.)

Whole grains: Whole grains don't have fewer calories than white, but they do have extra fiber, which helps fill you up. Studies show that people who eat an abundance of fiber have diets that are low in fat. Because whole grains go rancid quickly, store them in the fridge. Wholewheat flour, corn meal, cracked wheat, brown rice, and wheat germ lasts longer when kept in cold storage.

Fresh herbs:Use fresh herbs for garnish and flavor. Piney herbs, such as rosemary, sage, and thyme last longer than basil, oregano, cilantro, and mint. When using fresh herbs in recipes, add them at the end of cooking so that their flavors don't dissipate. (Dried herbs, on the other hand, are generally added early in the cooking process to coax as much flavor as possible from them.) Treat bunches of fresh basil like flowers; keep their stems in a vase of water outside of the refrigerator. Cold temperatures blacken and wilt the leaves.

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