Help! I Can’t Cook!


It’s a fact. Some people can’t cook. Of course, “I can’t cook” means different things to different people.

Some people can’t cook because they don’t have the means to cook. Maybe they rent a room that doesn’t have kitchen privileges. Maybe they live out of hotel rooms because they travel a lot. Maybe their stove is on the fritz. Or maybe their house did, indeed, come without a kitchen.

Some people can’t cook because, well, they just can’t cook. Maybe they just don’t have the patience. I, for example, have not made my own pie crust in years. I always felt like I was one rolling pin away from a nervous breakdown. And the grease stain never comes off the wall.

Then there’s the people who simply don’t cook. Nope. Not doin’ it.

What shall we do with all these non-cookers who still want to eat a healthy diet? As it turns out, I have a few ideas.



Easy No Cook Meals And Snacks

Chicken salad — grab some precooked organic chicken and mix with mayonnaise. Jazz things up a bit by adding your favorite mustard, some grapes, walnuts or whatever tickles your fancy!

Peanut butter and strawberry sandwich — pick up a fresh baked loaf of bread from your local bakery. Slather on some chunky peanut butter and sliced strawberries. Or smooth peanut butter and apple slices. How about cashew butter and fresh raspberries? There are no rules.

Overnight oats — There’s only about a million flavor combinations and it keeps for up to 5 days in your fridge. Win-win!

Tomato, mozzarella and basil — This is exactly what it sounds like it is. Slice up a fresh tomato and top it with slices of fresh mozzarella and some fresh basil. Pair this up with the cooked shrimp you picked up in the frozen food aisle and you’ve got a meal!

Garden salad — It all starts with some bagged lettuce and fresh veggies (get the pre-cut ones to save time!). Toss it up with some mushrooms, nuts, seeds, avocados, hard-boiled eggs and top if off with homemade ranch, thousand island or Caesar dressing. Because there’s no such thing as “just a salad”.

Corn Salad — Saw fresh corn off the cob, put it in a bowl with some thinly sliced red onion and radishes then toss it with lemon poppy dressing.

Coleslaw — Simply mix shredded cabbage, green and/or red, and grated carrots. Make the dressing with 2 tbls apple cider vinegar, 1 tbls olive oil, 2-3 tsp sugar and ¼ tsp salt. Ask the produce clerk to cut a head of cabbage so you can buy just a half or a quarter of it.

Fruit salad — A pile of your favorite fruits and berries topped with plain yogurt (mix in a bit of honey and a drop of vanilla, if desired). Use what’s left of the yogurt to make dill dip, which is great for dipping fresh veggies!

The Art Of Instant Pot Cooking

Let’s talk for a minute about how handy these are? Not only can this multi function puppy pressure-cook food in no time flat, it can slow cook, steam, sterilize, make yogurt, saute, cook rice, cook eggs and even air fry. It even comes in a mini (3 quart) size so you don’t have to cook for an army.

You can cook just about anything in an Instant Pot. Just throw it in there, turn it on and walk away. In case you’re feeling insecure, Instant Pot comes with access to an app that has cooking tips and recipes.

A more cost effective option in this category is a slow cooker. It doesn’t have as many uses but it will still cook dinner for you. No, it doesn’t come with an app but I can recommend this cookbook!

Sandwich maker

For around $20, you can own a compact and oh-so-awesome multipurpose cooking tool! It’s easy to use, easy to clean, easy to store and its uses are only limited to your imagination!

It’s compact size also makes it ideal for traveling. Non-stick surfaces require very little, if any, oil for cooking, making it a healthier option than some other cooking methods.

Of course, you can grill your sandwiches (the combinations are limitless enough already) but it’s also great for pancakes, french toast, cinnamon rolls, mini pies, cake and omelets.

Microwave

This magical device was invented in the 1940s and we’ve never looked back. The first home models, introduced in the 1960s, carried a price tag of around $4,000, when adjusted for inflation. Luckily for us, things have changed and we can pick up a decent model these days for less than $50.

Microwaves are not just for reheating last nights’ dinner. You can toast nuts or roast garlic. You can bake a potato or cook it cubed up for potato salad. Pasta, steamed vegetables, winter squash, sweet treats. Yes, you can even cook meat, although you’ll want to do a little research on cooking methods before you attempt that big, beautiful steak.

There are plenty of gadgets available (if you’re a gadget kind of person) but most of the time, you can use whatever microwave safe dishes you have on hand to achieve the desired effect. Sometimes, all you need is a mug.

You can also find microwaves in many places when you’re on the road. Convenience stores, supermarkets, truck stops and travel centers usually have them for public use. (Remember to be polite and buy a bottle of water or cup of coffee while you’re cooking your lunch!) Microwaves are standard issue in hotel and motel rooms. There’s also one in the break room at work, although it’s cleanliness is always in question.

Egg cooker

I’m not normally a fan of gadgets that do just one thing but this is my exception because…eggs, man. You can eat them hard-boiled or soft-boiled. You can serve them over toast or tucked in a sandwich.

Garden salads love them. Speaking of salads, so do pasta and potato salads. And what would egg salad be without eggs?

Pickle ‘em, devil ‘em, pair them up with some carbs like rice or spaghetti. Marry hard-boiled eggs and avocado for a super easy low carb meal that’s loaded with protein, healthy fat and fiber.

Eggs are stuffed full of nutrition and, at about 10 cents each, they’re an incomparable value.

Blender

Ah, the blender. Underrated, underappreciated, underused. It cries out for your attention. It can do so much more than make Margaritas.

It’s great for all kinds of drinks such as smoothies, milkshakes and frappes, real fruit slushies and frozen coffee.

Make a dessert mousse by blending an avocado, 2 tbls cocoa, 1 ½ honey and 1 few drops of vanilla. Then use the blender to make whipped cream to go on top.

Dress up any meal by blending a gazpacho or cucumber soup. Whip up some hollandaise, salsa, humus or pesto.

Heck, you can even use it to feed the baby.

Feeling adventurous? How about some homemade beauty treatments? Why spend money buying an oatmeal mask when you can make your own? How about making some nut butter or almond milk?

Oh, and since you’ve got the blender out, I will take a margarita!

Rice Cooker

I received a rice cooker as an (unsolicited) gift from a family member. I had never wanted one and I wasn’t sure I would ever even use it. Once again, I’m not a gadget person. I still use the cooking pans I got second hand from my parents after I got married, which they had received as a present when they got married, over 60 years ago. I just didn’t see the need to cook rice in a rice cooker when my elderly but reliable saucepan works just fine.

Except…

…that it’s awesome. And it’s not just for rice. That’s right. I said it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were all sorts of one pot meals I could make in this thing. It timed itself, I didn’t have to remember to stir it AND it kept it warm if I wasn’t ready to eat when it was done.

Now, I am a fan of rice so I usually mix in some raw protein and veggies right in with the uncooked rice and water and let it do it’s thing. Easy-peasy. Here’s the thing, though. It also has a steaming tray that suspends above the rice so I can just as easily cook the meat and veggies separately.

It makes oatmeal, mac and cheese, soups, chili and stewed fruit. You can even use it to bake breads and cakes.

It’s compact, easy to use and easy to clean. It’s versatile like the Instant Pot and slow cooker but with a few differences. It has fewer options than the Instant Pot and cooks faster than the slow cooker. The price range is broad but the price of a basic rice cooker is usually less than $20, similar to that of a basic slow cooker.

That About Sums It Up


OK, so that doesn’t really sum it up. There are a lot of different options out there for the cooking challenged and, if you search hard enough, you can learn how to use a curling iron to cook bacon or a clothing iron to make grilled cheese sandwiches. While it seems like either of these options could (technically) work, I’d like to think I put forth the most reasonable choices for people who can’t (or don’t) cook.

What about you? What cooking hacks have worked for you? Let me know in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia

Cynthia@cynthiaeats.com



Shrimp Scampi With Linguini


Shrimp Scampi With Linguine

2 oz linguine

1 tbls butter

1 tbls olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1/2 shallot, finely diced

½ tsp garlic, minced

Pinch red pepper flakes, optional

6 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbls dry white wine

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp parsley leaves

1 tbls grated Parmesan cheese

Put a pot of water on the stove and bring to boil. Add a sprinkle of salt and the linguine. Stir to make sure the pasta separates; cover. When the water returns to a boil, cook until the pasta is al dente, 6-8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat ½ tbls butter and ½ tbls olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes until the shallots are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper; add to the pan and cook until they have turned pink, 2-3 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan; set aside and keep warm. Add wine and lemon juice, bring to a simmer. Add ½ tbls butter and ½ tbls oil. When the butter has melted, return the shrimp to the pan along with the parsley and cooked pasta. Season with salt and pepper and toss to mix. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top and serve immediately.

1 serving, 550 calories



Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Cookies

2 cups old-fashioned rolled or quick oats

½ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup peanut butter (or other nut butter)

¼ cup honey (or maple syrup)

⅓ cup unsweetened applesauce (or any other fruit butter or sauce)

1 ripe banana, mashed

½ cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)

½ cup raisins (or other dried fruit)

½ dry roasted peanuts, unsalted (or other nut/seed) 

Preheat oven to 325℉. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer) until well combined. Dough will be thick and heavy.

Scoop by ¼ cup measurements onto cookie sheets. Shape into rounds and flatten slightly. Cookies will not spread while baking.

Bake for 16-18 minutes until edges are brown. Cool for 10 minutes on cookie sheet and transfer to cooling rack.

Store at room temperature for 5 days or in the refrigerator for 10 days.


12 servings, 285 calories per serving

Hack: This recipe is very versatile so use your imagination and whatever ingredients you have on hand!

Hack: Freeze for up to 3 months in a sealable freezer bag or container. Thaw overnight and serve at room temperature or warm for a few seconds in microwave.



Hummus Veggie Wrap

 

Hummus Tabouli Wrap

 

1 large whole wheat sandwich wrap

3 tbls Hummus

3 tbls Tabouli

3 tbls Feta cheese

Baby spinach

Red onion, thinly sliced

 

Spread Hummus on sandwich wrap, going all the way to the edges.

Sprinkle tabouli and feta cheese over hummus.

Top with a handful of spinach and a few red onion slices. Roll and cut in half.

 

2 servings, 275 calories per serving

 

Hack: Check out the salad bar for small amounts of this ingredient list

Hack: Place waxed paper or parchment paper between wraps, seal in freezer bag and store in freezer for up to 2 months.

 

 

Sometimes You Just Want A Book

I am very grateful to all my friends, both new and established (Please note that I did not use the word “old”!) who take the time to visit this site, read my ramblings and try my recipes. I appreciate the thoughts, encouragement, ideas and recipes that you have shared and I hope we can continue this beautiful back and forth for a long, long time. But I also know, for sure, there’s another truth out there for many of us.

Sometimes you just want a book.

Cookbooks have the feel that many readers love. You can hold it, turn the pages, and feel the paper. It looks great on your bookshelf. As time goes on it gets well broken in, with frayed edges and splattered stains on the pages. (Or maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m a sloppy cook.)

If this sounds like you, I’ve put together a selection of books you might enjoy, either in digital form or hard copy.

Books! Glorious Books!

 

The Pleasures of Cooking for One – Judith Jones

$13.99 Kindle / $18.78 hardcover

$13.99 eBook

After the death of Judith Jones’ husband in 1996, she took on the task of cooking for one and decided to write a book about it. This is a great book that includes kitchen tips, easy to understand French inspired recipes and “makeovers” for leftovers.

If you like gourmet food (or just want to Feel Fancy!), this is the book for you! Check out a preview here.

Judith Jones (1924-2011) was an American writer and editor. She was best known for her campaigns to publish The Diary of Anne Frank and Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, both of which she rescued from the reject pile. Her friendship with Julia Child is featured in the 2009 move “Julie and Julia”.

Vegan Cooking for One – Leah Leneman

$7.99 Kindle / $29.80 Paperback

$7.99 eBook

Vegan Cooking for One is an updated version of Leah Lenemans’ 1989 book The Single Vegan, which sold over 600,000 copies. This cookbook offers over 200 diverse and seasonal recipes that tempt the taste buds, are easy to follow as well as being very simple and straightforward,

It offers weekly menus, which include shopping lists to make sure you have the ingredients you need for the week. In addition, you can take advantage of the seasonally based collections to make the best use of fresh, local produce. Check out a preview here.

Leah Leneman (1944-1999) was an American actor and author born and raised in California. She eventually moved to Scotland and, after receiving a history degree at the University of Edinburgh, pursued an academic career built around independent research and writing geared towards depiction of the women’s suffrage movement in Scotland. After becoming vegan in her twenties, she also authored a number of vegan cookbooks.

Mug Meals – Leslie Bilderback

$11.99 Kindle / $12.29 Paperback

$11.99 eBook

Mugs aren’t just for coffee anymore!! This amazing book has over 100 recipes to make right in your microwave, with a wild variety of options for any meal, snack or dessert. Chili Con Carne? Beef Stroganoff? Poached Salmon? Yes, please! Brownie-in-a-mug? Of course it’s there.

This book is a must-have for those with limited cooking facilities, new cooks or those of us who are just plain busy! Check out a preview here.

Leslie Bilderback is a Certified Master Baker and has been a chef for nearly 20 years. She is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy and was one of the first instructors at the California School of Culinary Arts. She went on to become the Executive Chef and helped guide the school as it partnered with Le Cordon Bleu. In 2002, she was a finalist on Team USA at the Coup du Monde de la Boulangerie, an international, invitational artisan baking competition held in Paris, France.

 

 

Cook & Freeze – Dana Jacobi

$11.99 Kindle / $8.99 Paperback

$11.99 eBook

Dana Jacobi tuned into freezing serving-sized meals when she became a caregiver to her parents. She wanted to serve them healthy, nutritious meals but soon found that cooking and delivering meals every day was an impossible task. Luckily for us, this cookbook fits nicely into what we’ve been talking about here on this site. She covers the basics of freezer storage, organization and reheating as well as 150 delicious recipes.

See the preview here!

In addition to writing cookbooks, Dana Jacobi writes the nationally syndicated column “Something Different,” and has been featured in a number of national publications including Cooling Light, Eating Well and The New York Times. Her healthy approach to cooking has been endorsed by American Institute for Cancer Research and her work published in Diabetic Gourmet Magazine, Vegetarian Times and Prevention.

 

Slow Cooking for Two – Cynthia Graubart

$9.99 Kindle / $13.99 Hardcover / $16.90 Paperback

$7.83 eBook

Here’s what we’ve all been looking for! Slow cooker recipes of all types! It’s great for those with limited cooking facilities or abilities, hot weather or if your only wish is to have dinner cook itself.

The ingredients are basic while still being whole foods and even has entries that will make two different recipes in the same pot at the same time! Click here to see a preview.

Cynthia Graubart is an author, Southern Living Magazine columnist, food writer, cooking teacher and former television producer based in Atlanta, GA.

In 2004, she garnered national attention with the publication of her book “The One Armed Cook”, aimed at the challenges of young families in creating healthy meals. She went on to create a weekly food e-newsletter for Nickelodeon’s on-line parenting portal, ParentsConnect. In 2014, she won the James Beard Best Cookbook Award for her 2012 publication “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking”. She was named a Georgia Grown Executive Chef in 2017 and has recently released her 8th cookbook

What are you waiting for?

These books look so good I can almost smell the food cooking. Which one will you choose? Let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to come back to let me know which one has your (new) your favorite recipe.

What are you waiting for?

All my best,

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

 

 

Easy Au Gratin Potatoes

Easy Au Gratin Potatoess

3 medium potatoes, thinly sliced (5 cups loosely packed)

2 tbls butter

2 tbls flour

1 cup milk

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (4 oz)*

1 tsp salt

½ tsp dried pepper

½ tsp dried thyme

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Melt butter in saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft.

Add flour and stir to combine. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly. Add salt, pepper and thyme. Bring to simmer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese until melted.

Use cooking pray to coat 6”x8” oven proof baking pan or 6 cup casserole. Lay down of potatoes followed by sauce. Continue layering until all potatoes and sauce are used, leaving enough sauce to completely cover top of potatoes.

Bake in oven until potatoes are tender, 60-70 minutes.

* Any well melting, hard cheese can be substituted for cheddar so feel use whatever you have on hand. Alternately, cheese can be eliminated entirely to make scalloped potatoes. Increase milk by ½ cup.

6 servings, 225 calories per serving

Hack #1: Freeze leftovers in serving sized portions in sealable freezer bags or containers.

Hack #2: If baking other items, oven temps (and cooking times) can be adjusted for this recipe.



Sweet and Spicy Butternut Squash

 

Mashed Butternut Squash

1 butternut squash (about 2 lbs)

2 tbls butter

2 tbls brown sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400℉

Coat baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Place cut side down in pan. Roast in oven until tender, 30-45 minutes.  If preferred, squash can cooked in the microwave on high for 10-15 minutes.

Remove from oven and leave it until it’s cool enough to handle but still warm. Scoop squash from skins into large bowl.

Add butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Stir until ingredients are well incorporated and butter melts. Use a blender or mixer to make the squash smoother, if desired.

Serve warm.

6 servings, 170 calories per serving

Hack: Fresh peeled and cubed butternut squash can be purchased in the produce department of the grocery store. Frozen butternut squash can also be used.

Hack: Leftovers can be packed in serving sized portions in sealable freezer bags or containers and frozen for future use.

Schmorgurken (German Stewed Cucumbers)

Schmorgurken (German Stewed Cucumbers)

(Courtesy of Jacqueline Letourneau)


1 lb bacon, cut into small pieces

1 European seedless cucumber, cut into ½ “ slices, then cut into quarters

1 pint light cream

2-3 teaspoons black pepper

3 lbs potatoes, cut into 2” cubes (peeling optional)


Place bacon in heavy saute pan and cook over medium heat until almost crispy. Generously sprinkle cucumber with pepper and add to bacon.

Cook until cucumber is soft (approximately 5 minutes). Add cream and turn heat to medium low until cream is warmed through.

Boil potatoes until tender but not falling apart (7-10 minutes). Drain and add to cucumber mixture, tossing to coat.

Serve hot.

8 servings, 578 calories per serving



Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: Evil Foods That Pretend to be Healthy

 

Faker. Pretender. Impostor. Fraud. There’s nothing I hate more than a poser and processed foods are the worst. They spend all their time insisting that they’re Tasty! Nutritious! Real! All Natural! Fun! Cool! Refreshing!

Lies. All lies.

Who remembers this ad?

According to the ingredient label, the first ingredient on Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli label is tomato. Which is a fruit. Lie #1.

But even if you give them a point for having something nutritious as the first ingredient, consider this: Your average Plain Jane, nondescript red tomato has plenty of nutritional value including impressive amounts of vitamins C, K, B, A and more minerals than you can shake a stick at but, somehow, according (again) to their own claims, Chef Boyardee seems to have sucked all that nutrition right out of their product while adding a good dollop of fat and sodium.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. You can dress ‘em up but you can’t take ‘em out.

The Untold Truth: What Not To Eat Toxic

We’ve all got ‘em. Our processed food vices. It could be cheese puffs or a certain brand of frozen pizza. Mine are Big Macs and Devil Dogs (although not usually at the same time).

We know it’s no good so we break up. Sometimes we can stay away for months but once we slip, it seems as though eating more of it is all we can think about. Ever wonder why?

Because it’s been specifically designed to be addicting.

I know we’ve talked about this before but it bears repeating. Processed foods are created with a specific combination of fat and carbs that are meant to keep you coming back for more. I went over this dastardly behavior in more detail here if you want to take a look.

Even if you consider yourself to have a non-additicive personality, there are other things to consider when cruising your local grocery, convenience store or coffee shop. I won’t spoil the surprise but you should read on for some eye-opening information!

Relationships: What’s In Your Freezer?

The frozen food aisle is like a beacon of light in a dark and dreary world. It’s stuffed to the gills with pretty packages depicting delicious food arranged beautifully on fine china dishes. It promises tasty foods that are quick and easy to prepare. The labels portray a meal that’s hearty, healthy, organic, natural, vitamin rich, fiber filled, vegan, low fat, low carb and glycemicly correct. (You’re right. I did just make that up ;-)) They vow to help you be thinner, fuller, healthier, fitter, stronger, more energetic and just plain cool.

What these fiends are actually doing is trying to distract you from the real truth. What these meals really are is jam-packed with food additives.

Polysorbate 80 is a synthetic compound made from the dehydrated compounds found in sugar alcohols. It’s used to bulk up foods, keep frozen sauces smooth and as a binding agent in ice cream.

This additive actually alters microbes in the gut, creating an environment favorable for the development of cancer.

What else is in your ice cream? Carboxymethylcellulose, also known as cellulose gum or CMC is used as a thickener. Consuming large amounts may result in digestive system discomforts such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation.

Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) are used to prevent food oxidation which extends the shelf life of frozen food.

BHT and BHA are chemical compounds made out of a type of acid called carbolic acid. This acid is known to create acid burns if handled in large amount. It’s been linked to cancer risk, skin irritations, and behavioral issues in children.

And, honestly, do you really want to eat something that’s been butylated?

Potassium Bromate is a lab-made additive, made through an electrolytic process similar to fusing metals together. It gives bread a thicker, stronger texture, a higher rise and a pleasing white color.

Handling this additive in its powdered form (by employees at the baking company) can cause serious side effects. It can irritate the nose, throat and lungs, damage your kidneys and Is considered to be a carcinogen. It can also negatively affect the nervous system resulting in impaired thinking and personality changes. There is some evidence that some of these side effects are also possible from the consumption of products baked with chemical.

It’s been banned as a food additive in the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil and the European Union. In California, all foods containing Potassium Bromate must bear a warning label.

But enough of that. How’s the sandwich?

Propyl Gallate is a food preservative which prevents oxygen molecules from mixing with the oil in frozen foods. It’s called an “ester,” a chemical compound that’s derived from an acid.

It has been shown to increase the risk of tumors and is a possible carcinogen. Studies also show that it could interact and alter hormones.

Sodium Nitrite is a chemical ion created by (you guessed it!) combining salt with nitrites and is used to preserve foods such as beef jerky, hot dogs, lunch meat, salami, and smoked fish.

It may damage your blood vessels and affect the way your body uses sugar, making you more likely to develop diabetes. It also can interfere with thyroid activity, contributing to hypothyroidism.

Just talking about this is making me hungry. Could someone please pass the chemicals?

Running On Empty: Fuel Free Foods

We’re all guilty of this one. We just like what we like, right? And everyone knows that barista in the village makes the best coffee ever, even if it is $5 and a 20-minute wait. But is it really that great? Or is it just a habit, something we grab because it’s what we always grab?

Let’s shake things up a bit. I’ve taken 3 things (what I consider “biggies”) and tried to come up with some alternatives. See what you think:

Fancy Coffee Drinks

 

Brew up your own creation:

  • Add ¼ to ½ teaspoon pure vanilla (or cinnamon, cardamom, unsweetened cocoa powder, any spice that tickles your fancy) to coffee grounds before brewing or add a drop or sprinkle to brewed coffee.
  • Indulge in some heavy cream (or almond milk, coconut cream) and a spoonful of sugar (or honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar).
  • If you’re feeling adventurous, finish it off by stirring in some dark chocolate or date paste*.

We’ve still got some empty calories going on here, but far less than what you’ll be taking in from your local Fancy-Pants coffee shop. And you’ll be saving a ton of money!

Soda

Substitute:

  • Plain water
  • Infuse water by slicing or muddling one or more of the following into your water bottle.
    • Lemon
    • Lime
    • Cucumber
    • Strawberries
    • Raspberries
    • Rosemary
    • Apricot
    • Mint
    • Pineapple
    • Kiwi
    • Grapefruit
  • Low sodium V8 juice
  • Sparkling water
  • Fruit juice (in moderation)
  • Lemonade
    • Dissolve 2 ½ tablespoon sugar in ¼ cup hot water. Stir in 2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice. Pour into glass filled with ice and top off with ¾ cup cold water or sparkling water. Adjust sugar and lemon juice to taste.

Granola bars, breakfast bars, nutrition bars, fruit/nut bars and whatever else they’re called

Swap these out for some good, old-fashioned trail mix. Make up a batch and prepackage it in containers so it’s ready to go! Here are a few things you can use (in any combination whatsoever!):

 

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Dried Fruit
  • Dried berries
  • Popcorn
  • Coconut Flakes
  • Cacao beans/fruit
  • Granola
  • Roasted coffee/espresso beans
  • Dark chocolate
  • Dried peas
  • Dried or candied ginger
  • Candied orange peel
  • Spices
    • Cayenne Pepper
    • Salt
    • Wasabi powder
    • Garlic Powder
    • Onion Powder
    • Curry Powder
    • Cumin
    • Chili Powder
    • Cinnamon
    • Nutmeg

Try these on for size and then stretch your imagination out a bit further to come up with your ideas. Then, of course, you should share in the comments below so we all can use them!

I Want To Diet, But then I Get Hungry: The Skinny On Fat Free Foods

You know all those low fat items you see on the shelves? Low fat cereals, peanut butter, yogurts, granola bars. What can be better than taking a healthy, nutritious food and making it low fat or even fat-free? It certainly sounds like a win-win, right?

Well…no.

Fats are what make foods taste good so if you take out that fat, you end up with an unpalatable pile of yuck. The solution, the food manufacturers discovered, is to simply load these foods up with sugar and lots of it.

The same holds true for low sugar or sugar-free foods. When they lower the sugar, they simply up the fat. Because what’s the point of manufacturing a food that no one wants to eat?

If you’re feeling doubtful, simply read some labels. Take a look at the ingredients and nutritional labels of a low fat peanut butter and a regular peanut butter. A low fat muffin vs. a regular “fat” muffin vs. a sugar free muffin. The deception will begin to become clear.

But wait, you cry! Aspartame is sugar-free AND fat-free!

Yes. Yes, it is.

Aspartame is the world’s most popular artificial sweetener. It is also marketed as NutraSweet, Equal, Sugar Twin and AminoSweet. It’s been widely rumored to cause cancer, seizures, blindness, headaches, cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

I don’t think the above claims have been proven (feel free to let me know if I’m wrong!) but I think we can say one thing for sure:

It’s been around since 1965 and we’re not getting any thinner so I think we can debunk the weight loss claim. Oh, and it’s a chemical, not a natural food. Let’s just skip it altogether, shall we?

That’s A Wrap!

What strategies have you come up with to trade in your junk food habits? Let us know in the comments below.

Now that you’re armed with the facts, let’s get out there and shake things up!

All my best,

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

*Soak dates in water for an hour, then combine the dates with a couple of tablespoons of water in a blender. In addition to the sweet flavor of fruit, you’ll get some extra fiber, iron, magnesium, and calcium in your cup!