I had a conversation today with my boss, one of the few that didn’t end with shouting, about tattoos. He asked me if I was to get another tattoo, how would I go about choosing a place. I came up with a lot of different reasons some related to location but most about the man with the gun if you will. I told him to disregard all flash on the wall, unless it was hand drawn, and go right to the book. If you get a sense of the artists style and it vibes with you, that’s your guy. If you don’t care either way…move on. So he looks at me and thinks about what I mean by style. So I look at him and think about the same. A lot about a person is expressed through unconscious repetition that is ultimately recognized as their style. This is also true of course in cooking and can be both a blessing and a curse. There is a line between being one dimensional or gimmicky and being focused enough to make recognizable food.
I notice myself certain tastes and ingredients I constantly look to. Fresh herbs, mostly parsley, cilantro, and Thai basil. Chile, of all kinds dried and fresh. Vinegar. Toasted Cumin and Coriander. These things just kind of sneak their way into whatever I’m cooking. To tie this into what I was thinking when I was planning the menu for this weeks dinners, Margaret has been on Weight Watchers for a month or so now. She doesn’t need to lose weight at all but it’s a good way to maintain where she’s at without yo-yoing. The funny thing is that I eat the exact same stuff she does albeit in larger portions. I don’t feel like I’m on a diet, neither does she. The reason lies in those above mentioned ingredients. My cooking style lends itself so well to healthy eating that with a few tweaks to my usual recipes, we have food that works for her Weight Watchers and everything else.
I wanted to share some of the tips that work for me and because I’m in charge of all cooking in the house, much like the chef hiding underneath the white house to my latin Michelle Obama, these would also be the tips that work for her.
First eliminate white rice and pasta and replace it with brown rice and wheat pasta. Immediately. The loophole if you will with Weight Watchers is that the higher the fiber content of the ingredient the lower the overall points end up. While white rice and brown rice are identical calorie wise, the extra fiber in the brown rice allows it a lower point value.
Second, plan meals around a set point value. Margaret will often tell me in advance that she has between 8-12 points for dinner which gives me some direction in what I’m trying to make. When I look at the total points of each ingredient going in the recipe vs. points of a single serving, it’s much easier to conceptualize what you’re doing while still controlling the points in the dish.
In general a protein serving is 2-4 points, a starch is 4 points, and vegetables are typically 1 point if that. So the third trick is to become comfortable making sauces, chutneys, glazes, gastriques, gremolatas, whatever that can for a decent serving not exceed 2 points. This is where the herbs, fresh ground spices, and chiles come in handy. Even enchilada sauce can be made from scratch for about 2 points.
Greek Yogurt is my best friend ever. She calls it sour cream and pretends. Cute.
Spicy is just as satisfying as crunchy. That’s why buffalo wings are the first thing that you’re served when you get to Heaven, it doesn’t get better than that.
I’m laughing as I finish writing this because so much about the recent interest in artisan made and local food is about the return to fat. The unctious, melting, it’s ok because it’s not from a factory or wrapped in plastic, good stuff that at one point everybody was afraid of. Alice Q Foodie has a great post about her trip to the Publican in Chicago where her mother tells the waiter that she doesn’t like the rillete on their charcuterie plate because, “it’s all fat” and the waiter chuckles and responds that that is the reason everybody likes the dish. I would be on the side of the waiter. But I also go to the gym frequently, and have no problem running a few miles, and take vitamins daily, and drink 2L of water, and blah blah blah….these are the things that enable me to drink a mess of local brew, indulge in the food trends of the moment, rotate cheeses weekly, and of course, my wings. So there’s my balance, a secret healthy life of the American Eater. That should be a TV show.