Healthy Cooking Tips That'll Help You Stick To Your New Year's Resolutions

Photo: Courtesy Of Tasting Table.
By Kat Kinsman
You woke up on January 1, 2015, vowing not to feel this way a year from now. No more late drinking nights, fast food at your desk, sidling over to the vending machine, or ordering delivery all the time. You've promised yourself you'll cook a fresh meal every night. You'll fuel up with all the steamed kale, quinoa, flax, and Greek yogurt on the planet — and even bring leftovers to work the next day.
Right after you finish this bagel your coworker brought in. We get it: Most healthy foods don't exactly have a reputation for being exciting or delicious. Luckily, you can stick to those clean-eating resolutions and avoid the culinary blahs with just a few swaps and additions.
Upgrade Your Oatmeal
Forget that buttery, sugary mush and level up to the savory stuff. Start with steel-cut oats. If you're short on time in the morning, take a big batch in a slow cooker or rice cooker, and portion it to eat throughout the week. Then, dress it up with the same herbs, spices, and seasonings you'd use for rice or polenta. Warm Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors (try oregano, preserved lemon, and za'atar), a hint of curry, or a swirl of sambal kick off the day right. They can even bring this hearty breakfast staple into lunch territory. Add crunch and a healthy-fat factor with toasted seeds (poppy, pumpkin, or sesame) and nuts (pistachio, almond, or pine), or even get wacky with kimchi, pickled vegetables, or leftover protein from last night's dinner. Hey, the world is your oatmeal.
Mix Our Secret Spice
Just the thought of another dinner of roasted-root vegetables, sautéed greens, and steamed fish will have anyone's head dancing with dreams of cheeseburgers — unless they're armed with this secret weapon: a custom, salt-free spice blend. Tasting table food editor Andy Baraghani offers the following formula, based on his mother's recipe. Just combine all the ingredients, cover, and store for a month.
1 tbsp dried rose petals, finely ground (optional)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp sumac
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp freshly ground black peppercorn
1/8 tsp ground clove
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
Baraghani notes that toasting whole spices before grinding them makes the blend more fragrant — and once you've mastered it, you can add your own twists, like kicking up the heat, smoke, and texture by adding chiles, higher-voltage peppercorns, and paprika, or just fussing around until you've found a formula that works.
Now, set yourself up for success. Keep a stash in your desk drawer or back pocket, so if the urge to order takeout strikes, you can go for healthy grains, protein, or vegetables, and amp them up once your food arrives.
Keep Things Sweet
Consider the carrot. It's crunchy and vitamin-packed, sure, but it's also a powerhouse outside of its solid state. Instead of spooning out sweetener into sauces, soups, dressings, baked goods, and condiments, Baraghani suggests adding in a little carrot juice. It brings fresh sweetness, vibrancy, and body, while still packing in all its health benefits. You can even add a splash to that water you're chugging down as part of your new health regimen.
Embrace Acid
Sometimes, all a dish needs is a bright note to complement the flavors of raw or roasted vegetables, steamed fish, or whole grains. Lemons and limes are a great place to start, but citrus is in peak season, so consider Cara cara or blood oranges, kumquats, tangerines, grapefruit, or even yuzu, if you can get your hands on some. Apple cider, sherry, and white vinegar are great flavor building blocks. You can also try other vinegar types, such as black (available at many Asian groceries), malt, date (try a Middle Eastern store), and balsamic. They'll cost you just a little bit extra, but are instant upgrades to just about any meal.
Broil Your Veggies
You're roasting most of your vegetables, right? It's a surefire way to deepen the flavor without relying on lots of fat, but can result in a mushy texture if you're not flipping them over from time to time. Lock in serious crispness with a short blast from the broiler at the end. You'll have to keep a close eye to assure it doesn't scorch your veggies, but this ensures crunchiness — and an extra layer of complexity to your meal.

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