For Butter or Worse

15 Mar

I firmly believe that people who want to lose weight should not have to suffer through eating bland or poor-tasting food. I have tried some different brands of diet frozen meals and they always taste awful to me. They also taste heavily processed, which is why I am more in favor of cooking a healthy meal at home to suit your own tastes. Doing so gives you complete control over what is going into the meal…and then you just have to fight with yourself about how much goes into your body.

Butter is one item I consider a necessity in cooking. Regardless of any dieting goals, I will not change my use of butter in the kitchen because I will not sacrifice flavor.

A stick of butter.

Butter is a necessity in cooking good food.

I would rather eat one bite of a cookie or meal made with butter than a whole plate full of something made with margarine. It’s just not the same. [Side note: I am not a fan of Paula Deen.]

Butter enhances other natural flavors so perfectly. It can be used sparingly or efficiently to provide flavor or serve its purpose (making a white sauce creamy, for example), so it’s not like you have to feel too bad about using it. Macaroni and cheese is another example: The original Kraft recipe calls for nearly half a stick of butter. But you can use a third of that amount and still get a great-tasting sauce. Use margarine though, and the sauce will not have the right consistency or flavor at all.

I think I use the most butter when I’m cooking potatoes. When I make mashed potatoes, I pour in a splash of milk, some salt and pepper, and then I just keep adding a little slice of butter as I’m mashing until the flavor is right. I end up using about a half a stick or so. When I fry sliced potatoes in a skillet, I use a little canola or vegetable oil in the bottom of the pan to keep things from sticking but I throw in at least three tablespoons of butter to get the flavor right (the way my grandma and mom’s fried potatoes taste). We only have these types of potatoes once a week or every two weeks though because my husband prefers rice. Sometimes I’ll just bake myself a potato in the microwave to get a break from all the rice. And then I put a bunch of butter on it. :) I do eat the potato skin as well because it has a lot of nutrients in it and I love the way it tastes.

I also put a little pat of butter with a dash of salt and pepper in with vegetables I steam, boil, or roast to enhance the natural flavors and to help cut the bitterness of some veggies (such as asparagus or broccoli). I use it a little of it in marinades, too, in order to get a good consistency that will also help the seasonings stick to the meat (fish or poultry, in particular) throughout cooking. Sometimes, in a pinch, like if we’ve run out of vegetable or canola oil, I’ll even use a bit of butter to cook our eggs in the morning. And, finally, there are just some things that you can’t make without butter: any baked goods, white sauce, bruschetta/garlic toast, etc. My husband once saw how much butter I was putting in the potatoes I was cooking and, to him, it looked like a lot. “Whoa, are you sure you want to use that much butter,” he asked me. “Are you sure you want it to taste right?” I retorted. To prove my point, one night I made potatoes and veggies without any butter. He never questioned my use of butter again. :)

–Michelle

Sidebar: Seasonings I Love to Use

The following is a list of seasonings (besides regular salt and black pepper) that I love to use when I’m cooking. It’s a wonderful feeling to know exactly how you are creating specific flavors in your own kitchen and making a meal come to life. You can get great deals on seasonings by buying them in packets or little bags at smaller chain grocery stores and farmers markets where spices can cost a third or less than what the bottles of seasonings cost at larger stores.

Cinnamon (use for baking, apple cider, oatmeal)

Garlic salt (meat tenderizer, bruschetta, pasta)

Seasoning salt with no MSG (anything, especially homemade popcorn)

Cajun seasoning salt (anything)

Ground ginger (beef and chicken marinades, chow mein, stir-fry, roast)

Celery seed (I grind it up and use it with fish, meat marinades, and pasta)

Chili powder (meats, marinara sauce)

Sesame seeds (great garnish)

Dried greens: marjoram, parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, chives, and savory (all good in meat marinades, marinara sauce, with fish, etc.)

Knorr (a great go-to for enhancing soups, sauces, and marinades)

Vinegars: white, apple cider, red wine, and balsamic (marinades)

Aji panca and aji amarillo (for Peruvian dishes; my husband is from Peru and you can’t make certain recipes correctly without these pepper pastes. The best ones are from Amazonas Imports brand, not Goya.)

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