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I Can't Believe It's Not Fattening! Part 1

I can't believe it's not fattening!: over 150 ridiculously easy recipes for the super busy.

by Alexander, Devin.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.

Some days I wake up and have to pinch myself-I went from being the fat girl who was picked on in high school to a career woman who gets to "play with" (and enjoy) food all day long while working with a group of insanely talented, committed people: The whole crew at Broadway: my esteemed editor, Annie Chagnot; designer, Elizabeth Rendfleisch; and Tammy Blake, publicist extraordinaire. They've made this process effortless.

Stephanie Farrell, also known as the Test Kitchen Goddess, who has been my right-hand gal for years. Recipe tester Angela Nehmans, who manages to work her breaks around my books, playing a huge role in keeping me sane. Recipe testers Sandy Levin, Tessa Genchi, Lisa Cohen, Kathryn Jacoby, and Elizabeth Packer, who made numerous sacrifices for the cause. And "Super Mom" Heather Haque, who's selflessly and substantially assisted with my every undertaking since college.

My manager, Julie Carson May, and publicists, Jim Eber, Mary Lengle, Carrie Simons, and Ashley Sandberg, who've made me appear "everywhere out of nowhere" and who I'm also lucky enough to call friends.

My friends John Baker, Rasha Chapman, Alyssa Devore, Steve Farrell, Kelly Frazier, Heather and Tas Haque, Sandy Levin, Michelle Miller, Jamie Nehasil, Chris Nielsen, Nick Nunez, Kristine Oller, Amanda Philipson, Dawn Sostrin, and Jerry Whitworth, who offer never-ending support (and/or their tastebuds).

The team at Meyer Corporation, which keeps me well stocked with Circulon, the best nonstick cookware and bakeware. And the team at Heinz, which makes sure I have Smart Ones on hand when even ridiculously easy isn't good enough!

Photographer Theresa Raffetto and food stylist Jessica Gordon.

My entire family, who gives me the utmost in support-special thanks to my mom for testing many of the recipes. And last but not least, Jon Shafer, who sends the perfect number of text messages to keep a smile on my face even when things get as hectic as can be.

Introduction.

"Twenty minutes in your kitchen can save you three hours on a treadmill."

Since you're holding this book, there's a good chance you've heard me say that. That's because I say it all of the time. Heck, I've even been quoted in the New York Times New York Times saying it. That's because it's my reality...and my saving grace. I was on the yo-yo diet fast track, gaining ten to fifteen pounds per year without fail from the time I was eight until I was fifteen. At that point, I tipped the scales at close to 190 pounds and was wondering why I could succeed at everything I put my mind to except losing weight. Then I heard that if you cut just 100 calories from your diet each day, on average, you'll lose ten pounds in a year. That really clicked. I immediately called upon the cooking skills my Italian grandmother bestowed on me. The next thing I knew, I was actually losing weight-and, more importantly, keeping it off! All I did at that time was make minor tweaks to the foods I was already eating. I'd make chicken Parmesan with full-fat cheese and full-fat sauce, but I wouldn't deep-fry the chicken. I'd use 2 teaspoons less mayonnaise when making a sandwich. Or I'd use a leaner cut of beef when making my favorite meatballs. Close to twenty years later, I live and breathe by cooking because it allows me to eat incredibly decadent food and enjoy all of the flavors I crave-guilt free. saying it. That's because it's my reality...and my saving grace. I was on the yo-yo diet fast track, gaining ten to fifteen pounds per year without fail from the time I was eight until I was fifteen. At that point, I tipped the scales at close to 190 pounds and was wondering why I could succeed at everything I put my mind to except losing weight. Then I heard that if you cut just 100 calories from your diet each day, on average, you'll lose ten pounds in a year. That really clicked. I immediately called upon the cooking skills my Italian grandmother bestowed on me. The next thing I knew, I was actually losing weight-and, more importantly, keeping it off! All I did at that time was make minor tweaks to the foods I was already eating. I'd make chicken Parmesan with full-fat cheese and full-fat sauce, but I wouldn't deep-fry the chicken. I'd use 2 teaspoons less mayonnaise when making a sandwich. Or I'd use a leaner cut of beef when making my favorite meatballs. Close to twenty years later, I live and breathe by cooking because it allows me to eat incredibly decadent food and enjoy all of the flavors I crave-guilt free.

Though I've lost over fifty-five pounds, I really don't struggle with my weight any more ...well, unless you count that nagging five to ten pounds all women fluctuate, wishing they would conquer forever. But even with that, my weight is no longer the obsession it was for the first twenty-six years of my life. That's because I can eat all of the foods I love.

When I was on my book tour for The Most Decadent Diet Ever! The Most Decadent Diet Ever! I had my first and only very real reminder over the past ten years of what it was like to struggle and why cooking has truly transformed my life and even my happiness. I had my first and only very real reminder over the past ten years of what it was like to struggle and why cooking has truly transformed my life and even my happiness.

I left my home in Los Angeles and went on the road for thirty-seven days, launching the book on the Today Today show. Then I proceeded to travel around the country doing TV appearances, numerous book signings, and even in-person appearances for show. Then I proceeded to travel around the country doing TV appearances, numerous book signings, and even in-person appearances for Self Self magazine's "Workout in the Park" series. Every day was packed, and I was on a train or plane over half of the days I was gone. This meant I had to rely on restaurants and airport food. Now we've all seen episodes of magazine's "Workout in the Park" series. Every day was packed, and I was on a train or plane over half of the days I was gone. This meant I had to rely on restaurants and airport food. Now we've all seen episodes of The Biggest Loser The Biggest Loser where the trainers tell the contestants how to order out. And we've all seen segments of the where the trainers tell the contestants how to order out. And we've all seen segments of the Today Today show and show and Good Morning America Good Morning America where a nutritionist comes on and tells us what to choose. But did you ever notice it's always the stuff you don't want? Sure, I can eat baked chicken and steamed broccoli and not do too too much damage. I can get a salad and skip the dressing and the cheese and everything else that might make it taste remotely palatable. Or I can get an egg-white omelet with veggies and choke it down and I won't gain the fifty-five pounds back. But where's the decadence in that? where a nutritionist comes on and tells us what to choose. But did you ever notice it's always the stuff you don't want? Sure, I can eat baked chicken and steamed broccoli and not do too too much damage. I can get a salad and skip the dressing and the cheese and everything else that might make it taste remotely palatable. Or I can get an egg-white omelet with veggies and choke it down and I won't gain the fifty-five pounds back. But where's the decadence in that?

Tried and true, I'm a food lover. I have cravings. And I have zero willpower. So I can play along with the nutritionist who tells me to eat the egg-white omelet with no goat cheese, but what she's not telling me (though I do know, having attended culinary school and worked in restaurant kitchens) is that there's a high likelihood that even if I do order that bland omelet, it's going to be prepared in way too much butter.

Think about it. If you go to a restaurant and your food doesn't arrive on the table in a timely manner or doesn't look good, you're not likely to return. And most restaurants don't even own nonstick pans, so they have no choice but to load the pan with butter or lard or some sort of fat so your omelet cooks quickly and without looking like a disaster that was scraped from the bottom of a pan. So instead of eating a Cheese & Olive Omelet (see this page this page) made with 4 egg whites for only 154 calories and 5 grams of fat, I'm stuck eating a veggie omelet that has more fat and calories from the butter alone. If I'd made my omelet at home in less than ten minutes, I would have easily saved a couple hundred calories (not to mention plenty of cash!). Multiply that by a few meals a day, and you're needing a lot less cardio to keep your figure and your health.

But getting back to my trip. I travel a lot, and I'm used to facing bland options when I'm on the road. Fine. A couple days here or there eating plain food isn't going to kill me, trip my internal wiring, or set off what I call "danger-zone cravings." But, I noticed, being that this trip was longer than most, I got ridiculously tired of eating the same "safe" dishes over and over. I started having insane cravings the way I did when I was yo-yo dieting. It was horrible. I'd find myself in my hotel room at night calling the front desk to have the mini-bar removed, all the while plotting where I could find something to satisfy my chocolate craving that wouldn't totally make me gain weight. I had to wear my "tight jeans" the whole second half of the trip, even though they weren't comfortable for travel, so I would have a constant reminder that I couldn't eat the horrible airplane cookies even though they seemed tempting when I was restless at 30,000 feet with three hours to go.

I am fully aware that not everyone experiences cravings the way I do. For some, eating not-even-close-to-decadent foods all day wouldn't affect them at all at night. It wouldn't set off any triggers, and it wouldn't make them have nightmares about overeating. I'm also aware, based on my work with The Biggest Loser The Biggest Loser contestants, with my fans, and even many of my friends and colleagues, that I'm definitely not the only one. The obesity epidemic in America proves I'm not alone. And I contend that if people just cooked for themselves more often, they would struggle a lot less. contestants, with my fans, and even many of my friends and colleagues, that I'm definitely not the only one. The obesity epidemic in America proves I'm not alone. And I contend that if people just cooked for themselves more often, they would struggle a lot less.

I often hear people say they don't have time to cook. But as I see it, we don't have time not not to cook. Assuming the above is true-that twenty minutes in your kitchen can save you three hours at the gym-you're actually adding time to your life by cooking. Not only will you need to spend less time at the gym, you'll be shedding those unwanted pounds that are the direct cause of your spending way too much time in the doctor's office or waiting in line at the pharmacy to pick up your blood pressure or cholesterol medication or even in spending tons of time monitoring your sugar levels because of your Type 2 diabetes. And all of that costs money, which means you have to spend more time at work making the money to pay for it all. You also have to make more money to pay for the increased costs of your health insurance because of all of those doctor visits. As you can see, the cycle really is vicious. to cook. Assuming the above is true-that twenty minutes in your kitchen can save you three hours at the gym-you're actually adding time to your life by cooking. Not only will you need to spend less time at the gym, you'll be shedding those unwanted pounds that are the direct cause of your spending way too much time in the doctor's office or waiting in line at the pharmacy to pick up your blood pressure or cholesterol medication or even in spending tons of time monitoring your sugar levels because of your Type 2 diabetes. And all of that costs money, which means you have to spend more time at work making the money to pay for it all. You also have to make more money to pay for the increased costs of your health insurance because of all of those doctor visits. As you can see, the cycle really is vicious.

So now you're thinking, oh, sure, it's easy for you you to say. You know how to cook, you don't have three children, and you're not trying to work yourself out of debt. True, I'm not in debt and I don't have three children. But I do spend many stretches in my kitchen/office from 8:00 to say. You know how to cook, you don't have three children, and you're not trying to work yourself out of debt. True, I'm not in debt and I don't have three children. But I do spend many stretches in my kitchen/office from 8:00 A.M. A.M. to 2:00 to 2:00 A.M. A.M. every day for weeks straight scurrying to get the next book out the door. And those stints are sandwiched between jaunts on the road. Plus, I'm stuck tasting food (and I'm surrounded by it) all day long to make sure the recipes are delicious by the time they get to you. And I only know how to cook because I learned. But it's really easy. It's truly like riding a bike. When you start, it's a bit shaky. You venture to the grocery store for the first time and you don't know that the chili garlic sauce is in aisle 4 and that there are better deals on the shrimp from the freezer. But you pick that up. Then you get in your kitchen and you have to clean the dust off the measuring cups, but that won't continue to happen either. It really does get easier and easier and ...I promise. every day for weeks straight scurrying to get the next book out the door. And those stints are sandwiched between jaunts on the road. Plus, I'm stuck tasting food (and I'm surrounded by it) all day long to make sure the recipes are delicious by the time they get to you. And I only know how to cook because I learned. But it's really easy. It's truly like riding a bike. When you start, it's a bit shaky. You venture to the grocery store for the first time and you don't know that the chili garlic sauce is in aisle 4 and that there are better deals on the shrimp from the freezer. But you pick that up. Then you get in your kitchen and you have to clean the dust off the measuring cups, but that won't continue to happen either. It really does get easier and easier and ...I promise.

So what are you waiting for? You can do this! You can be healthy, and you can love the food that gets you there. You just have to turn the page and pick up that spatula!

STREAMLINING FOR SPEED.

Even with recipes as simple as the ones on these pages, there are always ways to streamline your kitchen to make things even more convenient: 1. Cook in Bulk One or Two Nights per Week Find dishes that you like that are versatile, and then make enough for the entire week. If you make Basic Grilled Chicken (see this page this page), Brown Rice (see this page this page), and so on, you'll be able to throw together meals quickly. Or boil some eggs (see this page this page). Having prepared eggs on hand gives you a great go-to snack any time of day, and eggs are perfect as add-ins for salads and sandwiches. (Just be sure to stick to the egg whites!) Oatmeal is another great quick and healthy meal. Make a large container of oatmeal to last throughout the week, and store it in an airtight container in your refrigerator. Each morning add your favorite fruit, peanut butter, or even hot chocolate powder to give it an added kick!

I often recommend Sunday as a bulk cooking day. Throw in a roast that doesn't need watching while you do your laundry. You'll not only have dinner on Sunday evening, you'll also have plenty of scrumptious leftovers that set you up for success during the week.

2. Rely on Pre-cut, Pre-chopped Foods This is a huge time-saving tip. It is unreal how many fruits, vegetables and even herbs now come already prepared and ready to use. Onions, carrots, mushrooms, melons, squash, berries, and salad greens are often available in convenient, ready-to-go packages. And Garden Gourmet makes tubes of fresh herbs you can find in the refrigerated area of the produce section at your local grocery store, while Trader Joe's and a number of other markets stock frozen herbs. These products make measuring herbs a breeze and avoid time washing and chopping. True, these convenient foods are a bit pricier, but think of the expense as buying precious time in the kitchen. There is no price tag you can put on time available for family, friends, and much needed "you time."

Still not crazy about the idea of someone else washing and chopping your produce? Then do it yourself once or twice a week. Store your cut-up fruit in airtight plastic containers to retain freshness and prevent vitamin loss. Place your washed and well-dried herbs and lettuces in veggie bags or bags with holes (to ensure circulation) or in open bags (instead of sealing them). For even better results, wrap the herbs and greens very loosely in paper towels before putting them in their bags (to trap excess moisture).

3. Befriend Your Butcher There's no reason to spend hours at home trimming chicken breasts or filleting fish. Turn the butcher at your local grocery store into one of your secret kitchen shortcuts. At most grocery stores, it costs only a smile and a thank-you for the butcher to trim your meat, no matter the cut. When you arrive at the grocery store, go directly to the meat section. Pick out the packages of chicken, beef, pork, or seafood you want to buy, and ask your butcher to trim (and even portion) it for you, being very specific how you'd like it cut (you certainly don't want him to cut chicken breasts in half by filleting them if you need thick pieces). By the time you're finished shopping, your meat will be ready for you. At my grocery stores, the butchers, produce guys, fishmongers, and even most of the managers and cashiers know me by name ...and not because I'm on TV. It's because I smile and say "hello" and "thank you." Not only are they open to giving me suggestions and going the extra mile to help me, but if the herbs look wilted or the fish doesn't look as fresh as I'd like, I ask if they have more in the back. When they do (which is often), they go get the good stuff for me.

4. Kill Cleanup with Parchment and/or Nonstick Aluminum Foil If a recipe calls for a nonstick baking sheet, you can always line the sheet with nonstick aluminum foil (or parchment, if you're not cooking under the broiler). When the meal is cooked, all you do is throw away the foil and, voila, your pan is clean. This is a particularly great tip for broiling. How many evenings have you spent scrubbing pans after a liquid was broiled onto them? Not my idea of convenient or fun.

5. Seek Out Sauces Practically any meal can be kicked up by simply adding a low-fat sauce or fresh salsa. Don't be afraid to venture into the international foods section of your grocery store and do a little extra scoping through the produce section. You're likely to find some really great selections. A little bit of prepared sauce can sculpt that Basic Grilled Chicken (see this page this page) or grilled salmon you made on Sunday into a different culinary adventure every night of the week. Just be sure to read labels and keep an eye out for sauces that are high in calories and sodium. Sometimes it's astonishing how much sodium a sauce packs.

6. Guesstimate Greens With some ingredients, especially higher fat or calorie ones, you need to make sure you measure extremely accurately. With your greens, measurement is much less crucial because they pack so few calories. So save time by measuring them precisely once or twice, noting about how much of your handful a cup actually is. If you have large hands, a medium handful is likely to be about 1 cup. Smaller hands might need a bigger handful. Once you can associate a handful size to a cup size, you can eliminate the need to measure greens every single time. Plus you'll have one less cup to clean.

7. Stock Your Freezer I've never been a big fan of freezing prepared meals. However, I swear by my freezer when it comes to keeping necessities like chicken breasts, fish, and shrimp on hand. Not only do they ensure I'll always have healthy options available even when I don't have time to make it to the grocery store, they also save me lots lots of money. I buy in bulk when otherwise pricey items go on sale, and then I never have to pay top dollar. Please note that buying prefrozen chicken breasts is not the same as buying fresh and freezing them yourself. If you buy "fresh" from the grocery store, chances are it's been frozen and defrosted already. If you freeze it, it's been frozen twice and isn't likely to be the same quality as if you simply bought it frozen. As with all foods, you want to check the labels before you buy a new product. I've seen packages of frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts with added fats. I'm always sure to buy the ones without added fats and recommend you do the same. of money. I buy in bulk when otherwise pricey items go on sale, and then I never have to pay top dollar. Please note that buying prefrozen chicken breasts is not the same as buying fresh and freezing them yourself. If you buy "fresh" from the grocery store, chances are it's been frozen and defrosted already. If you freeze it, it's been frozen twice and isn't likely to be the same quality as if you simply bought it frozen. As with all foods, you want to check the labels before you buy a new product. I've seen packages of frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts with added fats. I'm always sure to buy the ones without added fats and recommend you do the same.

8. Stock Your Pantry with Staples Having a few key ingredients always on hand makes for a fast and easy meal. Stock up on brown rice, whole-wheat, whole-grain, or fiber-enriched pastas, a variety of mustards, cans of tuna, lower-sodium broths and stocks, even lower-sodium tomato sauce and canned tomatoes, and so on. Another idea is to keep whole-wheat pizza dough in the freezer. Some grocery stores now carry prepared dough, or you can sometimes purchase it from your favorite mom-and-pop pizzeria (I buy mine at Trader Joe's). Pile the crust high with reduced-fat cheese and your favorite toppings for a convenient everyone-friendly meal.

You might also consider making a monthly (or even quarterly) excursion to a natural foods store to stock up, especially if there isn't one conveniently close to your home. You're apt to find a number of foods that aren't stocked at your traditional grocery store that make healthy eating even more decadent. If you take the family on a field trip of sorts, the kids can start understanding labels and basic nutrition as you explore.

9. Organize Your Cupboard An organized kitchen makes for a fast and happy cooking experience. Take time to clean out and organize your kitchen cupboards, shelves, and pantry. You can cut five to ten minutes off your cooking time just by being able to get to your ingredients, mixing bowls, measuring cups, and spoons faster-not to mention you will save money. Knowing exactly what you already have in your kitchen keeps you from ending up with six boxes of low-fat graham crackers occupying needed space on your shelves.

10. Multiply the Measuring Cups These days, you can buy measuring cups and measuring spoons for pennies. Sure, you can go to a high-end cooking store and spend a fortune on them, but they're often stocked at 99-cent type stores and other discount stores, which is great news because I recommend having two or three sets of each. If you have only one, you have to do a lot more washing and drying while you're cooking-you're instantly slowed if you use the teaspoon measure for vanilla extract or another liquid ingredient and then need it for baking soda or another dry ingredient and you don't have a second one standing by.

11. Use Knives to Slice Minutes in the Kitchen You definitely don't have to spend a fortune on knives, but they do need to be good. Not only do sharp knives help prevent injury (did you know one of the most common emergency room visits outside of gang-related injury is because of people trying to cut bagels with dull knives?), they significantly cut cut (pun intended) your prep time. If your knives don't allow you to make a straight slice, or if you have to put a lot of muscle into cutting, it's time to replace them. (pun intended) your prep time. If your knives don't allow you to make a straight slice, or if you have to put a lot of muscle into cutting, it's time to replace them.

12. Chop Cooking Time with the Right Cutting Boards It may seem like a little thing, but trust me, an inadequate work surface will make you a turtle in the kitchen. If you're trying to cut or slice on an uneven surface, you're not only increasing your risk of injury (a slipping knife) but also slowing yourself down. I recommend investing in one extra-large cutting board to use for most of your prep: chopping veggies, shredding cheese, slicing cooked meats, and so on. Use a smaller one to work with raw meats so you can simply throw it in your dishwasher when you're finished working with it.

13. Portion Out Ready-to-Eat Foods It's easy to overindulge when we are unaware of the actual amount of food we are putting into our bodies. When we eat something our taste buds love, for some reason our brains can go on autopilot, making it harder to put down the fork. At the end of a meal, why not store leftovers in single-serving portions? Not only does this mean a healthy serving for the next time, but it also makes reheating convenient. This is a great snack strategy as well. Break down bags of chips, nuts, and dried fruits or boxes of crackers and cereals into single-serving portions in airtight containers or zip-top bags (just be sure to put them back in their original bag and seal that shut as well-many zip-top bags you purchase don't keep foods as fresh as the original packing will). Not only will you know exactly how much fat and how many calories are in each bag, but also it makes them easy to grab when you are on the go or to need to throw them into a lunch bag.

14. Stock Up on To-Go Containers.

Instead of hauling around containers only to spend tons of time cleaning them (or, worse, having them stack up in your car, awaiting cleaning), head to your local warehouse store and buy recyclable to-go containers. That way it's easy to carry your healthy foods or leftovers, and you can enjoy other parts of life when you're finished enjoying them.

15. Get Others Involved Who says Mom or Dad has to do all the cooking? Get the kids involved! Not only will this save you time, you'll be bestowing important life skills on the little ones. Folks who are comfortable in the kitchen are always better off than folks who aren't. If you can't cook, you're stuck relying on restaurants or living on microwaveable foods. If you can cook, your options for decadence are truly endless.

NATURAL VERSUS ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS: THE PERPETUAL CONFLICT.

My personality is such that I always want to make people happy. That's part of what I love about cooking. No matter what people want to eat, I can "love them" through food. This also means that when I was catering and cooking for celebrities, I'd completely rework my recipes or even create new ones to suit each individual's desires and cravings, whether I agreed with those desires and cravings (or even understood them) or not. I've made vegan menus, raw menus, organic menus, and I've made full-on meat-and-potato dishes followed by the richest chocolate cake that uses ...dare I say it-tons of white sugar. I truly believe what is right for one person is not right for all.

I am a huge believer that it would be great if everything we put in our mouths was organic, natural, pure, unprocessed, untreated, and and truly, 100 percent, inarguably good for us. Then the health-conscious, the ingredient hawks, and even the medical professionals would all be happy. Sadly, though, from where I'm sitting, right now this ideal is just that ...an ideal. truly, 100 percent, inarguably good for us. Then the health-conscious, the ingredient hawks, and even the medical professionals would all be happy. Sadly, though, from where I'm sitting, right now this ideal is just that ...an ideal.

Now I'm sure some people out there think it shouldn't just be an ideal-it should be the way it is. And I suspect most of those people are lucky enough not to experience the cravings I and so many of my clients, including The Biggest Loser The Biggest Loser contestants I've worked with, have. So instead of mandating that everything you eat is natural, I do my best to use as many whole ingredients as possible while adding slightly less natural ones when necessary in order to achieve maximum flavor. contestants I've worked with, have. So instead of mandating that everything you eat is natural, I do my best to use as many whole ingredients as possible while adding slightly less natural ones when necessary in order to achieve maximum flavor.

Now if you're not on board with this philosophy and you're sitting there thinking, "No! You can't call fat-free ice cream healthy, no matter what," consider this: what if your best friend or your teenage daughter weighed over 300 pounds and her weight struggle was greatly affecting her quality of life? At that weight, her health would most likely be at risk in various ways. But what if she could satisfy her sugar cravings by eating Broiled Peaches a la Mode (see this page this page) instead of the peach pie a la mode she previously indulged in? And what if this recognition that there are better ways of eating enabled her to make changes that helped her in finally reaching a healthy weight and in feeling strong, powerful, and even have better self esteem? Granted, if all you eat is processed food and tons of chemicals, you're putting your health at risk no matter if you look fit or not. But for some, including myself, who do or have battled food, sometimes a small amount of artificial sweetener in the form of yogurt included in my baked goods doesn't seem totally evil. And for some people, having "just one tablespoon" of real whipped cream, as I've heard others suggest, is somewhat of an impossibility because once real whipped cream enters the house, it just somehow "disappears" or creates an obsession.

Now please don't get me wrong: I'm not trying to make a case for eating artificial ingredients. In fact, I think we should stay away from them when at all possible. But I also have enough experience with so many people's food quirks, cravings, and desires to understand that everyone really does have different needs. And the only person who can assess what's best for you is you ...with a little help from your doctor, of course.

As you flip through these pages, I think you'll pretty quickly see a compromise of sorts. I incorporate many whole foods with nutritionally minded ingredients, from plenty of chicken breasts and brown rice to all-natural wing sauce, into healthy, decadent, and convenient dishes.

To that end, I've attempted to create a balanced selection throughout the book. A large percentage of the recipes can easily be made with 100 percent natural ingredients. I've also included a guide to tweaking the recipes that don't obviously have natural substitutions (see this page this page). Plus, for many recipes, particularly where yogurt is used, I've provided nutritional information for the finished dishes if you choose natural yogurt (always higher in calories) and if you choose artificially sweetened yogurt (always lower in calories).

The most important thing for me (and so many others who have succeeded in gaining and maintaining health) is balance. For you, the key might be to stop striving for perfection by excluding every artificial ingredient from your diet all together, but instead, strike the right balance between the foods you believe are best for you and and the foods that most greatly satisfy your cravings or even allow you to eat more volume (I'm a huge fan of this one). Or it might be to stick to natural ingredients even if that means that you must consume more calories or spend more money to do so. You just have to find out what works best for the foods that most greatly satisfy your cravings or even allow you to eat more volume (I'm a huge fan of this one). Or it might be to stick to natural ingredients even if that means that you must consume more calories or spend more money to do so. You just have to find out what works best for you. you.

UNDERSTANDING THE WORLD OF ORGANIC AND ALL-NATURAL PRODUCTS.

People (including me in the paragraphs that precede this) throw around the terms natural natural and and organic organic a lot. And I talk throughout the book about the importance of reading labels. So I thought it might be helpful to provide a quick breakdown of what these terms mean to you as a consumer. a lot. And I talk throughout the book about the importance of reading labels. So I thought it might be helpful to provide a quick breakdown of what these terms mean to you as a consumer.

According to the latest definition from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; petroleum-based fertilizers or sewage sludge-based fertilizers; bio-engineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.

In addition to the USDA organic label, you might see different organic labels in grocery stores. That's because the United States recognizes three levels of organics

1. Products made entirely with certified organic ingredients and methods are labeled 100% organic. organic.

2. Products made with at least 95% organic ingredients can be called organic. organic. Products that fall into these two categories may display the USDA organic seal. Products that fall into these two categories may display the USDA organic seal.

3. The third category is for products containing a minimum of 70 percent organic ingredients, which may be labeled made with organic ingredients. with organic ingredients.

Admittedly, this stuff can get a little tricky, especially when talking about meat, eggs, dairy, and seafood. For meats to be organic, livestock must be fed only only certified organic feed, may not be injected with hormones or antibiotics, and must have access to the outdoors, including pastureland for grazing. Dairy must come from livestock raised by the same standards. "All-natural" meat and dairy products are like organic meats, but they might not be fed organic feed exclusively. It's quite expensive for ranchers and farmers to feed their livestock 100 percent organic feed (even if they don't use hormones or antibiotics or adhere to other standards), which is why organic meat is often significantly more expensive than other meats. Organic eggs are available, but know that just because eggs are labeled vegetarian, cage-free, or free-range doesn't automatically qualify them as organic. certified organic feed, may not be injected with hormones or antibiotics, and must have access to the outdoors, including pastureland for grazing. Dairy must come from livestock raised by the same standards. "All-natural" meat and dairy products are like organic meats, but they might not be fed organic feed exclusively. It's quite expensive for ranchers and farmers to feed their livestock 100 percent organic feed (even if they don't use hormones or antibiotics or adhere to other standards), which is why organic meat is often significantly more expensive than other meats. Organic eggs are available, but know that just because eggs are labeled vegetarian, cage-free, or free-range doesn't automatically qualify them as organic.

Now, is there such a thing as organic seafood? Most experts say no. You may see seafood labeled organic, but don't be fooled; the USDA does not put its "organic" stamp on seafood. If you see that label, it's from an independent or foreign agency. However, you can can purchase wild-caught seafood, which means the fish is caught in its natural environment and did not come from a farm. Because wild-caught fish were able to swim freely, they are often leaner, with less fat and calories than farm-raised fish. purchase wild-caught seafood, which means the fish is caught in its natural environment and did not come from a farm. Because wild-caught fish were able to swim freely, they are often leaner, with less fat and calories than farm-raised fish.

When you come across a label that reads all-natural, all-natural, that means the final product was made solely from botanical resources without any use of additives or preservatives. The all-natural phenomenon has become popular in recent years because consumers can purchase products without additives that cost less than certified organic products. that means the final product was made solely from botanical resources without any use of additives or preservatives. The all-natural phenomenon has become popular in recent years because consumers can purchase products without additives that cost less than certified organic products.

You might be thinking to yourself, is it really worth the extra dollars and effort to eat organically? I think that decision is up to you, but many studies do show eating organic and all-natural products can be beneficial. I don't want to overwhelm you with too many statistics, but a recent study gives us pretty good evidence for the benefits of buying organic, especially when it comes to meats, dairy products, and produce (particularly produce with thin skin, like tomatoes and apples, as opposed to thicker-skinned produce, like pineapples and bananas). A four-year study conducted by the European Union found organic fruit and vegetables contain up to 40 percent more antioxidants and dairy up to 60 percent more than their conventionally produced counterparts. Though there isn't a ton of conclusive research on the benefits of eating organic and all-natural, it's safe to say that making an effort to eat fewer processed and chemically treated foods is definitely a good thing for all of us! The best advice I can give anyone looking to eat naturally or organically is to be informed and to read labels. Don't be fooled by phrases like cage-free, made with natural ingredients, cage-free, made with natural ingredients, or or made with organically grown.... made with organically grown.... When you flip the package over and read the label, you may find the product in fact contains some all-natural or organic ingredients, but it may When you flip the package over and read the label, you may find the product in fact contains some all-natural or organic ingredients, but it may also also contain additives, chemicals, or preservatives. You may end up spending extra for such products without getting the benefits of truly all-natural or organic items. Make sure you spend your hard-earned dollars on products you really want, not simply things marketed a certain way. And don't be fooled into thinking that just because a marinara sauce has a label that reads contain additives, chemicals, or preservatives. You may end up spending extra for such products without getting the benefits of truly all-natural or organic items. Make sure you spend your hard-earned dollars on products you really want, not simply things marketed a certain way. And don't be fooled into thinking that just because a marinara sauce has a label that reads 100% organic and all-natural 100% organic and all-natural that sauce is necessarily good for you. I've seen organic marinara sauces that have 14 grams of fat for a -cup serving. that sauce is necessarily good for you. I've seen organic marinara sauces that have 14 grams of fat for a -cup serving.

ALL-NATURAL RECIPES.

The following recipes are either already written to be made with all-natural ingredients or can easily be tweaked to be made with them by following the simple guidelines on this page this page.

Bring On the Breakfasts Cheesy Breakfast Quesadilla with Fresh Salsa Peppered Turkey & Egg Breakfast Sandwich Cheddar Breakfast Wrap Breakfast Pastrami Sandwich Breakfast Fried Rice Mini Frittatas with Herbed Goat Cheese Cheese & Olive Omelet Super-Cheesy Scrambled Eggs Peanut Butter & Banana Waffle Sandwich PB&J Oatmeal Pomegranate Oatmeal Chocolate Banana Breakfast Bowl Chocolate Peanut Butter Breakfast Banana Split Chocolate Raspberry Breakfast Sundae Pineapple Coconut Breakfast Banana Split Orange Chocolate Parfait Raspberry Lemonade Smoothie Apple Cinnamon (Breakfast) Bruschetta Crunchy Breakfast Banana Logs Better Burgers, Sandwiches, & Wraps Drippin' Kickin' Burger Blackened Salmon Sandwich Turkey Provolone Toaster Sandwich Santa Fe Chicken Melt with Guacamole Fully Loaded Turkey Burrito Pocket Southwest Chicken Open-Ended Wrap Overstuffed Chicken Guacamole Wrap Open-Ended BBQ Chicken Wrap Amazing Appetizers & Savory Snacks Enchizza Rock & Roll Pizza Roll Boneless Honey BBQ Wings Asparagus Roast Beef Roll-Ups Tuna Sashimi with Jalapeno Garlic Cheese Breadsticks A+ Apple Cheddar Skewers Quick Crunchy Potato Chips Fixed-Up French Onion Dip Margarita Chips Wow 'em White Bean Dip Midsection-Melting Main Courses Asian Grilled London Broil Luau London Broil Mexican Cocktail Meatballs Easy-As-Can-Be Pot Roast Supper Boneless Pork "Ribs"

Simple Glazed Pork Chops Cajun Pork Tenderloin Caramelized Apple Butter-Topped Pork Chops Chicken Breasts with Goat Cheese and Fire-Roasted Tomatoes Naked Chicken Parmesan Crouton Breaded Chicken Unbelievable Easy Chicken Parmesan Balsamic Marinated Chicken Roasted Rosemary Chicken Turkey Cranberry Quesadilla Grilled Turkey Cutlets with Cranberry Honey Mustard Sauce Bacon Wrapped Tilapia Tandoori Tilapia Grilled Salmon with Caramelized Onions "Smoky" Salmon Pan-"Fried" Old Bay Salmon Breaded Portobello Mushrooms with Dijon Bruschettarogies Cheddar Pierogies with Caramelized Onions Penne and Asparagus with Ricotta Cheese Salad Pizza with Grilled Chicken Ravioli Soup Slimming Sides & Salads Stylin' Steak Fries Old Bay Potato Wedges Powerhouse Polenta Fries Mexican Mac & Cheese Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes Red & Green Stir-Fry Balsamic Roasted Asparagus Cumin and Lime Black Beans Creamy Mustard Tossed Green Beans Green Beans with Roasted Red Bell Peppers Green Beans with Lime Grilled Asparagus with Goat Cheese Crumbles Quick Steamed Lemon Asparagus Snow Peas with Mint & Pine Nuts Steakhouse Mushrooms Mexican Caprese Salad Today's Taco Salad Cucumber Tomato Salad Arugula Appetizer Salad Decadent Desserts & Sweet Snacks Chocolate Chip Banana Boat Caramel Apple Sundae Snack Crunchy Bananas & Caramel Sexy Strawberry Tapenade Slimming Banana Smoothie The Basics Basic Grilled Chicken Southwest Basic Grilled Chicken Simple Grilled London Broil Steamed Shrimp Brown Rice Hard-Boiled Egg Whites Easier-Than-Caramelized Onions ORGANIC & ALL-NATURAL SUBSTITUTIONS.

For the most part, substituting all-natural and organic ingredients is pretty simple. Just look for labels that say all-natural all-natural or or organic. organic. Just be sure to note that, for example, organic chocolate syrup may have a few more calories than the traditional stuff. For the most common (but not quite so obvious) substitutions, I've created a chart to help you know which ingredients to buy if you want to go all-natural or organic. Just be sure to note that, for example, organic chocolate syrup may have a few more calories than the traditional stuff. For the most common (but not quite so obvious) substitutions, I've created a chart to help you know which ingredients to buy if you want to go all-natural or organic.

If Recipe Calls for ...

Replace with ... Replace with ...

bacon, center-cut organic or all-natural center-cut bacon; Applegate Farms makes both All-Natural Sunday Bacon and Organic Sunday Bacon with only 10 calories and 1 gram fat more per 2-slice serving than conventional center-cut bacon organic or all-natural center-cut bacon; Applegate Farms makes both All-Natural Sunday Bacon and Organic Sunday Bacon with only 10 calories and 1 gram fat more per 2-slice serving than conventional center-cut bacon butter-flavored cooking spray 100% canola oil spray 100% canola oil spray coconut, sweetened flake organic coconut flakes (to date, I've only found unsweetened, however) organic coconut flakes (to date, I've only found unsweetened, however) egg substitute 2 organic large egg whites per cup egg substitute, or a 1:1 substitution of 100% liquid egg whites 2 organic large egg whites per cup egg substitute, or a 1:1 substitution of 100% liquid egg whites goat cheese crumbles log of all-natural or organic goat cheese, then crumble it yourself log of all-natural or organic goat cheese, then crumble it yourself meats (ground beef, London broil, top round steak, pork tenderloin, chicken breast, turkey cutlets) certified organic or all-natural meats (be sure to read labels to ensure they are truly organic or all-natural) certified organic or all-natural meats (be sure to read labels to ensure they are truly organic or all-natural) mini chocolate chips organic chocolate chips, chopped into small pieces organic chocolate chips, chopped into small pieces parmesan cheese, grated, reduced-fat all-natural grated parmesan cheese, which has an additional 5 calories and 1 gram of fat per 5-gram (about 1 teaspoon) serving all-natural grated parmesan cheese, which has an additional 5 calories and 1 gram of fat per 5-gram (about 1 teaspoon) serving pasta or macaroni, fiber-enriched all-natural or organic whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta or macaroni all-natural or organic whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta or macaroni peppered turkey another all-natural or organic meat, such as all-natural Canadian bacon, extra-lean ham, or smoked turkey another all-natural or organic meat, such as all-natural Canadian bacon, extra-lean ham, or smoked turkey pierogies all-natural pierogies. I found whole-grain pierogies: Living Right Natural Foods Multigrain Pierogies, which will add about 5 grams of fat per serving all-natural pierogies. I found whole-grain pierogies: Living Right Natural Foods Multigrain Pierogies, which will add about 5 grams of fat per serving roasted bell peppers an all-natural or organic brand (such as Mediterranean Organics), or purchase raw organic bell peppers and roast them yourself an all-natural or organic brand (such as Mediterranean Organics), or purchase raw organic bell peppers and roast them yourself salt all-natural sea salt all-natural sea salt seafood (tilapia, salmon, shrimp) wild-caught instead of farm-raised seafood (Note: most experts agree that truly organic seafood does not exist, so you probably won't find any seafood labeled wild-caught instead of farm-raised seafood (Note: most experts agree that truly organic seafood does not exist, so you probably won't find any seafood labeled organic. organic.) sugar, granulated 1:1 substitution of organic or all-natural raw sugar or organic or all-natural cane sugar (also called 1:1 substitution of organic or all-natural raw sugar or organic or all-natural cane sugar (also called evaporated cane juice evaporated cane juice) whipped topping, frozen natural whipped topping, which will add at least 2 grams of fat per 2-tablespoon serving, depending on the brand (Tru-Whip makes one) natural whipped topping, which will add at least 2 grams of fat per 2-tablespoon serving, depending on the brand (Tru-Whip makes one) yogurt, artificially sweetened organic naturally sweetened yogurt, which is about an additional 7 calories per ounce organic naturally sweetened yogurt, which is about an additional 7 calories per ounce

TO MICROWAVE OR NOT TO MICROWAVE...THAT IS THE QUESTION Let me remind you I'm not a doctor and I'm certainly not a scientist, so you might want to consider doing a little research on this topic on your own. I know tons of people use their microwave as a mainstay. Yet I occasionally receive letters from fans of Healthy Decadence Healthy Decadence asking that I don't use the microwave because their doctors have suggested they not use one. asking that I don't use the microwave because their doctors have suggested they not use one.

I'm all about balance, as I mentioned above. I've found numerous pieces of research suggesting you should not put plastic in the microwave, so I make sure not to do that, and I've written the recipes in this book to support that. However, this is a book about convenience, and it doesn't seem that, as a society, we have thrown away our microwaves. The most convenient option in preparing most of the recipes is definitely to use the microwave. But I've also provided an alternative where possible so folks who choose not to use a microwave can still enjoy the dishes.

bring on the breakfasts Bacon & Egg Breakfast Quesadilla Cheesy Breakfast Quesadilla with Fresh Salsa Peppered Turkey & Egg Breakfast Sandwich Cheddar Breakfast Wrap Breakfast Pastrami Sandwich Breakfast Fried Rice Mini Frittatas with Herbed Goat Cheese Cheese & Olive Omelet Super-Cheesy Scrambled Eggs Peanut Butter & Banana Waffle Sandwich Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes PB&J Oatmeal Pomegranate Oatmeal Burst of Orange Cream of Wheat Chocolate Banana Breakfast Bowl Chocolate Peanut Butter Breakfast Banana Split Chocolate Raspberry Breakfast Sundae Pineapple Coconut Breakfast Banana Split Orange Chocolate Parfait Raspberry Lemonade Smoothie Apple Cinnamon (Breakfast) Bruschetta Crunchy Breakfast Banana Logs bacon & egg breakfast quesadilla Hands-on Time: 10 MINUTES (MICROWAVE) OR 12 MINUTES (STOVETOP) 10 MINUTES (MICROWAVE) OR 12 MINUTES (STOVETOP) Hands-off Time: Hands-off Time: NONE NONE Instead of slaving over a stove in the morning, buy packaged 50% reduced-fat bacon pieces. You'll save tons of time, and you'll be less likely to overindulge because you won't have the smell of bacon wafting through the house for hours.

Look for the bacon pieces near the croutons and other salad ingredients in your favorite grocery store. Or, if you love them as much as I do, head to Costco and buy them in a big bag. They keep fresh in the refrigerator for a long time.

Olive oil spray 3 large egg whites 1 (about 8-inch diameter) reduced-fat, wholewheat flour tortilla ounce (about cup) finely shredded light Swiss cheese 1 tablespoon 50% less fat real bacon pieces (I used Hormel) 1 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro leaves, or more to taste (optional) Microwave Instructions Lightly mist a small, microwave-safe bowl with spray. Add the egg whites and microwave for 30 seconds on low. Continue microwaving them in 30-second intervals until they are just a bit runny on top. Then using a fork, stir them to break into large "scrambled" pieces. By the time you "scramble" and stir them, the residual heat should have cooked away the runniness. If they are still undercooked, cook them in 10-second intervals until just done.

Place a nonstick frying pan large enough for the tortilla to lie flat over medium-high heat. Add the tortilla (no need to add any fat). Sprinkle half the cheese over half the tortilla, followed by half the bacon. Spoon the egg evenly over the cheese and bacon, followed by the remaining cheese, bacon, and cilantro, if desired. Fold the bare half over the filled half. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the cheese is beginning to melt and the tortilla is lightly browned in spots. Carefully flip the filled tortilla over and cook until the cheese is completely melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the quesadilla to a serving plate and cut it into 4 wedges. Serve immediately.

Stovetop Instructions Follow the directions above, but instead of microwaving the egg whites, simply scramble them in a nonstick skillet lightly misted with spray over medium heat.

Makes 1 serving. 238 calories, 24 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 18 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 580 mg sodium 238 calories, 24 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 18 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 580 mg sodium cheesy breakfast quesadilla with fresh salsa Hands-on Time: 10 MINUTES (MICROWAVE) OR 12 MINUTES (STOVETOP) 10 MINUTES (MICROWAVE) OR 12 MINUTES (STOVETOP) Hands-off Time: Hands-off Time: NONE NONE I love eating quesadillas for breakfast. They're a snap to throw together, yet they're a hot comfort food and a great start to your morning. The egg whites add plenty of lean protein to help keep you full and satisfied. For variety, I like to vary the kind of cheese I use.

Olive oil spray 4 large egg whites 1 (about 8-inch-diameter) reduced-fat, whole-wheat flour tortilla 1 ounce ( cup) finely shredded light Swiss cheese cup drained fresh salsa (refrigerated, not jarred, if possible) Microwave Instructions Lightly mist a small microwave-safe bowl with spray. Add the egg whites and microwave for 30 seconds on low. Continue microwaving them in 30-second intervals until they are just barely runny on top. Then using a fork, stir them to break into large "scrambled" pieces. By the time you "scramble" and stir them, the residual heat should have cooked away the runniness. If they are still undercooked, cook them in 10-second intervals until just done.

Place a nonstick frying pan large enough for the tortilla to lie flat over medium-high heat. Add the tortilla (no need to add any fat). Sprinkle half the cheese over half of the tortilla. Spoon the egg evenly over that, followed by the remaining cheese. Fold the bare half over the filled half. Cook until the cheese begins to melt and the tortilla is lightly browned in spots, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip it and cook until the cheese is completely melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the quesadilla to a serving plate and top with salsa. Cut into 4 wedges and serve immediately.

Stovetop Instructions Follow the directions above, but instead of microwaving the egg whites, simply scramble them in a nonstick skillet lightly misted with spray over medium heat.

Makes 1 serving. 257 calories, 27 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 518 mg sodium 257 calories, 27 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 518 mg sodium peppered turkey & egg breakfast sandwich Hands-on Time: 4 MINUTES (MICROWAVE) OR 12 MINUTES (STOVETOP) 4 MINUTES (MICROWAVE) OR 12 MINUTES (STOVETOP) Hands-off Time: Hands-off Time: NONE NONE This sandwich is a convenient, even leaner twist on a more traditional Canadian bacon and egg breakfast sandwich I love. Feel free to swap in Canadian bacon, extra-lean smoked ham, or even light salami-it's delicious with any of them.

If you time it just right, the cheese will melt between the hot muffin and the hot egg. If that's too precise for you, you can wrap the sandwich in a paper towel and microwave it for 15 to 30 seconds on low power to melt the cheese completely. Just be careful not to overmicrowave it, or the English muffin will become chewy.

Olive oil spray 2 large egg whites 1 light multigrain English muffin 1 slice ( ounce) 2% milk American cheese 1 ounce thinly sliced or shaved extra-lean deli peppered turkey Microwave Instructions Lightly mist a 3 or 4-inch diameter ramekin or microwave-safe bowl with spray. Add the egg whites.

Toast the English muffin in a toaster or under the broiler.

Microwave the egg in 30-second intervals on low until it is no longer runny. Use a butter knife to loosen the egg "patty" from the ramekin. Assemble the sandwich by placing the bottom half of the English muffin, inside up, on a serving plate. Top it with the cheese, the egg, the turkey, and then the top half of the muffin. Serve immediately.

Oven Instructions Follow the directions above, but instead of microwaving the egg whites, preheat the oven to 400. Place the ramekin of egg whites in a small baking dish or pan. Fill the dish with enough water to come halfway up the ramekin. Bake the egg whites for 18 to 20 minutes, or until just set.

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