Putting Your Culinary Skills to the Test

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Spicy chickpea

I know what you’re thinking already — that I’m best known as the exercise person, so what’s the word, “culinary” doing in this post? I’m being transparent right up front: I do not consider myself a food guru, but a girl’s got to eat — and I need to up my game.

I’ve helped many clients on the nutrition side, but as far as creating actual interesting meals — not so much. If there’s an occasion where interesting cooking is involved, the credit goes to my husband and my dear friend, Katie, as they’re my go-to creative types. But who’s to say that I can’t at least try? After all, I watch those food shows, too!

The Ziploc® Fresh 180 challenge, “Putting Your Culinary Skills to the Test” was the perfect opportunity for me to come up with some ideas, get out of my comfort zone and try new things. I figured, what’s the worst that could happen? At the very least, I’d make a good attempt to step into the same league as my husband and Katie.

Create a Dipping Station
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The first part of the challenge was to conquer the world — the culinary world — with some easy, exotic dips or sauces. I knew I could do this! My husband normally likes making these, but it was my turn. While our Sunday meal is often centered around plain grilled chicken strips, thanks to me, it was turned into to the “Chicken Dipping World Tour.

I had fun creating various dipping stations. We did this buffet style, starting with the chicken and then spooning on whatever dips caught our eyes. Italian, Asian and Middle Eastern palates inspired my favorites. I made tomato marinara sauce, lemon-soy glaze and creamy garlic hummus dip. It was a really simple way to begin, but ensured that dinner wasn’t boring right from the start! I saved any leftover concoctions in small Ziploc® brand storage containers, so we could have quick snacks.

Spice Up the Snacks

Speaking of snacks, the next challenge suggestion included swapping out an old favorite and putting a new twist on it. This was perfect, because on more than a few occasions, I’ve had fitness clients wanting to snack, but saying they didn’t have enough options.

My all-time favorite snack has to be roasted chickpeas. (Don’t knock ’em until you try ’em!) Besides having a great taste, they’re also a great source of protein and fiber. Rinse and drain a can or two of garbanzo beans. Spread them out on a baking pan and pat them dry to get rid of excess moisture.

Next comes the fun part — get creative and toss them with seasoning! I’m a garlic lover at heart, so I mixed garlic powder with some other pantry staples. Bake them at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 40 minutes, turning them regularly. When a test pea is nicely browned and very crunchy, they’re ready. Voila! You have the best chip substitute ever. I keep an extra stash stored in Ziploc® brand Snack Bags so that I’m prepared and don’t give in to other tempting, less healthy options.

(The Right) Carbs are Your Friend
Most fitness enthusiasts that I know tend to refrain from eating too many starchy carbs. But, get let’s real. Who doesn’t love a little pasta now and then? (Keyword here is “little.”) Portion control really is key. It means that you can have a balance of the foods you love without sabotaging your health goals.

So, what are my favorites carbs? I prefer low-glycemic pasta. The “low-glycemic” means that the carbs won’t spike your blood sugar. Keeping your blood sugar stable is very important when controlling your diet. I know I was supposed to get “super” creative, but this time I had to keep it simple, coating the pasta with just a little butter and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
I also like couscous. It’s easy to control portions with this as well. You can find couscous in a variety of flavors — and when I include it in a meal, it seems like we’re eating at an interesting restaurant, not just at home. Plus, it makes my meal just “feel” more creative!

Now, I know I won’t be appearing on a cooking channel anytime soon, but at least the Ziploc® Fresh 180 Challenge helped get me going in a new direction. And who knows, maybe next time I’ll tackle a family holiday menu!

Disclaimer: I was paid to develop this post and to provide related images for Ziploc®. As always, all opinions are my own.

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