Cool-Weather Cooking Techniques

Just about the time that summer’s steaks, kebabs, and burgers are but a memory, thoughts of mouthwatering roasts, braised vegetables, and flavorful stews begin to tempt cooks back to the stove. By incorporating techniques like braising, roasting, slow cooking, and baking into your cooking, you can create a variety of meals that will help keep you on track as you move toward your weight loss goal. Here’s a guide to the techniques that will help you whip up comforting, warming meals all throughout autumn:

Braising:The beauty of braising is that firmer vegetables (such as Brussels sprouts and carrots) and slightly less tender cuts of meat (bottom round, eye of round) can be rendered tender and flavorful as they cook, covered, in a pan with a tightly fitting lid that prevents the liquid in the food from evaporating. Typically, the meats and vegetables are seasoned, browned, or seared in a little olive oil, then braised either in the oven or on the stove top in a small amount of liquid such as water, reduced-sodium broth, or even wine. It’s important to not to crowd the food, since this will cause it to steam. In this recipe for Braised Balsamic Carrots, baby carrots and minced shallots are simmered until tender in water flavored with balsamic vinegar, then sprinkled with fresh chives.

Roasting: When meat is roasted in the oven, the outside develops an appealing brown, crisp crust, while vegetables become deliciously caramelized and sweet. Two excellent cuts to roast are the pork tenderloin and the beef tenderloin. Nearly all vegetables are delicious when roasted, too, and many varieties of seafood take well to roasting. Generally, the food is roasted in a shallow pan, uncovered, in a hot oven. In our Roasted Striped Sea Bass on a Bed of Lentils, sea bass fillets are seared in olive oil until golden brown, then roasted to perfection in a hot oven and served on a bed of thyme and garlic-seasoned green lentils for a nutrient-dense main course that can be enjoyed on any Phase of the South Beach Diet.

Slow Cooking: The slow cooker is undeniably a busy cook’s blessing, and the house smells great from the aroma of cooked food when you arrive home at night. A few pointers will help you rock your slow cooker this fall. Use the right size slow cooker (a 5 to 6-quart one works well) and neither underfill it or fill it to the brim. Since most of the heat comes from the sides of the pan, fill the cooker between half and three quarters full. If you’re using it to cook meat, consider browning the meat before adding it to the slow cooker so you get a rich, caramelized flavor. Resist the urge to take the lid off as the food cooks, since this lets the heat escape. (It’s okay to remove the lid half an hour before dinner’s done to check on dinner’s progress!) Besides meat, the slow cooker is a no-fuss way to cook everything from soups and chili to quinoa and steel-cut oatmeal. This delicious slow cooker oatmeal, which is flavored with chopped dried apple, cinnamon, and vanilla extract, takes just 10 minutes to prepare and is the perfect way to start a chilly morning. Overnight Oatmeal can be enjoyed starting on Phase 2.

Baking: Baking is an all- encompassing term for food that’s cooked in an oven, surrounded by dry heat. Generally, but not always, the temperature for baking is a little lower than it is for roasting. While you may think of roasting as the primary cooking method for meats and vegetables, consider that these foods also taste fabulous when baked. If you're looking for a great make-ahead main course for entertaining, consider this Baked Chicken with Artichokes. In this Mediterranean-inspired entrée, perfectly seasoned boneless chicken breasts are baked and topped with quartered artichoke hearts, lemon slices, and a light sprinkling of oregano and thyme. It’s a real crowd-pleaser, and any leftovers are delicious the next day.

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