Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Buffalo Blog Spotlight: Emily Bites Cooking Blog

Meet Emily, a Western New Yorker who shares Weight Watchers-friendly recipes at

Her recipes have been featured on Oprah; Anderson Cooper's daytime talk show, Anderson; and she has been profiled in Fitness Magazine. Her simple, good-for-you recipes are easy to make, and they're organized by course so that you can easily find your favorites (click here for the recipe index).

How did you make the transition from eating microwaved meals to cooking at home? 

At the time, I'd been doing Weight Watchers for a while and it was working! The only problem was that I was eating a lot of the same things, and I was getting a little bored. The thing is, I love food, and committing to lose weight didn't change that. I was craving a lot more flavor and variety than frozen meals provide, so I decided to try cooking a few simple recipes. What a difference!

With just a little effort, I learned I could create meals for myself that were full of flavor and much more filling than a frozen entree. The home cooked meals were also a way better use of my Weight Watchers points because they kept me satisfied longer for the same number of points.

The biggest surprise for me was that I genuinely didn't have to sacrifice any of my favorite foods; the lightened up recipes on my blog taste just as good (if not better) than their traditional counterparts.

What has motivated you to continue to eat healthy? Has your blog played a part?

I can't pretend that I'm perfect. I struggle at times and have ups and downs like everyone else. I actually just re-committed recently after falling off the wagon for a while and gaining some weight back.

The most important component of staying on track for me is to be prepared. Meal planning, grocery shopping, and having healthy options available is key. The times when I struggle are when I'm traveling a lot or when I have too much on my plate and I don't make the time to stock my kitchen and get organized.

What my blog does is make me sure that I can do this. I can eat healthy. I can lose weight. I don't have to sacrifice a thing. I can eat all my favorite recipes and know they'll taste amazing and keep me full. My blog gives me confidence. All I need is to take a little time every week to plan out my meals, make a grocery list, and ensure I have plenty of options on hand.

I want to feel healthy and be a good role model for my readers, and that's motivating to me.

Of the recipes that you've featured on your blog, which are your favorite?

It's so hard to pick! I'll just highlight some off the top of my head. The Butternut Squash Soup on my blog is creamy, velvety and full of flavor. It's perfect for this time of year and no one would ever guess it's light.

Meatballs are one of my favorite foods, so my Slow Cooker Meatballs & Marinara or Spaghetti & Meatball Soup are both favorites.

The Banana Chocolate Oatmeal Singles make a super easy and delicious grab-and-go breakfast.

Cheesy Chicken & Stuffing and Bubble Up Enchilada Casserole are both easy weeknight comfort foods with minimal prep time.

My "main course muffins" have always been popular, especially the Taco "Cupcakes" and the Mac & Cheese Muffins.

There are a ton more I could name, but for brevity's sake, I'll stick to those for now.

Do you have a strategy for days when you're busy or unable to cook dinner but would rather not turn to fast food?

Leftovers make great dinners! It's a good idea to freeze some extras when you have them for nights when cooking is just not going to happen.

If you know ahead of time that you won't be able to cook, you can always let your slow cooker do it for you while you're working. It's great to walk through your front door and know dinner is already ready!

Making sure your kitchen is stocked with ingredients to make fast and easy foods like sandwiches, salads, breakfast-for-dinner or English muffin pizzas is a good idea as well.

What are some ingredients that you consistently replace? Do you have any go-to substitutions?

I use a lot of white whole wheat flour, high fiber pastas and other whole grains. Much of what I do isn't just substituting reduced-fat ingredients, but I do use several reduced-fat dairy products. I use 2% cheeses fairly frequently (never fat-free) and 1/3 less fat cream cheese.

You can usually substitute fat-free half & half for cream in most recipes. Greek yogurt is also a fantastic addition to creamy sauces, and you can often reduce the butter in baked goods and add Greek yogurt in its place.

I also like to find ways to bulk up recipes with vegetables, black beans or other filling ingredients that will allow me to stretch the portion size while keeping the recipe tasty and satisfying. Using lean meats is also a great way to keep your meals on the lighter side.

How did you learn which ingredients to use in your substitutions? Trial and error?

Trial and error definitely played a large role. You can't be afraid to take a risk and try things in the kitchen! There are also a lot of great resources online if you're stuck and need an idea to lighten up your recipe.

If someone is interested in adapting recipes in their own kitchen, how would you recommend that they get started?

I recommend starting by making some already lighter recipes, like the ones on my site! Cooking delicious, light recipes that are already proven builds confidence. I think as you become more comfortable in the kitchen, your ability to get creative making or adapting your own recipes naturally develops.

When I started cooking, I had little to no experience, and now I'm able to brainstorm and invent my own lightened up recipes from scratch. It just takes practice and a willingness to try.

Head over to Emily Bites to check out Emily's recipes (and beautiful photography). Don't forget to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest to make sure that you don't miss her latest recipes.

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