5 Fabulous Reasons To Love Your Digital Kitchen Scale

digital_scale_mainRecently I was asked by a regular reader to explain how and why I choose to weigh my food. I’ve heard from many people that weighing my food seems obsessive, but I think that’s a huge overstatement. If a person were to weigh every morsel that passes their lips, perhaps, but if you truly want to get an accurate representation of how many calories you’re actually eating, weighing food is vastly more accurate than just measuring, and that’s not the only good thing about using your food scale.

How to Use Your Digital Food Scale

Most digital food scales have two main buttons: POWER/TARE and UNIT. You use the POWER/TARE button to both turn the scale on and to zero out the weight. This is great if you want to use a bowl or plate to avoid putting the food directly onto the scale’s surface (which I recommend). You set the plate or bowl onto the surface of the scale and touch the POWER/TARE button. The readout should then read zero, and then you can add your food to get the most accurate measurement. The UNIT button allows you to cycle through units of measurement, such as grams, ounces, fluid ounces, and milliliters.

My digital food scale is like the one in the above photo: it has a flat top without any seams or anything, and that makes it super easy to clean. Just spray it with your standard kitchen spray and wipe clean with a paper towel. I also love the style of the one above because it’s easy to slide out of the way when not in use because it’s smaller than a cookbook! Plus mine runs on a mere 2 AAA batteries!

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Be honest, you just eat them directly from the bag, don’t you?

5 Fabulous Reasons To Love Your Digital Kitchen Scale

  1. It’s more accurate for oddly shaped food.

    Have you ever tried to portion out potato chips? Potato chips are oddly shaped and there’s a lot of air gaps between the chips themselves. Potato chips are also calorie dense, and you shouldn’t eat too many. If you’re counting your calories, do you really want to estimate how many chips you’re eating? I guarantee you’ll estimate you’re eating less than you actually are, and those calories can really add up. Heck, even a chicken breast is oddly shaped! Unless you cut it up into small pieces and measure it by cups, you don’t know how much you’re actually eating. And salad greens? Who the heck knows how much a cup of spinach is? Do I measure it loosely? Do I cram it in? WHO KNOWS?! A food scale can fix this problem.

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    Do you hate washing dishes as much as I do? Growing up, my dad’s rule was whoever cooks doesn’t have to do the dishes, so I became the cook!                                           Source.
  2. You don’t have to dirty as many dishes.

    When I make salad dressings, I don’t wanna use all my measuring spoons and cups to make one meal! I use one large measuring cup, and just tare out the weights for each ingredient. It sames me from having to wash a dozen utensils when one will do. Maybe this isn’t such a big deal for most people, but I cook 6-7 days a week, and the spoons can add up! My favorite thing to use this trick for is pancakes. I weigh out the pancake mix into a pourable glass measuring cup, then whisk in the water until it’s the right consistency, and then I can pour it right onto the skillet without using extra utensils.

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    Be honest, you just eat them directly from the bag, don’t you?
  3. You don’t have to spend 10 minutes scraping peanut butter out of a measuring cup.

    Sticky, wet foods are near impossible to cleanly measure in measuring cups. Scraping it out is such a big pain in the butt, so why not just use a knife and spread it directly on the bread until you have the correct weight for a serving of peanut butter? That’s what I do! (Pro Tip: if you really want to use a measuring cup for something like honey, spray the inside of the cup with cooking spray before filling with honey. The thin coating of oil will help the honey pour out more easily.)Ounces-to-Grams-Conversion-Table3

  4. It converts between units for you.

    Don’t want to do pesky math? Weigh it in grams, then punch the UNIT button and see how much it weighs in ounces! Now I’m sort of a math nerd, so I might already know that 1 oz. is approximately 28 grams, and I might enjoy doing algebra to calculate the area of a pizza, but the scale can help you avoid that if that doesn’t sound like fun to you.

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    Bananas, like people, come in different sizes. Source.
  5. Aids in portion control.

    An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? That’s what they say, but did you know that a small apple has a mere 55 calories while a large apple contains double that? How do you know if you’re eating a large apple or a small apple? WEIGH IT. A small apple should weigh approximately 4 ounces total, or 4 per pound, while a large apple is more like 8 ounces, or 2 per pound. What about bananas? They come in all different sizes, too. Just today I ate a banana that was a mere 84 grams, which is about 4 ounces, and it was 75 calories. But it was a pretty small banana. Have you seen some of the bananas in the store? I’ve bought some that were double that. (Pro Tip: place an unpeeled banana on the scale and use the TARE button to bring the scale to 0. Then eat the banana. Place the skin back on the scale and that will tell you the exact weight of the banana!)

What I Don’t Weigh

  • Cooked grains: these are easily measured accurately with measuring cups.
  • Most liquids: unless you’re baking, a liquid measuring cup should be accurate enough.
  • Sugar: measuring cups were made for sugar, IMO.
  • Steamed veggies (exception – corn, potatoes): Most steamed veggies are not calorie dense enough to be that concerned about accuracy, so I use a measuring cup or eyeball it.
  • Easily countable things: crackers, cookies, or anything prepackaged.

Honestly, I find weighing food way less time consuming than using measuring cups and spoon, especially when I factor in cleaning time, so I find it to be a real help in the kitchen.

Do you own a digital kitchen scale? If not, WHY NOT? Go get one, they’re CHEAP! 🙂

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Oats: Frugal, Filling & Fantastic

I’ve been eating a lot of oats lately. There’s something wholesome and delicious about a bowl of oats, and despite the summer heat, there are a myriad of ways to enjoy oats for breakfast or a snack, and even several ways to use oats without even eating them! But, Andrea, you say, there are so many different KINDS of oats on the market? WHICH ONE DO I CHOOSE?! Well, it depends on what you’re going to use them for. Here’s a quickie tutorial:

 

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The Many Different Types of Oats by Kristine Duncan, via eatingrules.com

Groats – the whole oat that has been hulled, cleaned and toasted. Mostly found in health food stores or online. Require a long cooking time.

 

Steel-cut Oats/Irish Oats – groats that are cut into coarse pieces. Longer cooking time, great for crockpot recipes.

Scottish Oats – groats that are ground instead of cut. Keeps the nuttier flavor of groats or steel-cut/Irish oats, but cooks faster and has a creamier texture.

Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats – groats that are steamed and then rolled flat. Have a thick, creamy texture and cook much faster than any of the previous varieties. What your average person would think of as standard oatmeal. Great for baking and overnight oats, this is what I use as my standard for oats.

Quick-Cooking Oats – like Old-Fashioned but steamed longer and rolled thinner. Also great for baking, but they don’t maintain much texture when made as oatmeal.

Instant Oats – steamed even more and rolled even thinner than Quick-Cooking and then dehydrated. Usually comes in individual packs with added sugar, seasonings and preservatives.

Crave more information? Check out a more detailed description of each at Not Quite Amish Living.

As a Meal or Snack

I got a 32 oz. tub of old fashioned oats from Walmart for a mere $3.28. That’s 30 servings of oats or a mere 11 cents a serving! Cheap AND good for you AND delicious, with a little tweaking of course. My current favorite way to consume oats is soaking 1/2 cup old fashioned oats in 1/2 cup of unsweetened vanilla cashew milk, then topping it with a half ounce of raw walnuts and a half serving of grape-flavored craisins. It’s almost like homemade muesli, without all the fuss! Here are some of my other favorite ways to eat oats that aren’t just hot oatmeal:

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Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies from Leelalicious
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Healthy 5-Ingredient Flourless Banana Bread from The Baker Mama

 

 

 

 

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Oatmeal Superfood Breakfast Bars from AHealthyLifeForMe

And one I haven’t yet tried but am itching to:

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Vegan Carrot Cake Overnight Oats from Kara Lydon

Around the House

 

 

  • Apparently, oatmeal can be used like baking soda or coffee grounds to deodorize your fridge or freezer! (Hmm, I wonder if sprinkling some oatmeal inside some stinky shoes overnight would help, what do you think?)
  • You can clean up kitchen spills by sprinkling uncooked oatmeal and letting it sit for 10-15 minutes before sweeping it up.
  • You can apply cooked, cooled oatmeal to your face to treat acne or to use as a mask, or you can grind uncooked oatmeal in a coffee grinder to make colloidal oatmeal, mix it with lukewarm water and apply to your worst acne areas.
  • You can also use colloidal oatmeal mixed with baking soda as a dry shampoo. Apply to the scalp, let sit then brush out.
  • Add oatmeal to your bathwater to soothe skin that’s itchy from sunburn, poison ivy or chicken pox.
  • Clean cast iron pans. Using oatmeal and a little water will absorb grease and scrub off any stuck on food bits without damaging your pans.
  • You can even make your own oatmeal scrub and use it all over your body for soft, smooth skin.
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From Meg O on the Go

What’s YOUR favorite way to use oatmeal? Let me know in the comments!

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You’ve Heard of Tapas, But What Are Mezze?

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last 20 years you’ve probably heard the word tapas before: the easiest way of describing them is the Spanish equivalent of hors d’oeuvre. More elaborately, tapas are small plates of food that can be enjoyed as appetizers or eaten as a meal. The benefit of this style of dining is tasting many different varieties of food and being able to customize your meal to your palate and to the volume of food you like to eat.

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Jordanian Mezze Platter, Image Credit: Unai Guerra

But Spain isn’t the only place in the world that serves a large variety of small plates. Mezze is the Eastern Mediterranean version of tapas, or more specifically, the regions of the near East, Greece and Turkey. I first had mezze years ago in Washington, DC, at an incredible José Andrés restaurant called Zatinaya. Andrés, a Spanish-American chef who was one of the first to bring the small plates concept to the United States, featured Greek and Lebanese inspired dishes on his mezze menu, and I was wowed at the selection as well as all the flavors.

 

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A selection of salatim (salads) mezze from our anniversary dinner at Zahav.

As you know, my favorite restaurant in Philadelphia, Zahav, specializes in mezze dishes done with Israeli flair. The best part about mezze is the ability to choose many items to try because the plates are small and afforable.  If you love to share food with your friends then a meal made of mezze or tapas is for you! You can even make your own mezze platter at home from things you can purchase easily from your local supermarket. Here’s a quick list of convenience foods that can help you form a tasty, well rounded meal:

 

There are many other delicious forms of mezze that you can discover in restaurants or by making them at home. A quick Pinterest search reveals oodles of choices to try! Have you had tapas or mezze before? (I know almost everyone here has at least tried hummus once!) Let me know your favorite mezze in the comments! (Mine is charcoal-grilled duck heartsm but I’m an adventurous eater! 😉 )

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