Healthful weight loss, flavorful cooking never tasted so good

"Those days of broiled chicken and steamed broccoli are gone forever," says Barb Hartwig, our Cook of the Week from Deerfield. She should know. As a Weight Watchers member who's lost 92 pounds (and still counting), Barb has been able to successfully blend her love of food and cooking with simple tenets of weight loss.

"You can't skimp on flavor. We all deserve to have food that tastes good and if that means you might add a little butter, or herbs, or Hoisin sauce or a little bit of Sriracha, so be it. I can't say I'm never going to use butter again, and that's OK."

As a child, Barb aspired to be like her Swedish grandmother.

"She was an amazing baker. She nurtured everyone. I remember Christmas gatherings where she prepared a smorgasbord -- so many people gathered around a huge table filled with food. That was how my grandmother showed love and fellowship. I have always liked food and cooking -- hence the Weight Watchers connection," she quips.

It is that connection that has helped Barbara not only lose weight, but also given her tools for preparing healthy, but still tasty meals.

"In all reality, we are eating better than we ever did before, and I still get pleasure out of cooking and watching someone else enjoy it, too."

According to Barb, the first step is planning.

"It starts with menu planning." On Friday evenings Barb sits down with her cookbooks and magazines, the grocery store ads and her calendar.

"First, I look at my schedule and see when I'll have time to cook something more elaborate, or if I will need something easy. Then I look at the ads, to see what is on sale, and then I look in the pantry to see what I have in the house. All these things factor in -- I'll ask my husband what he has a taste for and then look for recipes." Barb likes to try a new recipe at least once a week.

"I'm not one of those people who can look in the kitchen and say 'well, I have this and this so I'll just whip something up.' I use recipes. There are artists, and there are craftsmen -- we craftsmen take the pieces and put them together with a plan," she laughs.

Healthful weight loss, flavorful cooking never tasted so good

Pizza made with fresh vegetables, by Cook of the Week Barbara Hartwig of Deerfield.

- Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

When it comes to preparing a dish, Barb always reads the recipe ahead of time -- twice.

Next, she uses a "mise en place" approach, prepping the ingredients all ahead so when it comes time to assemble and mix, everything is ready. Once she's made a dish and it's declared a success, she uses an online recipe program to store it with any notes or changes. Of course, Barb hasn't always cooked this way. When her three adult children were young, Barb remembers many meals that were thrown together at the last minute with little planning.

"I would thaw out chicken in the morning with no idea what I planned to do with it. The food I put on the table was not my best effort," Barb admits. Now she likes nothing more than spending a Sunday afternoon making a pot of soup or chili that she and her husband can eat during the week. When her daughter had her fourth baby, Barb delighted in stocking their refrigerator with meals for their family.

According to Barb, there are many venues for finding good recipes -- the internet, magazines and books.

"It isn't hard to find foods I can eat. I like cooking seasonally, so I love doing vegetable frittatas in the summer. This one is an awesome, delicious meal." She shares the recipe with us today.

"Everybody approaches Weight Watchers differently. I like to cook, and we don't eat out a lot. For me, this is going to be forever. Keeping control of what I have in my house is paramount to my success."

To suggest someone to be profiled here, send the cook's name, address and phone number to [email protected]

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