Thursday, March 26, 2009

My favorite cooking tips

A more practical explanation to the "How did you do it?" question I keep getting....

Here are my top favorite cooking tips for filling, dietetic foods in the winter season

1. beans
Full of fiber and nutrients, low in fat, very filling, extremely versatile, wildly under-used in this country, and cheap!
I started increasing my bean cooking skills in order to save some money and eat more healthfully. Eating a few vegetarian meals a week saves money, reduces our carbon footprint and reduces all sorts of health risks. But I've also come to really enjoy their smooth, comforting texture.  I make bean soups, bean dips, add beans to veggie mixes. My new favorite is baby lima beans. I soak the beans overnight, cook them for an hour or so and then puree them with a little water. Then I freeze them in small quantities and defrost one batch at a time. I add big spoonfuls to things like tomato soup, pizza sauce, sauteed veggies - anything. I do this with steamed pureed squash also.

2. cabbage
Very filling, high in all sorts of nutrients and fiber.
Cabbage is a much heartier salad base than lettuce due to its higher concentration of fiber and less water. I like baby cabbage with salmon, apples and mustard vinaigrette. Cabbage also makes very filling soups, especially when flavored with beef broth. The actual beef is not really needed.

3. tea
No calories! I drink mainly herbal, but some caffeinated as well
I drink it all day to stave off hunger (sometimes works) and substitute for my former snacking habit.

4. bulk cooking
A huge time-saver, but must be done mindfully.
I try to bulk cook on poor-weather weekends. I make things that can be recombined in various formats, like big quantities of sauteed veggies. Those veggies can be used in eggs, with a little cheese over pasta, with an Asian sauce, in a quesadilla, added to frozen veggie lasagna from Trader Joe's, etc. I will also make many things at once, with the idea that as long as I'm stuck in the kitchen and making a mess I may as well kill a few birds with one stone. So I'll usually make a fritatta, a soup, maybe roast or grill some meat and cut it up, etc. Also related is #5......

5. roasting vegetables
A simple variation in cooking method produces results delicious enough to make my kids ask for vegetables.
My favorite vegetables to roast are green beans and cauliflower, but the list is endless.  I just use a bit of olive oil and salt, mainly to appeal to the kids, but if you plug "roasted cauliflower" into a cooking site search engine you'll get lots of more interesting ideas. Natasha and Alex love roasted green beans. My entire extended family begs me to make roasted green beans with caramelized onion and toasted almonds whenever we are together. Delish!

6. baby carrots, grape tomatoes, pea pods
Healthy snack food to replace chips, crackers, etc.
These kind of speak for themselves in terms of snackability, but sometimes, I will eat them with a few of my favorite Cheezits, and have a big snack that is just one or two points. Helps to have them at the ready in the fridge at all times.

I could think of more, but I must wrangle my children to bed.

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