Do you need an easy to accomplish New Year Resolution this year?
If you’re not in the mood, or being realistic, about making a whole list of New Year’s Resolutions this time around, how about making just one? Try this one on for size: I WILL DO MORE HOME COOKING. Maybe you start with just once a week, and if that is more than you’ve been doing, you’re on your way. The more cooking you do, the more control you have over what goes into the food, onto your plate, and into your mouth.
You’re In Control
You will be the one deciding how much fat, salt, or sugar is on your plate, instead of trying to decode the numbers on nutrition facts labels. Do you want your foods prepared with heart-healthy vegetable oils? Then use them. Do you want to use less salt and have plenty of flavor? You will be the one adding the seasonings you enjoy. You can experiment with new flavors a little at a time. Try fresh herbs or dried seasonings. Take them at your own pace, instead of being smacked across the face with overpowering flavors when you weren’t expecting it. I suggest looking in a favorite cookbook or on the Internet for an herb and spice guide to learn which spices are typically used in savory dishes and, which are favored for sweets. Add a small amount of only one new herb or spice at a time to a favoured recipe until you are certain it enhances the flavors. Vary the amount of spice you experiment with based upon the form of the product. Whole spices, such as peppercorns, add the biggest flavor punch, and dried spices have a stronger flavor than fresh ones.
Do you want to consume more fiber, or more antioxidants, or more vitamins and minerals? Make a soup with a base of roasted pureed cauliflower, and you’ll get all three, with a lot less sodium than what comes out of a can.
Utilize Your Resources
There are cookbooks and recipes on how to get more vegetables onto your (or your family’s) plate without ever tasting the difference. These might not always give you the kind of recipe you want, but they’re a great place to start building your skills. One of my favorite ways of sneaking vegetables into meals is to grate or dice carrots, celery, zucchini, onions, etc. and put them in whatever you’re preparing for dinner. Grated or diced vegetables work especially well in spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, tacos, soups, and stew recipes. Once you’ve mastered a technique you can modify the ingredients to suit yourself.
The web of course has zillions of recipes, healthy and not so nutritious. However, when you’re in control, you decide which one to use and how to adapt it. If the web is not for you, browse through your local library. Borrow a different cookbook each month, and try a couple of new recipes. If you find a book you use over and over, then it is worth buying.
Running Short on Time?
If time is your enemy, dig that slow cooker out of the back of the cupboard. I love mine! You can prep the food the evening before and refrigerate the ingredients. The next morning it will only take five minutes to put it all in the cooker and turn it on. When you walk through the door that evening, the house will be full of the aroma of a good hot meal. There are cookbooks and recipes for slow cookers with every ethnic style of food.
If you need speedy cooking, get a pressure cooker. It is practically impossible to “blow up” the newer appliances. You can have a three-course meal, cooked in one pot, ready to eat in minutes. How is that for control and ease of cleanup? See the new publication Cooking It Up! Friendly One-Pot Meals from Your Pressure Cooker on the University of Wyoming website at http://www.wyoextension.org/publications/Search_Details.php?pubid=1928&pub=B-1270. This cookbook takes you from initial purchase to one-pot pro, with tested recipes we think will go over big. Special sections on food safety and high altitude cooking are included to help ensure mealtime success.
One place to be a little cautious is the TV. Yes, the chefs are great personalities, and their recipes look delicious. Due to time, many do not closely follow food safety procedures. Just watch to learn skills. Listen to pick up new seasoning and flavoring ideas. Remember to keep yourself in control when it comes to ingredients.
Enjoy more cooking at home and I wish you a Happy, Healthy New Year!