Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On Nutrition: Cooking basics

                           On Nutrition: Cooking basics
(The Seattle Times)
By Barbara Quinn
The Monterey County Herald

For the record, I'm not a "foodie" ... I'd rather ride my horse than cook dinner. But I do like to watch the Food Channel while I'm standing in line at the bank. And I wish I knew how to make great tasting soup.

In other words, I have "cooking potential" according to the newest edition (2011) of "Cooking Basics for Dummies" (Wiley Publishing). Among the recipes (there's a great-looking carrot soup with dill I'd like to try) are basic instructions for those of us who don't know the difference between rondeau and fondue. And some very practical advice on how to cook our food healthfully.

"The best foods," say these authors, "are those made with the best ingredients, prepared with loving care at home, and enjoyed with friends and family (or in peaceful quiet all on your own). That's how you cook and eat for good health without sacrificing even a fraction of good taste."

Here are some basics to help us remember that good food and good nutrition are not mutually exclusive:

Be strong and courageous with vegetables. They add color! They add flavor! They add fiber! They add energizing nutrients! My neighbor adds chopped vegetables to enchiladas. One of my clients adds puréed cooked vegetables to thicken and season her pasta sauce. Yummy!

Treat fat and sugar and salt with respect. These ingredients do help food taste good. And they add texture and structure to some recipes. But excessive amounts can drown the natural flavor of food and contribute to heart disease and diabetes that slowly kill us.

Remember some seasoning basics. "Marjoram goes well with almost any vegetable dish," I learned. Tarragon is the herb than turns Hollandaise sauce into a Béarnaise sauce. And "Don't brown the garlic."

Cook and eat moderately, not obsessively. Life with zero sugar, fat, or sodium is pretty much impossible anyway. Even fresh fruit contains sugar. Fat is a natural part of many foods, including whole grains and nuts. And fresh vegetables contain small amounts of naturally occurring sodium.

Find tasteful ways to use less fat. Applesauce or nonfat yogurt aren't the only ways to replace some of the fat in recipes. My neighbor mashes a cooked potato and adds it in place of some of the cheese in her Mexican food recipes. The result? Chile rellenos that are deliciously cheesy but not greasy.

Try the 3:1 ratio for making salad dressings: 3 parts vinegar to 1 part oil.

Make the best of "leftovers." These authors suggest terms such as "previously prepared" "vintage" "tested" or "broken in" to describe food left in the refrigerator from a previous meal. I think some folks think too much.

Nevertheless, they do suggest tasty and nutritious ways to enhance the use of "previously prepared" food. Throw cold pieces of "tested" meat, fish or chicken onto a pile of lettuce or spinach greens. Add other "broken in" vegetables from your refrigerator. Top with a dollop of oil and vinegar dressing. Voilà! A classic "vintage" salad!

Cook (and eat) with confidence. Enjoy your food. Enjoy preparing it. Pay attention to what you are doing ... while you cook and while you eat, say these authors. Healthful food should and can taste great.

And by the way, rondeau ("ron-DOE") is a shallow, straight-sided pot with two handles. Fondue is a method of cooking.