Although home cooking may soon be a lost art, as more and more families rely on fast food and restaurant meals, cooking at home is still the best way to insure a healthy diet.
When you cook your own meals, you have the advantage of knowing, not only what ingredients go into your meals, but also how the food is handled from the time you purchase it until you use up the last of the leftovers.
If you are interested in healthy cooking, there are some simple things you can do, both to increase the nutrient value in your recipes and to help keep yourself and your family from suffering the nasty effects of food-borne illness.
1. Wash vegetables and fruits (including those with a removable outer skin) with a food grade veggie wash. (DO NOT USE DISHSOAP!)
2. Use a separate cutting board for meats and vegetables, and wash utensils with hot soapy water to avoid cross-contamination of these foods.
3. Steam vegetables lightly to maintain their optimum nutrition.
4. Substitute at least half whole grain flour for white flour in most baking recipes.
5. Use more fresh herbs and less salt (especially processed salt) in your food.
6. Bake foods instead of frying whenever possible.
7. Use olive oil for cooking instead of other less healthy fats like margarine or polyunsaturated oils.
8. Replace up to half or more of the mayonnaise or sour cream in many recipes with organic fat-free Greek yogurt.
9. Use refrigerated leftovers within a week.
10. Partially cook meat before grilling, and avoid charring the meat to reduce the production of carcinogens.
Legumes are a special category of food, that require special healthy cooking tips.
Here are some tips for healthy cooking with legumes:
--Dry beans should be sorted before cooking. This can be done by spreading the dry beans out and removing any foreign particles.
--Most legumes, with the exception of split peas and lentils, need to be soaked before they are cooked. There are two methods for doing this, and either method is effective. It should be noted that the Fast-soak method seems to remove more of the gas-producing compounds.
--Cover washed and sorted beans with water and allow them to soak overnight. Then drain the water, rinse the beans, add more water and cook according to directions. See description of each bean below for specific cooking times.
--Cover washed and sorted beans with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 3-5 minutes, and cover and let stand for one hour. Discard soaking water, rinse, cover with new water and cook as directed.
--Do not salt the water until beans are done cooking. Salt will slow down the cooking time and toughen the bean coats. Other spices and vegetables may be added, however.
If beans are older and drier, with a wrinkled appearance, they will take longer to cook.
If foam forms on top of the water when you are cooking beans, skim it off and continue cooking.
Beans should be tender and the skins beginning to loosen when they are done. See particular bean for approximate cooking time.
If you are using more than one variety of dry beans in a recipe, it is better to cook each type of bean separately, and then add them to your chili or other dish. This is because the beans will be fully cooked at different times, and you may end up with some overcooked, mushy beans or some undercooked, hard beans if you cook them all together.
Cooked beans freeze very well, so you may want to cook larger batches of beans and then freeze some for quicker use in the future.
1 cup of dry beans will produce 2 1/2 cups of cooked beans.