By Zannat Reza @food4happiness
Seven Simple Ways to Cook Better
I confess. I’m a compulsive recipe tweaker. I have an uncontrollable urge to play around with the ingredients and amounts in a recipe. Maybe it’s the remnants of adolescent rebellion. Who knows? I try to put my compulsion to good use by bumping up the good-for-you factor in recipes.
Here are seven ways to bring out your inner recipe tweaker:
1. Max out on vegetables.
Take advantage of the antioxidant cleansing power of vegetables. Loaded with beneficial plant compounds and vitamins known to keep your heart healthy and blood pressure down, use fresh or plain frozen vegetables where you can. Add cauliflower or green beans to your curries. Use more peas and less potato to fill samosas. Enjoy eggs over a bed of sautéed greens and mushrooms. Load pizza with grilled vegetables. Switch to sweet potatoes over regular (or go halfsies) for more vitamin A and fibre. Use broccoli, cauliflower or squash soup as the base for mac ‘n cheese.
2. Sneak in beans, lentils and chickpeas.
Get the benefits of plant protein and a big time boost of fibre by enjoying these legumes when you can. I love adding chickpeas to butter chicken. Add canned lentils (drained and rinsed) to pasta dishes. Give your chili a double shot of fibre by using two cans of beans.
3. Go for whole grains. Cut your risk of diabetes and live longer with wholesome whole grains. Fibre keeps your blood sugar levels steady, and selenium boosts your body’s immune system. Cook up brown rice, bulghur and quinoa. Trade in half the white flour for whole grain flour when making muffins, loaves, chapatti or naan. You may have to add more liquid to compensate.
4. Bake instead of frying. Keep extra fat in check and still enjoy your favourite foods. We love samosas and spring rolls at our house. Instead of frying, lightly brush on canola oil and bake them in the oven. Roast potatoes tossed with spices instead of bhaji-style frying in a pan.
5. Use less oil or butter. Just because olive oil is a healthier fat, keep in mind it has the same amount of calories as other fats. While many recipes call for more, I use about one tablespoon of oil for every 4 servings. When baking, sub in applesauce or pureed prunes for half the oil/butter.
6. Dial down sugar. Eating too much sugar stresses your body’s ability to manage your levels of blood sugar. Reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe by one-third to one-half called for in a recipe.
7. Shake off the salt. Canadians eat twice as much salt (sodium) as our bodies need. Almost 80% of the salt in our diet comes from packaged and processed foods. Try to cook foods using fewer prepared foods. If you’re using “salty” ingredients in cooking (e.g. soy sauce, cheese, curry paste, broth, chutneys), you probably need very little or no salt. Taste your food before adding salt. Over time, your tastebuds will adapt to eating less salt.
Vegged up dal recipe (makes 4 servings)
This easy recipe is adapted from my mom’s delicious dal.
- ½ medium onion, diced
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- ¼ tsp each ground turmeric and ground coriander
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 cup red lentils
- 3 cups water
- 1 tomato, diced
- 2 tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
- ½ tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
- 1 green chili, whole (if you like extra spicy food, slice the chili)
- Cook onion in oil over medium heat.
- Add spices. Stir for 1 minute.
- Add lentils. Mix well with the spices.
- Pour in water. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, fresh coriander and salt. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Blend using an immersion or regular blender.
- Add water, if needed, to desired thickness.
- Add frozen vegetables and green chili. Cook for 5 minutes.
Read more of Zannat’s posts from What’s on Your Plate.
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