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Cooking with Staples

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 1

Healthy, lowfat, and yummy? What about inexpensive? Can such a thing be done? One of the main reasons so many people are overweight is because they don't eat well. They don't eat well because they don't know how to cook. Sure everyone knows how to pull out a cookbook and read a recipe, but that requires going to the store and buying arcane ingredients that may never be used again. Don't do that, it's a waste of food. Find some things you like to eat and eat them with regularity. For example, if you like bread, experiment with getting the best loaf available: one with fiber and whole grains. As the loaf gets stale up-cycle it into French toast or bread pudding or stuffing.

One of the more important rules of cooking well is having staples on hand, and knowing how to use them. Rice is a prime example. It has no shelf life, keep it cool and dry and it will last forever. It goes with so many cuisines and brown rice is low fat and full of fiber. Basing your meals around rice is a healthier way to eat than basing them around white flour starches such as biscuits or bread. How many fat people do you see in Asian countries? I rest my case.

One of the great things about starting a meal around rice, is that you can use very little meat. Any kind of sauce over any kind of vegetables tastes yummy over rice. Vegetables are cheap, filling and full of fiber. They are fast to stir fry or steam. If you eat this way you won't gain weight. It is very tempting to buy the frozen vegetables that are already swathed in butter sauce or that come with sweet and sour sauces, I beg you to abstain. Most of them have all kinds of sodium that you don't need. If you like butter or cream, add your own. Straight butter isn't anywhere near as dangerous for you as processed food. Real butter and cream are so rich your body will make you stop when you've had too much.

Unfortunately processed food, with its overly salty taste and low fiber texture is hard to resist. The best thing to do is just not start. If it makes you feel any better remind yourself that frozen food has lost some of its nutritional value. The cell walls of the food disintegrate and break as you thaw the food for consumption. Canned food is also limp and often overly salted. Fresh produce, especially produce in season retains the most nutritional value.

So how do you make a few vegetables over rice into a meal? Start by learning how to make a simple white sauce with butter and flour. If it's too bland for you experiment with spices. Hot spices satisfy the languid taste buds in hot and humid climates. That is why spicy food is found in so many tropical cuisines. Try to match your eating habits to your climate. Eat in season. The food will be fresher and cheaper. In the winter it's more appealing to have squash or lentil soup with a hearty piece of whole wheat toast. In the summer you can chow down on fresh green salad with herbs like basil or cilantro.

Another good thing to keep on hand is a can of stewed tomatoes. If you have some chicken meat to stir fry, bake or sauté, you can cover it with the tomatoes for an instant flavorful low fat sauce. You can make a quick inexpensive soup out of one can of stewed tomatoes, one can of corn, a cut up potato and some chicken broth. If that is too bland for you, buy the stewed tomatoes with Mexican seasoning and substitute that. For a simple and fast black bean soup mix a can of black beans with a can of Mexican seasoned stewed tomatoes, chopped onion and cilantro. For a more Thai tasting soup, add a can of tomatoes to a can of black eyed peas, with a dollop of real peanut butter, cilantro, and red curry powder. Garnish with fresh basil.

Another staple that makes meals appear more special is salsa. Buy an expensive brand where the tomato chunks are visible like in a chutney. Spoon it over eggs. Whether the eggs are scrambled, omelets or fried, they look more fancy with salsa on them. Homemade salsa isn't hard and requires no cooked ingredients. Simply chop up tomatoes, onions, garlic, a chile, fresh basil and cilantro to start. Add in other flavors to taste. Any food tastes better if you use the best ingredients available, so start with the freshest tomatoes and freshest herbs. Fresh herbs on anything give your presentation the appearance of "gourmet."

This is a funny thing for me to say when you know how I feel about processed food, but Campbell's soups are also a good staple to keep on hand for emergency cooking. Any of the "cream" soups, such as cream of broccoli, cream of chicken, golden mushroom can double as an instant gravy over meat. Crumble and fry pound of ground beef, drain off the grease and add some green beans or broccoli and smother it with a creamy soup – you will find this feeds more people than the one or two burgers you can make with the same amount of meat. Eat it over rice or toast.

If you are concerned about the sodium content, which frankly you should be, look for the soup cans marked with "healthy" or "low sodium" banners. Read the backs of labels as well. I found an interesting jar of "organic" peanut butter for sale in our local supermarket. The ingredients included indigestible tropical oils in addition to peanuts and high fructose corn syrup. Clearly this was not a healthy choice, although the earth friend logo was designed to appeal to health conscious vegans. Situated right next to it on the shelf was a generic brand of peanut butter. The ingredients? As follows: peanuts. . . wow!
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Comments

Dec 3, 2011 1:19am
JadeDragon
Cooking with more natural unprocessed foods will not only save money but help you control weight. Excellent points!
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