5 Cooking Tips For the Novice Chef

I am a self-proclaimed, self-taught chef. Six years ago there were about three things I could do in the kitchen: pour myself cereal, cook instant mac and cheese, and make a salad. It really wasn’t until I started dating my boyfriend back in college that I decided I needed to add some dishes to my repertoire. It all started one summer, the summer I fell in love, that I started whipping up pesto pasta with spicy sausages. Literally I made this about 10 times in just a couple weeks, eagerly trying to perfect this relatively simple dish. When Ed and I look back at that summer we refer to it as the summer of pesto pasta. I overdid it, but I wanted to teach myself to cook and to cook well.

IMG_4179

Now I can cook other stuff!

For the novice, or possibly even the more experienced chef, I’d like to share some tips I picked up along the last six years that have advanced my cooking and overall attitude towards being in the kitchen. Just remember, cooking takes time and lots of patience, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I’ve certainly messed up my fair share of dishes, but those mistakes were valuable in helping me improve.

1- Know when to salt. Depending on what you’re preparing there is a proper time to salt. For pasta, rice, and meat, salt before cooking to boost flavor. Aka, for the pasta and rice, toss in salt before bringing the water to a boil. Mushrooms and beans should take salt at the end of the cooking process. For onions, it is a matter of preference. If you enjoy your onions browned and caramelized, add salt at the end of cooking. Conversely, if you like your onions soft and translucent, add salt earlier on (Source: Organic Authority).

2- Use the healthiest pans out there. I grew up using teflon pans because they were so easy to clean, however, I’ve since learned that teflon is some of the worst cookware out there. It releases toxic chemicals into the food and air when you cook, especially if you scratch it, so why not avoid that and use better pots and pans?  Avoid teflon, aluminum and copper, and use cast iron, stainless steel, or enamel. I am a huge advocate of cast iron. Not only does it add iron to your diet when you cook with it and heat food faster, but I also personally think it makes food taste exceptionally good. Especially fried eggs (I love eggs!). The best fried eggs can be made in cast iron by frying it with a little oil, then steaming it by adding a tiny bit of water and covering it with a lid for a couple minutes. You’re welcome.

13.25 Inch Cast Iron Skillet

I like cast iron cookware by Lodge

3- Use a variety of cooking methods. Steam, sauté, sear, boil, roast, bake, raw… there are so many ways to enjoy your food. Switch up the way you prepare your meals, because cooking tends to reduce the vitamin content of the food, since some vitamins are sensitive to heat, water and air.Try eating your vegetables raw, especially in the hot, summer months.

4- Use your microwave minimally. Of course using a microwave is convenient, but using a microwave isn’t the healthiest. Not only does the radiation from microwaving change the molecules in our food and substantially reduce the nutrients, it can also release toxins if using plastic to reheat your food. It’s actually been found that cooking vegetables in a microwave reduces the number of nutrients by 97% (source: Natural News). I know, I can be lazy too, but try reheating your meals at a low temperature in the oven or on the stove top, or at least use glass containers or microwave-safe dishes if you need to microwave.

jennifer lawrence fire american hustle microwave

5- Prep all your food when you get home from grocery shopping. This sounds like a pain, but it actually will save you time and effort during the week. I like to salt and pepper my meat before I put it away in the fridge or freezer, wash and chop all my fruits and veggies, and maybe make a pot of whole grains to last me a few days. This way I can reach in the fridge and grab pre-made or pre-prepped items without having to always pull out the cutting board. This also saves on clean up time!lemons

 

Have additional tips for the novice chef?  I’d love to hear them! Want more tips and health info? Subscribe to my newsletters!

Know Your Blood Type: A Guide To A Personalized Diet and Lifestyle

Heart-Health

Can you imagine going into a job interview and one of the first questions you’re asked is “what is your blood type?” This question is expected in Japan and is actually gaining popularity around Asia. The Japanese believe that each blood type comes with it’s own set of personalities, so they use blood types to categorize people.

“As defined by the books, type As are sensitive perfectionists but overanxious; Type Bs are cheerful but eccentric and selfish; Os are curious, generous but stubborn; and ABs are arty but mysterious and unpredictable” (Huffington Post).

While blood typing is similar to horoscope signs in Japan, in the health world it is believed by some that blood types affect the digestive system, the way you exercise, and your susceptibility to various disease. If you don’t know your blood type, then you can get your blood work done easily.

Blood Type A– Agrarian 

Type As are generally categorized as cooperative, sensitive, orderly, settled, and cultivator. When the number of hunting game stock began dwindling in Africa, type As had to move out into Europe and Asia to begin agriculture, which is when type A evolved. As a result, type As learned to utilize nutrients from carbohydrate sources, which explains why As are better at processing carbohydrates and not as a great at digesting and metabolizing animal proteins and fat. If you’re a type A, aim to eat most of your protein earlier on in the day. Overall, type As do better on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Increase vegetables, tofu, seafood, grains, beans, legumes, fruit and decrease your intake of meat, dairy, kidney beans, lima beans, and wheat.

Calming exercises like yoga, meditation, breathing exercises and tai chi are most recommended for blood type A, since type A is more likely to internalize stress and have higher levels of the stress hormone Cortisol, which can lead to health factors like cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. Blood type As should do their best to avoid big crowds, loud noise, smoking, negative emotions, strong smells or perfumes, too much sugar and starch, overwork, violent movies or TV, extreme weather conditions, or lack of sleep.

While strengths of type A include easy adjustment to change in diet and environment, little need for animal foods and an immune system the absorbs and metabolizes nutrients more efficiently, weaknesses may include a sensitive digestive tract and a vulnerable immune system open to microbial invasion. The result of combining the appropriate foods and exercises, though, can result in high performance, mental clarity, greater vitality and increased longevity.

Blood Type B– Balanced

The origins of blood type B can be traced back to the Himalayan highlands, currently part of present day India and Pakistan. As the Mongolians swept through Asia, they began pursuing a culture dependent upon herding and domesticating animals. For this reason, type B does best as an omnivore, eating meat (except chicken), dairy, grains, legumes, vegetables, beans, and fruit. Type Bs should reduce their intake of corn, lentils, sesame seeds, peanuts, buckwheat, and wheat. These foods can contribute to weight gain, fatigue, fluid retention, and hypoglycemia. Type Bs should actually avoid chicken too. Chicken contains a blood type B agglutinating lectin in its muscle tissue that can attack your blood stream and cause a stroke or immune disorder.

People with blood type B are characterized as nomads, flexible and creative. Strengths of blood type B include a strong immune system, versatile adaptation to changes in diet and environment, a strong nervous system, and high tolerance for chaos. The only common weakness of type B is a tendency toward auto-immune breakdowns and rare viruses, although common health risks include type 1 diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, and auto-immune disorders like Lou Gehrig’s disease, Lupus, or Multiple Sclerosis. Although pretty opposite from type A in regards to diet, type A and B both have higher levels of the stress hormone Cortisol. Type Bs should get participate in moderate physical exercise with mental balance, like hiking, biking, tennis, or swimming.

Blood Type AB – Modern

Blood type AB is the most recently evolved blood type. Type AB is the only blood type that came to be as a result of intermingling (between type A and B) rather than evolution and environment. As a result, AB types share the benefits and challenges of blood type A and blood type B.  Blood type AB is described as rare, an enigma, mysterious and highly sensitive, and people with blood type AB often describe themselves as intuitive, emotional, empathetic, friendly, and trusting. This blood type is more designed for modern life. It’s the most adaptable, can process information quickly, and has a rugged immune system. Weaknesses may include a sensitive digestive tract, a tendency for an overly tolerant immune system that allows for microbial invasion, and trouble feeling understood by society. Type AB is most susceptible to heart disease, cancer, and anemia.

Type AB can have a mixed diet in moderation. Meat, seafood, dairy, vegetables, tofu, legumes, grains, beans and fruit are all okay, but limit the amount of red meat, kidney beans, lima beans, seeds, corn, and buckwheat. Avoid caffeine and alcohol and avoid eating starches and proteins during the same meal. Because type ABs tend to internalize emotions, anger and hostility, exercise will play a big role in stress reduction and maintaining a healthy emotional balance. Combine calming, centering exercises, like yoga or tai chi, with moderate physical exercise, like hiking, biking, tennis, or swimming.

Blood Type OOld

Strong, hunter, leader, self-reliant and goal-oriented are all words to describe people with O blood. Type Os thrive on intense physical exercise and animal protein. Exercise releases the build up of stress hormones which will also balance mood. Type Os can have bouts of excessive anger, tantrums, hyperactivity and manic episodes in response to stress. To manage this stress, it is recommended that you follow a diet of lean, organic meats, vegetables and fruits and avoid dairy and wheat which can cause digestive and health issues. Increase kelp, seafood, salt, liver, red meat, kale, broccoli and pineapple and reduce wheat, corn, baked foods, kidney beans, lentils, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and mustard. Also avoid caffeine and alcohol, especially caffeine because it raises adrenaline and noradrenaline which is already high for blood type Os.

Overall, type Os have a hardy digestive tract, a strong immune system, natural defenses against infections, an efficient metabolism, shorter small intestines, and less chance for cancer. Health risks for type Os are typically low thyroid, inflammation, arthritis, blood-clotting disorders and ulcers, because type Os get overly acidic.

Curious to learn more about the characteristics of your blood type? Visit Peter J. D’Adamo’s site and learn all about your blood type diet and lifestyle.

sources:

http://www.outofstress.com/

http://www.dadamo.com/

Reasons You Should Cook With This Cancer-Fighting, Pain-Reducing, Immune-Boosting Spice (plus recipe!)

Spices should not be neglected from your cooking, because most spices have health benefits and add amazing flavor or color to foods.  Today I want to talk about the brightly-colored spice, turmeric, which you may have tried before, especially if you’ve eaten Indian food.  Turmeric is argued to be the most effective nutritional supplement in existence, and speaking from personal experience, holy shit! This stuff works.

I started taking turmeric, or curcumin (the main active ingredient in turmeric), in supplement form last year to treat chronic wrist and hip pain. Curcumin fights inflammation and contains lots of cancer-fighting antioxidants.  Within days my pain dissipated.  Here are some other uses for the spice:

Arthritis, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, stomach pain, diarrhea, intestinal gas, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, jaundice, liver problems, gall bladder disorders, headaches, bronchitis, colds, lung infections, fibromyalgia, leprosy, fever, menstrual cramps, depression, Alzheimer’s, water retention, worms, kidney problems, and cancer.

Sound too good to be true?  There’s a reason this spice has been used to treat illnesses for centuries. It works! Cooking with turmeric alone may not be a high enough dosage to make a huge impact with helping any of the above issues, but you can also find turmeric in supplement form to get the full effects.

Turmeric goes very well with black pepper, especially because the black pepper enhances the effects of the curcumin. Turmeric also goes great with other spices like cumin, coriander, curry, etc.

Crispy Turmeric Tofu Tacos

Ingredients:

For the tofu…

-extra firm tofu, drained, cut into cubes (to drain, place tofu block in a colander over a bowl and place a plate with something heavy on top of the tofu for anywhere from 20 minutes- hour).

-spices: turmeric, black pepper, salt, cumin, any additional favorite spices  *turmeric stains bright yellow, so clean immediately if you spill!*

-EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)

Extras for the tacos…

-favorite beans, soaked, rinsed and cooked

-taco shells

-avocado

-raw red onion, diced

-fresh corn off the cob

-optional: cheese

Instructions:

1. Turn over to 400 degrees F.

2. After tofu has drained and is cut into cubes, toss the cubes in a bowl. Add spices (I eyeball it out, but probably about 1/4 teaspoon of each spice) and oil and coat evenly.

3. Place tofu on lined baking sheet.  Put in the oven on the bottom rack for five minutes. Flip tofu and place in oven for another five minutes, then repeat once more for a total of 15 minute cook time.

4. Put tacos together- cooked beans, raw onion, corn, tofu, and avocado on shells. Serve up and enjoy!

If you have leftover tofu, I like to do another easy dish of sushi rice, veggies, and tofu.

unnamed

For the original crispy tofu recipe, sans tacos, click here.

Other Sources: Whole Foods

What to do with Beans (plus recipe!)

Beans are a fantastic, nutrient-dense, protein-packed plant food that offer tons of fiber, B vitamins,iron, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. They are low in calories and have been found to lower the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

I think a lot of people are intimidated by cooking beans, possibly because they don’t know how.  Up until recently, actually, I had been using canned beans.  It wasn’t until I started soaking (non-canned) beans properly, which was quite simple to do, that I noticed my body could easily digest beans, where as normally I feel like crap after eating beans.

Cooking Beans

-Be sure to wash and clean the beans first.

-Soak dried beans for 8-12 hours before cooking (hint: cut a bean in half; if the center is still opaque, keep soaking).

-After soaking, rinse, fill pot with fresh water (about 4-6 cups), bring to a boil, then skim off the foam.  To aid digestion, add kombu, bay leaf, cumin, anise, or fennel to the water.

-Cover and simmer for the suggested time.

-Remember: Only add salt at the end of cooking (about 10 minutes before the beans are done) or it will interfere with the cooking process.

Quick tips: For speedier prep, boil dried beans for 5 minutes, then soak for 2-4 hours. Or use canned beans instead (some people find them even easier to digest!).  Be sure to avoid canned beans with added salt or preservatives and rinse thoroughly once removed from the can.

unnamed

Kombu is a type of dried seaweed. Add a small piece while cooking your beans to improve digestibility.

unnamed-1

Cooking with Beans

Need ideas of how to use beans?  Try any of the following:

-Toss beans and diced veggies (such as celery, shallots, red peppers) with vinaigrette for a quick bean salad.

-Blend cooked beans with tomatoes, onions, and your favorite seasonings to create a yummy bean soup.

-Top a green salad with 1/3 cup of your favorite bean.

-Puree beans with a bit of olive oil, a garlic clove, salt, and your favorite seasonings. Voila! A fast dip or sandwich spread.

-Include 1/3 cup of beans with your other favorite toppings next time you make stuffed baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.

-Add 1/4 cup pureed beans to your favorite pancake, waffle, muffin, or cake recipe. You’ll be surprised at how moist and springy baked goods are when baked with beans.

Here’s what I made…

After soaking black beans overnight, I decided to use the beans for a Mexican shrimp bowl.  At least that’s what I’m calling it.  Feel free to pick and choose your favorite ingredients, but here’s what I used to cook for two people:

unnamed-2-queso fresco

-avocado (1/2)

-shrimp (about 12)

-4 garlic gloves, minced

-1/2 onion, diced

-fresh, dried chilies, minced (if you like your food spicy)

-salt, pepper

-2 tbsp olive oil, plus more if needed

-optional: rice or polenta cubes, red cabbage

unnamed-3To prepare this dish I soaked the black beans over night and then cooked them in 6 cups water with a strip of kombu for an hour.

-Heat large pan with olive oil.  When hot, add onions and garlic and cook for two minutes.  Lightly salt.

-Add shrimp, chilis, salt, and pepper.   If cooking pre-made polenta, toss in polenta cubes.  Cook for about five minutes or until shrimp are cooked.

-Layer red cabbage and beans on the bottom of a bowl.  Add the shrimp, onions, and polenta on top.  Slice up some avocado and serve!