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.

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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.

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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!

Important Things My Physician Never Addressed

Western medicine is extremely necessary and saves many lives every day.  That being said, doctors are busy people, so it’s not often we get the time we deserve with our doctors to get a full health assessment. Wouldn’t it be nice not to feel pressured by the doctor’s time constraint so that we could address everything that may play a factor in our health and wellbeing?  Think about the times you or someone you know was prescribed a pharmaceutical drug.  Did the doctor ever take the time to go over nutrition, lifestyle, and the role stress plays in our health before prescribing that little pill? Does that pill even get to the root of the problem, or does it simply act as a Bandaid, a temporary solution, for your problem?

John Oliver talks about the relationships between doctors and pharmaceutical companies the other night…

Over the years, I have had several instances with doctors where I was diagnosed for something or prescribed something without receiving proper education or a full health check, like what was going on in my life at the time or what my diet consisted of.  Here are some experiences I’d like to share with you:

Antibiotics

I think there have been at least three occasions in my life when I was prescribed antibiotics, each time by a different doctor.  Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria, but in the process also clean out the healthful bacteria inside our intestines that we need, often causing leaky gut syndrome.  Probiotics is a term I never ever heard until just a few years ago through my own research, but is absolutely something I should have been educated about by my physician.  Whenever taking antibiotics, probiotics are essential, as they add back healthy bacteria to our guts. Definitely if you suffer from any type of digestive disorder, if you’ve ever been treated with antibiotics, or if you just want to do something amazing for your body for the hell of it, try taking probiotics. For a list of probiotics, visit my article here.

25-1-e1391041324424PMS

Ladies, some of you may be able to relate to this one.  For many years I suffered from debilitating cramps, depression, and unhealthy food cravings the week before my period and during my period.  None of my doctors ever talked to me about the importance of eating well, especially around the time of my period.  I knew that my hormones were out of whack, but I never knew the science behind what was happening with my hormones. Estrogen levels rise as do our food cravings.  I would crave and indulge in greasy foods, and would get awful cramps and hate the way I felt as a result, because my serotonin levels were suddenly dropping after the moments of pleasure while eating all that food.  I felt more sad after indulging, and didn’t understand my body really didn’t want those onion rings, and that eating those foods would only increase feelings of depression. Not to mention I possibly had leaky gut syndrome as a result from my antibiotics and some undiagnosed food allergies.  Once I learned to eat better, hydrate, and get light exercise instead of pigging out and feeling sorry for myself, I no longer get symptoms of PMS.  Food, herbs, essential oils, and taking care of myself have become my monthly medicine.  Here’s what someone should have told me to eat:

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ADHD

In high school I was tested, diagnosed, and medicated for ADHD.  My mom was anti-drugs and I was all gung-ho about them at the time.  After all, high school was tough, college was near, and I was only a B-average student.  Not good enough in my mind.  I remember telling my physician I wanted the ADHD medicine, Adderall.  His response, was “Sure, you want Adderall?  Then let me just InTune__72556.1407635934.1280.1280write you up a prescription, no problem,” about as casual as if I had asked him to borrow a pen.

I grew dependent on my medication, taking unnecessarily large amounts of the drugs every day and paying the price in happiness and in health along the way.  I became secluded and distanced myself from friends, stopped eating, developed insomnia, and was unhappy unless I was cracked out doing work.  Nobody ever thought to discuss the bigger picture with me when deciding whether to write me a prescription.  My diet was crap, I wasn’t properly hydrated, I had just stopped playing sports after being super active my whole life, and I was stressed from social and parental pressure to do well at school and get into college.  Nobody told me that changing the way I eat and drinking lots of water could improve my attentiveness.  I never heard of any natural forms of healing like essential oils, which can kick ass at assisting in maintaining focus.  I didn’t realize that my sudden lack of activity was making me restless and contributing to my lack of energy.  When I finally decided to stop my medication midway through college, I couldn’t believe how well I could focus on my own if I put my mind to it and used other techniques to maintain mental clarity.

Hypoglycemia

When I was about 10-years-old I fainted during class.  My mom took me to see my physician who diagnosed me with hypoglycemia.  I learned that hypoglycemia means your body is in insulin shock, which depletes blood sugar to abnormally low levels.  The doctor instructed me to drink some soda or have some candy when I was feeling faint, and especially in the afternoons around crash time toward the end of the school day. What the doctor didn’t mention, however, was that this didn’t mean I could eat as much sugar as I wanted.  I learned to make sweets an excuse for eating whatever and whenever I wanted, which created unhealthy habits with food. Another thing my physician didn’t discuss was why I was suddenly hypoglycemic.  It was probably important to know that I wasn’t eating enough at or before school, and the foods I ate weren’t the most satiating forms of energy.  My diet mainly consisted of cereal, bread, cookies, and soda, when I should have been eating whole grains, healthy fats, protein, and vegetables.

Cancer

This part is my mom’s story.  My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer (luckily, very early on) in 2008. She kicked cancer’s ass, but had to continue taking about 10 different types of pills daily, up until about two months ago.  After seven years of taking these pills, which of course created other health problems like arthritis, bone density loss, and muscle and joint problems, and depletion of her normal hormone levels, my mom was fed up with taking them and finally asked her doctor why she had never spoken to her about her diet and lifestyle.  The doctor’s response was, “Oh sure, nutrition can help,” but offered no prescription of leafy greens, antioxidants, or yoga.

Food and living well can absolutely be your medicine, although as stated before, Western medicine certainly has its place. 25-1-e1391041324424

If you have a personal story please feel free to share in the comments below.  Most of us have experienced something similar to what I’ve described, even if you’re just realizing it now as you’re reading this article. I know I could go on and on about friends’ personal stories of being misdiagnosed or treated for something with a pill that created a whole list of awful side effects.

I understand the impact stress has on our physical and mental wellbeing.  As a health coach, I give my clients the time they deserve to talk freely about their health and the areas of their lives that affect happiness and health: relationships, career, spirituality, and physical exercise. Satisfaction in these four areas, along with proper nutrition, is the key to lifelong happiness and health, not a little pharmaceutical pill.  Consider all the money you can save on doctor visits and bills by taking control of your diet and lifestyle today.  So, next time you need to pay a visit to the doctor, discuss the bigger picture with your physician, and remember that food, rest, and balance are often the answers to healing.stress

If you have any questions about any of the above topics, essential oils, or health coaching, please drop me a line at jessicakhealth@gmail.com.

JessJessica Kleid

Owner of Jessica Kleid Health Coaching

http://www.jkhealthcoach.com

All Hail Kale

kale-heartProbably five years ago or so, I don’t believe I had ever heard of kale.  It seems like the green, leafy vegetable blew up to celebrity status overnight, suddenly becoming the most talked about superfood.  This vegetable has become one of my personal favorites and with any vegetable, if you know how to prepare it right, it can be delicious.

Buying vegetables, whether it’s kale or other green vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, spinach, etc, is cost effective and leaves less of a carbon footprint.  While animal agriculture has many implications like land degradation and reduction of biodiversity, vegetables have a very low environmental impact and be grown in most climates.

Kale, because of it’s high nutrient value, is a good option to replace our society’s high meat consumption.  I’m not saying cut meat out entirely, but I think people can certainly add in more vegetables to crowd out large portions of meat.  Everybody’s body is different, but vegetables are an important part of our diet, and lots of us don’t get the correct amount of vegetable servings in our diet.  Here are some reasons kale is one of my favorite vegetables:skinny-bitch3

Anti- Inflammatory

Dark leafy greens are an important source in reducing inflammation in the body.  Vitamin A, selenium, and beta-cryptoxanthin are some of the few anti-inflammatory agents found in vegetables.

Fiber

Our ancestors had way more fiber in their diets than we do today.  Fruits and vegetables are a fantastic source of fiber, especially kale, broccoli, carrots, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and avocado.  Fiber maintains bowel regularity and prevents the risk of health problems.

Iron 

Some people believe that it’s difficult to get healthy amounts of iron in our diet if a person doesn’t eat meat.  This simply isn’t true.  In actuality, some vegetables contain higher levels of iron than animals foods, especially vegetables like Swiss chard, soybeans, lentils, spinach, and turnip greens.

Calcium

Milk is believed by many to be the greatest source of calcium, however, vegetables have high calcium amounts that’ll keep our bodies strong.  That being said, don’t rely solely on vegetables as a source of calcium, because it’s harder for our bodies to absorb calcium from vegetables.  Kale, collards, cabbage, arugula, and bok choy are some examples of vegetables containing lots of calcium.

Healthy Fats

As I’ve written about before, getting healthy fats in our diet is very important, and there is a distinction between good and bad fat.  Omega fatty acids are necessary to our diet.  Lots of people take fish oil capsules, but kale actually contains both omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.

What’s For Breakfast?

Here are two breakfast ideas to fit your busy schedule:

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1. Steel cut oats topped with fresh fruit, chopped nuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, cacao nibs, and organic maple syrup.

-3/4 cup water
-1/4 cup steel cut oats

-fruit of choice (bananas, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries)

-handful of chopped nuts (almond, walnut)

-1tsp each of hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, cacao nibs

-organic maple syrup to taste

For those of you with sugar cravings, like myself, I find that adding a bit of healthy cacao nibs to my oatmeal early in the day reduces my cravings later in the evening.  Give it a shot.

Easy Steps:

-Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add steel cut oats and cook on low heat for 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat and mix in other toppings.  BOOM, done!

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2. The Perfect Fried Egg

My recommendation for the best ever fried egg is to cook it in a cast iron skillet.  If you don’t own a cast iron skillet, get one. Not only will it add iron to your diet, but it doesn’t contain the chemicals found in nonstick pans, and it transfers easy from stove top to oven.  Even if you don’t have a cast iron skillet, my recommendation for the perfect fried egg is to add about 2tbs extra virgin olive oil and heat on the skillet over medium heat.  Once hot, crack the eggs and salt and pepper them.  Add about 1tbp of water to the pan with the eggs and cover the skillet.  After a few minutes (5 minutes if you’re not using a cast iron skillet) your fried eggs are done.

I personally love to lay my fried eggs over a bed of vegetables or on avocado toast.  Sometimes I add bacon or toasted prosciutto 🙂 I cook my eggs in extra virgin olive oil because it’s important to have those healthy fats, like the fats found in vegetable oils and avocados!