Let’s Get Cooking

Posted on Posted in Blog, Cooking

I am a member of Progressive Health’s first Cure Diabetes group. Cooking is one of my many passions and I would like to help make this everyday challenge less daunting for you.  I am committed to cooking with fresh ingredients and to eliminating prepared foods whenever possible.  To be honest, I still use canned tomatoes and beans from time to time and I frequently use commercial vegetable stock, but not always.  To be sustainable, any diet must be flavorful and not too time consuming.  Truthfully, you will spend more time shopping and cooking, but there are shortcuts.  I grew up in a house where leftovers were a way of life. Restaurants call using leftovers, re-purposing.  If, you learn to prepare a few basic building blocks such as rice and beans in bulk, you will simplify your life. Liberal and creative use of a few common spices, lend incredible and fascinating flavors to plant based dishes. A dash of cumin or chili powder, a squeeze of lemon or lime and my favorite, freshly ground black pepper, work wonders.

So let’s get started.  To begin with, you will need extra virgin olive oil and your favorite vinegar. There are a few basic vegetables that are central in many vegan dishes. They include onions, garlic, carrots and tomatoes. I always maintain a supply in my kitchen. Basic grains and legumes include:

  • Steel cut oats Long- grain brown rice, lentils, quinoa
  • And black beans and chickpeas aka garbanzo beans.

Spices include:

  • Fresh- ground pepper, cumin, chili powder, granulated garlic and salt.

Spices are listed in the order that I find them being used. I use a lot of fresh- ground pepper and very little salt. The emphasis here is on the word basic.

If you looked in my kitchen you would find many other grains, legumes, spices and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. My go to meals are centered around cooked oats, I call them breakfast, cooked brown rice and canned or home cooked beans. I prepare oatmeal daily and brown rice and beans weekly. It is simple and paramount to maintaining a plant based diet. Yes it takes a little time, but it also saves you time.  You can used canned beans, but only if you rinse them well. You can use commercial vegetable stock, but it is really easy to make your own or you can always substitute water. And you can prepare beans, rice and oats in bulk and keep them for days in the refrigerator.

KEY LEARNINGS

  • Is oil an issue for you? Treat it as a condiment, not an ingredient. Eliminate it whenever you can. Unless you are baking, you can almost always do without or much less than many recipes call for. If you must use oil to satisfy your taste buds, spray, do not pour. Buy a small spray bottle, fill it with extra virgin olive oil and never pour again. A little spritz is enough to release food in a non-stick pan or when combined with vinegar, enough to dress 3-4 handfuls of greens. Try it, you will be surprised.
  • Start your grocery shopping in the produce and fruit section. Try new things. You just might find your second stop is at the checkout stand.
  • Be adventuresome. Challenge yourself. Make it a game to try new fruits and vegetables. You might like it. It is fun and makes meal preparation exciting. Don’t know how to prepare a new fruit or vegetable, look it up on the internet. I guarantee you will find lots of new ideas.

 

 

My favorite building block recipe:

BROWN RICE RISOTTO

I make this every week. It is simple, filling and delicious.  It is the backbone for an endless list of recipes. I typically double the recipe and keep it in the refrigerator.

NOTE: IF OIL IS AN ISSUE FOR YOU, USE NON-STICK COOKWARE AND ELIMINATE THE OIL IN THE RECIPES BELOW.  YOU CAN SAUTE WITHOUT OIL, USE MED-LOW TO MEDIUM HEAT AND ALLOW MORE TIME FOR YOUR VEGGIES TO SOFTEN. STIR FREQUENTLY.

 

Makes 4 servings:

Prep time: 10-15 minutes

Cooking time: 60-70 minutes (unattended)

Ingredients:

1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil or none at all. See note above.

1 ½ cups long-grain brown rice

4 cups vegetable stock (can use water)

1 cup water

1 medium yellow onion or sweet onion shopped

4 cloves or more garlic, minced or chopped

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes (optional)

Fresh-ground pepper and salt to taste

Preparation:

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  You will need a large covered oven- proof pan such as a Dutch oven. Add the oil to the pan and heat over medium to medium high heat. Once the oil is simmering, add the garlic and onion and cook until the onion is translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat the rice with the oil. Heat for another 2-4 minutes and then add 3 cups of vegetable stock (reserve 1 cup for later) plus 1 cup of water. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover the pan and place in the oven for 60-70- minutes. It will look pretty dry when you remove it from the oven.  Now, add the retained 1 cup of stock and vigorously stir into the rice mixture. It will become a bit creamy and may require a little more liquid (water is fine).  Now you can stir in the nutritional yeast (it adds a little cheesy and nutty flavor).  Add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and a little salt to taste.

You have now prepared a basic brown rice risotto.  You can eat it the way it is or you can use it as the base for countless new recipes. Only your imagination will limit what you can make with this basic dish. See below for a few of my favorite re-purposed meals.

 

 

FRIED RICE

Use a non-stick skillet. Sauté diced carrots, celery and onions in very little or no oil. See note above.  If you eat eggs, scramble 1-2 eggs and add to the vegetables or you can make this without eggs. Mix together and add 1 or more cups of risotto and heat through. Season with a little low sodium soy sauce or hoisin sauce and serve.   Makes 2 servings, but why not double the recipe and you lunch or dinner for tomorrow.

VEGETABLE RISOTTO

Steam or roast asparagus, green beans, winter squash, such as butternut, yams or, pretty much any vegetables you enjoy  or just sauté some mushrooms (I like shiitakes) and add them individually or your mix of choice to about 2 cups of risotto. Eat hot or cold.  Serves  4.

BASIC RICE AND BEAN SALAD

1 cup of cooked black beans (can use canned)

1 cup of Brown Rice Risotto

1 carrot, chopped

1 rib of celery, chopped

2 tablespoons red onion, chopped

Toss with 2 or more tablespoons of your favorite vinaigrette or skip the vinaigrette and just use your favorite vinegar or substitute lemon, lime or orange juice.

Tasty additions– add a little chopped bell pepper,  I like red, orange and or yellow. Toss in a 1-2 tablespoons of raisin or dried cranberries. Like heat, add a little jalapeno.

Serves  4.

BASIC VINAIGRETTE

Whisk together, equal parts extra virgin olive oil and vinegar, a splash of water and a little dried oregano and dried parsley. Add little diced shallot and enjoy.  Any vinegar including red wine, cider, Champaign, sherry or any red or white wine will work nicely. You can also substitute lemon, lime or orange juice for the vinegar. You can add salt and pepper and or a little sweetener to taste.  If you add a little Dijon mustard you have a Dijon vinaigrette. I keep a jar in my refrigerator. This makes a great all-purpose salad dressing.

MOCK VINAIGRETTE – ELIMINATE THE OIL

Same as the above, but there is NO oil. This is my version of fat free salad dressing.  Mix 1 tablespoon of flax meal with 2 ½ tablespoons of warm water, let sit for about 10 minutes. It will thicken. Now combine 1 part of this flax meal mix with 4 parts balsamic vinegar and 1-2 parts water. Add oregano, parsley, shallots, a dash of salt and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Quantities are relative. Taste is what matters, so adjust for your taste. Whisk together and toss with your salad of choice. Remember, dressing is a condiment and not an ingredient. Use sparingly and enjoy the burst of flavors on your pallet.