By Larraine Roulston :
Once you have decided to cut “convenient foods’’ from your diet, you will benefit from more wholesome meals that are better for your body, your wallet and the planet. You will also reduce the amount of packaging and discover that home cooking is relatively easy.
In order to reap the beneficial joys of creating healthy meals, you must have a well stocked kitchen of pots, pans, sharp knives, along with a variety of metal and wooden stirring utensils. As well, keep your pantry filled with the familiar staples of potatoes, onions, rice, pasta, beans, flour and other baking supplies. A slow-cooker, in which everything gets tossed to simmer all day, is useful for making vegetable stock and stews. A pressure cooker is handy for cooking things quickly.
I start my day with my favorite waste-free breakfast of steel-cut oats, prepared ahead by measuring oats to soak in the same ratio with water and a few drops of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, then allowed to sit for 10 or so hours. Soaked oats are not only easier to digest but also save cooking time. Rinse the oats, then add 4 times the amount of water, bring to a boil for one minute only, and let sit overnight. In the morning, add a bit of water in a small pot and gently heat your desired portion. Place your bowl over the pot to act as a lid and it, too, will warm. By stirring in any combination of wheat germ, nutritional yeast, flax seeds, coconut, raisins (all purchased at a bulk store by reusing jars) or fresh fruits, you’ll begin the day with very little effort. The remainder can be refrigerated in a glass storage container, while any fruit peelings can be composted.
Basic home cooking will save you money. With a casserole in the oven, choose to roast veggies simultaneously to save energy. At the same time, a fruit crisp is one of the easiest desserts to prepare. Begin with a thin base of apple sauce, fruit juice, or jam with a little water to offer extra moisture. Select organic apples, pears and peaches that do not require peeling. Top with a mixture of rolled oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, flour and diced butter.
Teaching children how to prepare meals will help them develop a life skill. Preparing food and eating together is a great way for family members to bond. Likewise, college students living under the same roof can take turns making large portions to be enjoyed by the entire group.
For those in a hurry, the trick is to keep it simple. By creating and doubling one-pot meals, you can freeze leftovers for another full balanced dinner. These recipes allow you to use up bits of food on hand.
Processed foods are high in fats, sugar and sodium, low in fiber, and contain chemicals in orderto maintain shelf life. Whole foods, on the other hand, are the opposite to all the above and are healthier to digest. Cooking from scratch allows you to make better meat, egg and dairy choices. When you skip the small cuts of de-boned, pre-seasoned, over-packaged and over-processed meats, you can opt for more humanely raised foods. Cutting small portions yourself will add appreciation to the meal, and you’ll have bones for a soup broth.
Once you start cooking with real food, you will begin to shop frequently at local farmers’ markets, thus keeping money spent within your community.
Larraine authors illustrated children’s books on composting at www.castlecompost.com