The single most important step we can take to prevent the American food system (food manufacturers, restaurants etc.) from controlling our health destiny is to take control of our kitchen and cook at least a small portion of our own food.
Life can get really busy. How often does microwavable convenience food, pre-packaged junk or time-saving takeout replace nourishing meals and snacks which can be prepared simply and affordably in your own kitchen?
To the cooking-phobic suggesting that they should get into the kitchen and turn on the stove can be a turnoff. The promise of improved health and budget does not turn them on.
“Cooking (from scratch) is the single most important thing we can do as a family to improve our health and general well-being.” — Michael Pollan
As for this late-comer to cooking, I spent years packing up my mother’s leftovers and skimming her freezer for goodies I could take to my home to reheat and eat. It was only when I got serious about wanting to make lasting changes in my health that I discovered how easy, delicious and economical healthy home cooking can be. Now I cook because it’s a habit that provides delicious options every single day. I should note that I don’t cook every day. I batch cook on Sundays and might slip in an impromptu stir-fry or baking session in mid-week. I typically make recipes with no more than the number of ingredients that I can count on one hand. Reheating store-bought prepared food in a hot oven doesn’t count!
Batch cooking has multiple definitions. For some it means preparing and refrigerating or freezing whole meals once a week. Fitness and bodybuilding enthusiasts proudly post their chicken, broccoli, rice and/or sweet potato combo meals stored in a container on social media. For them, routine trumps constant creative meal planning. Whatever works right? For others, including myself, batch cooking is more about making pots of ingredients at the beginning of the week and using them as a base for healthy fast food to be consumed the rest of the week.
Even a Breakfast Cookie recipe is prepared without the intent to polish them off at one sitting, rather to wrap them individually and freeze for later use. When you wake up, whip up a fast protein shake or a hard-boiled egg and some fruit and with a defrosted breakfast cookie you are out-the-door.
This recipe is prepared without eggs, dairy or gluten.
Directions: Mash bananas in a bowl. Add oat flour, nut butter and additional optional ingredients. Drop by large mounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake at 375 degrees for 18 minutes. Cool. Store cookies in freezer. They defrost in minutes. Nestle one in your backpack or briefcase as you head to school or work.
Directions: Place all ingredients into a high-performance blender and purée until smooth. Serves 4.
Recipe is courtesy of Whole Foods Market.
“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food from fresh ingredients.” — Julia Child
How about whipping up a whole food salad dressing rather than resorting to that bottled dressing with hydrogenated fat, sugar and excess salt. These from DrFuhrman.com are a fresh start:
Directions: Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet pan over medium heat for 3 minutes, mixing with a wooden spoon and shaking the pan frequently. In a high powered blender, combine 2 tablespoons of the sesame seeds with the cashews, oranges and vinegar. If needed orange juice can be added to adjust consistency.
Sprinkle remaining sesame seeds over salad.
Home-cooked meals in a jiffy might include a combination of simple cooked grains like rice, pre-cooked beans from the can, raw avocado (or a favorite pre-made guacamole), cut up fresh vegetables and a store-bought salsa. As you get more comfortable in the kitchen you can make the condiments from scratch. Listen to how good your body feels when a healthy meal is prepared by hand vs. takeout. It nourishes your body differently.
Directions: Heat the beans with water, Bragg’s and chili powder. Chop the vegetables and place in individual bowls.
To serve, place big spoonfuls of brown rice in individual serving plates or ceramic bowls and ladle beans on top.
Add generous handfuls of chopped vegetables on top of the beans.
Add salsa and a splash of tamari.
Drizzle with dairy-free sour cream (or regular if you are just heading down the plant-powered path and carry this staple in your fridge already).
The Urban Dictionary defines ‘Nice Cream’ as homemade ice cream or gelato (using mainly bananas.) I think of it as dairy-free soft-serve which is best eaten within minutes of being prepared in a high performance blender, a classic food processor or my new favorite kitchen tool — a Yonanas Frozen Fruit Treat Maker. Nice cream is free of refined sugars, saturated fat and chemicals often packed into traditional ice cream. It nourishes the body in ways the classic stuff never could.
It is ideal that the bananas used for making nice cream are so ripe that they appear almost brown, or at least heavily speckled. Freezing the bananas ahead makes for a chilly and soft consistency like ice cream. When blending frozen bananas you can add additional ingredients like peanut butter, frozen strawberries, bits of chocolate or nuts and even go savory with fig balsamic vinegar.
The example of this alternative ice cream universe is a sweet reminder that preparing even some of your own food can be satisfying and fun-filled. Getting into the kitchen to playfully experiment with basic recipes like the ones mentioned above, introduces a new kind fast food that nurtures health and vitality. If you are someone who “hates to cook” or “can’t cook,” as I used to be, remember that this one change of habit can transform your health. Cooking is less of a chore and more of a powerful gift if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and have the courage to give it a try. Restaurants, take-out and fast food will never be motivated to do for you what you can do for yourself. Healthy home cooking is a revolutionary act.
Originally published at vikingnews.net on April 20, 2016.