Energize Your Kitchen for a Healthy New Year: Convenience Is a Good Thing
Say the words "healthy cooking at home" and many people think "complicated, time-consuming and expensive." We'd like to change those thoughts because cooking (including quick cooking) can be an incredibly rewarding activity. It nourishes so many aspects of life.
You can easily put together delicious, convenient, healthful meals for yourself and your family this year. All it takes are a few simple steps, some staples in your kitchen and a handful of culinary skills up your sleeve. Let's get started.
Step 1: Use this template for creating great meals.
A picture is worth a thousand words; this visual of what a healthful meal looks like says it all. You simply fill in the plate.
- Half of each meal, whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner, should contain fruits and/or vegetables.
- One quarter of your meal can be a good source of protein such as beef, poultry or fish. If you're vegetarian, think beans, tofu, tempeh, cheese (if you eat dairy), etc.
- The last quarter of the meal is reserved for a whole-grain item. Our bodies need carbohydrates. They benefit from wholesome, whole-grain ones.
Step 2: Fill the cupboards and fridge with foods that give you options.
[See our Stocking Up article.]
Step 3: Lean on us for meal ideas.
We're happy to assist with meal planning so you can focus on the tasty results. Good Foods for Good Health recipes are available in every issue of our magazine and on our website at www.kowalskis.com/recipes. Just check the Good Foods for Good Health box on the left side of the page for the healthiest options.
Step 4: Make us your sous chef.
We're on it with loads of "shortcut" products throughout the store.
- Use our prepared fresh veggies and fruits from the Produce Department to reduce your slice and dice time.
- Check our Frozen Foods Department for veggies, fruits and precooked whole grains.
- Dive into our Deli Department for the quintessentially quick meal, our Signature (and award-winning!) Rotisserie Chicken. Serve it with any one of our great repertoire of Good Foods for Good Health deli salads. Or use it to make a chopped chicken salad, savory stirfry or chicken and bean enchiladas. Our sushi partners nicely with a warm soup or colorful fruit salad for a fresh, light meal, and Boar's Head meats and cheeses make it easy to put hot and cold sandwiches, omelets, salads and more on the table in a flash.
- Add a fast flavor punch to fresh veggies and lean proteins with simmer sauces from our International Foods Aisle. Red Fork, Passage to India and Frontera and several more each offer delicious, healthful options.
Step 5: Find your inner chef.
It's there, and you'll get a great sense of pride as you grow your repertoire of skills. Everyone can master these basic recipes and techniques:
- Making salad dressing: Making vinaigrette is easy: just whisk 3-4 parts oil to 1 part vinegar; season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic, herbs, mustard – you name it. Add sweetener if desired and make your dressing creamier with just a tiny bit of mustard, yogurt or mayonnaise.
- Cooking vegetables: Roasting is one of the easiest ways to cook a multitude of vegetables, including potatoes; it brings out deep sweetness and flavor. Cut pieces evenly and lightly coat them with oil; season to taste. Roast on a baking sheet lined with parchment in a preheated 450° oven until browned and tender when pierced with a fork.
- Cooking meat and poultry: Steaks, chops whole tenderloins and pieces of poultry are best grilled, broiled or pan-roasted. Ribs, whole poultry and tougher cuts of meat, such as chuck or shoulder roasts, are effectively braised or slow-roasted. Boneless pieces of poultry and pork cutlets are great for fast meals, as they're easy to pan-fry or sauté. Small, thin pieces of tender beef, pork and poultry work well in speedy stirfries. Our meat specialists can help you select the right cooking techniques for any purchase. No matter your selection, be sure to learn the USDA-recommended internal temperatures for meats and poultry and remove intact cuts of protein (not ground meat or poultry) from the heat source before the desired final temperature is reached. During this "rest period," proteins may increase 5-20° or more. Keep them loosely covered with foil to ensure they don't cool too quickly.
- Cooking fish: Depending on the type, fish can be grilled, broiled, baked, steamed or sautéed. All fish should be cooked skin-side-down (unless skinless fillets are used) until the interior of the fish turns opaque and fish reaches an internal temperature of 145° (about 10 min. per inch of thickness, regardless of cooking method). It usually isn't necessary to flip the fish unless it is very thick. Just before cooking, season fish lightly with kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper to taste. Look for "The Basics of Cooking Fish" in the recipe section of our website and see pages 6 and 7 for tips on cooking mussels and other shellfish.
- Cooking whole grains and pasta: Just follow simple package directions. Boost the flavor of grains by cooking them in a mixture of water with broth, tea, wine or fruit juice. Cook until the grains are tender but still a little "toothy."
Here’s hoping 2014 will be a year for growing warm, fun memories in your kitchen. Many wonderful things are created in that room, including the Joy of Good Food. Happy cooking!
Contributed by Sue Moores, M.S., R.D., Kowalski's Nutritionist