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Cooking Strategies Archives | Elizabeth Borelli

Archive for the ‘Cooking Strategies’ Category

5 Fast and Frugal Foods to Fill Your Fridge this Fall

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Fall is beginning to sweep in its sweet breath of transition. Whether you have an altered schedule, different hobbies or new wardrobe, change is happening.  Coincidentally, times of transition happen to be the best time for creating new habits. One new habit worth learning is how keeping a few basic foods stashed in the fridge is a cheap and easy way to go.

For many of us, moving from packaged to home-prepared food is a special challenge, both because it requires some extra energy up front to get into the habit, and because we think we may hate it. So we end up putting off getting started.  So I implore you to start small and keep it simple.

I find that having preparing just a few simple foods will take you a long way over several days’ time, you can use them as side dishes for dinner, main dishes for lunch.  And don’t forget the snack potential.  You’ll end up with more nutritious, lower calorie snack options than the pantry typically offers, but the bigger surprise is how good these foods taste.

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Here are 5 fast and frugal foods to fill your fridge this fall:

Butternut squash:  Simply cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and bake for 45-55 minutes face down at 385.  Use a glass pan for easy clean up.  Add some salt, or a dash of garlic and a tablespoon of tahini for an delicious new twist.

Sweet potatoes:  Wash them well and keep the skins on for extra texture and more nutrition.  Bake them whole or cubed in coconut oil and salt at 385 degrees, for 30 minutes – 1 hour depending on size and preparation.

Garbanzo beans:  Don’t let the dried beans scare you, the overnight soak and 1 hour boil is well worth the simple steps!  Just soak your beans overnight, drain (the following day), fill a pan with water so it covers the beans by 5-6”, and simmer for about 90 minutes (until tender).  Serve with salt and cumin, or add to your favorite salad.

Quinoa:  Similar to rice, but a more complete protein that makes an excellent salad or side dish. Add 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water and simmer, covered for 25-35 minutes. Drain any excess liquid and add ½ tsp. salt and combine with chopped veggies and fresh salsa, (purchased prepared if needed).

Cabbage salad:  Cabbage is amazing in its longevity, flavor and nutrient profile.  Why wouldn’t you keep it on hand?  It’s simple to sauté in coconut oil and Bragg’s liquid aminos or light soy sauce with a dash of salt and cumin.  Or dice it up and sprinkle with salt, rice vinegar and sesame oil for a yummy salad.

All of these foods can be stored in the fridge for 3-5 days and retain their flavor and nutrition content quite nicely.  Make it easy to snack from the fridge vs. the pantry by treating yourself to a variety of simple, healthy whole foods today, no whole paycheck required!

Shop Smart, Eat Healthy; Free Resources are Here to Help!

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

The words healthy and inexpensive often occupy opposite ends of the thought spectrum, but maybe it’s time to put that myth to rest.  You may have experienced “Whole Paycheck” sticker shock at some point, or seriously questioned why anyone would shell out twice as much for blueberries labeled “organic”, when they look just like the non-organic option one shelf over.  The good news is, healthy food doesn’t need to be fancy (or pricey) as a smart new shopping guide published by Environmental Working Group (EWG) clearly demonstrates.

If you’re not familiar with EWG, it’s the organization that creates the annual Dirty Dozen list, identifying the top 12 fresh fruits and veggies you’re better off buying organic if you want to avoid the heavy pesticide residue they retain.  This short list reminds us that not everything has to be organic to be healthy, while helping consumers to make smart choices about when paying more for the organic label most makes sense.

EWG offers lots of free, expert-research-based guides for consumers, including their cool new Food Scores app, a free online database which lets you plug in your favorite food products to and see how they score in terms of nutrition, unhealthy additives and processing concerns.  It’s a great way to check what you think you know, and identify new options in the process.

But back to Good Food on a Tight Budget, which is a big concern for many of us these days.  This handy new booklet arrived in my mailbox last week after I donated a nominal amount to help EWG to continue their important work.   I flipped through the pages, which outlined the benefits of planning ahead, shopping the bulk bins, cooking at home with foods in season, and yes, even adding more beans to your diet as a healthy, inexpensive source of protein.

I love that the healthy food shopping basics were laid out in an inviting, illustrated format that doesn’t overwhelm.  The booklet even includes a sample shopping list, easy to use meal planner and food tracker (or diary). Good Food on a Tight Budget is a great reminder that when we plan in advance and keep it simple, we can enjoy all of the benefits of a healthy, delicious diet without having to shell out a whole paycheck, or even shop at a fancy health store.

In the meantime, I invite and encourage you to check out EWG’s super-helpful web site, download some of the free guides offered, and perhaps even enjoy this engaging interview I did with EWG spokesperson Robyn O’Brien, as she shares more about why this work is so important, and what you can do to make healthy eating manageable, even when time and money are at a premium.

Interview with EWG Spokesperson Robyn O’Brien. A former food industry analyst, Robyn O’Brien is an author, strategist and mother of four, dedicated to exposing the impact that the global food system is having on our health. Click here to listen.

Shop Smart, Eat Healthy, beginning today!

Think Gluten Free is Good for You?  Think Again!

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

With the gluten-free trend still in full swing, it’s hard to know where to stand on the wheat issue.  Wheat has been red-flagged, and most of us still aren’t sure why.  If you’re among the 1% of the population with celiac disease, of course avoiding wheat, rye and barley makes excellent sense, but for every one American diagnosed with celiac disease, 20 others are eating gluten-free foods just because they think they should.

A new study shows that most people who believe themselves sensitive to gluten, actually are not.  Gluten-free diets can be deficient in fiber and a host of other vitamins and minerals, and are not advisable without an expert recommendation.

Whole grains on the other hand, fall cleanly into the good health category.  And eating a variety of grains is the best way to get you to the 25 grams of fiber recommended for adults per day, a number rarely seen by most of us.  While you would need to up your produce intake dramatically to get there, you can simply opt for a dish made from bulgur or wheat berries, and meet 25-30% worth of your daily  fiber recommendation in one satisfying sitting.

Grains deliver more fiber than any other food, contain protein in amounts that vary from modest to substantial, and are loaded with micronutrients as well.

Of course refined wheat products are a different case entirely.  White flour, the main ingredient in most packaged foods, has had all of the vital nutrients removed during processing.  While this makes for a much longer shelf life, combined with preservatives we’re talking years here, the resulting product is so broken down it affects your system the same way as sugar does, in that it digests quickly and causes blood sugar to fluctuate disruptively.  Think carb crash, headache and hunger pangs just an hour after you filled up on that 500 calorie cinnamon raisin bagel with low fat cream cheese, shheesh.

A diet rich in fiber is also shown to be more satiating than a refined carb version (white flour, white rice and white sugar favoring), all else being equal.  Whole grains can even make you happier.  In fact, Researchers at the University of Melbourne found that women who ate a diet rich in whole grains and plant-based proteins were 30% less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety as opposed to those eating a Western diet.

So don’t assume all wheat products fall into the empty carbs, or dietary devil incarnate category.  Refined wheat products, or white flour based empty carbs, are definitely on rank low on the list, but whole grains, those without the fibrous outer layers removed, are a delicious addition to your dietary repertoire.

Since most women consume only about half the 25–35 grams of fiber most experts recommend, you may want to think about making the switch to whole grains, the more intact the better.   Look for bread that lists whole wheat, whole rye, or some other whole grain as the first ingredient. Or, even better, buy bread that’s made with only 100% whole grains, like 100% whole-wheat bread.

The less widely used grains offer an entire new experience in flavor and texture.  It’s easy to substitute healthy and delicious whole wheat berries, hulled barley, farro, spelt and quinoa for refined processed grains in breads, cereals or other packaged foods.  Whole grains cook much the same way as a pot of rice, it just takes a little longer depending on the variety.   The more you experiment with these new (to you) alternatives, the easier they become even easier to prepare as you discover countless ways to enjoy them.

Start simply, with recipes like Minted Quinoa Tabouli, Super Energy Breakfast Bars or Orange Fennel and Kamut Salad, and you’ll discover whole new favorites to replace those refined wheat products and fiber you up right!

Think Gluten Free is Good for You?  Think Again!  Sources:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/rosspomeroy/2014/05/06/are-you-really-gluten-intolerant-maybe-not/

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/most-people-shouldnt-eat-gluten-free/

http://wholegrainscouncil.org/

10 tips to streamline your kitchen time and improve your daily diet

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Whether you want to lose weight, stabilize your energy or improve your health, eliminating pre-packaged foods from your diet is the best place to start.  And one major factor in transforming your diet is doing more cooking at home.  For many of us, that mere idea can be scary, but with strategies for success in place, you’ll enjoy the benefits of home cooking without the aggravation.  And believe it or not, when done right, cooking can be fun and creative as well as healthy and delicious. Whether you’re a stranger to your kitchen or simply wish you were, try these helpful tips to streamline the process.  You won’t believe the difference you’ll experience when you can focus on getting your creative juices ready to whip up something fabulous, minus the headache.  Here’s how:

  1. Keep it simple.  Maintain a 1 dish breakfast and lunch, and a 2-3 dish dinner.  Cooking from scratch gives you the opportunity to whip up delicious recipes using less than 5 ingredients, but that combine important food groups.  Oatmeal with fruit and walnuts for breakfast, a quinoa salad for lunch followed by a bean and green sauté over brown rice all give you a huge nutritional hit in one satisfying dish, perfect for maintaining balanced energy all day long.
  2. Strive for satisfaction on 5 ingredients or less.  Look for a cookbook or website that features simple, whole foods cooking and find 2-3 recipes that sound good.  Mark your pages or print the recipes, highlighting what you need to purchase so you don’t have to reread anything to remember.
  3. Get organized! A pre-written grocery list, whether compiled by a healthy foods expert or one you create for yourself, is key to cooking success.  Keep your list near the fridge or on your mobile device so you can keep it current.
  4. Label bulk foods or even bagged rice and beans with listing cooking times and water-to-grain ratio so you don’t need to consult a cookbook ever time you want to prepare them.
  5. Group complementary objects.  If there are ingredients you always use together, store them together for easy access.  For example if you only use oatmeal with raisins, group them side by side even if they’re not your traditional “like-objects”.
  6. Set up to streamline.  Whether you’re working from a recipe or making a favorite you know by heart, take out everything you’ll need to use before you start to streamline the process and save time.   Place foods where they’ll be used, like on the cutting board, next to a bowl or pan.
  7. Grouping tasks saves time.  Wash your produce all together, then take a moment to check out your recipe or think through your plan.   Make sure all of the chopping, peeling and cooking happens simultaneously, store prepped food on dinner plates if you need the work space, you can simply wipe them down and reuse them to avoid more cleanup.  You’ll be amazed by the time difference this can make.
  8. Prepare ahead.   Washing your lettuce or bulk greens as soon as you get them home, then store in a covered glass bowl or green produce bag.  Cook bulk beans or grains (except for rice) that you plan to use within 3-4 days over the weekend or after dinner.  Most need to cook for an hour or more, but require little to no maintenance during cooking, so when you have a stretch of time, take advantage of it.
  9. Skip unnecessary steps.  Carrots, apples and parsnips don’t need to be peeled, nor does garlic that will be used in a press.  Use your kitchen scissors to chop fresh herbs directly into your dish- no cutting board required.  Serve cooked foods in attractive glass storage bowls to avoid unnecessary transfers and dishes.
  10. Enlist a friend.  Take turns bringing lunch to work, set up a weekly pot luck night or trade favorite recipes and cooking tips.  This helps you save to time, but the real benefits are shared experience, camaraderie and good, healthy food.

This may sound like a long list of instructions, but the idea is to adopt the ones that feel right for you, and practice them until they become routine.  Then add on from there.  Gradually adopting new habits will not only help to refine your palette to enjoy less processed foods more, you’ll find preparing them much easier too.  So choose your favorite, add it to your to-do list and take the first step towards healthy eating today!

3 Quick and Nourishing Weekday Breakfasts

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

IMG_3399AI know, I get it, you don’t have time for breakfast.  You feed your cat, your kids or your goldfish first, then before you know it, it’s time to go, and feeding yourself fails to happen, again.  So by 10 o’clock you’re starving and off to the nearest Starbucks for a not-so-good-for–you morning fix.  Well guess what, Sugar?  You have to plan ahead to stay ahead, so read on to empower yourself to get started.

As you may already know, the average adult only consumes an average of ½ the recommended daily allowance of dietary fiber they need each day.  And eating breakfast within 60 minutes of getting up correlates to lower caloric intake throughout the rest of the day.

So here’s your chance to start the day in the right direction.  A low-sugar breakfast rich in fiber and protein is linked to mental acuity, stable blood sugar for sustained energy, and long-term weight loss.  And believe it or not you can get it together in less time than it takes to score a bowl of cereal: with more fiber, protein and nutrients to keep you going all morning long.

Check out these three 3 quick and nourishing weekday breakfast options to pump up the protein and fiber without the sugar or saturated fats usually found in breakfast foods.  Yes, you’ll have to set aside a few minutes to prep them the night before, but you’ll find it’s time well spend after discovering the difference a consistently healthy morning start can make. Here are some of my go-to food staples:

These Super Energy Breakfast Bars really are all good; high in nutrients, fiber and protein with very low sugar and no saturated fat.

chia puddingChia Berry Breakfast Pudding is a luscious and nourishing choice for breakfast.  I blend mine smooth using frozen fruit, banana and/or avocado for the creamy texture and good monounsaturated fats that round off this brain food powerhouse.

This amazingly easy Overnight Oatmeal recipe takes the cooking time out of steel-cut oats on a busy morning.  You’ll love the less mushy texture too, almost like oatmeal is supposed to be made.1-Sprout Kit 033

Nourish yourself every morning because you deserve it.  What better way to begin a day?

Bittman, Beans and 7 Simple Tips for Expanding Your Culinary Horizons

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Suppose you were planning a trip alone (with your family) in a remote Wi-Fi free yurt and you could only bring with you one lifeline to sanity, what would you choose?  This time I chose NY Times food writer Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian”.  Already smitten, this book swept me into a whole new level of appreciation for Bittman’s understated culinary genius.

I recall once watching Cybill Shephard’s stern TV reenactment of Martha Stewart cooking her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, which at the time struck me as extreme, if not borderline insane.  Now years later, wading through Bittman’s 997 pages of hardbound goodness gave me a new perspective.

Of course the opening line in the chapter on beans almost made me cry; “I adore beans and have cooked with them regularly for my entire adult life” confesses Bittman.  “As I’ve traveled, as I’ve experimented, as I’ve discovered new varieties and the joys of fresh beans, I’ve grown to love them more and more”.  For me those words and the many that followed offered a fresh surge of inspiration to get back into the kitchen with renewed vigor.  I left that yurt with a plan in mind and a shopping list in hand, recharged and super excited to try on some interesting new dishes made with beans and grains I don’t typically use.

It’s rare to find a man who loves beans as much as I do.  And Bittman’s casual, use-what-you-have-on-hand cooking style is a perfect fit for busy people who enjoy healthy eating as much as he does.  If you can get past the looming structure of it, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian takes the mystery out of many foods mistakenly assumed complicated.  And in case you’re worried about how to adapt to all this new fiber, Bittman tackles that topic as well- beans don’t have to be associated with gas!

In typical plain-talk style he suggests maintaining a healthy level of fiber in your diet to promote digestive efficiency and free you from issues of gastric distress.  He bluntly concludes; “If you’re uncomfortable after eating legumes, see your doctor”.  While the extremity of this advice did make me chuckle, it’s out of context here and perhaps even in the original text.  Most Americans are so fiber-deficit that people do associate beans with gas, often as a point of concern.

So how does one build a healthy fiber intake without the, um, gastrointestinal issues?  The key is a slow transition; this will minimize any digestive issues as your body relearns how to process real food. Work your way up to a healthy fiber intake by making the switch from refined grains to whole ones and incorporating the recommended intake of at least four servings per week of beans into your diet.

This is a relatively quick process, a matter of weeks should suffice.  Embrace this opportunity to discover a whole new world of under-appreciated yet thoroughly delicious healthy, whole foods.

Here are 7 simple suggestions to help you expand your culinary horizons:

  1. Select one new whole grain you’d like to try:  faro, wheat berries, hulled barley and quinoa are all good choices for flavor and versatility.
  2. Choose one bean variety you’d like to try: cooking from scratch.  Garbanzo or cannellini beans are a great place to start since they’re readily available, much more delicious fresh than canned and very versatile.
  3. Schedule a time when you know you’ll be home for a couple of hours to do your cooking.
  4. The day prior, soak your beans in enough water to cover them by at least 4”
  5. Cook your beans and grains according to instructions
  6. Drain grains after cooking to store covered for up to 5 days in the fridge, or 2-3 months frozen.
  7. Store beans in their cooking water in the fridge for up to 5 days or 2-3 months frozen.

For perfectly cooked beans:  add 1 tsp. salt and 2 tbsps. lemon juice to beans after they begin to tenderize during cooking, about 45 minutes.

For easy weekly menu planning:    Cook enough beans and grains to serve for several meals during the week, then freeze the rest in family serving-sized containers.  I love glass jars for this, but be sure to leave the lid slightly askew during freezing to allow for expansion.

Whole foods are the gateway to good health so getting to know them better holds no shortage of reward.   And reading through a master work like Bittman’s HTCEV (or similar) can get even the most competent cook inspired.  So take a moment to pick up a great cookbook and really give it your attention.  Read the recipes, envision the process and embark on a brand new culinary adventure today!

10 Savvy Shortcuts for Streamlining Your Cooking Projects

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Whether you want to lose weight, stabilize your energy or improve your health, Your kitchen is the best place to start.  One primary factor in transforming your diet is relying less on restaurants and take out in favor of doing more cooking at home.  For many of us, that mere idea can be scary, but with strategies for success in place, you’ll enjoy the benefits of home cooking without the aggravation.  And believe it or not, when done right, meal preparation can be fun and creative as well as healthy and delicious. 

Whether you’re a stranger to your kitchen or simply wish you were, try these helpful tips to streamline the process.  You won’t believe the difference you’ll experience when you can focus on getting your creative juices ready to whip up something fabulous, minus the headache.  Here’s how:

  1. Keep it simple.  Maintain a 1 dish breakfast and lunch, and a 2-3 dish dinner.  Cooking from scratch gives you the opportunity to whip up delicious recipes using less than 5 ingredients, but that combine important food groups.  Overnight Oatmeal with fruit and walnuts for breakfast, a Quickie Quesadilla for lunch followed by a Snappy Veggie Stir Fry with Miso Goddess Sauce sauce over brown rice for dinner.  All of these give you a huge nutritional hit in one satisfying dish, perfect for maintaining balanced energy all day long.
  2. Strive for satisfaction on 5 ingredients or less.  Look for a cookbook or website that features simple, whole foods cooking and find 2-3 recipes that sound good.  Mark your pages or print the recipes, highlighting what you need to purchase so you don’t have to reread anything to remember.
  3. Get organized! A pre-written grocery list, whether compiled by a healthy foods expert or one you create for yourself, is key to cooking success.  Keep your list near the fridge or on your mobile device so you can keep it current.
  4. Label bulk foods or even bagged rice and beans by listing cooking times and water-to-grain ratio so you don’t need to consult a cookbook ever time you want to prepare them.  Black self-adhesive mailing labels work well, but I like to print out these crafty pre-designed labels and keep them in the kitchen for when I need them.
  5. Group complementary objects.  If there are ingredients you always use together, store them together for easy access.  For example if you only use oatmeal with raisins, group them side by side even if they’re not your traditional “like-objects”.
  6. Set up to streamline.  Whether you’re working to a recipe or making a favorite you know by heart, take out everything you’ll need to use before you start to streamline the process and save time.   Place foods where they’ll be used, like on the cutting board, next to a bowl or pan.
  7. Grouping tasks saves time.  Wash your produce all together, then take a moment to check out your recipe or think through your plan.   Make sure all of the chopping, peeling and cooking happens simultaneously.  Store your prepped food on dinner plates if you need the work space, you can simply wipe them down and reuse them at mealtime to avoid more cleanup.  You’ll be amazed by the time difference this can make.
  8. Prepare ahead.   Washing your lettuce or bulk greens as soon as you get them home, then store in a covered glass bowl or green produce bag.  Cook bulk beans or grains (except for rice) that you plan to use within 3-4 days over the weekend or after dinner.  Most need to cook for an hour or more, but require little to no maintenance during cooking, so when you have a stretch of time, take advantage of it.
  9. Skip unnecessary steps.  Carrots, apples and parsnips don’t need to be peeled, not does garlic that will be used in a press.  Use your kitchen scissors to chop fresh herbs directly into your dish, no cutting board required.  Serve cooked foods in attractive glass storage bowls to avoid unnecessary transfers and dishes.
  10. Enlist a friend.  Take turns bringing lunch to work, set up a weekly pot luck night or trade favorite recipes and cooking tips.  This helps you save to time, but the real benefits are shared experience, camaraderie and good, healthy food.

This may sound like a long list of instructions, but the idea is to adopt the ones that feel right for you, and practice them until they become routine.  Then add on from there.

Maximizing your time in the kitchen makes it more enjoyable, and you’ll find yourself less overwhelmed by the idea of preparing meals at home.  Taking control of your health is empowering, and the kitchen is the best place to start.   So choose your favorite tips, plug them into your calendar and take the first step towards healthier eating today!

Amazing Lentil Benefits, Simple Cooking Methods and Yummy Recipes

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Lentils, the Mega-Nutrient, Down Home Superfood

When it comes to nutrients per calorie, lentils top the list.  A rich, nutty legume with roots in the Middle East, lentils pack a serious health punch.  In fact, Health magazine calls them one of the five healthiest foods, a sentiment which is shared worldwide. To be sure, 1 cup of cooked lentils contains more than 18 grams of protein (about the same amount as a 3 oz. portion of steak, minus the saturated fat), and that’s just for starters.   Lentils also deliver plenty of dietary fiberfolateB vitamins, and minerals, making them a perfect choice for those interested in keeping blood sugar and cholesterol in check.

In case you need more convincing, most Americans come up short on meeting their dietary fiber daily intake requirements by about 50%. This key nutrient associated with weight loss and low blood cholesterol leads to sustained energy while it keeps you feeling fuller longer.  In fact, legumes such as lentils have been used to lower blood sugar levels and even reduce or eliminate prescription meds in people with Type 2 diabetes.  And for anyone concerned about too much music, lentils are also the easiest legumes to digest.

If all of these health benefits aren’t enough, try lentils for the amazing array of delicious dishes that feature this fabulous food.  A mere bite of Agape Salad had been known to soften even the most consummate carnivores it’s so savory and satisfying.   There so many lentil benefits, cooking methods and recipes, I invite you to find your own favorites.

Basic Cooking Method

Lentils are a cinch to prepare, since they don’t require soaking and cook faster than most grains and legumes.  They work wonderfully in Misc 009soups and stews, or combine deliciously into a hearty salad or side dish as well.

Storage Tip:  Store lentils in jars in your pantry, labeled with variety, date and cooking information so you don’t have to look it up next time you’re ready to prepare them.

Click here for a downloadable bulk food label template.

Lentils can be simmered in water on the stove top or cooked in consommé, bouillon or broth with equal ease.   Brown, Green and Black and Red lentils all cook similarly, however cooking times vary, see individual varieties below for details.

  1.  Place lentils in a colander and sift through them before cooking.  Remove anything not a lentil (they sometimes pick up bits of stone during harvesting), then give them in quick rinse in cold water.
  2. Pour into a large saucepan.  Add about 1 ½ cups water per cup of lentils
  3. Heat the lentils and water on the stove until they come to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered to prevent over-boiling.  (See cooking times under individual varieties below)
  5. Serve and enjoy

Optional Cooking Tip:  Remove from heat and cover tightly with the lid. Let sit for 5-10 minutes longer before serving.

Common Lentil Varieties

The large, khaki-colored lentils most commonly used in cooking are called Green or Brown lentils depending on where you shop, but suffice it to say these classic lentils are greenish-brown in color and work in any lentil recipe, although they’re on the softer side once cooked and more mild-flavored than other varieties. Cook for 25-40 minutes.

French green lentils (lentilles du Puy)  are slighly smaller than the brown variety.  This dark green legume is often considered the tastiest, with a slight peppery flavor to round it out.  Slightly firmer than Brown lentils, but may be substituted in most recipes.  Cook for 35-45 minutes.

Black or Beluga Lentils are a smallest variety with a delicious, nutty flavor that lends itself well to whole grain or arugula salads.  Also lovely combined with French lentils to vary the texture.  Cook 20-30 minutes.

Red lentils are sweetest of the bunch, these salmon colored legumes transform into a golden puree when cooked.  A perfect addition to soups or stews, they’re often used in curry dishes.   Cook for 25 minutes, into a thick puree.

Basic Lentil Recipe Ideas

There are as countless ways to prepare lentils, and it’s easy to get creative and invent your own favorites!  I like to prepare mine according to the cooking instructions above, and add in some of the following items for every 3-4 cups of cooked Green, Black or French lentils:

Add during last 5 minutes of simmer time (return lentils to simmer before restarting the timer):

  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrot (skin on)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup chopped red or green pepper
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1 cup chopped fennel

Mix in with cooked lentils:

  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. dried mustard
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp. natural hickory liquid smoke
  • 1 cup cooked barley
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice

Sauté for 5 – 10 minutes with slightly under-cooked lentils (in addition to any of the items listed above):

  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped parsnip
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1-2 cups chopped cabbage
    currylentil
  • 1 cup chopped spinach

Or try one of these delicious recipes:

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

Agape Salad

Curried Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup

Tools for Success, A Must-Have List of Kitchen Basics

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

portraits-headshots-rebecca-stark-photographer-0138When it comes to food preparation, I’m a minimalist.  As much as I enjoy discovering new ingredients and techniques,  my culinary tool collection remains pretty basic.  I don’t own a juicer or a fancy food processor, not even a crock pot.   I find that between a powerful blender, a few good chefs knives and a small array of decent quality pans will get you thorough most recipes without a hitch.   Basics aside, my kitchen tools list is relatively short, just enough to get the job done.  However, if gadgets are what it takes to get you going, by all means, acquire accordingly!

  • Hand grater, large stainless steel, free standing
  • Hand grater, small hand held stainless steel (for ginger) (more…)

Ready to lose 8 pounds without even trying?

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Ready to lose 8 pounds without even trying?If you’re expecting a diet pill or calorie cutting plan, you may be disappointed.  The only investment you’ll need to make for this weight loss regimen is maybe a good pair of reading glasses.

A full 70% of food we eat is processed.  True that’s a high number, but since my favorite whole grain bread ranks on that list, I’m not throwing in the towel and neither should you.  The trick is to being to make more informed choices.  Luckily no special skills are required to recognize the good from the garbage.  I’m not suggesting you no longer enjoy your treats if you can’t live without them, just know that some treats are trickier than others.  The secret to which is which lies in the small print on the side of the package.

Women who regularly read ingredients labels weigh an average of eight pounds less than the rest of us.  I know those tiny numbers are confusing, but even when you don’t know what all of them mean, you know enough to weed out (more…)

Favorite Tips to Spice Up Your Beans

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

2013-10-21 13.49.12Certain seasonings will make your beans sing, rely on them and you’ll rarely be disappointed.  Some of favorite spices for beans include:  garlic, parsley, cumin, thyme, basil, oregano, fennel, and pepper of any kind, but truth be told, it’s hard to go wrong no matter how you spice it.

  • A good measure for dried spices is 1 teaspoon of seasoning per 4 cups of cooked beans.

A favorite cold-weather seasoning suggestion is to add a touch of smoky flavoring to your soup, chili or veggie bake.  I’ve recently discovered this amazing coconut bacon made of real ingredients and no artificial additives.  (more…)

Healthy, Delicious and Efficient, oh my!

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

portraits-headshots-rebecca-stark-photographer-0130It’s no surprise that one of the best ways to improve your diet is to start in your kitchen.  Eating out is directly correlated with weight gain, and as we know, the diet-related disease rates in the US continue to rise. Lack of time is the biggest obstacle for lots of us, but it doesn’t have to be.  If you’re looking for efficient and delicious menu ideas, this blog is for you!

Starting this week, I’ll be posting more of my favorite five-minute dishes.  Essentially, you can make a main dish in just minutes of you’ve prepared a sauce and a grain or a bean in advance.  It’s easier than you think, I promise.

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Time Saving Cooking Tips for Easy Meal Preparation, from Scratch

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

cook-from-scratch

Ask any busy mom why she doesn’t cook at home, and you’ll get some version of the same answer. But take a moment to reflect on what “I don’t have time” really means, and you’ll notice some loopholes in that argument. Meaning that it’s hard to really know whether you have enough time to cook unless you’ve tried these time saving cooking tips before, since as of now you don’t know actually know how much time they take.

And it’s a valid concern. Why invest valuable time to learn something you’re not going to use?

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Ten Healthy Lunch and Snack Ideas for Kids (and grown-ups)

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

healthy-snacks-for-kidsIt’s the bane of parents of school-aged children everywhere. Ask any mom her biggest challenges with raising school aged children, and somewhere among them, almost cringingly whispered, come those two dreaded words: making lunch.  The daily grind of making sure you have enough variety in stock is challenging.

It’s hard to find healthy foods your kids will eat. Yet with popular faves like Turkey + Cheddar Lunchables packing in at least half a days’ worth of saturated fat, most ready-made snacks are no good solution.

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Unbelievably Easy Rice Paper Wraps

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

paper-wraps

I love fresh spring rolls, or salad wraps as they’re sometimes called.   The Thai-inspired kind prepared with raw, julienned vegetables snugly encased in a rice paper wrapper, made even more delicious with a savory dipping sauce served on the side.  It’s a simple concept, yet one of those recipes I hesitated to try at home.

My problem was with the rice paper wrappers.  I would buy them periodically, but my good intentions were always cut short by the lack of directions on the package.  Eventually, as in a long time later, I would feel compelled to toss them, unopened, they were so old.  Why it took me to long to simply look up the directions, I’ll never know,  but I tell you now that I’ve got a handle on it, making healthy, delicious spring rolls is embarrassingly easy and very kid-friendly.

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