Before you whip up your next masterpiece in the kitchen, let me give you a few cooking tips if you’re tired of the same old, same old. It is so easy to get stuck in a rut quickly in the kitchen. Life gets busy, things get mundane, and food just becomes necessary, no longer a creative outlet. Or, maybe you’re new to cooking, or have never heard of certain ideas and techniques. I think we probably all have some cooking tips up our sleeve to share, and I hope you'll share yours with me too. I’ve chosen 7 cooking tips that don’t require a lot of skill, thought, or time, but can change the nutrition, ease, and taste of your recipes. I hope you’ll try them if you haven’t already started using these yourself, and be sure to let me know in the comments section if you have a tip for me!
1. Roast Your Squash Whole
Fall is a great time to roast winter squash, and one of my best cooking tips for hard rind veggies like squash, is to stop trying to cut it before cooking, and roast it whole! Just pop the whole squash in the oven on a baking sheet, in a dish, etc. and cook it for one hour at 375 degrees. Then, when it comes out of the oven, let it cool for 10-20 minutes, and then just slice it up, scoop out the seeds, and enjoy your squash the easy way! If you want firmer slices, bake as directed, but only allow the squash to cook for 35 minutes, remove from the oven, let it cool for 10 minutes, and then cut into slices. Put it back on a baking pan in sliced form and then cook for 20 more minutes. This way, it is still hard enough to cut the squash into slices or strips so it doesn’t fall apart, but soft enough to cut than before cooking it at all.
2. Try Oil Replacements
I hardly ever use oil in my baking recipes, because there are just too many healthy replacements for oil you can use. I like apple sauce, banana purée, prune purée ( which is really good by the way in breads!), date purée, and pumpkin purée. You can actually purée any fruit or vegetable to replace oil, but these are my favorites for their moisture content and plump density. These oil replacements dramatically lower the fat and calories, and are much healthier for your heart. The best part is, they add a wonderful flavor to your foods that is subtle, slightly sweet and will have people asking for your secret ingredient! You can use any of these as a 1:1 ratio to any oil called for in the recipe.
3. Use Herbs, Not Salt
Instead of using salt to season all your dishes, try an herb infusion. I tie up about 3-4 different varieties of fresh herbs with a little piece of thread or string and just plop it in my soups, stews or anything I cook in the slow cooker. I also place it on top of fish while cooking. Herb infusions make for a wonderful flavor in your recipes, and slash the sodium content, which is much better for your heart. Then, after cooking you can just simply throw it away. If you truly must have a touch of salt, I recommend using Himalayan sea salt, and only a very small amount. It is technically raw, and not mechanically processed, so it retains all the nutrients that real salt actually has like magnesium, sulfur, potassium, and other essential electrolytes.
4. Use Coconut Oil, Not Nonstick Spray
I never use that chemically laden nonstick spray in my kitchen. First off, it makes food taste “off” and though it is fat-free, it is filled with solvents, expeller pressed oils, and chemicals that help it produce a lighter, even spray to your pans. Instead, just grease your pans with coconut oil! It is so much better for you, and the oil holds up well during cooking, not changing in composition making the oils become rancid and harmful to your body. Just use about a pea to dime sized amount and rub it all over the pan or dish you’ll be cooking with. It adds a rich buttery flavor to foods, and hardly any fat at all once cooking is complete. Buy organic, cold pressed oils for the best nutrient composition. I also recommend using coconut oil over olive oil since olive oil’s fats become rancid once heated to high temperatures. Rancid oils are bad for your heart, and your metabolism.
5. Replace White Flour with Oats
If you’re making a recipe and don’t want to pay for those pricey, grain-free or gluten-free flours, that’s okay! You don’t have to sacrifice your money for your health. All you need to do is use oats instead of flour. They offer the same bulking and thickening agent as flour and soak up liquids, just like flour does. To create a lighter crumb instead of a heavier one, grind the oats in a food processor first until you have oat flour, which makes the recipe less dense and more airy. For heartier recipes like quick breads and muffins, use whole oats instead.
6. Replace Butter with Coconut Oil
If you really want to use a fat in your recipes due to the flavor it gives, try swapping out coconut oil for butter. Though they are equal in saturated fats, coconut oil is cholesterol free, while butter is not, since it is animal derived. You’ll still get that buttery taste, without the artery clogging effects of butter.
7. Saute with Water
Many people think you need to sautee your veggies with oil, but that’s actually not true. You can simply use water instead. Just put about 2 tbsp. water in your skillet, then your veggies. Cook on medium high heat, not high heat and sauté away! This reduces the fat in your dish, and it will still sauté them up nicely, so long as you stir every 30 seconds or so, to prevent sticking.
If you have a favorite cooking tip to share with me, I’d love to hear it. I have many more that I like to use, but these are possibly the most simple, and most frequent ones I use on a day to day basis. What’s your best cooking tip?