Category Archives: Miscellaneous cooking tips

In the Kitchen – Essentials for Cooking Healthy Meals

by:  Kimberly Roberto and Dr. Janet Early

kitchen tools

Creating nutritious, delicious meals and snacks using food created by God is the most important thing you can do for your family, and the place to do that is in the kitchen! Whether you are just getting introduced or re-introduced to your kitchen, or are a seasoned veteran in the kitchen, you will find the following lists of basics and specialty items of tools helpful.

Basics for every kitchen:

Knives (invest in a good set) Pepper grinder Spatulas and tongs
Vegetable peeler Measuring cups and spoons Salad Spinner
Mixing Bowls Citrus juicer or reamer Colander/strainer
Garlic press Cutting Boards

Small appliances:

Food Processor – Efficient way to chop and puree vegetables to create quick salads, spreads, dips, soups, and snacks. This is especially great for making hummus and mixing the ingredients for the Almond Power bars in the nutrition book.

Blender – good for smoothies and soups. Some high-end blenders, such as the Vita-Mix double as a food processor. Another great trick is to do a wet chop. Simply put roughly chopped veggies like onions and celery in the Vita-Mix and cover with filtered water. Turn the speed up to desired size. 3-4 will be a medium chop, 5-6 will be a very fine chop/dice. Strain the water off and you will have perfectly uniform chopped veggies in seconds. (Great when cooking for a crowd)

Hand-Held Blender – Use for single-serving smoothies, which is especially helpful while traveling. Also make quick, delicious soups by simmering your favorite vegetables in broth until the vegetables are soft, and then pureeing by putting the hand-held blender directly into the pot and blending right there. This tool also comes in handy when blending black beans directly in a mixing bowl to make ML’s Advanced Plan black-bean cake! Prices range from $13 – $50. All work similarly but if you end up using this tool a lot the cheaper one will have to be replaced sooner.

Crock Pot – cooks food slowly. Place all your ingredients in the crock pot in the morning and come home to a hot meal. You can make meals large enough to have plenty of left-overs. Crock pots are terrific for slow-cooking roasts and whole chickens.

Indoor Grill – when it’s not barbecue season, use a cast-iron grill for the safest and least toxic form of indoor grilling.

Steamer – the healthiest way to cook your vegetables. Gently steam them in either an electric steamer or a steamer basket over a pan.

Food Dehydrator – if set on 150° F or less, the food retains its raw, live qualities. This is great for dehydrating sliced fruit (like apple chips), drying fresh herbs, kale chips, homemade grass-fed beef jerky (this is so much more affordable than store bought).

Cookware (Including grill pans and a heavy bottomed soup pot) – the safest and least toxic forms of cookware are cast iron and enameled cast iron, followed by stainless steel, Thermolon™, and glass. Newer brands of non-stick ceramic cookware are not only non-toxic but easy to use in place of traditional non-stick cookware (Teflon® is facing class-action lawsuits and possible extinction within the next decade due to toxicity hazards).

Parchment Paper – this is your friend when baking advanced plan crusts, cakes, and cookies. You can line a baking sheet, square or rectangular baking dishes, and to buffer food from plastics when freezing. Another great trick when making the advanced plan pizza crust is to put a damp paper towel on the counter then the parchment paper. The paper towel will keep it from sliding around on you. (A Silpat is another great non-stick option to line a baking sheet)

As your mastery and creativity expands, you may find some of these tools useful as well:

Vegetable spiral slicer – transform zucchini into pasta instantly. Without the skins, you won’t be able to tell the difference. Cook in any sauce and you’ve effectively replaced traditional carbohydrates with healthy vegetables. The spiral slicer is also ideal for creative salad toppings, such as carrots and onions.

Egg Slicer/Dicer – great for Egg Salad or salads and garnishes.

Citrus juicer or reamer – Nothing tastes as good in your recipes that call for lemon or lime juice then the real thing! Tip: When you have to get out your citrus juicer for a recipe, juice some extra and freeze the rest for the next time you need it. Lemon and lime juice both freeze nicely.

One-quart mason jars and lids for storing and soaking ingredients.

Fine Mesh strainer

Sprout bag – makes growing sprouts a cinch.

Microplane – great for whole nutmeg, ginger, and citrus peels, etc.

Mandoline – Makes uniform slices of tomatoes, onions, zucchini and other vegetables as well as beautiful julienne slices with little effort.

Digital Kitchen Scale – Traditionally used for portion control, but an even better use is weighing ingredients that are messy to measure directly into you mixing bowl, food processor bowl, or sauce pan with use of the “tare” button. You will be able to make easy conversions by looking at the nutrition labels of your ingredients because serving sizes will also be listed in grams. See recipe for Maximized Living’s Almond Power Bars with ingredient amounts listed in grams below.

Funnels – This is an inexpensive item (less than $5) that can make transfer of foods into jars for storage much easier. A wide-mouthed one is great for pouring soup or sauces into Mason jars. If you want to go all-out, try KitchenAid Pro’s set of 3 funnels for $17.49 from Amazon. You’ll get 3 different sizes, including a wide-mouth size and a removable strainer that fits all 3 sizes.

Roaster Pan

Mortar/pestle – blending spices is one of the best ways to ensure a constant variety of flavors in the kitchen.

Juicer – If you find yourself doing more juicing than your blender can handle, and actual vegetable-and-fruit juicer is an incredible tool to create delicious drinks to nourish the whole family.

If you would like to try your hand at using the digital scale…try this converted recipe…

Almond Power Bars using digital scale with grams as unit of measure:

Ingredients for saucepan:

104 grams Coconut Oil

14 grams Pure Vanilla Extract.

Measure the coconut oil and vanilla extract directly into a sauce pan using this method: Put the saucepan and a large spoon on the digital scale and press “tare” to zero out. Use the spoon to remove coconut oil from its jar, and put the oil and spoon directly into the pot and check the weight on the scale. Add or subtract coconut oil from your spoon until you have exactly 104 grams. Zero out the scale again and add the required amount of vanilla extract.

Melt the coconut oil with vanilla gently on low heat for 1 – 2 minutes until the coconut oil is liquid. Do not overheat and cause the coconut oil to smoke. Set the oil mixture aside to be added to the food processor after processing the other ingredients.

Ingredients for food processor bowl:

206 grams Raw Almonds or Almond Flour

60 grams Flaxseed Meal

46 grams Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

60 grams (or two scoops) Flavored Whey Protein Powder

120 grams Raw Almond Butter

Scant 3 grams Sea Salt

¾ Teaspoon Stevia Powder, to taste

Turn your digital scale on, and adjust to measure in grams. Put your food processor bowl on its base and add the chopper. Carefully remove bowl and put finger in bottom side of bowl and chopper to secure the chopper in place. Carefully remove finger as you place the bowl on a digital kitchen scale. Press the “tare” button on the digital scale to reset the weight to zero. Add ingredients one at a time using the grams to measure. After each addition, press “tare” again to zero the scale. When all ingredients have been added, carefully lift the processor bowl, re-insert your finger into the bottom of the bowl and chopper to keep the chopper in place while you return the bowl to its base and lock in position. Turn the processor on until ingredients are mostly mixed. Add the coconut oil and vanilla and pulse until the ingredients have formed a course paste. Press mixture into an 8 x 8 glass baking dish, lined with parchment paper and coconut oil. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour, or until mixture hardens. Cut into bars and enjoy as is, or add a chocolate coating, following the instructions on page. 108 in the Maximized Living Nutrition Plan book.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Pasture Raised Chicken

Health Benefits of Chicken

  • Good source of protein
  • Cancer-protective nutrients – niacin. Niacin deficiency can lead to DNA damage, cognitive decline
  • High in selenium- thyroid function, immune function, lowers cancer risk
  • Good source of Vitamin B6 – lack of B6 leads to higher homocysteine levels (increasing risk of heart disease)

Why Pastured Chicken?

  • Fewer toxins
  • Fed without pesticides, antibiotics, and animal by-products
  • Better living conditions
  • Less susceptible to disease
  • Conventional chicken contains arsenic!
  • Conventional chicken subject to bleaching and water incubation
  • Pastured chickens eat a natural diet including grass, seeds, and insects, results in chicken with lower fat levels, more vitamin A, and increased omega-3 fatty acids. Conventional chickens are fed grains, animal by-products, and even arsenic
  • Conventional chicken creates drug-resistant bacteria (meningitis, salmonella)

What about labels?

  • Conventional – Typically less than half a square foot of space per hen where they are not even able to spread their wings.
  • Cage Free –Hens are able to move around inside a hen house without being confined to cages. While this is a bit better, it is common for the tips of the beaks to be clipped or burned to prevent pecking at themselves and others (so many hens in a small space = distress)
  • Free Range – Can be deceiving because this is not a regulated term. All that is required is a door that gives “access” to an outdoor area but unfortunately, the hens never go outside.
  • Organic – This means the hens were fed organic feed (no pesticides) that contains no by-products.
  • Vegetarian – The hen is fed a vegetarian feed, often containing soy. While this sounds like it is good thing, chickens are actually omnivores, not vegetarians, and will naturally eat bugs, grubs, etc. This term is used to imply “healthier” but is not the case.

 

Go Local!

Chickens & Eggs: http://eastwestfarm.wordpress.com

Eggs: www.facebook.com/twobytwofarms

Q. Is raw salmon OK to eat?

I recently received this nutrition question which I thought would be good to share, especially since so many people seem to have a passion for sushi.

Question:  “There are hundreds of differing views on consuming raw fish.
PLEASE, let me know what you think. I freeze fresh,wild caught Alaskan Salmon and slice it thinly for sushi. I’ve gotten a lot of flack for it.
Thanks for any help you can offer.”

My response:  Thank you for your question.  Typically, if you are buying your fish from a reputable source and it is truly wild caught, your process will be fine.  Freezing is what sushi restaurants to to ensure that there are no parasites on the fish.  Salmon eaten in it’s raw form allows you to benefit even more from it’s rich omega content.

If you are still concerned, you can also go an extra step and “cure” the salmon.  It will give your salmon a bit of a different taste.  Here are a couple of methods.

Basic Salt Cure
1- 1 1/2 block of organic, wild caught pacific salmon
1/2 cup kosher or coarse sea salt
any other spices you would like – lemon peel, fennel seeds, black pepper, etc.

Put about half of the salt/spice mixture on the bottom of a baking dish (or anything that will accommodate the size of the salmon.  Lay the salmon on top of the salt/spice mixture and top with remaining salt/spices.  cover with parchment paper and weigh it down with heavy cans, jars, or bricks.  Place in the refrigerator for approximately 2-4 days, turning every day.   (pieces less than 1 1/2 inches thick will take about 2 days and larger pieces will take up to four days).  The salmon will be firm when done.  When it is done, remove it from the dish and rinse with filtered water and pat dry.  Slice to serve.

Ceviche – citrus acid cure
Cut the salmon into bite-sized pieces (you want the marinate to have more surface area to work with ) Marinate the fish in lemon or lime juice until the salmon changes color from orange to a pinkish color.  Once it is done, season it to your liking.

Have a great day!

Grass Fed NY Strip with Chimichurri Sauce

When you are switching from conventional beef to grass-fed beef, there are a couple of cooking secrets you need to know.  Since grass-fed beef is much lower in total fat, it can become tough if not cooked properly.

Here are the basic tricks:

  • Never over-cook!  Grass fed beef is best cooked to medium-rare to medium.
  • Use a tenderizing tool like the Jaccard Tenderizer.  This does wonders for tenderizing grass fed steaks.
  • Marinate the beef for at least 30 minutes with olive oil, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and spices.
  • Cook on high only to sear then cook on low-med heat.  Never cook on high heat.
  • Never cut or puncture the beef while cooking – it lets all of the juices run out.

For the steaks, follow the above steps and cook to desired doneness.  Let the steaks sit for about 5 minutes before serving to seal in the juices.  Serve with Chimichurri Sauce (recipe in the Maximized Living Nutrition Plans book)

Kids Lunch Ideas

I always get questions about packing healthy lunches for kids.  This is a unique challenge for parents, especially if these are new changes for children.  Here is a list of some ideas to get you started.

Getting your kids to eat and to LIKE what you make them may be difficult at times but don’t give up.  Keep trying and you will be surprised how quickly they make changes.

I have found that using something like a bento box (what Japanese children use – it has several different small containers that keep lunch components separate and makes for a presentation kids love.  Plus…it cut’s down on plastic bags which are toxic and bad for the environment anyway.

LEGEND:  C = Core Plan,  A= Adavanced Plan,  MLNP= Maximized Living Nutrition Plans Book

•    Chicken Salad – C,A  Recipe in MLNP.  Organic chicken, homemade mayo or grapeseed oil vegenaise, and any combination of:  celery, onions, curry powder, lemon juice, nuts, grapes (core plan only), raisins (core plan only).
•    Cold Meatloaf – C, A (with flax instead of breadcrumbs) Recipe in MLNP
•    Cold Meatballs on skewers (with Fruit (core plan only) or Cheese) – C, A
•    Turkey – Melon Wrap – C .   Organic deli turkey with thinly sliced melon wrapped in a sprouted grain tortilla.
•    Fresh Mozzerella, Tomatoes, and Basil with Balsamic & Olive oil – C, A
•    Chicken Wings – C, A.  Just bake chicken wings with hot sauce (check ingredients)
•    Salmon Cakes – C, A  Recipe in MLNP
•    Hummus – C, A  Recipe in MLNP
•    Chili – C, A  Recipe in MLNP
•    Guacamole with veggie dippers– C, A  Recipe in MLNP
•    Organic Egg Salad – C, A
•    Organic Hard Boiled Eggs – C, A
•    Dried Fruit – C
•    Plain Organic Yogurt with fruit or Strawberry Syrup – C, A  Make sure you check ingredients!  Yogurt is a common hiding place for lots of sugar.
•    Cookie Cutter Sandwiches – just cut out shapes of sprouted grain bread, organic deli meat, cheese, hummus, almond butter, banana,  – C, A (depending on ingredients)
•    Trail Mix – nuts, coconut flakes, chunks of chocolate bark (recipe in MLNP), seeds – C, A
•    Smoothies – C, can be A
•    Kale Chips – C, A  Recipe on this blog.
•    Organic Deli Meat Rollups – Organic Deli Meat spread with organic cream cheese or hummus, dill pickle, etc. C, A
•    Ezekiel Bread French Toast Sticks with Strawberry Syrup – C Recipe in MLNP
•    Sliced Leftover Chicken – C, A
•    Raw Cheese Cubes – C, A
•    Tamari Almonds – soaked almonds sprinkled with tamari and lightly roasted – C, A
•    Pickles – C, A
•    Frozen Grapes – C
•    Organic Popcorn – C
•    Grass Fed Beef or Turkey Jerky – C, A Recipe in MLNP
•    Soup in a thermos…put hot water into your thermos and let stand for 5 minutes, remove water and refill with the soup – this will keep it warm even longer
•    Salad – get creative!

•  Rainbow fruit skewers – just place colorful fruit (in rainbow order) on a skewer or make mini ones on toothpicks.

 

Dinner Challenge – Good Meals FASTER than Eating Out

This is my dinner challenge to people who tell me they don’t have time to cook and that it is just faster to go out.

Let’s challenge that thinking.  So…first you have to decide where to go.  That usually takes about 15 minutes of “where do you want to go” “I don’t care, where do you want to go”, “I picked last time, you pick”, etc. until finally, “OK- let’s go to the neighborhood grill”.

Once the place has been chosen, you have to load up everyone, drive to the place, wait to be seated (most restaurants have a wait, even on weeknights because everyone else is eating out these days too), try to hunt for something healthy, wait to have your order taken, wait to be served, eat, pack everyone back in the car, and drive home.  All of that takes 30 minutes at a MINIMUM!

On the flip side, lets say you decide to cook at home.  You’ve used the Maximized Living shopping list and meal plans to stock your pantry and refrigerator so all you have to do is prep and chop your ingredients, cook (almost every single recipe in the book takes 30 minutes or less), eat the healthy tasty meal, and load the dishwasher (using non-toxic dishwashing detergent of course).  All of that takes about 30 minutes – maybe 40 Max.

It is time to break through the misconceptions people have about cooking and eating.  Do this challenge yourself- I’d love to hear the results.

How do I cook my vegetables?

How do I cook my vegetables?

One question we get a lot is “Why aren’t there many vegetable recipes in the Maximized Living Nutrition Plans book?”  Many people interpret this to mean that Maximized Living promotes meat consumption over vegetables.

While the Maximized Living Nutrition Plans encourage good quality, organic, free range, pasture fed meats, it also recommends a that substantial portion of you daily intake should come from fresh vegetables (and fruits if on the Core Plan).

One of the reasons there are very few recipes for vegetables in the book is simply because vegetables do not require a lot of preparation.  Typically, a light steam or sautee with some added “good fats” and seasonings is all it takes to prepare vegetables.  Therefore, no recipe is really needed.  There are many different ways to combine vegetables, spices, and sauces but it is up to personal preference.

Here are some examples of some great ways to prepare different vegetables.

Asparagus: Drizzle with olive oil or grapeseed oil, sprinkle with sea salt, grill on an indoor grill pan or roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  Also great with a homemade organic hollandaise sauce.

Bell Peppers: Red Bell Peppers:  make sure you buy these organic but a great way to prepare them is to broil them in the oven until the skins are blistered and blackened- you will have to flip them several times.   Take them out of the oven and place them in a paper bag and let “steam”.  The skins will peel right off and you are left with the tender, flavorful flesh.  Eat plain or add to other dished.  You can also add some olive oil and place in the refrigerator for later use.   Green Bell Peppers:  great sautéed with sliced onions for fajitas or raw on salads or as “scoopers” for guacamole instead of chips.

Broccoli:  Lightly steam and add butter and garlic powder OR heat olive oil lightly in a saucepan and melt 1-2 anchovies – pour over broccoli.  The anchovies melt into the olive oil leaving a very tasty, salty, topping.

Brussels Sprouts: Cut sprouts in half – sautee in 1-2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil plus 1-2 tablespoons of butter.  Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  You can also add finely chopped shallots or onions to the sautee.  Great topped with crumbled organic turkey bacon.

Cabbage: Chop or slice thin and sautee in coconut oil or grapeseed oil and butter.  Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, and celery seed.  You can also slice very thin for cole-slaw.  Just add homemade mayonnaise or vinegar, salt and pepper, lime or lemon juice and add any other vegetables you would like.   You can also use cabbage to make saurkraut or kimchi.  Great in any stir fry or salad as well.

Cauliflower: Great sautéed or roasted in the oven with olive oil, garlic, and capers.  Cauliflower is also the perfect substitute for mashed potatoes.  Just steam the cauliflower and put it in a blender with a little organic milk or almond milk, garlic, sea salt, and pepper.

Cucumber: Perfect addition to salads.  Also good mixed with chopped tomatoes and topped with olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper, and fresh dill.

Eggplant: Slice into 1/4 “ slices (longways or in rounds) and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.

Greens: Use raw in salad and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (If using swiss chard or kale, massage the oil into the leaves.  This will make them much more tender and flavorful).  Wilt lightly in a saucepan with olive oil, crushed garlic, and a small amount of apple cider vinegar.  Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper or a couple of grates of fresh nutmeg if desired.

Green Beans: (really a legume):  For crunchy, fresh flavor:  steam and add butter, healthy oil, sea salt, pepper, and crushed walnuts.  For more tender beans:  boil in a small amount of water until desired doneness and top with sea salt, pepper, crumbled turkey bacon, etc.

Raddichio: very good drizzled with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper and grilled.

Squash – Acorn or Butternut:  simply cut the squash in half and place face down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  When done, scoop out the insides and add sea salt, pepper, and any blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, stevia.

Mushrooms: great raw in salads or sautéed with any other chopped vegetables for a stir-fry type dish.

Zucchini & Yellow Squash: These are great cooked together.  Heat coconut oil and butter in a frying pan to medium heat.  Add chopped zucchini and yellow squash to the pan and do not stir until it is slightly browned.  Add preferred seasoning blend with sea salt and pepper.  Stir and cook until desired doneness.