Why We Cook

To think about cooking as purely functional would be to look at just one aspect of it. When in fact there are several reasons why we cook.

Cooking makes food more edible and in doing so cuts down on the time it takes to digest it.

Some foods we can eat raw, but there are others that need to be cooked, like meat or eggs for example.

How To Make The Perfect Egg In One Minute

Humankind has been on the earth for thousands of years and throughout the centuries we have learned the art of cooking.

Yes cooking is an art. If you are a professional-cook or not – when you put together different flavors you are creating a dish to satisfy your taste and hunger.

Frequently Asked Questions about Healthy Cooking

The More You Know

We spend just five percent (5%) of our day eating. So make the food you eat count towards a healthier you. Read more here: First Step To Being Healthy


The bottom line is, we have learned through trial and error that some foods need to be cooked.

So again, ever thought while you are preparing something to eat, why you cook it?

Why We Cook

It makes eating food safe, as cooking destroys bacteria, and the toxins they produce.

The food flavors multiple with using heat to cook. The heat browns meat, vegetables, breads, and cakes.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Brussels sprouts and Bacon

Cooking caramelizes sugar and helps herbs and spices to release their locked in flavors in a process known as the Maillard reaction.

Read More Here About Cooking With Herbs – Spices – and Caramelizing Sugar

How To Spice Thngs Up When Cooking
Spanish Flan – recipe and video on How To Carmelize Sugar

Food that has been cooked helps with your digestion as it softens starches and releases foods nutrients.

Roasted Red Potatoes with Garlic Parmesan

Cooked food tastes delicious and brings new textures to food.

Cooking To Gather Family and Friends

You may have heard the expression, make friends by “breaking bread together.”

Research has shown that the ritual of cooking and sharing your cooked food with others is entrenched in our psyche, and it brings family and friends together.

Regularly eating cooked food with others also improves our well-being.

Cooking Supports A Healthy Life Style

Here’s a great response to why we cook.

Julia A. Wolfson, MPP, lead author of a study on home cooking and weight lossat the John Hopkins Center, says if you are trying to lose weight or not, people who cook most of their meals at home, consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat than those who cook less or not at all (Study Suggests Home Cooking is a Main Ingredient in Healthier Diet).

According to Civil Eats – The power of a communal meal, or eating together – either it be a Thanksgiving feast, a community potluck, or a dinner-table gathering can build cultural ties and tear down political walls.

So now you know. Let’s get cooking.

Greek Grilled Chicken

 

Grilled Greek ChickenFood magazine “Saveur” wrote that Greece is the fountainhead of European culture. 

The mysterious Minoans were among the first residents of Greece, arriving around 2700 B.C.

Besides finding wild grapes and making wine with them, they also discovered a bitter native berry they began to cure and press, and if you guessed the olive, you guessed correctly. The olive, and its oil, became the economic foundation of their civilization (Food History Of Greece – Saveur).

Making Greek Grilled Chicken

Barbecuing food always seems to have a special flavor.

But preparation of what you’re going to barbecue is key to great tasting food.

slits cut into chicken breastsTo prepare the chicken breasts to be barbecued, cut small slits crosswise on each breast, being careful not to cut all the way through.

Doing this helps the marinade penetrate the meat, which disperses the marinaded flavor throughout the meat and not just on the surface. It also helps the chicken cook evenly.

You can do the same when Ross method chicken breasts.

Marinating meat helps it retain it juices while cooking.


Try this Roasted Chicken With Chipotle Cinnamon Orange Glaze using the same method of preparation.


Making those slits in the meat before marinading it, makes for awesome BBQ or roasted chicken.

A Greek food expert on “About Food”, expresses Greek seasoning as the “quintessential” Greek flavors, which are olive oil, lemon, garlic, and oregano (About Food).

Greek Grilled Chicken

making Greek Grilled Chicken marinade The Marinade

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon Greek seasoning (bought at Whole Foods Market)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt

Dash black pepper

In a glass measuring cup or an equivalent vessel, add all 7 ingredients and mix well.

marinading chicken breastsUsing 6 to 8 chicken breasts, without the skin and bones, make those slits in the meat.

In a large bowl, while layering the breasts, pour marinade over meat.

If you noted in our first image, the chicken breasts are sitting on a piece of wax paper, take it, and invert it over the chicken.

Place the bowl in the refrigerate for up to 3 hours.

Grilled Greek Chicken on the BBQHeat your BBQ grill, and place the meat on the hot grill with flame turned down.

Turn chicken about every 4 minutes. If you are using some thick chicken breasts, it will take about 25 minutes or so to cook the meat to 165 degrees internal meat temperature.

Grilled Greek ChickenPlate and serve your Greek Grilled Chicken with a side salad or vegetable. Enjoy those “quintessential” Greek flavors!!!

Enjoy our other Greek inspired recipes:

  1. Greek Marinated Chicken with Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad
  2. Greek Yougurt Dill Spread with Ham and Red Cabbage On Wasa Crisp Bread
  3. Grilled Figs and Eggplant Salad with Blackberry and Fig Dressing – (Figs and Eggplant are part of the Greek cuisine)

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Organic BBQ Hot Dogs and Potato Pack

BBQ Hotdogs and Potato PackPreparing your Independence Day (July 4th USA) is always done with either a party, picnic, or a cookout, at which you may try to make easy to have in the backyard, at the park or by the water. Here is an easy and fast way to accomplish that, with our featured recipe: Organic BBQ Hot Dogs and Potato Pack.

You can easily prepare these at home before you leave to the park, or beach. For each serving, you steam 9 to 10 mini colored potatoes (about 40 mini potatoes for a serving of 4), just until a fork can insert with no problem.

preparing BBQ Hotdogs and Potato PackNext, using heavy duty foil, cut a piece 12 inches X 18 inches long. Place a cooked uncured organic all beef hot dog in the center, and arrange 9 to 10 of the small  steamed potatoes around the hot dog. For each packet you will add 3 to 4 tablespoons of diced onion (optional), 1/4 to 1/3 cup of  shredded cheese, of your choice, and pour an organic barbecue sauce over the top.

Foil wrapped BBQ Hotdogs and Potato Pack in a BBQ

Fold foil to form a tent around the food, making sure it is closed tight. Place into your ice cooler, until ready to barbecue at the park or beach.

Foil wrapped BBQ Hotdogs and Potato Pack in a BBQ basketHeat your barbecue grill to medium. Now place your foiled tent wraps in a barbecue basket and place on the warm grill. Close the lid and let the food heat through for about 10 to 12 minutes.

BBQ Hotdogs and Potato PackUsing a pair of barbecue tongs, remove the tent wraps and place each on to individual plates. Open the wraps, top with more cheese (optional) and allow to cool, serve and enjoy.

Organic BBQ Hot Dogs and Potato Pack

1 pound organic colored mini potatoes

4 uncured organic beef hot dogs

1/2 cup diced organic white or purple onion

1 cup shredded organic cheese, your choice

1/2 to 1 cup of organic barbecue sauce

Divide potato wedges among four pieces of heavy-duty foil (about 18 in. square). Top each with a hot dog, onion wedges and cheese. Drizzle with barbecue sauce. Fold foil around mixture, sealing tightly.

Grill covered over medium heat 10-12 minutes or until heated through. Using a pair of barbecue tongs, remove from heat to individual plates. Open foil carefully to allow steam to escape. Top with more cheese, if desired.

(Recipe adopted from June/July 2013 Taste of Home Magazine – rearranged to fit our pallet)

 

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Growing Your Own Health Promoting Herbs

Growing Your Own Health Promoting Herbs

The more natural your food that you eat the better it is for your health. When you cook your meal using prepackaged box or canned foods, there is really no nutritional value. Also considering the food has been processed, and doing so leaves little to none of the original nutrients.

Whole fresh food on the hand, prepared by nature to meet your body’s nutritional needs, is a lot better choice. You receive more vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients for optimum, if not better health, including better energy levels, weight management, and disease prevention, like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Plant foods are the best sources of vital nutrition, and the more you eat the higher your chances of ageing gracefully, as they say.

Herbs are part of the plant food choices. They can provide a number of health benefits, as they are used for medicinal purposes, while adding natural flavors to a variety of prepared dishes, including desserts for those with a sweet tooth.

Grow your own ptted herbs and plants on your balcony or patioIf you love gardening, and if you don’t have a plot of land, maybe you like having potted plants on your patio or balcony, or even a sunny window that can accommodate potted plants, then you could possibly grow your own.

Just think of the Italian dishes you can make with the fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme you would be harvesting from your garden or potted herbs.

Or the peppermint tea you can make for when you have an up-set stomach or the basil to add to your pitcher of watermelon juice or sliced tomatoes.

Herbs are really easy to grow and as we mentioned are dense in nutrients. More commonly grown herbs include basil, sage, thyme, mint, and rosemary. But let’s talk about some other herbs that you might already have in the garden, or buy as a tea when you’re not feeling well.

Healthy Herbs You Can Grow In Your Garden

Echinacea

echinacea flowersEchinacea also referred to as a “Purple Coneflower,” grows from 1-2 feet tall. It was used in ancient cultures as a way of reducing the symptoms of viral infections due to a cold or the flu, and other infectious illness.

It is also available at your local co-op or Whole Foods Market as a tea, supplement form or as a tincture. If you have this herb or flower in your garden, you can make a tea with the plant parts whenever you feel a cold coming on.

 Echinacea contains antioxidants called phenols which help to regulate certain enzymes and human cell receptors in the human body. The herb also has alkylamides, and this compound directly affects the immune system when confronted with invading infectious bacteria.

Cilantro

Cilantro has become a popular herb to grow in home gardens. The herb is also commonly recognized as leaf-coriander in Asia and quite similar to dill in culinary terms, as the leaves and seeds are used in many culinary dishes, such as in the Mediterranean and Latin American countries.

cilantro The herb bolsters many plant derived chemical compounds that are used as disease preventing and health-promoting properties. It also contains minerals such as potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium.

Potassium is an important for cell and body fluids that help control the heart rate and blood pressure. Iron is needed for red blood cell production, and manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.

The American diet lacks the very essential mineral magnesium that has many uses in the body, from sleeping well, digestion, elimination, muscle and bone health just to mention a few.

It is also rich vitamins, which include folate, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin-A, and vitamin-C, which are essential for optimum health.

Chamomile

This plant has white daisy-like flowers and is best grown near the house where you have ready access to it. The flowers are used for their health benefits including the management of colic, indigestion, skin irritations, inflammation, and anxiety.

It can be infused as tea using the plants leaves, stems, and roots or worked into a salve that can be directly applied to the skin to relieve irritations, as the plant has natural anti-inflammatory and anti-septic properties, and helps in clearing up skin irritations like eczema, acne, and allergies.

In medical studies chamomile tea was noted to raise urine levels of glycine, a compound that calms muscle spasm.

What a great plant to have around after working in the garden all afternoon. Make a tea in the evening and your muscles are relaxed.

Feverfew

This plant is best grown in flower gardens because they produce nice yellow daisy-like flowers with yellow-green leaves that resemble those of chamomile, for which it sometimes is confused. The herb plant is also known as Midsummer Daisy, and Wild Chamomile.

FeverfewBoth the leaves and flowers of this plant or herb can be brewed into a tea or chewed directly for the relief of various kinds of uncomfortable symptoms, like:

  • Headaches or migraines,
  • Pain due to arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Constipation
  • Dermatitis
  • Earache
  • Fever
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Insect bites
  • Menstrual disorders
  • Psoriasis
  • Muscle spasms

It can also be made into a salve so that it can be directly applied to skin irritations.

Lavender

This plant or herb produces lovely purple flowers, you may have seen it, and referred to as French Lavender.

Lavender is used as an essential oil for aromatherapy. The aroma or the smell of lavender is relaxing and calming to the mind and body.

It is also used as a natural pain reliever, and it can be prepared as a tea, or directly applied as a salve to bruises and cuts on the skin, to help relieve pain and inflammation of these affected areas, and also works as a natural antiseptic when applied to affected areas of the skin.

An Herb Garden Year After Year

There are several benefits to having these herbs as well as others we did not refer too. Those that produce flowers are a beautiful display for the garden.  Many are perennials, meaning they come back year after year to give you the health benefits you need.

Others are annuals, like basil and the cilantro we mentioned. They can be reseeded by allowing the plant to go to seed. Just remove the flowers after the petals have faded, alone the seeds to dry and put them into a labeled envelope culinary and medicinal herbs prepared for dryingand date it.

The following season you will have new seeds to start your annul herb garden to once again reap its health benefits and culinary flavors.

You know the best part of growing your own herbs, is you can pick them fresh as you need them, and you are assured they are grown in organic soil without the use of pesticides.

An added benefit to using culinary herbs from your garden is you can feel doubly joyful, for not only preparing your own whole food fresh meal, but you also grew the herbs in your garden.

 

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Gluten-Free Penne with Caponata Sauce

Gluten Free Penne with Caponata Sauce

You have no doubt heard of people who eat a gluten free diet. A gluten free diet excludes gluten, a protein found in wheat and related grains, like barley and rye. Gluten causes health problems in those who suffer with Celiac disease (CD) and in some cases those who may have allergies to wheat.

Some have argued we need carbohydrates and wheat needs to be eaten. Also others have voiced that eating Gluten free is just a fade diet. Are these statements true? We would say no.

Making the choice to take gluten out of your diet is for health reasons, and it has nothing to do with losing weight, as most fade diets proclaim. Secondly, you can obtain the same amount of carbohydrates as you would in wheat products as you can in eating fruits and vegetables.

De Boles Gluten Free  pasta for - Penne with Caponata SauceThe fact is most substitutions used for wheat do have some carbohydrates in them. Such as the product we chose to prepare are featured recipe.

This product De Boles is not exclusive to just using white or brown rice flour or corn flour, no but rather it uses brown rice flour with whole grain quinoa flour and ground flax seed flour, as well as the rice bran.

This gluten free product has 4 servings with 41 grams of carbohydrates per serving. As there is whole grains, and bran, it will not raise blood sugar levels.

Now for our featured all organic recipe: Gluten Free Penne with Caponata Sauce and here is what you will need.

1 red onion

1 red sweet pepper

1 yellow sweet pepper

3 small purple carrots

2 zucchini

1 medium egg plant

2 cloves garlic, minced

14 ounce can roasted tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3 – 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preapred vegtables for - Gluten Free Penne with Caponata Sauce

Cut all the vegetables into chunky dices, but mince the garlic.

Sauting carrots, onions and garlic in olve oil

In a large skillet, saute oil, onions, garlic and carrots for 3 minutes. Next add the eggplant and peppers, and cook 3 minutes more, stirring frequently.

Now add the zucchini and cook 3 minutes more, and again stir frequently.

Adding roasted tomatoes to suateed vegetablesAdd roasted tomatoes….

adding oregano

Add the oregano and stir in, till well incorporated. Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Cooked pasta for - Gluten Free Penne with Caponata Sauce

Mean while, cook the gluten free pasta according to package instructions. Drain do not rinse. By this time the vegetables should have completed the 10 minutes of simmering.

Gluten Free Penne with Caponata Sauce

In a large serving bowl mix vegetables and pasta together. Plate and serve with a favorite meat, such as fresh ground turkey basil and feta sausages, from the Whole Foods Market. Enjoy!!

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Cooking Vegetables without Sacrificing Flavor

Cooking Vegetables without Sacrificing Flavor

Eating vegetables is very beneficial for your health in several different ways, one most important is keeping your blood pressure low. Adding the most amounts of vegetables to your diet as you can protects you from other diseases like certain types of cancers, heart disease, and type II diabetes.

Vegetables are packed with nutrients and vitamins that can give you an added boost of energy. On top of it all, being healthy inside can make look younger, healthier and more attractive on the outside, and who doesn’t want that?

The recommended amount of vegetables to eat daily is 3-5 servings, and sadly enough, better than 70% of people do not eat enough of these healthy and nutritious food sources. Too many, eating vegetables is a chore, and they simple don’t take the time to prepare them for consumption.

Eating vegetables, an essential part of the meal can be really delightful and gratifying, in what way? Consider the following.

Vegetables can be cooked and prepared in a variety of ways, from steaming to roasting.

We prepared this guide to help you learn the best techniques in cooking healthy and sumptuous vegetables. You might say you already knew this, than please consider this guide a reminder.

A good sign that vegetables are properly cooked is by looking for a very bright and vibrant color. When the color is dull or dark, as can be the case with canned green beans or Asparagus, it’s a sign that they are over cooked. When vegetables are over cooked, they have little to no nutritional value. Over cooking your vegetables, or buying them in a can is really wasting your hard earned money.

Now your guide for healthy ways to cook vegetables without sacrificing flavor, including necessary vitamins and minerals:

These cooking methods can create appetizing and healthy vegetable dishes.

Steaming

Boiling the vegetables is the easiest and most convenient way of preparing a vegetable dish. In this cooking method, all you need is a cooking pot filled with water. But it isn’t ideal as boiling your vegetables strip the essential nutrients while cooking. What’s more, it saps flavor from the vegetables.

Steaming your vegetables can allow you to cook them without losing their nutrients, and it helps the vegetables retain their natural flavor.
To steam vegetables, you just need a good and reliable steamer. But if you do not have a steamer, you may use a pot with a steaming basket.

 

 

 

Roasting

roasted vegetables

Roasted Vegetables

There are some vegetables that can retain more antioxidants, flavor, and nutrients when roasted. Peppers, eggplant, sweet potatoes, beets, and asparagus, to name a few, are healthier and more delicious when they are prepared with this method.

Keep in mind, even though the oven is at 350 degrees, and if you are roasting the vegetables for 20 to 30 minutes (depending on the vegetable) the internal temperature of the vegetables will normally be about 165 degrees.

40 to 60 percent of the nutrients are still intact at this temperature. Vitamins and minerals begin to waste away at temperatures of 185 degrees and above (internal temperature not the temperature of the stove).

Sautéing

Sautéing also referred to as stir-frying, is no doubt one of the healthiest ways to prepare a vegetable. When sautéing the vegetables, they are being cooked in a pan over very high temperatures. Since the vegetables are cooked in a high temperature, sautéing quickly cooks your vegetables and reduces the loss of nutrients and vitamins.

But keep in mind, cutting your vegetables in thin slices is the best way to sauté or stir-fry them, doing so cooks them quickly and they are not exposed to the high heat very long, and therefore retain their nutrients.

As far as the taste goes, sautéing won’t compromise the vegetables flavors. Sautéing can retain the natural flavors even better than steaming them. Sautéing them can even add flavor, as this cooking method is done by adding in other flavors like herbs and spices.

It is worthy to note, that sautéing requires keeping an eye on the pan of vegetables at all times, as the vegetables can burn quickly or over cook, losing their flavor and essential nutrients.

Grilling

grilling vegetables

Grilling Vegetables

Almost any vegetable can be cooked on a grill. The  best vegetables to use though, are those with a low water content, like corn on the cob, zucchini, potatoes, mushrooms, and artichokes to name a few. Coat the vegetables with avocado oil or coconut oil (high smoke point oils) before placing on the grill.

You can also grill vegetables using a foil pouch. Make a pouch with aluminum foil, add a little water and they can be steamed, or add some butter, herbs and spices instead to add some flavor.

Most vegetables on the grill cook in 3 to 5 minutes. Harder vegetables like potatoes will take longer. Be sure the grill is nice and hot, so that they are on the grill no longer than 3 to 5 minutes, so that they do not lose their nutrients.

Check out our search with the key word “Vegetables” here at Splendid Recipes and More for recipes using the methods in this article, for cooking vegetables. —–Link Here—–

 

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How to Use Herbs in Cooking

How to Use Herbs in Cooking

An important part of cooking is also to know the flavors of herbs and spices and how to use them. Seasonings are the key to making a great meal.

If you are not familiar with different herbs, experiment. Get to know the flavors and how herbs work to flavor your food.  Also be aware herbs are not just for flavoring foods, but also have nutritional value as well as medicinal traits.

The following are the most popular used herbs.

Basil: This herb has a very aromatic odor and some can even be sweet. It can be fresh or dried. The herb goes well with lamb, fish, roast, stews, ground beef, vegetables, dressing and omelets. Basil should always be added after cooking your recipe dish, as heat chances the color and texture of basil.

Basil is also best used as whole leaves or torn. Do not use kitchen shears to cut basil as this will brown it. Smaller leaves at the top of the bunch are the sweetest.

Chives: This herb is part of the onion family. Though it can be sweet, and does have a mild flavor. They can be used dried or fresh. They go well with salads, fish, soups and potatoes.

Cilantro: It has a lively aromatic flavor. It looks similar to flat-leaf parsley, though it is not parsley. This herb originated from the Middle East and goes well with Asian, Mexican, and Indian dishes. It is also used in salsas and chutneys.

Cilantro is best used fresh. If you do grow this herb in your garden, note that the leaves become bitter after the plant flowers. The dried seeds of cilantro are the spice called coriander, which is popular in use with making Chai Tea.

Dill: This herb is very aromatic. The herb has grassy and feathery like leaves. It is used in pickle brine, as well as fresh in tuna salad, omelets, vegetables, seafood dishes, yogurt dressings that use cucumbers, and herbed vinegars.

Marjoram: Though not a popular herb, it is used either dried or fresh. It is used to add flavor to fish, poultry, omelets, lamb, stew, and stuffing.

Oregano: A very strong herb with a strong aromatic odor. Be careful when using this herb, as it is strong, adding to much will over power other flavors you will use in your recipe preparations. Oregano is unforgiving. If you have added more than the recipe calls for, there really is now way to fix it.

It can be use fresh or dried. It is added to recipes using fish, eggs, pizza, omelets, chili, stew, gravies, poultry and vegetables.

Rosemary: This herb has a pungent aroma like smell or pine flavor. It goes great with Mediterranean dishes, lamb, poultry, fish, and breads. Fresh sprigs or finely chopped leaves can be added to long-cooking stews.

It is noteworthy, that when grilling, sturdier stems of the plant make good skewers for broiling or BBQ dishes. Adding flavor to the meats and vegetables placed on the skewers.

Paprika: This spice works well when marinating steaks, in use with vegetables, soups or as a garnish for potatoes, salads and deviled eggs. The Paprika we are familiar with using is Hungarian and is sweet. There is also Smoked Paprika that is used in Mexican dishes. Most of the paprika we buy today is grown and processed in California.

Thyme: This delightful herb can be used fresh, though it is popular used dried. The leaves are dried than crushed, and can be sprinkled on fish or poultry before broiling or baking.

Here’s a tip using thyme as a meat smoking agent if you’re grilling fish or poultry: Place a few sprigs directly onto coals shortly before meat is finished grilling.

Rules to Using Herbs

The basic rule to using herbs is ¼ teaspoon for every 4 servings. Also, if you are using whole dried herbs, crush them before using to release their flavor. The rule of thumb is to use 3 times more fresh herbs if substituting for dried.

When preparing your dish, dried herbs should be added at the beginning and fresh herbs should be added just before serving the dish.

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