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Fast Healthy Cooking

Many of us have it set in our minds that cooking is a long arduous process, and trying to cook healthy just adds to the labor. So why bother or why try to change? I’d like to challenge you to look at cooking healthy with a new perspective and use some of these time savers in the kitchen:

1.  Portion control is a huge part of eating healthy. Preparing smaller dishes will cut your prep and cook time down.

2. Purchase precut vegetables. Many grocers carry precut  mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, onions, peppers, cauliflower and carrots.  Although you may pay a little more upfront for precut vegetables, you are more likely to use them instead of letting your money go to waste on rotten food.

3. Use bold seasonings such as onion powder, garlic powder, low sodium soy sauce, ginger, cayenne pepper, cumin, fresh thyme or sage, and of course salt and pepper.  When you enjoy your food you’re more likely to eat it again. Refrigerate or freeze the leftovers. Remember, bland doesn’t equal healthy! 

4. Use smart cooking methods.  Heat a sauté pan with about ½ teaspoon of olive oil then throw in veggies and seasoning and cook until soft but with a little crunch.  If you have a steaming vessel for the microwave, you can simply steam your veggies then drizzle with measured out olive oil, walnut oil or sesame oil and sprinkle with spices or herbs.  Either preparation should only take about 5-8 minutes. 

5. When it comes to protein, purchase the leanest cut of meat and keep your portion between 4-6 ounces to cut back on your cooking time.

A four ounce piece of chicken breast or piece of salmon should only take about 6-8 minutes in a cast iron skillet on medium high heat  (I would give them about 6 minutes when cooking on an electric stove). Using a cast iron skillet or a sauté pan can give your proteins that nice brown color that you desire.

If you decide to bake your protein, always preheat the oven; never put your protein in a cold oven or pan.   I prefer to sear or grill my protein in a pan before placing it in the oven to avoid that “naked” look. To sear your meat, simply preheat a non-stick sauté pan and add 1 teaspoon of olive oil to the pan. Place your seasoned protein in the hot pan and sear until golden brown on each side and the internal temperature is where it needs to be depending on what you’re cooking.   

6. Multi-Task. While your protein is cooking, move to the vegetables and by the time they are done your proteins should be done as well. 

7. Prep ahead. You are probably thinking but where is my starch?  Starch is one of the easiest things to prepare ahead.  Cook brown rice in large batches and freeze it into portions or cook portions of pasta for the week. Whole wheat couscous only takes five minutes to cook. While something that make take longer to prepare, like potatoes, can be cut ahead of time and held in cold water in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them fully.  Pull out as you need them and season as you wish.  Just remember to make things easy on yourself and consider some things as food prep instead of left overs

As long as you have 4-6 ounces of protein, 1 cup of vegetables, and ½ cup of starch you will be in your range.  Give your healthy food some “love” (seasoning) by jazzing it up with spices and herbs! 

So let’s cut corners where it makes sense so we can make cooking at home stress-free and a little more enjoyable.

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