Vegetables. Cooking Methods:
Experiment with a variety of cooking methods like steam, boil, sauté, water sauté, pressed salad, or waterless cooking.
Steaming is a simple way to cook your vegetables. It is especially helpful to get to know them, how they taste in their most simple and pure form.
Steaming makes greens more fibrous and tight; great for people trying to lose weight. (But it require more chewing) Nutrients are locked in the greens by steaming.
Steaming takes 5-10 minutes to prepare green leafy vegetables, and 10-25 minutes to prepare roots. What you need is a steaming basket and a pot with lid filled with about two inches of water.
Waterless cooking is cooking without water. Traditionally, most cooking has been done in water. Some say that cooking in water often takes out many of the nutrients, and downgrades the flavour of the food.
A method to avoid losing the natural nutrition of the food is to cook it in a near-waterless environment, using the food’s natural juices.
A surprising feature of waterless cooking is that cooking is easy and seems to take less time. Since the heat is evenly distributed, there is no burning or sticking, making the pots easier to clean.
You also don’t have to use oil to prevent sticking. Since the food cooks in its natural juices, it tastes terrific and has more vitamins left in it.
This usually requires special cookware such as stainless steel with a flat bottomed surface. There is a special lid that prevents food’s natural water from evaporating, therefore it steams and cooks itself.
The foods don’t burn because this cookware has special features like an iron core to retain and evenly distribute the heat to the food.
When quick boiling vegetables, just dip them in boiling water and leave for 3-5 minutes. This method removes their raw flavors, makes them more digestible and brightens up color.
When you’re done boiling rinse with cold water to stop additional cooking and preserve the bright color of the vegetables.
Boiling makes greens plump and relaxed. Drink the cooking water as a broth or a tea because it contains water soluble nutrients from the greens. Boiled greens are usually more pleasant to eat than steamed ones.
In average 30% of the nutrients (vitamins and minerals) are lost in boiling but since greens are so high in nutrients to start with, the loss is not to be worried about.
Putting in a pinch of salt into the boiling water keep the vegetables looking really green.
To Make Boiled Or Steamed Greens More Interesting:
• Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, other nuts or raisins
• Sprinkle with sesame seeds and dress with (toasted) sesame oil or flaxseed oil
• Sprinkle with freshly squeezed lemon juice
• Sprinkle with gomasio
• Dress with Umeboshi vinegar/high quality soya sauce
Sauteing Or Quick Stir Fry
Stir-frying is another quick and nutritious way to prepare vegetables. You can stir-fry in oil, or in water. This method makes vegetables really tasty since hot oil seals in flavour. You can use all vegetables, and be aware that the softer the vegetables are, the less they take to cook.
Start with the vegetable that takes longest to cook.
What you need is a skillet with lid.
If you choose to use oil, use a good quality extra virgin olive oil. For longer cooking time (higher temperature, use organic coconut oil, sesame oil (has distinct flavour) or sunflower oil. Heat a skillet and add 1/2 cup oil.
Add vegetables, and sprinkle them with a pinch of sea salt – that will make them taste sweeter and draw enough moisture to avoid sticking. If you stir-fry with oil you can sprinkle water over your vegetables to gain extra steam and heat, and it looks very professional!
If you choose to water sauté, add 1 inch of water to your skillet, and bring to boil. Add thinly sliced vegetables, cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
For added “warmth” or to make vegetables more satisfying especially in winter times: stir-fry with ginger root and/or garlic; or dip steamed vegetables in a healthy sauce eg. Lemon Tahini sauce or Pumpkin Seed sauce
Certain vegetables taste best baked. Baking brings out the very essence of the vegetables, especially squashes and roots. You need a baking pan with lid, your vegetables and your oven, between 375-450 degree heat for 50-60 minutes.
Eating Vegetables Raw
Of course raw salad is good with all the life enzymes intact, but not all the time. Heating the greens helps soften the cell walls making the nutrients more available for your body to absorb.
Also, the cooking helps eliminate parasites that may be in or on the food. When eating greens raw, go for organic and make sure the washing is thorough.
Pick the freshest seasonal vegetables you can find. Eat them as fresh as you can. The longer they are exposed to air, heat and water, the less nutritious they will be.
“Fresh” vegetables shipped from long distances and displayed for several days in a store may actually be less nutritious than those that are flash-frozen shortly after harvesting. Go for locally grown if possible.
After taking them home, wash them thoroughly, drain, and seal them in a zip-locked bag and store in the refrigerator so you can use them anytime to make a quick snack or dish.
Before cooking, soak your grains if you have time. Soaking most grains for six to eight hours will make them more digestible (get rid of the phytic acid). Some grains are thought to be slightly acid-forming in our body.
Soaking (and chewing) helps to alkalize them. Soaked grains require less time to cook. Soaking activates the sprouting process and will make the nutrients in the grains more available to our body.
But don’t make forgetting to soak the grains beforehand stop you from enjoying their many benefits…! Soaking is optional, besides, some grains like quinoa, millet and amaranth are quick to cook and require little or no soaking.
Creating Great Grains:
1. measure the grain and check for bugs or unwanted material and rinse in cold water
2. drain the grains and discard the soaking water
3. add grains to recommended amount of water and bring to a boil
4. a pinch of sea salt may be added to all grains but amaranth, kamut, spelt, and
5. reduce heat, cover and simmer for the recommended time
1 cup grains water Cooking time
amaranth 2-1/2 cups 20 minutes
brown rice 2 cups 50 minutes
barley (pearled) 2-3 cups 1 hour
barley (hulled) 2-3 cups 1-1/2 hours
bulgur 2 cups 20 minutes
buckwheat (kasha) 2 cups 20 minutes
cornmeal (polenta) 3 cups 15 minutes
couscous 1 cup 5 minutes
kamut 3 cups 5 minutes
millet 2-3 cups 30 minutes
oats (whole oats) 3 cups 1-1/2 hours
oatmeal (rolled oats) 3 cups 30 minutes
quinoa 2 cups 20 minutes
rye berries 3 cups 2-1/4 hours
spelt 3 cups 2 hours
wheat berries 2-3 cups 1 hour
wild rice 2 cups 1 hour
All liquid measures and times are approximate. It’s a good idea to check grains halfway through and towards the end of cooking time to determine if they are done or more liquid is needed. If too much liquid has been added, remove lid and boil off excess.
You can change the texture of grains like quinoa, millet, and buckwheat with different cooking methods. Bringing the liquid to boil before adding grain will keep the grains separate, like rice. Boiling grain and liquid together creates a softer, more porridge-like consistency.
If you have a rice-cooker, it makes things easier. You can use it to cook rice and other grains too. You don’t have to worry about your grains getting burned half way.
Experience with it and see what texture you like.
Cooked grains keep very well, and some grains take considerable time to cook. If you don’t have a rice cooker and don’t have the time to cook the grains that take longer time to cook, you can plan to cook extra of them to have on hand for later in the week. To reheat cooked grain, simply add a bit more liquid and reheat gently on the stove.
To Make It More Fun…
You can even experiment with mixing 2 or 3 kinds of grains together, follow the cooking time of the grain that requires the longest cooking time.
A touch of wild rice can mixed into brown rice or any grain can add colour and texture into it. Adding buckwheat gives a nuttier flavour. Quinoa is high protein and easy to cook and can easily be mixed into any grain, like rice.
What To Eat Grains With?
Eat your cooked grains with any mix of stir fried vegetables and tofu for a quick and nutritious meal. Add a drizzle of toasted nuts/nori (seaweed) or sliced mushroom for taste and added nutrition.
The warming and cooling properties of grains (use as reference – eat more warming grains in winter times and cooling grains in summer time):
Warming: Oats, Spelt, Sweet Rice, Quinoa, Basmati Rice
Cooling: Millet, Wheat, Amaranth, Wild Rice, Blue Corn, Whole Barley
Neutral: (Brown) Rice, Rye, Corn, Buckwheat
(Within the same kind of grain, the shorter grain variety is usually more warming than the longer variety)
Though grains have a long shelf life compared to fruits and vegetables, they are still subject to spoilage. Grains tightly sealed in closed containers or plastic bags will keep for about three months in a cool try place (less in hot or humid weather like Hong Kong).
Frozen grains keep almost indefinitely, except oats or oat brans which keep only two to three months frozen. When grains are cracked, rolled or milled, the oil inherent in it begins to oxidize and turn rancid, and its nutritional value is also compromised.
1. Check beans for rocks and broken beans and wash.
2. Soak for 6 hours or overnight, using 4 cups of water per cup of beans. Small and medium-size beans may require less soaking – 4 hours. Quick soak: If you’ve forgotten to presoak the beans, you can bring them to a boil in ample water to cover. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let stand for 1 hour.
3. Drain the beans and discard the soaking water. Always discard any loose skins before cooking, this decreases the chance of poor digestion.
4. Place the beans in a heavy pot and add 3-4 cups of fresh water.
5. Bring to a full boil and skim off the foam.
6. Add a small piece of kombu (seaweed), a few bay leaves or garlic cloves for flavor and better digestibility.
7. Cover, lower the temperature and simmer for the suggested time. Check beans 30 minutes before the minimum cooking time. Beans are done when the middle is soft.
8. About 10 minutes before the end of cooking time, add 1 teaspoon of unrefined sea salt.
9. Cook until beans are tender.
1 CUP DRY BEANS BOILING TIME
aduki 1 – 1-1/2 hrs
anasazi 1-1/2 – 2 hrs
black (turtle) 1-1/2 – 2 hrs
black-eyed peas 30 – 45 mins
cannellini 1 – 1-1/2 hrs
chick peas (garbanzos) 1-1/2 – 2 hrs
cranberry 1-1/2 – 2 hrs
great northern 1 – 1-1/2 hrs
lentils – brown & french 30 – 45 mins*
lentils – red 20 – 30 mins*
lima beans 1 hr
split peas 45 mins*
pinto 1-1/2 – 2 hrs
navy 1-1/2 – 2 hrs
mung 1 hr
red kidney 2-3 hrs
yellow or black soybeans 4-6 hrs
*Does not require soaking
– Chew beans thoroughly and realize that even small amounts have high nutritional and healing value.
– Avoid giving legumes to children under 18 months because they have not developed the gastric enzymes to digest them properly. Except in the case of an allergy, soybean products, fresh peas, and green beans are usually tolerated.
– Experiment with your level of digestibility. Aduki beans, lentils, mung beans, and peas digest most easily. Pinto, kidney, navy, black-eyed peas, garbanzo, lima, and black beans are harder to digest and should be eaten occasionally. Soybeans and black soybeans are the most difficult to digest.
– Experiment with combinations, ingredients and seasonings. Legumes combine best with green or non-starchy vegetables and seaweeds.
– Season with unrefined sea salt, miso, or soy sauce near the end of cooking because if added at the beginning, the beans will not cook completely. Salt is a digestive aid when used correctly.
– Adding fennel or cumin near the end of cooking helps prevent gas.
– Before cooking place kombu or kelp seaweed in the bottom of the pot to improve flavor and digestion, add minerals and nutrients, and speed up the cooking process.
– Pour a little apple-cider, brown-rice or white-wine vinegar into the water in the last stages of cooking. This softens the beans and breaks down protein chains and indigestible compounds.
Storage: Beans stay fresh longer when stored in a cool, dark place (rather than on your countertop). Don’t use beans that are more than a year old, their nutrient content and digestibility are much lower.
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Lakshmi Harilela – www.lovetruefood.com