At my follow-up doctor’s appointment following my annual physical, I got good news and bad news. “Get more exercise, cut back on wine, lose 20 pounds, and eat healthier,” my doc said. He sent me home with a nifty packet of dietary recommendations, tips, hints and menus for eating healthier. Perusing the info, I noticed the menus pretty much resembled the ones you already know: lots of whole grains, lean meats, legumes and low-fat cottage cheese (yuck, that ain’t gonna happen)! In the regimen, fats were kept to a minimum, and carbs cut.
Since I work in a beautiful kitchen shop that sells myriad gadgets designed to make cooking easier and more fun, and since I teach cooking classes that often include ideas for healthier eating, I thought I would pass along some of my favorite kitchen tools that can help one live a healthier lifestyle, along with a few recipes for this health-and-fitness issue.
Give Your Kitchen a French Accent…Lékué
The complete line of Lékué products are chic and colorful silicone cookware, kitchenware and bakeware that are microwave and dishwasher safe, truly cut down food prep time and promote fat-free cooking (Las Cosas Kitchen Shoppe offers a half-dozen of the line). If you are one of those home cooks who complain that cooking healthy meals takes too much time, these products are for you. If you are not a fan of microwaving, these can also go in the oven.
The popcorn popper boasts a collapsible bowl with a clear lid that perfectly pops virtually every kernel in 2-3 minutes. Simply place 1/3-cup kernels in popper, add a teaspoon of salt, cover and pop until the popping sound stops—about 2 ½ minutes. I did add a teaspoon of vegetable oil for a touch more flavor but for the 8 cups of popcorn it made, that works out to only an additional 5 calories per cup—not bad.
The Omelet Cooker is cool because it produces an omelet that is as light and fluffy as if Julia Child had whipped it up. No fat is necessary, so I took two large eggs, whisked them up with a tablespoon of milk, a pinch of salt, ¼ cup finely chopped zucchini and 2 tablespoons sharp cheddar. You pour the mixture into the cooker, close and microwave for 90 seconds. Without opening, you carefully (it does get hot) flip the container and microwave for 30 more seconds. Bada bing bada boom—photographer Stephen gobbled it up and pronounced it delicious.
Wanna lose those thighs? Spiralize!
Although I personally believe it’s the carbohydrates in our diet that make us fat—not the fats— I think we can all agree, at the end of the day, total calorie consumption is important. If you find it impossible to give up your pasta, it’s time to spiralize! The PL8 Professional Spiralizer is an easy-to-use, easy-to-clean gadget that turns veggies into tender curls that, when served tossed in a delicious sauce, will make you forget your floury noodles—well, almost. Some of these gadgets can be tricky to use, but this one is a breeze. Trim your vegetable to fit in the machine, stick it on the spike attached to the handle and curl away. There are three shapes to choose from but the true spiral really does create ribbons that resemble plump spaghetti.
During my research on the product, I learned that since zucchini is 90 percent water. Thus, you don’t want to salt it before cooking, nor do you want to salt the water you blanch it in, as it will become too limp. To precook my zucchini curls, I used the Lékué Small Steam Case with Tray, along with two tablespoons dry vermouth under the tray, and microwaved for two minutes to keep my zukes firm. It’s recommended you make your sauce thicker than you normally would, as the moisture in the cooked zucchini will thin it when you toss. One large zucchini made a nice size portion—serve it with my Zippy Tomato Basil Sauce below. Note: One-cup cooked pasta has 182 calories and 35 carbs, while one cup zucchini has 27 calories and five carbs.
Grills Gone Wild
Grilling is a better way to cook for health than frying or sautéing, and even though we enjoy weather that promotes practically year round grilling, I resist firing up my big one on the portal for just me. With the Chefmaster Smokeless Indoor Barbeque Grill you can do virtually everything you would outside on your indoor gas or electric stovetop. Lightweight and dishwasher safe, I use this gadget for all my grilling classes all summer long. For my eggplant adovado recipe below, I used to fry the eggplant before baking it in the rich chile sauce. Now, I first brush slices with healthy olive oil and then grill for an extra layer of smoky flavor.
And speaking of flavor, were you aware that our cherished New Mexico chiles are loaded with health properties? I use the Los Chileros brand exclusively in my classes—we carry it at Las Cosas—an added boon is that chiles lower cholesterol, blood pressure, are natural antioxidants, stimulate endorphins in the brain and, I swear, they’re great aphrodisiacs! I adapted this recipe from one I learned from cookbook author and cooking school director Jane Butel. For my street tacos, I used the slightly smaller corn tortillas called “street taco” size to shave off about 50 calories per serving of three; try topping with plain Greek yoghurt instead of sour cream.
Let Off a Little Steam
At the top of the price range for equipment that helps with healthy cooking is a pressure cooker. You may have already discovered the necessity for one due to our 7000-foot elevation. Because our boiling point is 14 degrees cooler than at sea level, the liquid you are cooking with without a pressure cooker is cool enough to make a big difference. Pressure cookery speeds up the timing by almost half. You also end up using way less liquid, which, along with the faster cook-time, helps preserve nutrients in the food.
Do tales of your grandmother blowing up beans onto the ceiling still haunt your memories? Fear not! At Las Cosas, we feature the full line of Fissler Pressure Cookers, which have built-in safety locks to prevent explosion. The aluminum cookers from the days of yore have been replaced by beautiful stainless steel pans that help brown your foods prior to pressure-cooking. And any tasty ingredients you add to the mix—stock, wine, beer, spices and herbs—really bombard the food when pressurized, upping the flavor.
Once you get used to pressure-cooking, you’ll love how creative a tool the pressure cooker is. Try my whole Indian spiced cauliflower to get your feet wet. I also regularly offer pressure-cooker classes at Las Cosas and, in fact, my next one is March 4 at 3 p.m.
Here’s to a healthier you in 2017!
Zippy Tomato Basil sauce
Makes about 3 cups
1/4 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 pound Roma tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup dry Vermouth or dry white wine
1-14.5 oz. can whole tomatoes
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Place olive oil in a medium saucepan. Sauté garlic in oil over medium heat until golden brown. Add fresh tomatoes and simmer 10 minutes.
Add Vermouth, canned tomatoes with their juice and simmer for 20 minutes, smashing tomatoes with back of wooden spoon as they soften. Add pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Stir in basil just prior to serving and toss with cooked zucchini noodles.
Grilled Eggplant Adovado
Serves 6 as a side dish
8 cups diced eggplant from 2 medium eggplants
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup crushed Caribe chile
2 Tablespoons ground mild chile
2 Tablespoons ground hot chile
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tablespoon toasted and ground cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
Juice of one lime
Slice eggplant across into 1-inch slices, brush with olive oil and grill both sides on prepared grill until nicely browned. Cut eggplant into 1-inch cubes.
Place chiles, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, lime juice and water in blender and blend until smooth. Scatter eggplant in large baking dish and pour chile mixture over it. Stir and allow to marinate for 10 minutes.
Cover dish and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until sauce has thickened and coated eggplant. For Street Tacos, heat corn tortillas and top with spoonful of adovado, grated cheddar cheese, sour cream and sprigs of fresh cilantro. Serve with lime wedge for squeezing.
Sichuan Style Sweet-and-Sour Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower (around 2-2.5 pounds) trimmed and washed
1 cup white wine
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon toasted, ground coriander
1 teaspoon toasted, ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 cup water
2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
Place the cauliflower in the pressure cooker sitting in the steaming basket. Add wine, butter, olive oil, and red pepper flakes. Affix lid and bring pressure to high pressure. Reduce heat and set timer for 10 minutes, making sure high pressure is maintained.
While cauliflower is cooking, mix together salt, turmeric, coriander, cumin and garam masala in a small bowl. When time is up, release pressure immediately using cold water method.
Place whole cauliflower on a metal baking pan. Sprinkle the spice mix over the cauliflower to coat all sides. Mix together the water, lemon juice and brown sugar in a small bowl. Pour over the cauliflower and bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes until it starts to caramelize.