A Few Tips and Shortcuts

  • For Those Who Wish to Avoid Fats
  • About Storing

    • Soak beans overnight to cut cooking time; throw away soaking water.

    • Soak nuts and seeds overnight, and they will become crunchier and easier to digest because the fats in them become more available as fatty acids. Soaked nuts and seeds also make wonderful additions to salads and can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.

    • Pressure cooking beans and grains cuts the cooking time by approximately one third. I like to pressure cook a big batch of beans at a time and then store them in the freezer in small containers, just about enough for two people. In this way I can prepare a bean dish in no time at all, and besides, freezing helps get rid of the agents that cause flatulence in many people.

    • Wash salad and other leafy greens when you buy them; let them dry, and then keep them in plastic bags in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator so you do not have to waste a lot of time when you want to use them. I also like to keep the basic vegetables, like chopped onions, garlic, carrots, celery, parsley all ready to use.

    • Keep a few basic sauces ready in the refrigerator, such as tomato sauce. Just simmer fresh or canned peeled tomatoes for about 20 minutes with a little salt. For a quick tomato sauce you can then sauté onion, garlic, celery, carrot, and parsley and a little chili pepper in a small amount of olive oil, and add it to the tomatoes. It takes about 5 minutes to put the whole thing together. Store in plastic or stainless steel, not in aluminum or pottery ware.

    • Miso/tahini is also a basic condiment that keeps well. Just blend miso and tahini with a little rice vinegar and water. You can add garlic, ginger, or mustard to it to make it different every time, and use it as a salad dressing by adding more water, and as a dip or creamy sauce over grains if you keep it thicker.

    • Flavored oils add zest to any dish. Being Italian, I am partial to olive oil, but you can use any oil you like. Make small bottles and add a different herb to each, i.e. garlic, hot chili pepper, tarragon, sage, rosemary, thyme, etc.

    • If you do not have time to marinate things, here is a way to quick marinate. Bring your marinade to a boil and drop whatever you want to marinate into it for a few minutes.

    • Instant pizza can be made by using tortillas or pita bread. Place them in the oven for a few minutes to crisp, spoon on some tomato sauce, your favorite toppings, and a little grated cheese, and put them into the oven again for a few minutes until the cheese melts.

    • Quick-cooking grains are couscous, millet, quinoa, and polenta.

    • Frozen grapes and cherries make wonderful alternatives to candy, or as “ice cubes” for drinks.

    • Almost any juices, fresh or bottled, can be placed in popsicle containers and frozen to make warm weather treats for children of all ages.

    • For thickening sauces and gravies, there are many substitutes for wheat flour. Equivalents to one tablespoon of wheat flour include half tablespoons of arrow root powder, rice or potato flour, or cornstarch.

    • For those avoiding salt, lower sodium substitutes include kelp, regular or low sodium tamari, light miso, lemon juice, ume vinegar, celery salt, various vegetable “salts,” and the seasoning mix just mentioned in Kitchen Basics.

    For Those Who Wish to Avoid Fats

    • Substitute fish, chicken, or vegetable stock for half or for the whole amount of oil called for in a recipe.

    • Water-sauté food instead of stir-frying it in oil. Put about H to 1 cup of water or stock into a wok or skillet and bring it to a rapid boil. Quickly add vegetables and keep stirring over a high flame until done.

    • Onions sautéed in their own juice and pureed with light miso make a wonderful onion butter which is great on toast or bread instead of using real butter. The same thing can be done with most vegetables.

    • Apple butter is a great no-fat spread for those with a sweet tooth.

    • Puree a very loose oatmeal (about 1 cup of rolled oats to 4 cups of water). Use instead of milk to make cream soups, gravies, and any dish which calls for milk.

    • Tofu pureed with lemon juice makes a great mock sour cream.

    About Storing

    • Cooked grains may be kept in a porcelain or wooden bowl in a cool place but out of the refrigerator. Covered with a napkin, they will keep for about 3 Day s. In the refrigerator they should be stored in airtight containers or they will absorb the flavor of other foods.

    • Beans can be kept in jars on shelves or inside a cupboard. Cooked beans are best stored in the freezer in small containers.

    • Mushrooms should be kept in a brown paper bag in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator.

    • Fresh herbs keep best in a glass of water in the refrigerator.

    • Oils once opened should be refrigerated. The only exception is olive oil which should be kept in a dark place.

    • Nuts and seeds are best refrigerated or even frozen.

    • Flour should be kept in the refrigerator or freezer.

    • Fruits, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and garlic are best not refrigerated, but kept in a basket in a shady place or in a pantry.

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    Written by Elson M. Haas MD

    Explore Wellness in 2021