Handy Tips for Cooking

There are many variables in making food healthy. There are many ways to reduce cholesterol, fat, salt and calories without reducing taste. There are also a variety of ways to enhance the flavors of your foods. The following tips may come in handy:

• Trim all visible fat from meat before cooking.

• After you roast meat or poultry, chill the drippings in the refrigerator. Once cooled, the fat will rise to the top and harden; you can remove it easily and save the stock to use in stews, sauces and soups.

• Buy only the leanest ground beef, pork and turkey (no more than 15 percent fat). After browning, put ground meat into a strainer or colander lined with paper towels. Allow fat to drain out. Ground meat is generally higher in fat than non ground meat. Instead of buying prepackaged ground beef, have your butcher grind a sirloin steak for you. Be sure to have him remove all visible fat and clean the grinder to remove any fat from previous grindings.

• When figuring serving sizes, remember that meat loses about 25 percent of its weight during cooking. For example, 4 ounces of raw meat will be about 3 ounces cooked.

• To make gravy without fat, blend a tbsp of cornstarch with a cup of room-temperature broth by shaking the two together in a tightly lidded jar. Then heat the rest of the broth in a saucepan and add the blended liquid. Simmer until thickened.

• Make a habit of skinning chickens before cooking and removing all visible fat below the skin. The skin will be easier to remove if you use paper towels or a clean cloth to take hold of it. Be certain to scrub the cutting surface and utensils well with hot sudsy water after preparing poultry for cooking.

• Fresh fish should be cooked for ten minutes per inch of thickness. Add five minutes if it is wrapped in foil. Frozen fish requires twenty minutes per inch of thickness, plus ten minutes if it is wrapped in foil. Cooking time may vary, depending on the cooking method used, but fish is done when the flesh is opaque and it flakes easily.

• Prepare scrambled eggs or omelet’s so that only one egg yolk per portion is used. Add a few extra egg whites to the mixing bowl to make more generous servings.

• To remove oils or salty liquids, drain canned salmon, tuna or sardines. Then add water to the can and drain again to rinse.

• Seal natural juice into foods by wrapping them in foil before cooking. Or try wrapping foods in edible pouches made of steamed lettuce or cabbage leaves.

• Cook vegetables just long enough to make them tender crisp. Overcooked vegetables lose both flavor and important nutrients.

• Clean mushrooms as you use them by wiping them with a damp cloth. A quick rinse in cold water is fine, but never soak them or they will get soggy.

• Be sure to wear rubber gloves when handling hot peppers or wash hands thoroughly after handling. Skin, especially around the eyes, is very sensitive to the oil from peppers.

• Cut down on cholesterol by using more vegetables and less poultry or meats in soups, stews and casseroles. Finely chopped vegetables are great for stretching ground poultry or meat, too.

• Cut down on fat in creamy salad dressing by mixing it with plain low fat yogurt.

• Sweeten plain low fat or nonfat yogurt with pureed fruit or applesauce instead of buying prepared fruit yogurt.

Substitution Ideas

• Use evaporated skim milk for cream when making whipped topping

• Substitute plain low fat or nonfat yogurt for sour cream in baking recipes.

• Substitute plain low fat or nonfat yogurt for sour cream in sauces. Mix 1 tbsp of cornstarch with 1 tbsp of yogurt and mix into the yogurt. It will prevent the yogurt from separating.

• Try plain low fat or nonfat yogurt or buttermilk in place of sour cream or mayonnaise in salad dressing recipes.

• Substitute low fat or skim milk for cream or whole milk in baking recipes.

• Thicken soups, stews or sauces with cornstarch or flour dissolved in cold liquid or with pureed vegetables.

• Substitute chopped vegetables for some of the bread when you make poultry stuffing.

• Since most recipes include more sugar than necessary, you can usually reduce the amount of sugar by one fourth to one third.

• Substitute herbs and seasonings for salt as you cook.

• Substitute onion or garlic flakes or powder for onion salt and garlic salt.

• Add a drop of lemon juice to the water you cook pasta in and eliminate the salt.

• Substitute brown rice for white rice to add whole-grain roughage.

• Use a blend of whole-wheat flour and all-purpose flour in recipes that call for regular flour.

• Use wheat germ, bran and whole-wheat bread crumbs in place of buttered crumbs to top casseroles.

• Using vegetable oil for shortening in cakes that require creaming will affect the texture. Use margarine instead; use vegetable oil in recipes calling for melted butter.

Sautéing Tips

• Fish, poultry and vegetables dishes can be sautéed in an open skillet with little or no fat; the high temperature and motion keep food from sticking.

• Try sautéing with a tiny bit of polyunsaturated oil rubbed onto the pan with a paper towel. Better still; use nonstick vegetable spray or sauté in a small amount of broth or wine.

Steaming Tips

• Cooking food in a basket over simmering water leaves the natural flavor, color and nutritional value of vegetables intact.

• Try adding herbs to the steaming water or using broth instead to add even more flavor to the finished dish.