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Taking the Complex Out of Cooking

Apr 15, 2008
A lot of people make convenience foods when they eat because that's all they're comfortable with. It seems to be the simplest thing to do. But all those convenience foods typically come with the price of added sodium and fat. They just aren't as good for you as cooking for yourself.

If you don't cook regularly, it sounds pretty intimidating. Lots of people think they can't cook because they haven't done much at all in the kitchen. But some basic ingredients work with most foods: Olive oil, lemon, garlic and pepper.

Salt can help too, of course, but you don't want to overdo it. Most people get more than enough salt in their diets anyhow. And if you don't like garlic, you probably aren't going to use it.

I always say to use olive oil because it is one of the healthiest oils out there, and it has a very light flavor. It's not going to overpower your meal.

Most vegetables you don't even have to do that much, although the flavors really come out with a little seasoning. The quickest way to prepare any vegetable is to boil it until just tender. Do not boil into mush - that's the mistake too many people make. Boiling too long ruins the flavor and much of the nutritional value.

But there's much more you can do to a vegetable than just boil it.

They do well in the oven. Stir fried. Steamed. Grilled. Each method brings out a slightly different flavor, and if you drizzle a little olive oil on and sprinkle a little crushed garlic or pepper on, you have a nice, simple flavor.

You can do similar things with meats. The acid in the lemon juice can help to tenderize it just a touch, or you can mix up a marinade. My basic marinade is a mixture of olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and whatever seasonings appeal. The beauty of it is that many cuts of meat love it if you leave them soaking in the marinade for hours, so you can cook when it's convenient. Say... first thing in the morning before you head out to work.

Or if you want a very simple marinade, soak the meat in Italian salad dressing. Very simple and flavorful. Italian dressing goes very well with chicken.

Simple meals have an appeal all their own. It's not just that you're saving yourself a lot of stress trying to keep up with 4 pots on the stove top and another dish in the oven. Simple flavors can really work well together.
About the Author
Stephanie Foster blogs at http://www.makehealthymeals.com/ about cooking healthy meals for your family. Find great chicken recipes as well as other recipes at her site.
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