Thursday, November 14, 2013

In The Pantry - Part 4

Oats - an important and versatile product for today's healthy kitchens.  Oats are high in nutrients and are a great form of fiber.  Avoid the instant form of oats, instead use old fashioned or quick oats.  Store in cool, dry location.  (I love oats for breakfast and the Old Fashioned are my favorite.  I cook them about 1/2 the time the instructions call for giving them a wonderful texture.  I do have to add a little sugar and butter, actually more than I probably should, but I could eat oat meal every day.  I also prefer the Old Fashioned for my cookies to give them the extra chew.)

Oils - One of the biggest goals of health focused cooking, is to reduce the amount of fat we ingest.  Oils are a fat and should be used sparingly.  In order to get the most benefit out of your oils, use monounsaturated oils, such as olive, canola or peanut.  Monounsaturated oils appear to be the most positive of all oils and fats.  Although the calories are basically the same, monounsaturated oils help enhance the levels of the good, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and control the bad, low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol found in your body.  What's more, monounsaturated oils have wonderful flavors and aromas.  Olive oils are available from mild to pungent and can really enhance the flavors in your dishes.  Peanut oil is ideal for any recipe that calls for high temperature cooking.  Most importantly, is that goal and focus to cut back and limit the amounts of fats and oils ingested.  Avoid cottonseed and coconut oils, as they are high in saturated fats.  These oils are often times found in hydrogenated oils and fats which you also want to avoid.  Hydrogenation is when a liquid oil is processed with an additional hydrogen molecule and the resulting product is turned into a solid fat.  Research has indicated that consuming hydrogenated products might be the biggest concern when discussing consumption of any type of fat or oil.  Anything labeled vegetable oil may contain one or both of these oils, and avoid all fats and oils that have been hydrogenated.  (I normally use olive oil for cooking and canola in my baking.  I'll also use canola oil for frying, which I seldom do.  I've always heard these were the best but never really understood why.  Now I do.)

Pasta - universally loved by young and old alike, pasta is one of the most versatile and limitless sources for menu ideas.  Have many varieties on hand, vermicelli, rotini, fettuccine, rigatoni and try a new kind weekly.  Try whole wheat and other flavored varieties, like spinach or tomato.  Store in a dry, cool location.  Pre-cooking pasta will store in your refrigerator, for up to 5 days in a tightly sealed container.  (I don't think I could live without pasta!  I love all shapes and sizes.  The one think I have trouble doing is switching to the whole wheat and flavored style.  I'm doing better with the whole wheat but not so well with the spinach and tomato.  It's pretty but it just doesn't seem 'normal.'  Maybe one day.)

Pepper - is the most common of all spices known.  Have a combination of white and black pepper for grinding over your foods.  You can also use peppercorns in your dishes to add flavor.  Store pepper in a cool, dry location.  (I have always used black pepper for seasoning until one day I found myself out.  I had a bottle of white pepper and used that instead.  I couldn't believe the difference between the 2.  The white pepper seemed to be a bit hotter but also a different taste.  I now use it in my stews and soups instead of the black.)
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