The Best Healthy Cooking Hacks
Cooking from scratch can be a time-consuming process. But I absolutely know it doesn’t have to be, and spending hours in the kitchen is certainly not a prerequisite for eating a nourishing and filling diet.
I think that for most of us, the more efficient and enjoyable we can make our cooking time, the more likely we are going to be to do it consistently. And the more consistent we are with our cooking, the more consistent we can be with our nutrition. And yes, you guessed it. The more consistent we can be with our nutrition, the better nourished our health and wellbeing.
Therefore, having a few culinary short-cuts and healthy cooking tricks up our apron sleeves can not only help to speed things up and make it all that bit easier in the kitchen, but I’d argue, can also support our health too.
So here are a few of my favourite healthy cooking hacks. Ideas and strategies that I have picked up over the years that have made the biggest difference to how I shop, store, prepare and enjoy my food. My kitchen ‘aha’ moments, if you like! I hope there are a few ideas that might be helpful to you, too.
Healthy Shopping Hacks:
- Write your shopping list by area of the shop. So make headings of fresh fruit / veg, frozen items, dried / canned, dairy, non-food etc, then add the ingredients you need to buy under each category. That way, it’s easy to work systematically through the shop and avoid doubling back for forgotten items.
- Also, big shout-out here to the benefits of doing a rough weekly meal plan. It makes shopping so much easier.
- If there’s a utensil you keep fishing out of the dishwasher or sink to use again, give yourself permission to buy two (or more) of them. For me, that’s definitely wooden spoons, silicon spatulas, small preparing knives and peelers.
Healthy Food Preparation Hacks:
- Don’t bother peeling garlic cloves before crushing them. Simply put them into your garlic press and squeeze. The garlic will come out and the peel will be left behind. Alternatively, get a tube or jar of pre-prepared garlic (or find it frozen). What it might lack in that zing of fresh garlic is made up for by the convenience.
- Peel ginger with a teaspoon (or don’t peel it at all). You can also freeze ginger really easily, and grate it using your trusty microplane or a good box grater directly from the freezer.
- Always use a rubbish bowl when cooking from scratch. Keep a large, easily washed (stainless steel is my favourite) bowl next to your chopping board as you’re preparing meals. Put all compost, peelings, trimmings etc. into there as you go. When you’re done, dump the contents into your compost / food recycling bin and give it a quick rinse. It saves time going back and forth to the bin, and keeps your workstation clean and efficient.
- Lid on a jar too tight? Tap the edge of the lid on the counter, working your way around the jar. It helps break the vacuum seal and makes it much easier to twist off.
- Use your microplane grater for garlic, ginger, chocolate, and speedily zesting citrus fruits. If you don’t have one, may I highly recommend you invest?
- Prep throughout the day, if you can, rather than leaving it all to the last minute. Soak oats after supper for a speedy breakfast. Plan supper while waiting for the kettle to boil. Chop vegetables while you’re listening to the radio etc. Little and often can be really efficient.
Healthy Cooking Hacks:
- Make the easiest pasta dish by blending whatever leftover green cooked or frozen vegetables you have to hand (kale, spinach, broccoli, courgettes, green beans, peas) with some olive oil, a tablespoon of pesto and some feta or goat’s cheese. Add a little of the pasta cooking water if you’d like it thinner. It also makes a great dip for vegetable crudites.
- Add a nutritional boost of spinach to pasta by putting the leaves into your colander or sieve and straining the pasta water straight over the top of your spinach leaves. Perfectly wilted, warm leaves that you can just stir through with your chosen sauce.
- Use a food processor to blend your vegetable base for things like bolognese. It’s all going to cook down anyway, and saves lots of chopping time. Plus means you can pack in extra ‘hidden’ vegetables if you want. I’ll usually use a peeled onion, garlic clove, carrot, small courgette and celery, and pulse until chopped. It also makes a great soup base.
- Make your salad dressing straight into your salad serving bowl, then add some diced onions. They’ll gently pickle and soften in the vinaigrette. Then add your salad servers and the salad leaves on top. When you’re ready to serve, simply pull out the servers and use them to toss everything together.
- Treat your sink like the last dish when you’re tidying up and give it a wash with washing up liquid and your dish brush. ‘Future you’ will be grateful for a clean sink to start with next time you begin to cook.
Reducing Food Waste Hacks:
- Have some limp veggies? Plunge them into a bowl of ice water and let them soak for a few hours. Most vegetables will perk up like this, but especially carrots, parsnips, celery, & salad leaves. Anything that doesn’t restore itself can be blended with some onions, garlic and olive oil and used as a base for soups, stews, casseroles etc.
- Keep a large reusable bag or container in your freezer and fill it with good, but hard-to-use kitchen odds and ends (mushroom stalks, ends of carrots / celery, herb stalks, chicken bones etc.). When it gets full, take it out, cover the whole lot with water and simmer for 3-4 hours for your own stock.
- I also keep a ‘lonely veg’ box in my fridge for all those leftover odds and ends. At the end of the week I’ll use them all up in a soup or stew, rather than letting them go off hidden at the back of a crisper drawer.
- You can also use a similar freezer box trick for sad fruit that’s just going past its best – think overripe bananas, leftover berries, soft stone fruits, older pears and apples. Peel if necessary, chop into pieces and freeze. Use for fruit salad compote, roasted fruit, crumbles or smoothies.
- Same also goes for leftover random bits of bread. Tear up into small pieces, whizz into breadcrumbs and freeze. Also, if you don’t get through much bread, keep it sliced in the freezer. Toast directly from frozen and you’d never know the difference.
- Any herbs that you’re not getting around to using, put in a blender with some olive oil, salt, tahini, lemon juice and a little garlic. Blend into an amazing dressing. Or blend with just olive oil, and freeze into ice-cube trays (which I’ll then use to dress vegetables or pasta).
- Herbs last much longer if you take them out of their plastic bags, cut the ends off the stalks and place them in a jar of water in the fridge door. Think of them as flower foliage, rather than a vegetable (as that’s what they are), and they’ll last so much longer.
- Keep tarts, quiches, frittatas etc. fresh by placing them on the lid of your tupperware, and then adding the ‘base’ upside down to create a domed lid. Voila!
- Put a clean paper towel in your bag of spinach or salad mix to absorb any moisture and it will last twice as long.
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