By Balanced Babe Contributor: Sophia Ntovas
If your cooking routine has become a bit mundane, this one’s for you! Throughout quarantine, I’ve found myself resorting to the same old methods of cooking my food. I’d pull out the pan, coat it with olive oil, throw in a bunch of ingredients, and boom–done. It became so organic that I didn’t even have to think about it anymore. For how much of a foodie I am, I honestly could not believe that I allowed myself this much apathy as to how I prepared my meals.
So, I decided to do a little research to spice up my summertime recipes.
Before we dive into different ways to cook our food, let’s talk about what we cook them in.
Olive oil is one of the most popular ways we cook our foods. As a staple in the Mediterranean diet, it has multipurpose uses as salad dressings, roasts for your meats and veg, or even in your sweet treats. Avocado oil, its sister counterpart, is produced from pressed avocados. While both are similar in vitamin E content, it’s important to know which is preferred for your respective method of cooking. Avocado oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil, making it ideal to use under high heat–during sauteing, stir-frying, or roasting. On the other hand, olive oil should be used in low to medium heat food preparation.
Now that we know which oils to use, what do we actually do? Here are some great options to switch up the flavors and textures of your next meal!
A summertime staple that is a crowd-pleaser for picky eaters alike. While you need access to the necessary equipment, the grill kills multiple birds with one stone as it can prep your main entree and sides at the same time–not to mention for multiple people!
If you’re like me, you’ve probably only heard of ‘poaching’ when it comes to your eggs. However, you can actually do so for other delicate foods as well such as chicken, fish, and fruit. It is a low fat option as it cooks the food via the heat that is carried through the liquid. Simply pick your liquid base of choice and you’re done! *Keep in mind some liquids have better nutritional values than others*
Roasting takes advantage of the oven’s dry heat to cook the food. This also is a great option for low fat cooking as the oil needed is quite minimal.
Similar to poaching, steaming uses the heat of the liquid to cook the food. Season your liquid accordingly and wait until your items in the perforated basket are tender and ready to go!
A two-step process, braising quickly browns the food’s exterior before it is removed and placed in the oven. Once removed from the stove stop, liquid is placed in an oven-safe dish to help cook the food for the remaining time. With a natural source of flavor and lack of oil, braising is a great option if you have a little more time on your hands.
Amazingly enough, you can bake your savory foods as well as your sweet treats! Generally not requiring any added oil, simply place your food in a oven-safe dish and cover for the required time until done.
While it is easy to fly off the handle here, searing is a great way to add crispy texture as well as flavor to any protein of your choice. Bring the pan to a high heat and add a little bit of oil for a nice exterior browning of your food. For a more low-fat option, make sure to control the amount of oil you use in the pan.
Next time you’re tempted to simply pull out the pan, think about what you could do to elevate your meals in their prep. A simple switch in your cooking can add dimension to food that you didn’t even know was possible in your own kitchen. Healthy cooking is not meant to be boring–whole foods are glorious, not a chore!