Why is cooking with whole foods important to our lives? We need to slow down and appreciate our food more. Our fast paced society has resulted in a variety of helpful conveniences regarding the food we eat. Fast food restaurants, carry outs, and other varieties of ‘food on the run’ are increasing. Microwaves are replacing conventional ovens. And..we still are in a hurry. Ever find yourself standing in front of the microwave yelling at it to “Hurry Up!”? Case in point. We are sacrificing modern conveniences for nutrition. Cooking with whole foods will provide you with a wonderfully easy way to “get back to basics.”
Watch any cooking show and you will see fresh ingredients. Read any recipe and it will call for fresh ingredients, usually. Fresh ingredients, many times, are another word for whole foods. A whole food is any food in its natural, unadulterated, unprocessed state. The produce section of your grocery store is whole foods haven. Those whole grains in the bulk food section are considered whole foods. And, any food picked from your garden is …you got it…a whole food. We can’t forget about whole grains, either.Cooking with whole foods is easier than you may think.
Yes, one can buy capsules full of concentrated fruits and vegetables. And there are frozen meals for any taste imaginable, at very affordable dollar costs. How about the multitude of boxed items available that only require water to complete the item? Ever read the ingredients on most of these labels? Say no more. Convenience is, and will be, everywhere and can be very welcomed at times. Huge conglomerates that are only interested in the bottom line, even though they will claim that they are concerned about your health, produce most shelved supermarket items. Luckily, these food manufacturers are coming out with more nutrition oriented items (foods?), but conglomerates are still taking over the food industry.
We can, however, counteract this mass produced convenience by enjoying and cooking with whole foods in our own lives. It is not as time consuming as you may think. There is a multitude of ways to begin cooking with whole foods:
1) Make a large pot of spaghetti sauce (from a recipe, not a jar). Let it simmer on your stovetop. Simply divide that pot of spaghetti sauce into separate containers and freeze for future use.
2) Use a crock-pot. I think these are great!! Simply fill the crock-pot with water and add your favorite chopped veggies, whole barley, and herbs. Viola! Homemade Veggie Barley soup. What better way to cook with whole foods? Scoop out some crock-pot soup for a quick lunch or dinner and serve with a salad and bread.
3) Experiment. Did you know you could replace turnips for potatoes in hash browns? I once ran out of potatoes and wanted hash browns. I had a turnip and didn’t know what to do with it. Viola! Turnip hash browns are delicious and a hit with my students.
4) Cook up an extra batch of the main course at dinnertime (that you’ve made from scratch). Divide into portions, place in freezer container and freeze for later use. (This is your healthy whole foods ‘TV’ dinner.)
Whole foods provide greater nutrition, fiber, and touch all senses. Can a capsule or box do that? I don’t think so. Capsules and boxed items may be convenient, but do they taste as good as something fresh? Does the aroma get the salivary glands going and images of succulence stirring? Are they pleasing to the eyes? I doubt it. Cooking with whole foods does all the above.
What are some other ways to make cooking with whole foods easier?
1) Start your own garden. There is something to be said about either growing your own produce or taking the time to go grocery shopping and smelling/touching the food you are about to consume.
*Grow your own herbs. Use these in your recipes.
2) Talk to other cooks and find new ways to use foods. People who enjoy cooking love to experiment and find new ways to share their foods with others.
3) Share recipes, join a recipe network,
4) Use new foods, develop your own recipes. See how easy whole food cooking is.
5) Buy cookbooks.
6) Recipes that are passed down generation-to-generation are treasured items. Relish them, if you can. The older generation lived off the earth much more than us. Therefore, their recipes contain a multitude of unusual ways to use whole foods. (My favorite is one my dad used to make what was titled ‘lemon custard’. It was supposed to be solid all the way through, but his turned out as a thin lemon sauce on the bottom. What to some may have been a failure, to me was the cat’s meow! This made it even better!)
7) Farmer’s Markets are great places to go since they give a chance to meet the growers who are always passionate about sharing their knowledge with interested patrons. Vendors love to help others learn about the pleasures of cooking with whole foods. And, they usually have a few recipes to share.
8) Join a food co-op. These require a membership fee. The produce sold there is usually locally owned, however. Many times you can meet the grower of the whole foods you will be cooking with.
Let’s share an easy recipe highlighting cooking with whole foods at their best! It’s a hit with my students!
Asparagus Florentine Soup
5 cups water
1-cup vegetable broth
One-half cup kidney beans, cooked
One-half cup asparagus, peeled and chopped
One-half cup broccoli, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cups spinach, rinsed and chopped
1 avocado heart, cubed
3 bay leaves, crumbled
One-half teaspoon each parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme
3 garlic cloves, minced
Place all ingredients into either a large dutch oven or crockpot. Cook til all veggies are tender. Stir in beans near end of cooking time. You just
with crackers. Freeze unused portion in airtight container for future use.
Cooking with whole foods takes us back to a simpler time. Try it, enjoy it, and share!
Taken from ‘Joys of Organic Cooking Vol. I’ by Marie Buckner, owner of My Unique Cookery.