Friday, February 11, 2011

Reject fastfood and get back in the kitchen with Cookstr

A lot of us are having trouble cooking meals at home these days. Work, kids...ok, this is nuts, you know why you are busy. But the solution to this does not need to be eating fast food.

If you have or had cancer, are caring for someone going through treatment, or just want to have a long healthy life, eating well is an important part of your defence against disease. The key to doing this is creating an environment that allows you to cook healthy meals even on the busiest days. For that you need to keep basic ingredients on hand, staples as well as the extras that you need to make your meals interesting. To figure out what those extras will be, you need to start gathering together recipes.

A lot of us already have a few favourite recipe websites. Epicurious has long been at the top of my list. But I have found a new one - Cookstr. This new site does on the web what I do at the library. Basically, they take cookbooks by both established and up-and-coming chefs and authors and pull out the recipes you would want to try if you were paging through them. The result is a huge supply of recipes from a wide range of cuisines, just a click away.

In celebration of my new find I am going to share the love. Below are what I pulled out doing a quick scan for quick, reasonably healthy recipes. Any of these dishes can be prepared with a reasonably well-stocked fridge and cupboard in less time than it takes to order in or drive-thru. Honestly.

  1. Jamie Oliver's Classic Tomato Spaghetti from his Food Revolution cookbook. Fast and yummy. Plus once you get the hang of this technique, the possibilities for tweaking it are almost endless. Jamie offers some suggestions around shrimp, tuna, and peas. You could also add sauteed peppers, mushrooms or zucchini, pesto, olives, smoked salmon or sliced turkey sausage.
  2. Another pasta, 'cause pasta is quick! This one is Linguine with Bacon and Onions (i.e. Carbonara) from Lidia Bastianich's cookbook Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen. If you find slab bacon, buy extra and store it, in portions this size, in your freezer. It also works with thick cut bacon from the grocery store. But again, if you freeze it in portions about this size, it is faster than thawing the whole package (and you don't end up with a big chunk of bacon in the fridge that you might be tempted by later in the week!). Make it healthier - use whole wheat pasta. Or, serve a smaller portion with a big side salad or steamed broccoli.
  3. Nigella Lawson's Chicken Noodle Soup from Nigella Express. Next time you're shopping, buy some udon noodles to keep in the fridge and you can whip this up in a blink. Thaw the chicken breast in the fridge during the day and customize based on the vegetables you have. Another great Nigella recipe - Curry in a Hurry. The secret is a good stash of frozen vegetables, and canned curry paste and coconut milk. Holy crap - I need to go buy some chicken thighs - I'm making this tonight with my frozen kale! :-)
  4. When the weather warms up, try Rick Bayless' Ceviche Salad with Avocado, Cilantro and Green Chile from Mexican Everyday. Use salmon, tuna, snapper or shrimp that you have either picked up at the fish market on the way home (if you are so blessed like we are in my neck of the woods) or thawed in the fridge during the day. It goes together very quickly, way faster than stopping for takeout!
  5. Ellie Krieger's Garlic Basil Shrimp from her cookbook So Easy. Make this even easier and keep peeled and deveined shrimp in the freezer ready to thaw quickly in a colander under running water. If you don't have fresh basil, a swirl of pesto will do the trick.
  6. As an alternative to McDonalds, Nutricious Nuggets from Mom-a-licious author Domenica Catelli. Not far off how I make mine, with the addition of brewer's yeast. Blend a wee bit of dijon in with a scoop of mayo and a dollop of honey, or stir a bit of garlic into some yogurt with a bit of dill and you have quick dipping sauces. Or, honestly, just squirt a big ol puddle of ketchup on their plates and let them attack.
  7. Finally pizza. Normally I would give you a good pizza dough recipe here, but I found a very cool alternative from one of my all-time favourite chefs, Jacques Pepin. His Margherita Pizza from Chez Jacques is made on...tortillas! You could also use other flatbreads - keep a couple of packages of naan or pita in the freezer, or tortillas, and you could have supper on the table in 12 minutes.
Happy cooking!

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