In my experience teaching healthy cooking to folks, I'm always amazed to see so many people who want to follow a recipe precisely.
Not that there is anything wrong with that, but with this mindset it doesn't allow much creativity with dishes.
With baking you should follow exactly as it is a science and there is not much room for error. For instance, if you are making homemade bread that uses yeast and you forget to add to your dough, you can pretty much believe you will have a loaf that wont rise because it's an essential ingredient. There are simple adjustments you can make, but pretty much you want to stick with the program with baking recipes.
Now with cooking, you can be creative and if you goof up on some aspects of it you can correct, most of the time.
Here are some examples of what I have made recently and I hope you will think creatively the next time you create a dish.
I chose to start making this type of mayonnaise on the regular because of the healthy ingredients used compared to a lot of commercial brands. It works well for using as a base for salad dressings, spreading on a sandwich or making a vegetable dip.
If you are interested in making your own cashew mayonnaise here is the recipe by Vitamix, they labeled as Cashew Cream Sauce.
Vitamix Cashew Cream Sauce Recipe
Now to make this base recipe more mayonnaise like, I added 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice with the addition of 1/4 cup of organic soy milk and 1/4 cup of avocado oil. With these simple additions, my cashew cream sauce is now more of the texture of mayonnaise. This will keep fresh in your fridge for 7-10 days.
My next recipe I adapted is from my southern roots which is Fried Okra. The typical recipe uses cornmeal and white flour with other seasonings for the coating and is usually deep fried.
Well, I know for a fact, okra is a healthy green vegetable, so to make it more healthy, the first thing I did was to change the cooking technique from deep frying to oven frying.
For the coating, I kept the cornmeal but dropped the white flour. I replaced that flour with a gluten free flour which is called "bennecake" flour which is very similar to sesame seeds. Here is my recipe for this classic southern vegetable.
Oven Fried Okra
You can also watch my video for more detail on how to make it step by step in my YouTube video.
How to Make Oven Fried Okra
Another way to get creative is to cook globally. I have really been getting into vegetarian dishes and Indian cuisine is perfect for giving loads of flavors when it comes to vegetables. Here is another basic recipe that you can easily adapt to make to your liking using subtle changes;
Quick & Easy Red Lentil Dahl
My adaptions for this recipe, I used organic ghee to replace olive oil (Ghee is used a lot in Indian cuisine. Its a clarified butter with the milk solids removed.)
To this dish, I also used red onion instead of yellow. (red onion is classic in a lot of Indian dishes) I got more heavy handed with the garlic and especially the ginger with 1/4 cup. I also used chicken broth instead of vegetable to suit my own taste.
Although these are not big changes, the flavor to me is more in depth than if I followed the recipe exactly. Its a great base recipe, but I hope you get the idea that you can easily adjust most recipes with simple changes such as this.
My last dish is really not even a recipe and this is something you probably already do. This is just a simple sauté of sliced cabbage and carrots that were sliced with a vegetable peeler to create ribbons.
I then took this mixture and sautéed in a little olive oil, garlic powder, sea salt and finished off with a splash of coconut vinegar. To completely finish the vegetables off I sprinkled with dried chives. But you could easily use fresh herb of your choice if you got it on hand.
As you can see, cooking certain recipes you can have a lot of flexibility to make them to your own desire and taste. The next time you see a recipe you want to make, think of some ways you think it would taste better or to make it uniquely your own.
Eat Good! Look Good! Feel Good!
If you are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you most likely will need to have a plan. This plan requires action and can involve the process of making basic meals.
I know some people either love it or hate it. But, meal planning does not have to be fancy or require long hours prepping and standing in your kitchen.
In fact, if you are new to eating healthy, keeping it simple makes sense.
But, also if you are the type of person who just doesn't enjoy prepping and cooking, you still can make a plan to make healthy meals without too much of a time restraint.
For example, breakfast could be a protein shake with healthy fats, fiber, protein and carbohydrates. Lunch can be a rainbow colored salad with clean protein and dinner can be with another clean protein of your choice with green vegetables.
Meal planning also depends upon several factors like the number of people eating, meal times, special dietary concerns, budget, available foods, recipes on hand and likes and dislikes of everyone who will be eating.
Begin by choosing foods and recipes that you like and know how to prepare well and that fit into everyone's dietary plans. If one or more people have special needs, like diabetes, plan ahead for substitutions either in the food preparation or food substitution for that individual or for those individuals.
There are a few things to note when making meal choices and menu planning. First, some foods may be advertised a certain way, but that doesn't mean you can't experiment. in the kitchen. For instance, breakfast can be served for lunch or dinner and so called dinner food can become breakfast. As long as the food choices you are making are sound and are nutrient dense, you will be good!
Say for instance, you are in the mood for breakfast food but its lunch time. You can make or find a quality product such as waffles made from healthy wheat or whole grains. To keep it healthy, opt to have the waffles with fresh fruits instead of sugary syrup and heavy butter.
Add variety, too. Have other family members jump in and prepare meals some nights and on weekends. Kids enjoy making macaroni and cheese, so host mac-n-cheese night on Wednesdays, for example. Then alternate different vegetable combinations, colors and textures to vary the menu on a weekly basis (no need to let boredom take over on Wednesdays with the same routine!) If you are looking for a healthy mac and cheese recipe, check out my recipe below:
Healthy Vegan Macaroni & Cheese
To help with family food budget concerns, buy in bulk for common items when you can when there are sales at supermarkets. Frozen fruits and vegetables are good choices for bulk items.
Here is a thing to remember with regards to dietary planning. It's unfortunate, but fast foods, especially those that are high in fat content (fried, greasy foods), are often cheaper than good, healthy food choices.
For example, lean organic grass fed beef and wild caught salmon, cost more than high fat beef or farm raised salmon.
Even if quality animal protein is higher, it still makes sense to buy the premium product for better health. Consider, going meatless on some days or even two meals out of your day.
A simple healthy meal can be soups with plant based proteins you can create with variety to assist with reducing costs for grocery shopping. These small changes really do help when it comes to curbing your grocery expenses. Not only are they delicious, but your body with respond in a positive way.
Eat Good! Look Good! Feel Good!
Vanessa LaBranche/Chef Instructor-Culinary Educator