Healthful Cooking Tips


by Larrian Gillespie

To conserve on oil, heat a pan dry on high heat until you can’t hold your hand over the pan for longer than a count of three. Then add your oil and reduce the heat before adding your meat or vegetables. In this way the food will absorb the least amount of fat and won’t boil in its juices.

All dried herbs, including seeds, should be rehydrated before using in any recipes. To do this, dampen a paper towel and lay the herbs and spices on the towel and fold it over. After 5 minutes, remove the herbs from the towel and they are ready to use. This will improve the fragrance and flavor from your spices. If you are using seeds, such as coriander, soak them in a small bowl of water for 5 minutes, then toast in a moderately hot skillet until fragrant.

All shelled nuts, but especially walnuts, have a rancid taste before they are roasted. Place walnuts in a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a vigorous boil for 5 minutes. Immediately drain into a sieve, spread on a baking sheet or toaster oven pan and roast in a 325 degree oven for 30 minutes, turning the nuts over after the first 15 minutes. When the nuts cool they will have an intense, nutty flavor without the bitter, rancid taste.

If you use a full fat product such as olive oil or butter in a recipe, you can cut the fat in the recipe by using reduced fat versions of other ingredients. In this way, the dish will still have that mouth-satisfying taste of fat without all the calories.

Purchase several sprayers for oils, such as Misto or Quickmist and use them to lightly coat cookware or ingredients with a film of oil when cooking. This will easily cut down on the amount of fat in any recipe.

Start every meal, like the French, by nibbling on some protein first if you want to get glucagon levels rising as quickly as possible.

If you are going to sear-roast a dish for dinner, start the oven as soon as you get into the kitchen, as it takes about 20 minutes for the oven to reach 500 degrees.

Use colorful votive candle holders to serve melted butter or sauces. This will make any serving of fat look big for its size.

Purchase two fajita pans from a restaurant supply store for sear-roasting. One should be cast iron for meat and the other steel or aluminum for fish. They will easily go from stovetop to oven for fast roasting without any oil.

Select a wok that suits your stovetop. If you have a gas stove, purchase a round bottom wok and place it directly over the jets without the grill in place. For an electric stove, choose a flat-bottom wok so the coils are in direct contact with the bottom of the pan. Always cook with a wok on high heat.

When stir-frying, always proceed to the next step when an ingredient changes color. In this way you will never overcook a dish.

Always serve stir-fried food immediately. Danny Kaye once prepared a Chinese dinner and shouted “don’t look at it!” when he served it to me...and he meant it! Otherwise, the texture of the food will change as it steams on the plate.

Purchase only fresh spices and herbs and throw out any that are over 6 months old if you want to enjoy the maximum fragrance and flavor they impart to a dish.

Try to incorporate one new food each week into your diet

NEVER skip breakfast.

Get over thinking of foods as “breakfast” foods, or “dinner” foods. Eat any food, any time.

Select foods that have a glycemic index rating of 70 or less for the best results

Eat at least two fruits every day

If you don’t want to destroy the healing compounds in garlic, peel the cloves and let them sit for 10 minutes so that oxygen can activate allinase, the protective enzyme that works as an antioxidant

Adding spices from the capsaicin family, such as chili peppers, paprika, hot sauces or chipotles, can stimulate your stomach to empty.

Put vinaigrette dressings into a plastic hairdressing bottle and squeeze out the correct amount into a measuring spoon to be sure you’re not “supersizing” your salad dressing.


Sear-Roasting Fish, Meat or Fowl

            An oven-proof skillet and two quick steps can give you food that is seared but still tender on the inside. It all starts by setting your oven to 500 degrees the moment you step into the kitchen. A standard oven will take about 20 minutes to achieve an internal temperature of 500 degrees, so take advantage of the time for preparation and setting the table.

            For meat and poultry, I like to sear it first on the stove to get good color and flavor before putting the pan into the oven, where roasting completes the cooking without toughening the food. So here are “The Rules”:

Be sure to bring the fish, poultry or meat to room temperature so that it will cook thoroughly

Be certain the food is thoroughly dry before you season it and put it into a hot pan or the moisture will interfere with the browning.

Heat the skillet (or fajita pan) over a high flame until you can’t hold your hand over it for longer than the count of 3.

Don’t let the oil smoke-it’s bad for your health!

Leave the food ALONE in the skillet. No poking or nudging. Use tongs so as not to pierce the food and let the juices escape.

Use an oven thermometer to verify the oven has reached an internal temperature of 500 degrees.

Flip the food over and immediately place the pan into the oven.

Cook beef (6 ounces) 3 minutes for medium-rare; poultry for 4 minutes and fish for 3 minutes.

If you prefer NOT to sear seafood, place the fish on a cold pan and roast for 10 minutes/per inch of thickness.

Beware the handle of the pan when you remove it from the oven. It will be blazing hot!

            Thanks to the Reynolds people, you can now purchase aluminum foil bags to cook “en papillote” anything you like-vegetables, fish, or chicken. It’s all very simple. Just place the vegetables on the bottom of the bag, add the fish or poultry on top and seal the bag. Place it on a baking sheet in the oven at 450 degrees and bake for 20 minutes. All the juices remain in the bag and you have cooked your meal without any additional oil. To serve, just cut the bag open on the top, watching for any steam that may burn your hands.

            Finally, never, never leave an oven thermometer inside when automatically cleaning an oven if you ever hope to read the temperature again.



From The Menopause Diet Mini Meal Cookbook, by Larrian Gillespie. Copyright © 1999 Healthy Life Publications, Inc. Excerpted by arrangement with Larrian Gillespie. $14.95. Available in local bookstores or call 800-554-3335 or click here.