Amy Fothergill teaches public and private cooking classes and offers consultations to individuals and families. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Amy has training from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, as well as gluten-free experience with her family. She adapts her technical cooking knowledge to teach others how to prepare healthy, easy and delicious food that is big on flavor but not on time. She blogs and is the author of The Warm Kitchen: Gluten-Free Recipes Anyone Can Make and Everyone Will Love.
January 2015 – After the holidays, some of us are recovering from too much shopping or possibly alcohol. If we were to take a survey, many of us will be trying to come to grips with how much and what we ate. Last year, I kept thinking “must-go-on-a-cleanse”! As soon as the treats are out of the house and the leftovers of the stuffing, gravy and mashed potatoes are done, you might be ready. I suppose I have to stop eating cookies for breakfast as well. Even if they are gluten-free, that might not be the best choice!
The term “Healthy Eating” can mean different things to different people. However, if you think about food in terms of the basics, it can be really easy. If we eat a little bit of everything, we will, in fact, satisfy the requirements for a healthy diet. Some of the best places to get high quality nutrients are in fruits, veggies and whole grains. Here is some advice to help you get started:
*Make sure your ingredients are gluten-free, including spices, grains, and canned goods. Gluten can hide in the oddest places.
Soups: Unless you were thinking about making a clam chowder or baked potato soup with bacon bits, most soups are considered healthy, especially those with veggies and beans. Another benefit is ease, as most soups can be ready, start to finish, in less than 45 minutes.
If soup has ever intimidated you, look no further. Get back in the kitchen and try this method: chop veggies and then sauté with olive oil, dried herbs and/or seasonings, add liquid with the beans and/or legumes, and simmer. Always taste the soup at the end and adjust seasonings, especially salt. The time will depend upon whether the bean is cooked already, e.g. canned beans, or if you are using dried lentils or split peas, both of which take about 30 minutes to cook. Most times, you can also use the slow cooker.
Grains: Grains, even the whole, gluten-free ones, turn to sugar in our bodies since they are a carbohydrate. For rebounding purposes, you might want to consider limiting or even eliminating them. If you do have them, keep them whole.
Grains can be eaten on their own, added to soup, or combined with other proteins like chicken or shrimp along with some veggies. Try some of the following using the ratio of water to grain. For example, cook 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of water or broth. All grains should be rinsed first and cooked with a dash of salt for flavor. Many of these grains can be found in the rice and pasta section of a grocery store.
Quinoa – 2:1, place together in a pot, bring to boil, cover, lower to simmer, 10-15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Tip: cook quinoa with rice to up the nutrition.
Millet – 2:1, place together in a pot, bring to boil, cover, lower to simmer, 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Tip: add to mashed potatoes.
Kasha (Buckwheat) – 2:1, bring water and salt to a boil. Add rinsed buckwheat. Turn heat down to low, and cook 12-15 minutes. Check the buckwheat after 8 minutes to see if water is absorbed and buckwheat is soft. Tip: serve with sautéed mushrooms.
Amaranth – 3:1, bring water and salt to a boil. Add rinsed amaranth. Turn heat down to low, and cook 12-15 minutes. Tip: use this grain to make your next risotto.
Brown Rice – 2:1, bring water and salt to a boil. Add rice. Turn heat down to low, and cook 35-45 minutes. Tip: next time, use chicken or veggie broth instead of water.
Veggies: Oh, it’s last but not least. Just like Mom said “Eat your veggies.” Here are some tips for buying and cooking vegetables:
Eating many different vegetables of different colors provides a variety of nutrients.
Raw veggies give you the best bang for your buck. Have a salad every day but go light on the cheese, creamy dressing and (gluten-free) croutons.
Always have a vegetable with a meal. Hey, have two!
Try vegetables cooked in various methods: steam basket on top of the stove, rice cooker with a steamer insert, or microwave with some water on the bottom and covered.
Season veggies with olive oil or sesame oil and a bit of salt.
Add vegetables to pasta and rice dishes. Or, instead of pasta, try zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, or cauliflower rice.
Spaghetti Squash Bolognese
Enjoy this quick recipe of spaghetti squash bolognese. I hope it inspires you!
1 spaghetti squash
1-1 ½ tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil, divided
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1- 28 ounce can Italian whole peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon or less of sea or kosher salt, divided
1 pound ground beef (or pork, chicken, or turkey)
¼ teaspoon ground pepper or to taste
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasonings (or a combination of basil, oregano and thyme)
Optional: ¼ cup dry white wine
Optional: a pinch or two of white sugar
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Cut squash down the middle lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Place both halves on a baking dish lined with foil or parchment. Place squash on pan, flesh side up. Drizzle about a half teaspoon or so of olive oil over each half. Place in the oven and bake until fork-tender, about 30-40 minutes. Allow to rest about 10 minutes.
3. While the squash is cooking, make the sauce.
4. Have all ingredients ready, including opening the can of the tomatoes. Place the garlic and about 1 tablespoon or so of oil in a medium sauce pan. The oil should almost cover the bottom. Turn the heat to medium. Cook until it sizzles, only for 30 seconds to a minute. Do not let the garlic brown or burn.
5. Immediately add the canned tomatoes and stir. Simmer about 5-10 minutes.
6. Using a fork or potato masher, break up the tomatoes. Simmer on low to medium for about 15 more minutes Stir the sauce occasionally. When the tomatoes are soft, shut heat off.
7. In a large stock or soup pot, heat pan to medium. Add the meat in small golf ball sized pieces to just cover the bottom. Do not stir. Season with about ¼ teaspoon of salt, pepper, and the seasonings.
8. Once the meat is brown on the bottom, turn over and cook the other side. When it’s cooked, using the edge of a wooden spoon, chop up the meat in the pan. Continue to cook until no more pink is visible. Add the wine, optionally, to deglaze the pan. Turn off the heat until the tomato sauce is ready.
Puree the tomato sauce with an immersion blender, being very careful to not burn yourself as the liquid is very hot. Reheat the pan with the meat in it and add the tomato sauce to the meat. Simmer about 10 minutes.
When it’s done, taste and add salt if needed. If the sauce is acidic, stir in a pinch or two of white sugar. Serve this over the cooked spaghetti squash.