Growing up,we all in the family helped my mom time to time with chopping vegetables or stir the dish cooking at the stove or make a dough for Roti-Paratha’ or set rice to cook but nothing on regular basis.My mom mostly did all ‘core’ cooking and spoiled us richly with yummy food everyday.
When I moved out from home for study and work,I lived in women hostel and ‘food service’ was available to all,so didn’t had the need to cook.It was not until I came to US and started working and living that I had to cook to feed myself .Me and my south Indian roommates took turns and I got acquainted with some of their cooking secrets.
When I got married I had the desire to treat my very American,Texas born and raised husband with the best of food.I started educating myself with culture of food around here.After having two little ones,I try to make healthy choices on budget and expose them to the food choices from around the globe.We are always learning,always adapting,always experimenting.Some successful and some disasterous.Nevertheless always fascinating and worth trying.
So the tips below are the ones which I have learnt from my mom, family, friends, anywhere anyone cooking, TV shows, internet.I will keep updating this page as I learn and use more.
Golden Rule for everything
If in doubt or trying something for the first time,always start with little changes.Increment slowly in subsequent uses.You don’t want to shock your taste buds at 180 and hate it forever.My mom used to say to us ,”if you are ‘enjoying’ the food you are eating,you will get most out of it”.So don’t just ‘eat‘ the food ,’enjoy’ the food.Make an effort to make it ‘likable healthy’ .
To encourage good eating or help developing the palate
- this post may be helpful.
You went ahead and bought Oat,Barley,Quinoa,Brown rice,Lentil.All heart healthy good food.They sit in your pantry and stare at you because your palate does not seem to agree with your heart.So what do you do?Cook them anyway.Save it ,freeze it and use it as one of the ingredients such as
- Add Oat/Barley/Brown lentil in your meatloaf.You think you can’t like meatloaf without beef/pork/veal.You would be surprised chicken and turkey taste just as good,even though it may not be qualified as ‘real’ meatloaf.My husband loves the ‘chicken loaf’.Mashed Lentil goes very well in the loaf.
- Lentils add good texture and thickens the soup.I have seen Brown lentil,being used in cookies as well.
- Mix the cooked Quinoa when you are making chicken/turkey/beef larb next time for lettuce wraps or tacos.Quinoa is small in size,so it is fit for adding in ground meat.Add them in your burger patties or meatloaf.Not a lot to overwhelm the original dish but enough to make a difference.You just made your meat little more healthier.
- Try green Mung beans.Soaked and bloomed.Great for salad.
- Visit here for detail on how to cook rice.
- Jazz up your white rice, make Tomato Rice or Yellow Rice or Orange rice or Cumin rice.I add my fav veggies like shredded carrot, peas, zucchini if I have in hand.
- If the texture of brown rice is turn off for you.Overwhelm it with the sautéed,grilled,baked veggies which you like.I love mine with onion, zucchini, eggplants, cherry tomatoes.
- To the very least, I usually add celery and turmeric to my regular rice.Take the celary out once cooked.Sometime i add spoonful of olive oil and half lemon juice, it keeps rice from sticking as well.Pinch of Turmeric is GREAT for you.
I like to flavor my dish at time with broth,wine and tea in addition to water.It adds extra flavor to the dish.
- I keep Boullian cube in hand or canned broth in my pantry though I don’t like to use them on regular basis,it is expensive if it doesn’t have additives I don’t like.So I buy chicken bone-in.I deboned it at home.And boil the bone later with water,celery,carrot,peppercorns to the very least.Its cheap and I control the ingredients.
- Same goes with veggies.Save the ends of celery,carrots,cilantro,cabbage and boil it all together.Freeze it for later use.
- I like wine for deglazing as well as braising liquid, mostly mix with water.Of course use your discretion and avoid it completely,if you don’t do alcohol or cooking for kids.
- I prefer to buy whole spices.It has longer shelf life.It is cheaper.I am in control.I have small coffee grinder.Basic,nothing fancy.I grind the spices as I need.Sometimes roasted,sometimes just like that.Run your coffee-grinder through rice,to clean it.It will make sure that smell from hot to sweet spices doesn’t mingle together.
- I use ‘Turmeric powder’ in almost all my meat/veg/rice cooking.It adds color.It doesn’t affect the flavor.It has healthy anti-oxidants.Where does it hurt?Cooking for 4 people,1/4 tsp is what you would want to use.If you can taste it,means you used a lot.Turmeric is one of the main reason ‘Curry powder’ is deemed healthy.You don’t believe it?Trust me.
Milk and Yogurt
- If your milk is about to expire and there is plenty leftover.Turn them into cheese and yogurt.Simply curdle the milk by adding white vinegar to boiling milk.Stir it until whey separates.Drain it in cheesecloth.We had to do this frequently,since milkman delivered our milk at doorstep everyday.Make sure milk is not skim or fat free or you will only have whey.
- Turn milk into yogurt by adding,spoonful of cultured yogurt to 2 cup of lukewarm milk.Leave it covered overnight in warm place.You will have yogurt in the morning.My mom makes yogurt everyday in India.
- Make your own sweet yogurt by adding honey/fruits of your choice.Cheaper and choices are unlimited.
- If recipe calls for Greek yogurt,you can sub it with regular yogurt,just let the water drain through the fine strainer.
- Marinade your meat in yogurt.It acts as tenderizer.My go-to way of marinading the meat.
Nuts/flax seeds are great health food but not everyone in my family likes them.
- I grind them to paste and add it to gravy for chicken dishes.It not only thickens the gravy,it adds richness to it.I love pumpkin seeds and cashew this way.Of course make sure you are not allergic to them first.
- I use them with Cracker to make crust using it.
- I use little nuggets of nuts in Brownies/muffins etc.Same goes for flax seeds.
I like greens but not my whole family.So i mix it to the dish which they like.
- Sauteed boiled potatoes or cheese cubes with greens such as spinach,sprinkled with your fav spices.
- I puree them and make dough mixing it with flour to make Roti/Paratha/Poori(Tortilla/Puffy Tacos).
- It depends on what vegetable it is.Most of the time I cut them too small to get fished out by little hands and add in Biriyani/Fried rice.
- Peas/spinach puree are great for making parathas.I love peas and my family is left with no choice but to eat them since I use these green jewels as often as I can.
- You can stuff the veggies and make parathas out of it.
- Try them simply sautéed like sautéed eggplants and Okra or as Veggie hash .
- I buy multiple whole chicken at a time and slather it simply with salt, pepper, Turmeric mixed in oil and roasted at 400F for first 25-30 mins,turned down to 375F for next 20-25 mins covered.Whole chicken is almost half the price of boneless chicken breast and $3-$4 cheaper then whole cut up chicken, depending on the size of it usually.Number of whole chicken depends on how many leg quarters each person will eat, may be 2 for adult,1 or less for a child.Once roasted,i carve the leg quarters for dinner, since we like dark meat.Some of the breast meat can be used for chicken salad/casserole dish and some goes in a crockpot with spices for Taco meat,cooked and frozen for later.
- Chicken is done if skin pulls away from the legs and juices run clear if you poke at chicken thigh-leg joint or use meat thermometer.It should read 165F in the deepest part of the chicken.Roasting time varies depending on the size of the chicken.
- Don’t throw the leftover liquid from chicken after roasting, particularly if you are roasting more then one.I refrigerate it and use it to cook rice or chicken curry.I usually discard the fat on the top and just use the bottom juice.You can use the fat too,but remember it is saturated fat and not very healthy for you.
- If you are sauteing veggies,for first couple of mins,you want to have the medium-high heat,standing by the stove,making sure it doesn’t burn.Delicate veggies like zucchini will take may be 30 sec -1 min.Onions may be over 1 min-2mins.Veggies sweat as they cook,so if you have low heat when it hits the hot pan,they will get soggy in its sweat.Keeping the heat high,dries it up and chars and brown the veggies,which is what you want.Once browned,you can simmer it down until it is cooked.
- I also sprinkle little salt to the veggies,it extracts the water out from it and quickens the browning process.I learnt it from my dad.Yes,my dad cooks too.
- It goes with the meat too,if you want to get charred mark to it or want to brown it before you add liquid.
- Once you add liquid,you always want to bring it to boil before you simmer it down until it is cooked.