I love to cook. In the evenings after work you will find me dancing around my kitchen whipping up something yummy with my favorite tunes playing and a glass of red wine poured (did I mention I like to dance too?). On Sundays I like to try new recipes that I can use as lunches during the week. Cooking is my creative outlet. My “me time”. I don’t make anything fancy, just simple, good, healthy meals.
As a lover of health and wellness, the quality of food and how it is prepared matters a great deal to me. I consider a meal prepared with love and happiness to be healthier than that same meal prepared in a busy, loud restaurant kitchen. Now if only I could teach my dog how to do the dishes…
Below are a few of my favorite go to ingredients/sides/spices that I use regularly in my kitchen.
- Coconut Oil: This puppy is a staple in my kitchen and also my bathroom, where I use it as a lotion and make-up remover. It is a high heat oil, meaning it can be cooked at a higher temperature before it burns, so you can safely sauté with it on the stove. It helps boost HDL (the good) and lower LDL (the bad) cholesterol. It contains lauric acid, which helps to prevent various heart problems like high blood pressure, and its antimicrobial properties can help to fight off bacteria and fungi (try using it in place of Polysporin next time you have a cut, it works). It also aids in the absorption of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. There are so many benefits the list can go on and on, so I thought this handy dandy picture would help. I use it in place of butter on my gluten free toast, in my morning smoothies, in my high heat stove top cooking, as a binding agent when I make my granola and as a replacement for other oils in recipes. Even my dog loves it; when I open the jar he comes running over for a treat.
- Turmeric: Turmeric has been used in India as a spice and medicinal herb for thousands of years. It is the spice that gives curry its yellow color. Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can help counteract the effects of chronic inflammation, which is now thought to be one of the leading causes of many common diseases in our society today. Curcumin is high in antioxidants and is beneficial for your brain and your heart. Studies have shown that curcumin is beneficial in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s, arthritis, depression and cancer. I use turmeric when I cook fish and also when I roast vegetables (it is especially good on sweet potatoes when paired with paprika and curry powder). Still in search of a good curry recipe…
- Greek Olives: I never really liked olives growing up and actually did not start eating them until about two months ago. While there are many different types of olives that I have yet to try, Greek kalamata olives are my current favorite, probably due to my daily use of olive oil for at least the past five years. Most of us have heard the benefits of olive oil, but what is beneficial about the olives themselves? Kalamata olives have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and a phytonutrient called hydroxytyrosol has been linked to cancer prevention and potentially helping to prevent bone loss. While olives are higher in fat, the majority of this fat is monounsaturated, which has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Eating olives helps to satisfy my craving for saltiness. I eat them plain, put them in salads and also eat them with roasted vegetables. Olives are actually a fruit and beware of the pits when you eat them.
- Garlic: I love garlic. Not garlic powder, legit garlic. I chop it up and roast it with my vegetables every day. Garlic is a powerful antioxidant with antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral agents. It is eaten to help treat colds and the flu, chest infections, digestive disorders and fungal infections. Some research supports the idea that garlic supplementation can help reduce cholesterol and is beneficial for your heart. Allicin is the active ingredient in garlic that is responsible for its medicinal properties. It loses some of its potency when it is heated so eating raw garlic gives you the most bang for your buck. As most people don’t want to chomp on a raw garlic clove, try crushing it and adding it to some olive oil for a dip or salad dressing.
- Tahini: Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. For those of your who have never heard of it, it is one of the main ingredients in hummus. Hummus is one of my favorite sauces, so discovering my love for tahini was a pretty natural progression. There are two different types of tahini, hulled and unhulled. Unhulled is the best type, as it is made from the whole sesame seed, leaving its nutritional value intact. Hulled tahini is stripped of many of its nutrients. Tahini is rich in phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and iron. It is a great source of calcium, high in E and B vitamins, and helps to prevent anemia and maintain healthy skin and muscle tone. It is higher in protein than most nuts, high in unsaturated fat (the good fat!) and is easier for your body to digest due to its high alkaline mineral content. In addition to hummus, tahini is great in salad dressings, tossed with roasted vegetables (what don’t I eat with my roasted veggies??), can be eaten plain as a dip for raw vegetables, and is a good swap for nut butters when eating apple slices.
I hope learning a little more about these five favorites of mine has stirred your creative cooking juices and maybe given you some new ideas of things to try. If you aren’t much of a cook, look for these items on the menu at the next restaurant you go to. They certainly don’t disappoint when it comes to flavor, health and overall deliciousness.
Peace, love and veggies,