Cooking up the Bonus Years
As someone who savors each and every meal, I wouldn’t follow an eating plan that didn’t taste good, and I don’t expect you to either. But as a physician, I hear a little voice whispering in my ear, “Ralph it is not just about tasting great, it’s also about health.”
Fortunately, healthy food and food that tastes good are not a contradiction in terms. If properly prepared, healthy food can taste great. You just have to know the right way to cook it!!
It all comes down to the proper cooking techniques. I have identified about a dozen basic, easy to learn techniques including braising, brining, broiling, broth sautéing, oven-frying, oven roasting, pan roasting, poaching, stir-frying and stove top grilling. They can be quickly learned, don’t require a lot of skill, and will turn you into a healthy gourmet home cook in no time.
Furthermore, like you, I have a busy life. After a long day at work, I want to be able to put meals together quickly and easily. And that’s exactly what these techniques can do for you.
Lean foods, such as chicken or turkey breast, pork tenderloin, or shrimp, are easy to overcook because they have so little fat. A great way to make even the leanest foods juicy and tender is to add moisture before cooking, through a process called brining. Place the food in a solution prepared with kosher salt and depending on the recipe, some sugar, spices, and other flavorings for as little as half an hour for shrimp or up to twelve hours or more for a large turkey.
Brining Solution: For the recipes in the Bonus Years Diet, add one quarter cup of sugar and one quarter cup of kosher salt to one quart of water. Stir until dissolved and let cool to room temperature. The solution must be at room temperature or lower before the meat, poultry, or seafood is added.
This technique is so important that I rarely prepare chicken or turkey breasts or pork tenderloin or chops without brining them first.
Salmon also does well with a short brine, particularly if it is to be prepared with a dry heat method like grilling or broiling.
After the food is brined, rinse it off in cold water to remove excess salt from the surface, then pat dry. Because there is some increase in salt in the meat, it isn’t usually necessary to add salt to the final seasoning, so overall there isn’t much additional salt added, but the improved tenderness and moistness of the meat is dramatic.
Brining can be done in advance. After brining, rinse the food in cold water, pat dry, and place in a self sealing plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
Thickening Broth to Replace Oil
Traditionally, salad dressings are prepared with two to three parts oil for every part of vinegar. Now that can be a lot of fat and calories, even if it is heart healthy monosaturated oils. A good substitute is to use thickened broth or stock in place of part of the oil. This gives the same mouth feel and richness as the original dressing, but only a fraction of the calories. For example, if a recipe calls for two thirds cup of oil (about eleven tablespoons) and one third cup of vinegar, I would use eight tablespoons of thickened stock and only three tablespoons of oil with one third cup of vinegar to make one cup of dressing.
The thickened stock is prepared by bringing a half cup (eight tablespoons) of low sodium chicken broth a low simmer in a saucepan, then slowly whisk in one tsp of arrow root that has been dissolved in a very small amount of water.