One of the most often-repeated fallacies about eating healthier is that “it takes too long”. Preparing healthier, home-cooked and hand-assembled meals that follow the Pollan-esque credo of “eat [real] food, not too much, mostly plants” is seen as a daunting lifestyle change for anyone who grew up eating TV dinners and microwaveable meals in a box, as I did.
Not true. Over the past couple of years, I’ve transformed my diet and lifestyle toward something best described as “plant-based” and “mostly slow food,” with an emphasis on local, seasonal ingredients. Preparing meals now doesn’t take me any longer than when I was eating lots of processed food, refined sugars, and animal products. Slow food doesn’t have to be a full-time gig. You don’t have to hire a personal chef or quit your day job. Part of what I’ve found helpful in my own transition are these five tools to cut down prep time and/or bump up the quality of the daily staples in my kitchen. And you don’t have to be vegan, vegetarian, or experimenting with raw food cuisine, as I have, to enjoy the results.
There are blenders, and there is Vita-Mix. I think I would rather have this in my home than a stove/oven, if I was forced to choose one. I use it every day, to blend smoothies (including “green” smoothies with kale, citrus, and apple or pear), grind whole grains or seeds or nuts into flour, make hummus and cashew “cheese” and guacamole, prepare raw vegan desserts (chocolates, “cheesecake”), make vegan “milks” (hemp, almond, soy, you name it)–even blend nut butter. A lot of these things sound complicated to make or expensive to buy, and if you buy them in the store ready-made, sure: they can be. But with this device, preparation is pretty easy and quick, and my total grocery bill stays manageable.
I like to have a pot of rice, quinoa, or other whole grain in the kitchen to dip into when needed as my primary source of complex carbs. I had a nonstick aluminum rice cooker for years, but have grown concerned about possible health risks associated with daily cooking with “nonstick” and aluminum cooking implements. The science on that issue is a matter of some debate, but even if you think nonstick pans are completely safe, I’ve found that clay pots lend a pleasing flavor, texture, and feel to the cooking process. Particularly with beans and soups, which I also prepare in this device regularly. I love it, and it reminds me of traveling through Central America and Mexico, and staying in rural homes where women cooked delicious frijoles and veggie stews in bubbling clay pots over the fire.
Coffee is a food group! Okay, seriously: I take coffee seriously. And I’ve found that grinding freshly-roasted beans at home, and grinding them properly in a burr grinder (which doesn’t heat the beans further through friction, and gives you a nice, even texture) yields delicious results. I’m no longer tempted to spend $8 a cup at Starbucks on bitter brew diluted with sweeteners and half-and-half, or sugary soymilk. I also find that I drink less coffee now: I make a perfect cup or two in the morning, grinding my beans fresh in this device, and I don’t really feel compelled to drink much more throughout the day. Quality is everything.
I learned about this great tool when I first started experimenting with “raw food” cuisine, but you don’t have to be vegan or a raw foodie to get a lot of value from it. This spiral slicer can be used to transform zucchini into long, pasta-like strands that I sprinkle with salt, and let “sweat.” When they’ve released some of their moisture, I pat them dry, toss some extra virgin olive oil or marinara or homemade pesto (made quickly in the aforementioned Vita-mix blender!), and voilá: low-calorie, low-carb, high-nutrient, and very fast prep “pasta”.