Learning to cook can change your life

The most important thing you can do to improve your health is to cook your own food.  

Prepackaged and processed foods contain lots of chemicals and substances that you will never find in a pantry in someone’s home.   Lots of extra chemicals are necessary to keep food looking fresh and recent, but there are serious health concerns about these dyes, flavors, emulsifiers, and preservatives.  You are probably already aware of the high levels of salt and fat that comes with mass-produced “corporate cooking” as well.

“I don’t have time to cook!”

Cooking real food does take more time than ripping open a colorful box and throwing it in the microwave, but the perception that cooking  takes “too long” is false.  A web search for “quick and easy recipes” turned up thousands of recipes that take 30 to 45 minutes to prepare, using fresh un-processed ingredients and very simple steps.

Using an electric pressure cooker, I can prepare a huge pot of black eyed peas and sausage served over rice, in less than 45 minutes, starting with dry peas from my pantry.  (Recipe below)

Not only is this healthy and clean food – it is a lot cheaper as well.    Recently I made our “Gusto Chow” for a group of ten people, and it cost me $20.00 to make a pot big enough to feed all of us twice.

 


How Cooking Can Change Your Life

The first 7:30 of this video is quite eye-opening.

 

As Michael Pollan says, cooking is about creativity and control.   If you exercise greater control over exactly what goes into your body, you have a much better control over your own health.  Pollan also said “Really great cooking comes from care and conviction, not from a complicated recipe or specific methods.

Moxie says: It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to cook right now.  There are thousands of recipe websites with pictures and videos that can teach you how to make anything you want.

Learning how to cook is the easy part.  Training yourself to get in the kitchen and DO IT instead of going the “easy route” is the difficult part.  I admit, it took me a few years to learn how to cook and to train myself out of the habit of getting “easy” prepackaged food, but these days we happily go several months without any prepackaged meals.



learn-to-cook

Gusto Chow Recipe

Serves 3 – 10
Not to be confused with Gusto Chow for 100

Ingredients:

1 lb bag dry black eyed peas
1 package of smoked sausage
1 large onion, diced
4-6 stalks celery, diced
2 cups dry, uncooked rice

Seasonings: minced garlic, salt, pepper, liquid smoke, and herbs
(we use basil, oregano, and marjoram)

Supplies:

Electric pressure cooker
2 quart sauce pan
cutting board and a good knife

Optional: Tea kettle or a second pot for boiling water, if you want to really speed things up!

Directions:

Sort and rinse peas and set them on the stove to boil with enough water to allow the peas to expand. Get the peas to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute, but not longer than 5 minutes. Turn the heat down and let the beans simmer while you do the other steps.

Slice the smoked sausage and brown it in the pressure cooker. Pour off extra fat.

Add the diced onion and celery, and sauté until done.

Drain peas and add them to the pressure cooker, add water to cover.
(Here is where that kettle of boiling water comes in handy!)

Add garlic, herbs, and seasonings to taste.

Attach the pressure cooker lid and set it to cook on High pressure for 30 minutes.

Make rice on the stove while the pressure cooker is doing its thing, and you will likely have 20 minutes to sit down and relax until your home-cooked meal is ready.

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If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you would simmer the black eyed peas and sausage on the stove for 90 minutes. This is perfect for a weekend, but the pressure cooker makes it work on a week night.
But Moxie… an electric pressure cooker costs $80!!Yup, they do.  If you just look at the savings of using dry beans over canned, you’re saving $5 or more PER MEAL. Because we can use more dry beans, we are eating a LOT less meat.  We are using basic ingredients which are cheaper.My pressure cooker lowered my grocery costs by nearly $100 every month.


Moxie (AKA Paige) is co-founder of the Louisiana Empowerment Initiative, and apparently has a lot to say about cooking and sharing food!

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Growing your own sprouts

sproutinglentils-fivedays07How to Sprout Lentils

Sprouting is something that everyone can do to grow fresh nutritious food for very little cost.  For about five years, the Gustos have been growing our own sprouts and eating them every day.

At this point, we have developed our own method of sprouting, which is what I am going to show you.

To start things off, we’ll focus on lentils.

What’s a Lentil?

Lentils are a small brownish green legume found with the dry beans and rice. The store brand usually costs about $1.40 per pound.

Note: You can sprout several different types of dry beans, but some of them are poisonous, so make sure you choose something you can safely sprout!  Example: NEVER eat sprouted kidney beans.

SoroutingLentils01

What do I need to start sprouting lentils?


A bag of dried lentils

A wide-mouth glass jar

A lid and a screen

  • Metal ring lids that come with a canning jar (they rust, only use them once or twice).
  • Plastic lid, cut with a hole-saw
  • Metal screen from hardware store, cut with heavy duty shears. You need this for sprouting small seeds.
  • Plastic screen, cut from craft store “Plastic Canvas”.  Large holes, lots of air-flow

If you don’t have any of that stuff, a rubber band and some window screen works pretty well, too!

SproutingLentils02

Getting Started:


Prepare your materials

Wash and sanitize the jar, lid, and screen to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Do this before each new sprouting “crop”

  • Wash in hot water by hand or in a dish washer.
  • Rinse in a light vinegar or bleach solution.


Start with about  1/4 cup of dry lentils.

Pick through them and remove any small stones and debris, and rinse well with cool water.
Note: I used a half cup for this tutorial – it was way too much!


Soak

Cover lentils with water and soak for 8 – 12 hours. 

Leave lots of room for lentils to expand.

SproutingLentils03


Rinse and Drain

Drain and rinse your lentils well with cool, clean water. They will have doubled in size.

Rinse and drain lentils every 8 – 12 hours.

Place jar upside down in a bowl or rack at an angle steep enough to prevent water from pooling. Ensure there is plenty of air-flow through the lid. We keep our sprouting jars in a dish drying rack with a drainboard that drains into the sink.

Photo below – Left: Lentils               Right: Black Eyed Peas.
We have switched to all plastic lids now, this photo is a few years old.

dish-rack-for-sprouting

At approximately 24 hours, the lentils are beginning to sprout. 

If you are going to cook them, you could stop here.  I like to sprout them a lot longer so that I can eat them raw.

Sprouted lentils after 36 hours:

SproutingLentils04-36hrs

Sprouts are Ready to Eat!

At 3 days, (below), the sprouts can be eaten raw.

SproutingLentils05-3days

……..

At 3 to 3.5 days, the sprouts begin growing little leaves.

That is when we start eating them!


Five Days

SproutingLentils-fivedays

……..

Stopping the Sprouting Process and Storing your Sprouts

Refrigerating lentils almost stops the growing process.
Rinse sprouts and drain very well, gently pat dry with a towel.

  • Store sprouted lentils in a clean, dry jar secured with an airtight lid.
  • Rinse and drain well once per day.
  • Eat within a few days.

Lentil sprouts smell heavenly when you lightly saute them, but we usually eat them raw, sprinkled into our salads.  We usually have two jars going so that we have a constant supply of fresh sprouts.

(Article also appears on StandSuperhero.com)

Simple Skillet Granola

Happy New Year!

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?  The number one New Year’s Resolution is eating healthier. The most important thing is to get started – but where do you start?  Breakfast is very important, so begin each day with some clean, healthy food.

Granola is incredibly easy to make and if you vary the ingredients, you’ll never get tired of it.  Once you try home made granola – you may never buy boxed cereal again.

Skillet Granola – simple version

2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons real butter
1 cup of old fashioned oats  (NOT quick cooking!)

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.
Slowly stir in honey until combined.
Add the oats and cook about 4 minutes, continuing to stir.
Granola is done when the oats are a golden brown.

Spread granola on a sheet  of  foil to cool.  It will crisp up as it cools.

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Or if you want something more complex:

Skillet Granola – ‘to die for’ version

2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons real butter
1 cup of old fashioned oats  (NOT quick cooking!)
1/4 cup of sunflower seeds, added just before the oats.
1/2 cup dried fruit added just as the granola begins turning golden brown.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.
Slowly stir in honey until combined.
Add sesame/sunflower seeds and cook for about two minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the oats and cook about 4 minutes, continuing to stir.
Add dried fruit just as the oats start to brown.
Granola is done when the oats are a golden brown.

Spread granola on a sheet  of  foil to cool.  It will crisp up as it cools.

How to Cook Brown Rice by Moxie Gusto

The myth that eating healthy is expensive – is false!

Simple, nutritious and low-fat food is actually some of the cheapest food out there. Brown Rice and dry beans are about $1.50 per pound.  A pound of dry beans cooks up about six cups of beans, equal to five cans.

Brown rice is packed with nutrition, and cheap. It goes well with practically anything and I think brown rice tastes a lot better than white rice.  I make big batches and keep it in the fridge for quick meals.

Learning to cook brown rice is easy.  You just need the patience to leave it alone and resist temptation to lift the lid and stir it.  For me, this was not easy!

Cooking Brown Rice

Brown Rice Method one:

  • Pour 2 cups of water in a medium sauce pan, heat to boiling.
  • Measure and rinse 1 cup of uncooked brown rice, add it to the water.
  • Stir and cover with a lid.
  • Turn heat down to low, and set a timer for 45 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, uncover.
  • Drain off any excess liquid and fluff with a fork.

Do not lift the lid, not even once until 45 Minutes are up!


Brown Rice Method two:

Pre-soaking brown rice cuts the cooking time in half!

  • Measure and thoroughly rinse 1 cup of uncooked brown rice.
  • Soak the rice in a bowl of cool water for two hours, then drain.
  • Pour 2 cups of water in a medium sauce pan and heat to boiling
  • Drain the soaked rice and add it to the boiling water.
  • Stir and cover with a lid.
  • Turn the heat down to low, set a timer for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, uncover.
  • Drain any excess liquid and fluff with a fork.

Do not lift the lid, not even once until 20 minutes are up!


If you’re not sure how to use brown rice, here are some recipes to get you started:

Southern Brown Rice Recipes @ AllRecipes.com

Recipe: Lentils, Brown Rice, and Carmelized Onions

Here is an explanation of some of the benefits of  brown rice.

This article also appears on STANDSuperHero.com