I’m a food blog junkie. I follow about 18 different blogs for reasons including funny tangential rants, stunning photography and pure guilty-pleasure food porn. But my favourites, like their cooking show predecessors in the days when I owned a TV, have always been the ones that provide techniques and explanations in addition to inventive recipes – I’m looking at you, Joy the Baker.
Give a girl a recipe, and she might print it off and talk about making it without ever actually following through. Give a girl an easy to remember technique, and she can build 100 meals from whatever happens to be in her kitchen.
All of the ideas below are designed to save money while cutting out refined carbohydrates, sugar and other additives found in pre-packaged and restaurant foods. All of the techniques below are easy to master and infinitely adaptable.
My mornings tend to involve grumpy nonsensical grunting and conscientious mirror-avoidance until a shower and caffeine have happened. It is not the time of day to think about making food – unless of course it’s Sunday at 10 a.m. and I can experiment with delicious things that could never be uttered in the same sentence as the word “diet.”
The technique: One-to-one ratio of rolled oats to liquid. Before bed, put the two, plus any extras in an airtight container and your breakfast will be ready to go in the morning. Soaking them overnight allows them to absorb the liquid without dirtying a single pan. If you’re envisioning cold porridge and want nothing to do with this idea, have no fear – it’s far more akin to a mixed muesli parfait.
The details: The liquid can be any milk, milk substitute, yogurt, juice or water. I usually go half soy milk/half natural yogurt. From there, get creative. Or lazy. Throw in whatever you happen to have on hand. Protein powder, nuts, dried fruit, preservatives, cacao nibs, shredded coconut, macca powder, chia seeds, peanut butter, honey, nutella and instant coffee have all found their way into my breakfast on various mornings.
You’ve had it a hundred times in restaurants and you know that it is a more-rounded carb given its protein and fibre content but feel like it’s probably expensive and too much of an effort at home. Nope. Quinoa is available in most health food stores and is becoming easier to find in regular supermarkets across Asia. The tiny grains expand to three times their size when cooked, so even a small box will make far more, and last far longer than you think it will.
The technique: One-to-two ratio of quinoa to liquid. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly in a mesh strainer to remove the bitter outer coating. The rinsed quinoa and liquid go into a pot together. Bring to a boil then reduce to low heat and cover for 12-15 minutes. Check to see that it’s absorbed most of the liquid. If it has, remove from the heat and let it stand covered for five minutes. Fluff lightly with a fork and you’re ready to go.
The details: The liquid can be water or broth. I once made it with half water/half coconut water and it came out great. Again – this is your call, get creative. Use it as a base for stir fries, a side dish on its own or mixed with herbs, the base of a salad, porridge, veggie patties or any other way you’ve seen it used in restaurants and want to try. Put whatever you don’t use in an airtight container and use for up to a week.
If you’re on the carb-cutting bandwagon and want a substitute for pasta, vegetable ribbons are perfect. These are just thin strips of vegetables that you can treat as spaghetti. You don’t need to go buy any type of fancy or specific kitchen tool, as long as you’re fine with flat noodles instead of thin strands.
The technique: Rinse your vegetables thoroughly; removing the skin if you want, or leaving it on if you prefer the crunch. Take a peeler and run it down the side to make long, thin strips, continuously turning the vegetable until you get down to the centre. If it has seeds or any similarly squishy core, discard. If it has a hard centre, thinly chop the rest of the vegetable, or take my preferred method and eat it on the spot – cooking requires snacks in my world.
The details: This works with courgettes, squash, carrots, parsnips, asparagus and any other hard vegetable. Serve them cold with a light dressing and the toppings of your choice mix or heat them through in a pan and mix with a sauce. They can be used any way a noodle might, ramping up fibre and taking out carbs. You also get to eat twice as much, guilt free – that might just be me though.
We live in Asia and can buy this intimidating staple cheaply almost anywhere food is sold. There are so many options for type and even the kind labelled “hard” seems to be a gloppy mess stored in liquid.
The technique: Buy the kind labelled hard or firm. Then it is all about removing as much liquid from the tofu as possible. Cut the tofu into slabs about one cm thick and lay on top of a couple layers of kitchen roll or a towel on a cooking sheet or cutting board. Put another few layers of paper towels on top and then add a weight like a second cooking sheet or a pan. Let your tofu sit this for at least 30 minutes or up to one day if you put your assembly in the refrigerator.
The details: After draining the liquid, your options are using raw as a topping, baking or frying. Whichever way you choose to go, first marinate the tofu in your dressing of choice or sprinkle with salt and seasonings. If you have an oven, they are great roasted at a high heat alongside vegetables. If not, a simple quick pan-fry over medium-high heat works great. Tofu will take on the flavour of whatever you cook it in so using a flavourful oil like coconut or peanut will add depth to your dish. If you want crispier sides, sprinkle with a bit of semolina or corn starch before frying.
Lead image sourced via Pinterest, Image #1 sourced via Pinterest, Image #2 sourced via Pinterest, Image #3 sourced via Pinterest, Image #4 sourced via Pinterest