Let’s face it, we are not all gourmet cooks. Preparing new dishes can be thrilling for skilled cooks with lots of time, for the rest of us it can be just plain challenging, frustrating, and even unrewarding if our efforts are not appreciated. If you are in this group start out by finding some staples that are relatively easy to prepare and that keep well for leftovers and pairing with other dishes. In a previous article I mention roasted vegetables as excellent in this regard, with the added benefit of using lots of Extra Virgin Olive ol (EVOO) in the preparation. The key is cook a bunch of them to add to other meals and reduce later cooking time and effort. Roasted vegetables are also inexpensive, easy to make, are good and good for you.
Even though the Mediterranean Diet dates back millennia some newer tools can really help with the ease of preparation in preparing delicious meals. The primary utensil that I and many others use is the One Pot. This is kind of like a pressure cooker that is faster, more efficient and able to make a surprising number of recipes. We have many fans of the one Pot in our Facebook Group, and many more who have been encouraged to try it and have quickly embraced it for speed, convenience, and flavor.
Other recommended tools include an iron skillet, which is especially important for women who may struggle with iron deficiency. You will need good sauté and sauce pans, a garlic press, an olive oil sprayer, a kitchen scale, and a good set of knives. Wooden cutting boards are recommended as they naturally resist mold and other kitchen related impurities. Having a decent array of pots and pans that can accommodate the new dishes and amounts you will be preparing is helpful with having meals come together on time. What you won’t need is a deep fryer, put yours in storage and bring it out for special occasions and requests.
Wash As You Go
Lessons learned long ago that have made the meal preparation experience much more pleasant is to play great music while you cook and clean, and even while you eat. This can turn a chore into a fun or at least pleasant time, and tends to be infectious as a mood lifter. I also clean as I go so when all is prepared pots, pans and utensils have already been washed, reducing post meal clean up time. Personally unless I am hosting a larger gathering I wash dishes by hand and dry them in a rack, never leaving any in the sink to be done, unless I am soaking them to make cleaning easier.
Mealtime is the time focus on eating, conversation, or word games. The important thing is to let the cares, worries, and struggles of the outside world interfere with your meal and digestion. Find ways to make mealtime as peaceful as possible, mindfully eating slowly, and savoring the flavors and textures of the food. Whether or not you spend a little or lot of time preparing the meal, not rushing respects the fact that you put time and effort into preparing a meal that is healthy and nutritious. It is better for your digestion to eat slowly, and as mentioned elsewhere it is less likely that you will overeat and also reduces that chance of acid reflux. Genuinely relaxing, slowly eating your meal, listening to music or conversing about pleasant subjects are all ways to
Some people find it difficult to include the recommended amounts of olive oil in their diet. What do you do, drink the stuff? ¼ cup per day does seem like a lot, but EVOO is such a prime ingredient and has so many health benefits it will be worth it to prepare almost every meal using it. The roasted vegetables can be cooked with it, and then coated with it so you can end up getting your daily intake with those veggies alone.
There is much discussion online about olive oil, particularly which type of EVOO to use. First, you should always use EVOO instead of other olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality and most expensive olive oil. True extra virgin olive oil must be produced mechanically by crushing the olives to extract the oil. This is difficult to do which is why the price of EVOO is always higher than standard olive oil. Every step of the process must be done with great care.
The benefits of consuming olive oil increase dramatically when the oil is EVOO. EVOO has a far higher smoke point, which means it can be heated to a temperature above normal cooking range without degrading. However EVOO and other olive oils degrade and lose their properties over time. That is why it is important to store EVOO in a dark place, storing in a dark bottle and in a cupboard are preferable. That doesn’t mean it goes bad immediately, it should not be a problem to rapidly use your EVOO if you are following the diet, otherwise it has about a two year shelf life, fresher is better.
Use EVOO to Cook
Roasting vegetable, sautéing onions, scallions, garlic and other vegetables, mixing EVOO in with beans dishes are all good ways to work toward consuming that 1/4 cup daily. Even when dishes don’t specifically call for EVOO, you can throw it in, the taste is light and won’t taint too many of your Mediterranean Diet meals.
Use EVOO as a Dressing
EVOO makes for a perfect salad dressing, here is an example of a Honey Balsamic dressing that is a favorite.
There are many more recipes for dressings and glazes using EVOO that fit within this Way of Eating, join us on our Mediterranean Diet Facebook Group here to find more. As with everything in the Mediterranean Diet, do your best to incorporate EVOO every day and don’t stress!
To your health!