Green Tip #29 - Healthy Substitutes to Use in Cooking and Baking - Oils
When I first started posting online, it was green tips and poetry that I’d impart to my readers. That’s when I had a full-time job and reveled in writing on the weekends. It was then I let my spirit out that had been shoved in a corner for far too long.
It came to me that I had - and still do have – something to offer to those of you who would like to make green changes in your lives.
Why it just dawned on me is a mystery. After all, I've concentrated on environmental issues and green living in my blog, which is far newer than my re-entry into the world of writing.
Okay, I’m blithering. I’m so glad to see my spirit is back! You see, I have a tendency to blither, but in the end I make you think and give you food for thought, if not information to chew on.
Wow, lots of puns in this intro, huh?
What’s that you say? “Welcome back, Bravewarrior!” I hear you loud and clear. Or maybe I only hear my muse.
Whatever the case may be, I have something you need. It will help you and help me as well. What can be better than that?
I’m a good cook and a hellacious baker. No, I’m not being conceited; I’m paying homage to my mother, who not only fed us well growing up, but has served gourmet dinners for members of the United States Cabinet and various members of the upper echelon, in her home. And all of her dinners were (and are) cooked from scratch without relying on caterers.
I’ve learned from the best. To this day, my mom and I swap recipes. I tell her about substitutes I use for the Missouri cooking she grew up on and she shares simple, yet elegant recipes with me that are fit for the elite.
Make no mistake, though. Sometimes there’s no substitute for good ole’ bacon grease when you’re making an authentic country dish! Can you say black-eyed peas?
However, there are many substitutions we can make to reduce cholesterol, fat, and the risk of inflammation without compromising flavor, texture and that feeling we get from the comfort foods we love.
Note: wherever I suggest fresh foods, unless you grow them yourself or buy from local farms, look for labels in your grocery store that are preceded by the numbers 94. This indicates growers and producers who are USDA Certified Organic.
Here are just a few to get you started:
Stay away from corn oil, soybean, and canola oil. All of those grains are GMO-grown, which means the seeds are injected with pesticides to keep crops from being attractive to insects. Even vegetable oil is no longer safe.
Read this article on Monsanto’s website. They make it all sound so innocent, don’t they? Look at the main products they admit are GMO grown:
- Sugar Beets
And you thought you were eating healthy by choosing to eat tofu (soybean curd) and using vegetable-based oils in cooking!
Here’s a photo of the label for vegetable oil on a Smart Balance label (touted as a healthy product).
So, how do you like me now?
Hopefully, you’ll take my suggestions to heart and continue to make the awesome dishes you already do. (You do cook from scratch, right?)
Cookies and Cakes
Substitute equal amounts of organic, unsweetened applesauce for oil or shortening. The applesauce acts as a binder without adding chemicals or elevating cholestoral levels. Your sweet delectables will be soft and moist.
I did this when I was pregnant with my son and had acquired a massive sweet tooth. No one could taste the difference, but this simple change kept my growing baby and me healthy.
Baking Fish and Meats
Forget the sprays. They have gases in them, known as propellants – that’s what makes them build up pressure enough to let loose. Instead, spread a tablespoon or so of organic pure coconut oil in the baking dish or pan. A little goes a long way. Coconut oil is very healthy for the body and is thought to slow or even reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease when taken regularly.
The beauty of it is coconut oil has no flavor so your baked entrees shine on their own. It’s also low in calories and feeds your body with good stuff, rather than load your innards with artery-clogging elements.
Omelets and Grilled Cheese
I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m frying eggs, I want the taste of butter (I’ll address butter in a later post), but when it comes to dishes such as omelets, frittatas, and grilled cheese sandwiches, coconut oil speaks to your taste buds without the need for butter, and reduces your cholesterol intake as a bonus. (One tablespoon coconut oil has 120 calories, zero cholesterol, while butter comes in at 100 calories and 30 mg (10%) cholesterol.)
Although coconut oil contains saturated fat (as does butter), it mostly consists of lauric acid, which is a medium-chain triglyceride. Medium-chain triglycerides are more easily digested, convert to energy, and improve levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
The saturated fat in butter is comprised mostly of palmitic acid, which can cause the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries.
Use coconut oil instead. You’ll never miss the butter.
Spread it on your bread when preparing grilled cheese. Add some garlic powder to the outsides of the bread, and tomato slides between the cheeses. The bread will toast beautifully and you’ll benefit from the cholesterol-free spread.
Same with omelets and frittatas: add coconut oil to the pan. Sauté onions, green peppers, and mushrooms before adding your egg mixture and you’ll have no need for butter.
Coconut oil heats well and doesn’t burn when subjected to high heat. It should become a staple in your kitchen. And remember, a little goes a long way, so you may need to experiment.
Sautéed or Roasted Vegetables, Salads and More
When you are sautéing or roasting veggies, opt for organic first cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil over vegetable oil. Not only does olive oil add a warm, slightly fruity flavor, but it’s oh-so-good for you, too.
Olive oil contains MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids) which are known to not only be heart-healthy, but may reduce the risk of cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Note: buy organic extra virgin olive oil that is packaged in dark green glass bottles. Light or clear bottles allow light into the oil, turning it rancid in a short period of time. Also, buy cold-pressed olive oil. This means no heat was used in processing. Heat changes the chemistry of olives.
Instead of buying prepared salad dressings, drizzle some olive oil and organic apple cider vinegar on your salad. The combination adds a light, vibrant flavor to raw veggies without adding empty calories, preservatives, sugars, and words you can’t pronounce. (If you can’t pronounce it, chances are very good it doesn’t belong in your body).
Apple cider vinegar is a wonderful addition to your diet. It aids in digestion, helps keep blood sugar in check, is a natural probiotic (if you use the cloudy kind), prevents indigestion, and may lower cholesterol.
Now, back to olive oil…
Try making garlic bread with olive oil instead of butter. Brush olive oil on crusty bread; add some chopped garlic, oregano, and parmesan cheese. Place the bread on a baking sheet and bake at 350º for a few minutes. Or place it under the broiler.
For a refreshing appetizer, slice tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese, drizzle on some olive oil, top with fresh basil and enjoy!
Benefits of Grapeseed Oil
Before you read this were you aware of the healthy alternatives to vegetable oils and shortening?
Deep Frying, Stir-Fry, and Sautéing
We all know that fried foods should not be a frequent flyer when planning our menus. However, sometimes we crave fried chicken, catfish, and good old fried pork chops. A great alternative to shortening or vegetable oil is grapeseed oil. It’s low in calories, contains polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, and is a good source of Vitamin E. It withstands high heat and has a mild flavor, allowing the natural flavors of your foods to be the star of the show.
Grapeseed oil aids in circulation, can repair broken capillaries, has anti-inflammatory properties, is an antioxidant, and helps keep cell membranes healthy. For more information regarding the benefits of grapeseed oil, read this article.
That’s a wrap for now. I have many more tips to offer, but don’t want to lose your attention, so I’ll save them for subsequent posts.
Until then, if you have any tips for the use of oils in cooking and baking, please share them in the comment section below.
Here’s to your health!
Shauna L Bowling
Refining, Defining, or Rhyming
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© 2014 Shauna L Bowling