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Boomer Cooking Tips

Updated on October 2, 2014
Acorn squash: A healthy choice  (Source: Cheryl Rogers)
Acorn squash: A healthy choice (Source: Cheryl Rogers)

Make the Most of Your Time in the Kitchen

The boomer years are busy years, productive years. Torn between the demands of our children and parents, they can be stressful years. We may have grown accustomed to fast food restaurants, processed foods and other shortcuts in our younger years. But as we age, we may need to take extra steps to take better care of ourselves.

That may mean some adjustments in the kitchen, and in our eating habits. It may mean less restaurant foods, special diets, and more health food, in general.

Packing diet foods into our busy lifestyle may be challenging. So this Hubpage is about helping you meet the challenge -- with an arsenal of cooking equipment to make your job easier.

As I boomer myself, I have been meeting the challenge on my own turf. I survived the caregiving years with my parents and now am making dietary adjustments to improve my own health. So I bring to you suggestions for things I have found helpful -- in hopes they will help you too.

Boomer Cooking Tip #1

The Toaster Oven

When you want to make a quick meal, you have an ally in your toaster oven. This versatile piece of kitchen equipment is there to toast bread for sandwiches, either as a toaster for slim slices or as an oven for hoagie or other rolls.

It is versatile enough to make a healthy "grilled" cheese sandwich -- sans the butter -- or to bake a fish filet sprinkled with lemon and seasonings. Cook some pasta or cook a sweet potato in the microwave while you wait. Then add a salad and your meal is complete -- except for dessert.

A toaster oven will save you money on electricity because it's small. It also takes less time to heat! When you're cooking for one or two, there's no need to wait for the big oven.

More on Toaster Ovens

After my microwave died, I researched the market and purchased a Breville Compact Smart Oven. This versatile appliance can be used to toast, bake, roast, broil, reheat, cook pizza, and more.

After souring the web for expert and user ratings, I decided not to replace my microwave at this time, opting for the Breville Smart Oven. While it is not a microwave, and cannot be expected to deliver the same sort of results, the Brevillle Compact Smart Oven does have pre-programed (adjustable) controls that allow you to run your oven for a pre-determined amount of time. That way you can go about your other chores confident the oven will turn itself off at the appropriate time, just like the microwave. If you are in the laundry room for a few extra minutes, it's no big deal. Chances are it will still be hot, but even if it isn't you can always give it another minute or two.

The Breville Compact Smart Oven comes with an easy to remove crumb tray, making it easy to clean. Even the compact model is large enough to roast turkey parts, chicken fish, or whatever you are having for dinner. The toast is excellent, crispy on both sides, and done according to your specifications. The oven will turn itself off and the toast (up to four slices in the compact) will be waiting for you when you are ready.

The compact model is larger than other toaster ovens, enabling you to do more heavy duty cooking in it -- a definite plus for recreational vehicles, dorm rooms. small apartments, and kitchens where space is at a premium.

The handy defrost button handles defrosting toast and/or meat easily; the oven is programmed to add the extra time you need.

The compact model takes up less space on your countertop than the full size Breville Smart Oven, but for those who want greater capacity the Smart Oven is a great alternative. The larger model accommodates six slices of toast at a time, making it a wise choice for families and larger groups.

The top of your smart oven can get very hot during use, so it's best to allow a bit of extra space around your unit on the counter and avoid touching the hot surface during and after use. The top can be used to warm plates if you like to do that.

Optional accessories include a pizza tray and bamboo cutting board/serving tray.

Boomer Cooking Tip #2

The Crockpot

When you're on the go, a crockpot is a trusted friend. Put on a pot of rice and you are out the door. Or in the morning before you leave for work or errands, put together a hearty soup for lunch or dinner. You even may enjoy tenderizing a turkey leg or wing in your crockpot. When you add onions, garlic and carrots, your meal is nearly complete. Just add some rice.

I discovered crockpots years ago and it has remained a trusted standby. In the boomer years, it may even more helpful as you are stretched between the demands of family, both young and old, and work. You also may find as you age that you have special dietary needs which demand special attention. With a crockpot, throw it all together and it will be waiting for you!

Crockpots also take the pressure off to perform at dinnertime, when you may be tired, late, and stressed.

Thinking Positive

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Boomer Cooking Tip #3

The Pressure Cooker

Maybe you used to open a can when you wanted beans. But now, in your boomer years, you are cutting your salt. Beans are a great source of fiber, so you know they should still be part of your diet. Yet you keep forgetting to soak those beans. And you can't nurse them on the stove.

The solution? A pressure cooker.

While it's still a good idea to soak your beans to extract the most nutrients, if you forget you can still prepare them. You can cook your beans in the pressure cooker, allow them to cool and make a cold salad. Or you can transfer them to the crockpot with onions, garlic, green pepper, bay leaf and other seasonings -- allowing them to simmer to perfection until dinnertime.

I use my pressure cooker to fix beans because they help me keep my blood pressure in check. In the pressure cooker, they're usually soft in about an hour or so. I don't make beans every day, but I try to make a big batch at least once a week.

Cookbooks for Your Pressure Cooker

Here are some recipe books so you can try some new dishes!

Boomer Cooking Tip #4

Eat More Vegetables

Boomers may consciously decide they want the health benefits of more vegetables in their diet. Vegetables are low in calories, and have plenty of fiber, which is good for elimination, weight control and heart health. Filling up on vegetables like squash can keep down your blood sugar levels, another plus.

So eating vegetables are a good thing, even if we have resisted it for a number of years. Committing to eating more vegetables may be a challenge, but I've found squashes are a good bet for a number of reasons.

1) They store well. If I don't get around to eating that acorn squash today or tomorrow, it will still be good next week. I don't even have to find room for it in the fridge.

2) They are easy to fix. Sure you can find some great casserole recipe if you've got time to cook, but if you are busy like I am, squash can be baked as is. Top it with some cinnamon and butter if you are still eating it. You also can add a dash of maple syrup and this veggie is ready.

3) Squashes are great to eat when you are watching your carbohydrate levels. Carrots and potatoes are higher in the glycemic scale than squashes and sweet potatoes, so they are a good idea if you are cutting carbs.

4) Squash is versatile. While I love just throwing the squash in the oven or microwave and cooking it whole, you also can pull out an electric knife and slice the squash, then throw it into a soup. You also can use summer squash and zucchini in a vegetable tray with drip. And zucchini bread is a good option too. Pair zucchini with tomatoes, onions, and seasonings for a baked vegetable dish.

Whether you eat squash or not, find some vegetables you like and are willing to eat. The more, the merrier. Variety is nice. If you suffer from an occasional afternoon slump, you may want to eat vegetables lower on the glycemic scale. That means watch your root vegetables. Eat smaller quantities and combine with other foods. Those potato chips taste great, but are best paired with a sandwich and whole wheat bread, if you will eat them at all.

Boomer Cooking Tip #5

The Juicer

Not many of us get enough fruits and vegetables, even though we know it's a healthy thing to do. A juicer goes a long way towards helping us achieve our goals. There are a lot of different kinds of juicers, with different benefits. I've researched the options and have concluded a single auger juicer is the best best -- at least for me.

The single auger juicer gnaws or chews at the vegetables and fruits at a slow speed, so heat doesn't damage the precious nutrients. It also can mince, making it ideal for raw salsas, sauces, hummus and cold soup. Using partially defrosted fruits yields a sorbet or frozen yogurt. The machine also can be used to make pasta, nut butters, and with optional attachments snow cones and freshly extracted oil.

Getting enough vegetables is usually a challenge, so this juicer enables me to drink my veggies. Using a large variety of vegetables will help keep this interesting and ensure you get plenty of vitamins and minerals. While I'd prefer to drink fruit juice all the time, I try to mix in fruit with the vegetables to make them more appealing. Apple is great to sweeten your drink, especially when you are using deep greens. I also find a small chunk of ginger can add a nice flavor to the mix.

Even if you stick to the traditional tomato juice cocktail and carrot juice, you'll likely be consuming more healthy vegetables with a single auger juicer. In no time, you'll probably develop some favorites that work for you: Maybe a raw salsa or tomato soup, maybe a hummus, or maybe some freshly extracted flax seed oil. Juicing makes your food easy to digest because of all the enzymes and because no chewing is required. That's especially if you have denture troubles or sore gums.

When I first started juicing, my energy was being zapped by high blood pressure medication. It took awhile to see the benefits, but I credit juicing with boosting and maintaining my energy level. I know it helped me keep going until I was finally able to change that medication. Eventually. I went off blood pressure medication.

Favorite Juice Combinations

Even though I don't really like beets, I have enjoyed beets and grapes. I've also enjoyed cantaloupe with cinnamon -- and Granny Smith apples and honeydew melon.

Jewel Organic Grown Strawberry Plants (Pack of 10 Bare Roots) - ONE of OUR TOP Sellers Berry! Best in Zones: 4-8.
Jewel Organic Grown Strawberry Plants (Pack of 10 Bare Roots) - ONE of OUR TOP Sellers Berry! Best in Zones: 4-8.

Fresh always taste best. When you grow them yourself, you can allow them to ripen on the plant for the best results!

 

© 2014 Cheryl Rogers

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