MY — May 2012
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Simply Nutritious and Delicious
Dawn Bause

Healthy Cooking 101

For the past few months I have talked about ways to make your dishes tastier using coarse salts, fresh cracked pepper, fresh herbs, extra virgin olive oil and different vinegars.

This month I want to talk to you about vegetables and “How to Turn Veggies into Happy Meals!”

Few of us can say we eat enough of them (veggies, NOT Happy Meals!). Every article you read about eating healthier, losing weight, cleansing the body of toxins, and even beefing up your immune system will touch on the importance of eating more vegetables.

If you want to eat more vegetables, try replacing canned or frozen with fresh. The secret to eating fresh vegetables is to buy them from a supermarket, specialty market, or farmers market known for high quality produce.

Raw veggies are fun to eat, but cooking veggies will bring out the color, be easier to digest, and will enhance the flavor. Here are some of my preferred cooking methods for veggies.

Sautéing. The word sauté comes from the French word “sauter” which means “to jump.” You’ll either toss the veggies in the air using the flipping technique, or stir them through the pan with an all-temperature spatula or a wooden spoon. A good sauté pan is a wide, flat, straight-sided frying pan made of metals that conduct heat quickly, efficiently and evenly. It should also have a long handle. The idea is not to let the vegetable rest in the pan for very long. I like sautéing because I don’t use as much oil and can use extra virgin olive oil because I am able to cook at lower temperatures. I also like that I am able to add water or stock at the end for additional moisture.

Stir-fry. Stir-frying is similar to sautéing, but amplified. You have to cook over high heat and use more oil. The food is cut in small, thin pieces and continuously turned, tossed and stirred. The pan commonly used, is a roundsided wok made of thin metal that will heat up quickly and handle high temperatures. It is important to warm the wok over high heat for a minute before adding the oil. The best oils to use for high temperature cooking are peanut oil or macadamia nut oil.

Roasting. Roasting vegetables is an act of culinary magic. It is as easy as putting them in the oven, but making the best roasted vegetables involves a few tricks. Preheat the oven at 350 to 450 degrees F, depending on the density of the veggie you’re roasting. Clean and dry them. Cut into even-sized pieces. Toss with a little olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Don’t crowd the veggies on the baking sheet, and arrange them in a single layer. Roast them on the top third of oven until they are browned and tender. After removing them from the oven, finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, an additional pinch of salt, and fresh cracked pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Blanching and Shocking. Blanching is a method of quickly cooking the outside of vegetables by placing them in salted, boiling water. You’ll cook the vegetables for 3 to 10 minutes, depending on which one you are blanching. For example, green beans will blanch in about 3 minutes, and larger pieces of carrots can take up to 10 minutes. A trick when blanching is to make sure the veggies are not cold from the fridge when dropping them into the boiling water. They should be room temperature.

Shocking means to plunge the blanched veggies into a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking and bring out the color. You’ll need to drain them again and lay them out on a clean cloth until the moisture evaporates. They are now ready to season, reheat, or store in the fridge.

No matter which cooking method I use, I will always drizzle a little more of my extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of coarse salt, and fresh cracked pepper on the veggie dish just before serving. This is when I would add fresh herbs, a splash of fresh lemon juice, or my aged balsamic vinegar as well.

As they say in Italy…Buon Appetito!

Contact Dawn about her upcoming oil and vinegar tastings at

Dawn Bause is a cooking instructor, cookbook author, and owner of Cooking with Dawn Tours, LLC, from Commerce Township,