Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Kitchen Culinary For The Healthy Life - Gadgets Every Plant-Based Foodie Must Have



At the time I started my transition to a healthier, plant-based lifestyle back in 2009 there were really only two key items I couldn’t live without—a pizza stone and an oversized cereal bowl. Tombstone® pizzas, Cocoa Pebbles, and Marie Callender’s® frozen dinners were pretty much the norm for me. I didn’t need a lot of kitchenware at my disposal because of this, and so I stuck to the basics of bachelorhood. While I still use my pizza stone and cereal bowl today, I’ve found that a few modern-day kitchen appliances make living a plant-based lifestyle much easier. Today I’ll show you how to save time and energy by stocking your kitchen with the essentials to make your transition to this healthier lifestyle much easier. Remember, spend only what you can afford, prioritize your needs as you proceed forward, and keep a wish list for everything else.

Must Have Kitchen Appliances


There are a few kitchen tools/appliances that are on my must have list when it comes to successfully adopting a plant-based diet. Yours may be different and that’s ok. My list includes a blender, a chef’s knife, a quality cutting board, and a nice line of cookware.
1) Blender
I’d be absolutely lost without my high powered blender. I use it everyday; sometimes multiple times per day. I make soups, smoothies, homemade dressings, sauces, and even banana “ice cream” with it. My blender is definitely my favorite kitchen appliance by far.

Shopping for a blender can make anyone crazy. There are so many different makes and models out there which further the confusion and complexity of the situation. However, I highly recommend you pony up the money to purchase a high powered blender. The reason for this is because they are extremely versatile allowing you to do multiple different jobs in the kitchen.

There are two high-powered blenders that fit into this category—Blendtec and Vitamix. Both are outstanding and will be able to do just about anything you ask of them. You can place rock hard frozen fruit or entire pieces of food (whole carrots, apples, pears, etc.) into these blenders and their 2-3 horsepower motors will grind right through them. These blenders are a little more expensive, retailing at approximately $450-$600 each, but they’ll last a lifetime and are well worth every penny. I value my Vitamix blender more than I value my kitchen stove so you can get a sense of just how important this appliance can be to someone.

If you are on a budget and cannot afford a high-powered blender then a mid-grade or budget-friendly blender can get most jobs done. Smoothies, dressings, sauces, etc. are easy to make with these blenders. Just don’t go putting whole pieces of frozen food in them or trying to make your own nut butters. You may end up overheating the motor and finding yourself buying another blender.

Important items to look for when purchasing a budget-friendly blender is to purchase one with stainless steel blades and a metal drive socket/coupling at its base. This will provide for a very durable product that will stand the test of time better. Don’t go overboard on all the fancy options and settings. A blender with 2-3 basic speeds does just as good of a job as one with 10 speeds and half a dozen automatic timers on it. Some reliable names to look for are Cuisinart, Oster, KitchenAid, and Hamilton Beach.

2) Cutting Board and Chef’s Knife
The next thing I’d recommend putting on your must have list is a good quality cutting board and chef’s knife. You’re going to be preparing, chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing a fair amount of fruits and vegetables so having the right tools to do so is essential. Without these items you’re going to feel like a carpenter without a hammer.

Cutting boards come in all shapes and sizes. They can be made of all types of materials as well. I’ve found that a decent size (12” x 18”) cutting board works just as well as any professional grade butcher block board. Cutting boards are available in hardwood, bamboo, composite material, plastic, and glass. Composite, plastic, and glass boards can be a little rougher on knives but they are usually easier to clean. They can also be thrown in the dishwasher. Hardwood and bamboo boards are much easier on knives but have to be hand washed. They also need to be treated every so often to prevent drying and cracking. You’ll have to find out what suits you best when purchasing one. I personally love my $20 bamboo board. It’s not a big deal for me to hand wash it after each use and treat it every 3-4 months to prevent it from drying and cracking. I just spread a small amount of oil over it using a paper towel. By the way, this is also the only time cooking oil ever gets used in my kitchen as it has been shown to be detrimental to heart disease if consumed (see video here).

As for chef knives I would recommend splurging a little. Purchase a high quality chef’s knife. It will perform better and last longer than a cheap one. To do this, you’ll probably end up spending a minimum of $50-$100 or more, but you’ll be happy you did so. This may seem like a lot of money for one knife but understand that this is one of your primary tools to get the job done in your new plant-based kitchen. Many people who live on the Standard American Diet use a barbecue grill to prepare their food. I did when I used to eat this way. It was one of my main tools I used to cook my food every day. Like many Americans, I would think nothing of spending hundreds of dollars on the latest and greatest barbecue grill. Now, my chef’s knife and blender have taken the place of my barbecue grill. I use them in the preparation or making of almost all of my meals so I have no problem investing the money upfront necessary to obtain high quality products.

There are a number of great brands to look at when purchasing a chef’s knife. Do your research before buying to ensure that you are purchasing a knife that meets your specifications. Some well respected names in the field include the Wusthof Classic line, Victorinox Swiss Classic line, and the Zwilling J.A. Henckels line of knives. A knife sharpener is also a must to keep the blade of your knife sharp at all times.

3) Cookware
One final item that I consider a must have for plant-based living is a quality set of cookware. A set of pots and pans of various sizes are important to have on hand to prepare a variety of meals. I recommend purchasing a nice set of non-stick stovetop cookware and also a set of silicone bakeware if you plan on baking a lot.

There are a number of individuals out there who claim that the coating on non-stick cookware is carcinogenic and can lead to cancer. Chemicals found in non-stick cookware known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) have been shown in animal studies to potentiate liver cancer [1]. However, during normal cooking conditions (125°C or 257°F) no detectable amounts of PFOA’s were released from non-stick cookware [2]. There are no studies directly linking exposure to PFOA’s under normal use and human cancer lines so rest assured that using non-stick cookware is safe. If you’re still concerned about PFOA’s then you can always opt for stainless steel cookware. Also, newer versions of PFOA-free, non-stick cookware are now available. You can search for them online.

Wish List Items


Now that the essentials are covered it’s time to reveal my version of a plant-based lover’s wish list. Again, your list of must haves and wish-list items may differ from mine. I’m just giving you ideas of things to think about. My wish list always continues to grow as the years go by. I guess this is why we all have birthdays.

1) Food Processor
Food processors are great additions to the kitchen. They can be used to chop or slice veggies, whip up sauces and dips, or even mix up a batch of dough. I was really tempted to put this in the must have category but opted to keep it in my wish list section since many of the same things can be done with a blender. Food processors do make preparing some foods and dishes more convenient depending on what you’re making.

My favorite use for the food processor is preparing a recipe I have for raw chocolate brownies. Bean dips and hummus are also simple to make with this appliance. You can use these delicious spreads for sandwiches and wraps or as an appetizer to dip your veggies in.

2) Slow Cooker (Crock-Pot)
If you’re in a hurry than a slow cooker is the ideal kitchen appliance for you. One of the main reasons so many people won’t attempt to start living a plant-based lifestyle is because they “don’t have time”. That excuse doesn’t work with a slow cooker. It’s as easy as ever to throw in a few ingredients and head off to work in the morning. You’ll come home to a fresh, hot cooked meal as soon as you walk in the door. Nothing beats the aroma of a huge pot of homemade lasagna.

Slow cookers are great for feeding families too. Soups, stews, casseroles, curry dishes, chili, and even desserts are a breeze to make with this appliance. Most meals cook over a 6-10 hour time period. There’s usually automatic warmer settings on most slow cookers so you don’t have to worry about burning your meal once the “cooking” is done. These appliances are also very eco-friendly since they use less energy than a standard oven. They’re definitely worth looking into if you want something to make life a little easier.

3) Rice Cooker and Vegetable Steamer
A rice cooker and vegetable steamer can be a life saver for those who want perfectly prepared rice and vegetables without a lot of effort. You can find this appliance as a combo product with the capability of cooking both rice and steaming vegetables all at once or you can purchase them as separate items. I recommend purchasing them separately to get better results when steaming vegetables.

Rice cookers can typically cook up a batch of brown rice in about 2 hours and have automatic warmers on them if you don’t happen to be home when they’re done cooking. The rice is perfectly plump and moist every time too. I can never seem to accomplish this when cooking it the old fashioned way on the stove.

Vegetable steamers are a great way to enjoy more vegetables as part of your regular meals. The best part about a vegetable steamer is that it only takes 15-20 minutes to steam most vegetables. You can steam broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans, asparagus, etc. They are easy to clean and a welcome addition to anybody’s kitchen no matter how you eat.

4) Pressure Cooker
Pressure cookers are a great way to cook certain foods that would normally take a long time to prepare. Baking a potato? That’s gonna cost you about an hour in a conventional oven but with a pressure cooker only about 10 minutes. Many root vegetables (potatoes, rutabaga, beets, etc.) are a cinch to make with a pressure cooker which makes it more likely that you’ll eat them on a regular basis.

Beans are also a walk in the park to prepare with a pressure cooker. Dry beans are usually the best way to get a healthy dose of legumes in your diet but often take hours or days to prepare. First you have to soak them for 6 to 12 hours, then you have to rinse them, and then boil them for another 1 to 2 hours. With a pressure cooker, dry beans go from bag to plate in under 15 minutes. No soaking is necessary. The beauty of making your own beans is they’re not loaded with excessively high amounts of sodium as most canned beans are.

5) Food Dehydrator
A food dehydrator is exactly that - an appliance which removes the moisture content of food. This appliance is great for drying fruits and vegetables. I would actually consider it a must have appliance if adopting a raw food diet. Many raw food eaters use their dehydrator frequently to prepare all kinds of items such as kale chips, dried fruits, flaxseed crackers, and even cookies. Most foods will dehydrate in 4-12 hours and require very little work to prepare. You just place the food items onto the dehydrating trays, slip the trays into the dehydrator, and let the machine do the rest. Some fruits and vegetables actually retain more of their nutritional value by dehydrating them versus cooking too.

Healthy Kitchens Start With Healthy Foods


As a reminder, you can have all the expensive kitchen tools and appliances you want, but if you’re still eating unhealthy foods you’re still going to suffer from debilitating diseases eventually. Healthy kitchens start with healthy foods. By stocking your kitchen with nutrient-rich, plant-based, whole foods you’ll guarantee yourself the best chance of achieving an optimal state of health.

Stock your pantry full of non-perishables like beans, lentils, whole grains, raisins, dates, and low or no salt canned vegetables as a few ideas. You can also keep your freezer full of an array of colorful frozen fruits. My freezer is constantly stocked with various types of frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries), mango, pineapple, and cherries. I love making frozen treats like smoothies or banana ice cream from time to time. I keep frozen bananas in my freezer to do this. Just cut up a couple of bananas into small, bite-size pieces and freeze them in little ziplock baggies. Keep a large supply of frozen veggies in your freezer too like broccoli florets, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, peas, carrots, corn, peppers, and asparagus. The possibilities are really endless. Whatever you do just make sure you get as many healthy, plant-based foods into your kitchen and, ultimately, into your body as you can. Your health and your future are counting on it!



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by Dustin Rudolph, PharmD
Clinical Pharmacist

Check out Dustin Rudolph's book The Empty Medicine Cabinet to start your journey towards better health. This step-by-step guide leads you through many of today's common chronic diseases (heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and more), giving you the facts on foods versus medications in treating these medical conditions. The book also contains an easy-to-follow guide on how to adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet as a part of an overall lifestyle change, producing the best possible health outcomes for you and your family. Hurry and get your copy today!

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Photo credits: Freedigitalphotos.net

References:
1 Shabalina IG, Panaretakis T, Bergstrand A, DePierre JW. Effects of the rodent peroxisome proliferator and hepatocarcinogen, perfluorooctanoic acid, on apoptosis in human hepatoma HepG2 cells. Carcinogenesis. 1999 Dec;20(12):2237-46.
2 Powley CR, Michalczyk MJ, Kaiser MA, Buxton LW. Determination of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) extractable from the surface of commercial cookware under simulated cooking conditions by LC/MS/MS. Analyst. 2005 Sep;130(9):1299-302. 

5 comments:

  1. I love my toaster oven and vegetable steamer! vita mix and food dehydrator are on my wish list.

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  2. Right now - I'm really liking my food processor and my Nutribullet - an Excalibur Food dehydrator is on my wish list - and to update my vitamix (that is as old as me - borrowed from my Mom) :)

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  3. I couldn't live without my sharp kitchen knives and Vita-Mix! Then comes my food processor and crock pot. I also have a sprouting jar which is always in use -- once one batch is done sprouting, I start another. On my wish list are a good pressure cooker and possibly a dehydrator.

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  4. I'm not one for extra appliances. I just don't have the space. I do love my food processor and use it often, especially for making pureed beans.

    ReplyDelete