The Healthy Enough Guide to Cooking

I’ll soon be featuring my favorite recipes on Healthy Enough. Each one will be damn good for you without any compromises on flavor. No bland Weight Watchers crap – I’m talking about easy-to-make food that tastes great and makes your body happy. I can say this with confidence as each meal I feature will be one I eat on a regular basis.

But before I get started with the recipes, I want to run a few things by you in this article – my principles for cooking, if you will. My reasons for doing so are twofold:

  1. To give you the freedom to cook as you please (not necessarily as my recipes dictate)
  2. To persuade you that cooking can actually be enjoyable if you’re not currently a fan

If you’re already on board with the notion that cooking is fun, read on so you know how to tackle the upcoming recipes here on Healthy Enough. On the other hand, if you’re skeptical about the idea of cooking for yourself, it’s about time you learned just how much fun it can be.

Recipes Should Be Guides, Not Instruction Manuals

Unless precise measurements are essential (such as when making a cake), I never follow recipes to the letter. Why? Because doling out precise measurements is boring. It’s much more fun to pour, sprinkle and drop as you see fit.

But don’t just stop with freestyling measurements. Don’t be afraid to add and remove ingredients to match your tastes. Recipes are there to be shaped and moulded into something that matches your tastes perfectly – not the tastes of whoever dreamt it up. After all, he probably “borrowed” the recipe from somebody else and made some adjustments to suit. You’re just continuing the trend.

There are many reasons to treat recipes as a guide rather than an instruction manual, but my favorite is that it gives you ownership of your meal. If you have friends around and cook for them, what sounds better: telling them that you copied the recipe out of a book, or telling them that you took inspiration from a recipe and created something unique?

Low Fat / Low Sugar Can Be Seriously Tasty

There are so many things you can do to make a meal less calorific without reducing its tastiness. I’m not talking about bullshit “low fat” meals that add a load of sugar as a replacement or anything like that – I’m simply talking about tasty meals that are good for you.

It’s amazing just how much depth of flavor you can extract from good quality ingredients. For example, consider tinned tomatoes. Half a tin will set you back about fifty calories but can serve as the base for a delicious sauce. Herbs and spices can add all sorts of flavor and texture to a meal with no noticeable caloric impact.

One of my favorite “healthy food hacks” is to use guacamole in place of heavy cream in a sauce. You’ll get the same creamy texture, but the meal will be far healthier. Take it from me: low calorie and/or healthy ingredients do not necessarily lead to a compromise on taste.

Don’t Be Afraid to Innovate

Carrying on along the same vein, if you don’t have a particular ingredient for a recipe, that does not mean you cannot make the meal. Many ingredients can be substituted or left out altogether without the food being ruined.

Take my recipe for lentil and sausage casserole as an example. In all its glory, ingredients include tomato puree, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, Sage and Thyme. However, I could leave all of those ingredients out and still have a tasty end product. You might even put something else in to give the meal an extra dimension in lieu of missing ingredients – how about a dash of balsamic vinegar?

So many ingredients add hints of depth and flavor but are not necessary if you don’t have them to hand. Next time you’re missing a particular non-vital ingredient, don’t sweat it – just make do.

Keep It Simple, Stupid

When it comes to “normal” cooking, recipes should almost always be stupendously simple – complications are rarely necessary.

For instance, did you know that if you chop a carrot and fry it over a low heat in a little butter for about twenty minutes, you’ll get something that practically tastes like candy? (Thank you Eat By Date!) Or how about the aforementioned tinned tomatoes – heat them gently on the hob and they will soon thicken and sweeten into a sauce that you can use over pasta, in a casserole, or in a myriad of other situations.

Just one ingredient, cooked or prepared in a certain way, can taste awesome. Combine that ingredient with just a handful of others and you can create delicious meals. While top chefs may take pride in creating extremely complex dishes, the rest of us can rest easy in the knowledge that great-tasting meals can be produced without complication.

Be Creative

I’d like to invite you to experiment and try new things.

Got a bunch of ingredients in your fridge that are on their way out? See how you might combine them to form something truly tasty. The more you cook, the more you’ll appreciate how different ingredients can compliment each other (or not). I can’t understate how rewarding it is to be able to pick out a bunch of ingredients and create a tasty meal at will. It’s really not as difficult as it sounds.

Although I’ll be sharing plenty of recipes with you over the coming weeks and months, don’t ever be afraid to try something yourself. And when you do, please be sure to share your creations with us via Facebook or Twitter!

Enjoy!

Most of all, make sure that you enjoy the process of cooking food. For those of you who hate the idea of cooking, this may seem impossible, but I assure you that it is not.

The key to enjoying cooking is to take on board all of the things discussed above. Keep it simple. Be creative. Compromise when necessary. Treat recipes like guides rather than instructions. And create your own recipes using your burgeoning understanding of how different ingredients compliment each other.

Don’t make the process of cooking a to-and-fro between the recipe book and your stove. Grab all your ingredients and get going! If you screw it up, shit happens – you’ll learn how not to screw it up next time around. The more you cook, the better you’ll get and the more you’ll enjoy the process.

Bon appétit!