It's hard to go wrong when you cook with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. You don't need to worry about precise measurements, cooking times or ingredient preparation. The recipes give you general guidelines, but if you do things a little differently, chances are your dish will still be delicious.
Many of the recipes list "bouillon" in the ingredients. Use your favorite brand of bouillon or experiment with new ones until you find some you like. You can use plain water and a little salt if you wish, but bouillon gives a flavor boost.
Bouillon comes in many forms: cubes, granules, pastes and liquid concentrates that are added to water, or canned bouillons and broths that are ready-to-use. Follow the package directions to make up the amount of bouillon called for in the recipe; usually you will add one cube or one teaspoon of the product for each cup of water. If a recipe specifies bouillon granules or bouillon cubes, add them to the pot without additional water.
Vegetable or chicken flavored bouillons have neutral flavors that go well with any whole grains, beans or vegetables. Whole grains cooked in vegetable or chicken bouillon can even be used in the recipes for desserts and as hot breakfast cereal. Stronger flavors, such as beef, ham or fish bouillons, can be used in hearty recipes such as chilies or soups. The recipes were tested with bouillon granules that contain salt, and you will find salt in most prepared bouillons. If you use a low-salt brand, adjust the seasonings to your own taste.
Most cooks don't do a lot of measuring. Recipes have to give measurements to give you some idea what the author has in mind. Measure out a teaspoon of salt and pour it into your hand to see what it looks like; then learn to use your eyes to measure. Use your taste buds, too. Taste as you go and adjust the seasonings to suit yourself.
When a recipe calls for ingredients like an onion, a potato, an orange or a green pepper, use average-sized vegetables or fruits. If yours are very small or large, just make a good guess about how much you should use. If you like an ingredient, feel free to add more; if you're not crazy about it, add less or leave it out (see Substitutions below.)
Lots of recipes for fruits and vegetables instruct you to cut the ingredients up. How you do it is up to you. A knife and chopping board are easy to use and clean, but if you want to use a food processor or other favorite cutting device, go right ahead. You may enjoy cutting things into tiny, uniform pieces, but it's not necessary for these recipes. Generally, when the recipe says chop or dice, it means 1/4" to 1/2" chunks; anything smaller than bite-size is fine. Slice usually means cutting the ingredient crosswise into about 1/4" pieces. Mince means the pieces should be really small - 1/8" or so. To mince garlic, you may want to use a garlic press.
Vegetable and fruit skins are loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Don't throw them away unless you have to. Use this "rule of thumb" - if you can put your thumbnail through the skin, leave it on. This eliminates the tough ones like winter squash and the thick ones like banana and orange peels. If you think peeling is important for the texture or appearance of a recipe, go ahead, but at least think about it before you automatically throw away valuable fiber and nutrients.
Cooking times in recipes are approximate. Your taste testing is far more important than the clock. The ultimate test is "doneness." Check a carrot or a potato and see if it's tender. Cook a dish long enough to blend the flavors but not so long that it turns to mush.
All of these recipes can be used as springboards for new inventions. Be creative! You may want to make changes to use up ingredients you have on hand; you may not be able to find an ingredient in the store; or you may just prefer some other ingredient or seasoning. You may want to make notes on the substitutions you've tried and the results. Do be brave about trying things you "don't like"; new combinations and seasonings can change your mind.
Whole grains have bland flavors that are very similar to one another. They do have subtle differences in flavor and texture, so you will probably like some more than others (taste is highly individual.) Try several of the different types and decide which ones you like best. Then feel free to use your favorites in any of the recipes.
The calorie and nutritional information given with recipes is often misleading, inaccurate or just plain wrong. I think it's more important to have a big picture of what you should be eating -- plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other seeds and not much of anything else -- and judge recipes accordingly. That's the whole purpose of this book. Here are Diana's views on What Makes a Healthful Recipe.
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