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More than 100 Recipes and Tips to Transform the Way You Cook and Eat -- Wholesome, Nourishing, Unforgettable
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“Isn’t [Pamela] amazing? I couldn’t boil water and now I regularly make dinner for my family.” — Jenni Kayne, fashion designer
Introduction: Eat Well, Live Well, Be Well
One of the first questions I ask a group of new cooking class students is, "What do you want to be?" And most of them have the same response: they want to feel positive, happy, sharp, energetic, light on their feet. Some of them want to return to their ideal weight, and pretty much everyone wants to have bright eyes and clear skin. That's all reasonable—and doable, if we can eat to support that and not eat foods that work against how we all want to be.
Unfortunately, here's the reality check: food and nutrition have become very complicated; there are so many "experts" touting conflicting ideas and lifestyles. And we have strayed so far away from simple, nutritious food that we don't even know what that means anymore! Almost three-quarters of the country is overweight and junk food is the largest source of calories in the American diet. But it's no fault of the average person that there is so much confusion around what is healthful and what isn't, what to eat and what to avoid. Food manufacturers use deceptive advertising to dupe us into thinking their products are "natural" or "wholesome" when they're anything but. Junk food is subsidized by the government to make it artificially cheap. Cooking is not a skill that is taught at home the way it used to be. Our lives are incredibly busy and hectic, leaving us with less free time.
I get it. I work full-time and I have three busy kids. But I had a pretty amazing foundation: my parents believed in cooking simple meals from scratch, growing organic vegetables in the backyard, and insisting on dinner together every night. We spent our Sundays surrounded by extended family and bright, vibrant platters of vegetables cooked straight from the garden, warm bowls of rustic pasta with homemade sauce, fork-tender meats, and crisp, colorful salads. I couldn't stay out of the kitchen, whether it was helping with dinner prep or wearing out the pages of the latest Gourmet magazine. I taught myself how to cook by observing closely, reading everything I could get my hands on, and getting really messy in the kitchen. Everything we cooked was very simple, but always homemade. But we were certainly not perfect and ate our fair share of (not whole-grain) pasta, bread, and (a lot of) cheese. We had normal (sugar-laden) birthday cakes and soda on special occasions. We didn't overthink food.
Getting married and having children was when I changed the way I looked at food. Once I had other human beings to feed, I started to connect the dots between food and nutrition. I went back to school to learn as much as I could about more healthful eating and slowly began to make changes in our pantry, how I cooked, and what we ate. The majority of my friends weren't on the same journey; they had the idea that cooking—be it for one person or twenty—was intimidating. But they were curious, eager to learn, and wanted me to share some of my recipes. Soon, I was giving tips on how to sweeten with dates, swap unhealthy fats for coconut oil, and use lentils in place of ground meat; I shared how I organized my pantry and navigated the farmers' market.
I knew then that I wanted to give other parents a fresh start in the kitchen and to help get their families eating well. My prospective students had one wish—to teach them how I did it. "It" was making three nutritious meals a day for my family, including a very picky son, without a lot of stress. This became the foundation for my cooking classes and my blog and eventually turned into a full-time business.
Over the last decade, I have taught people from all walks of life. I have been in hundreds of home kitchens. I talk to dozens of (mostly) parents every day, fielding questions about everything from picky eaters to allergies to how to boil water (really!). What has become very clear to me is that we all basically want the same thing: we want to live our best lives, be healthy, feel happy, connect with our children and one another.
My students have come to my cooking classes wanting to learn and do better. I have never criticized anyone for what was in her pantry or how many meals she cooked last week. Perfection is stressful, overrated, and unattainable. So, you made a frozen pizza for dinner last night? No big deal. So, you made a frozen pizza every night last month? Then I'm glad you have this book! The important point is that it's what you do most of the time that really matters.
Every individual and every family is unique. There's no judgment anywhere in this book, so don't ever feel bad about doing your best.
I live and teach in Los Angeles, the home of what's the latest, greatest new diet, health craze, and "it" food. In every single class, my students ask my opinion about this diet or that. Personally, I hate diets. Ironically, I can find data to support any diet out there, from Paleo to vegan, but that's not what I teach. Whereas I think it's pretty obvious we should be avoiding processed food and chemical-laden junk, there is a whole world of amazing foods you may not have ever eaten or cooked with before. It's so exciting to find new flavors and recipes that are nutritious and absolutely delicious. And I am not talking about turning vegetable pulp from your juicer into a patty—you won't find that here. Instead, you'll find modern, accessible recipes, the majority of which have been taught dozens of times and have been tested on my friends and family.
My kids didn't bounce down the stairs one day asking, "Mom, how come we never have millet in our house?" or "I saw a commercial for kale. Do you think we could try it?" Our unprocessed way of eating was driven by me since I knew that both my health and the health of my family were ultimately my responsibility. I believe with 100 percent certainty that what you eat matters more than anything else. The good news is that you have total control over that. You don't have control over your genetics or the toxins in the environment. But you are the one who chooses what goes in your shopping cart and what goes in your frying pan. I tell my students that we should all try to eat well, live well, be well. They really do work altogether. If you want to be healthy, cooking as much nutrient-dense food as often as you can is a good place to start. Your health matters—and your kitchen matters. And that's what this book is about.
We need to get your pantry and refrigerator stocked with the healthful ingredients that are key to making nutritious recipes. But to get there, the secret is being organized. We'll set up your kitchen so that it is conducive to cooking easily. You'll learn how and why you need to plan your meals for the week. And eventually, you'll learn to prep ahead, which will save you time and make cooking less stressful.
If you feel overwhelmed by all of this, you can and should start small. Make a few pantry swaps or buy one new food to try. If you currently don't cook at all, set a goal of cooking dinner once per week until you can handle cooking twice. Making one small change at a time will help lead to lasting habits down the road.
A LIFE-CHANGING APPROACH TO FOOD
So, what should we eat? At the end of the day, Michael Pollan said it best, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." And that's what I recommend. The recipes you'll find here will help you eat foods that have anti-inflammatory effects on the body, such as vegetables and legumes, and greatly limit foods that are pro-inflammatory, such as highly processed foods, fried foods, animal products, and sugar. My recipes also have a low-GI focus, which means they will help you severely limit eating such foods as refined carbohydrates and concentrated sweeteners that cause spikes in our blood sugar and lead to the release of a pro-inflammatory, fat-storage hormone called insulin.
Basically, these recipes rely on whole foods. A whole food has just one ingredient—itself—and it exists in the way it came into this world. It hasn't been bleached, deodorized, treated with chemicals, hydrogenated, refined, or combined with additives. Ideally, we should focus on as many whole foods as possible, but there are plenty of healthful foods that have been minimally processed, such as olive oil and almond flour. In general, the further you move away from the original food, the less nutritious it is. An orange is a whole food, but most commercial orange juices are not because the pulp (and the fiber) have been removed. To go further down the "food chain," orange Creamsicles don't even resemble the actual fruit and have many undesirable additives.
You're probably wondering about the meat question: high-quality meat has its place at my table, but in small portions. Similarly, a little dairy is fine if you can tolerate it, but I'll explain why it's better to use it as a condiment, and why sheep or goat options are preferred over cow. And is dessert on the menu? Of course! It's a treat and I do my best to use sweeteners that contain nutrients and in much smaller amounts.
COOKING AND EATING WITH POSITIVE INTENTIONS
I can't tell you the number of times I am in the middle of teaching a class with five recipes and a student will say to me, "You're so calm. I would be going nuts right now." And I always reply, "It's just food." Food should provide nourishment, pleasure, and sustenance, not stress and anxiety. Cooking should not generate feelings of fear. Once you set up your kitchen and pantry for success, you can cook anything in this book. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Your dinner is not being photographed or judged. So what if it may or may not look like something in a magazine? Be proud of the fact that you planned a healthful meal, shopped for it, and prepared it with love. The more you cook, the more confident you will become and the easier it will get, just like any skill.
The Well-Stocked Kitchen
If you want to enjoy cooking or at least be efficient in the kitchen, you need to have some basic tools and a strategy. These tips are ones I've learned from cooking in hundreds of homes, with kitchens of all sizes.
Overall, countertops should be free of clutter, lighting should be functional and bright, drawers should be organized by category, keeping likes with likes, and everything should be in an accessible place; otherwise you won't use it. Things that you use once a year can be stored in the garage, but that's no place for your food processor! Make space for the items you use—or would like to use—regularly.
Oven. Oven temperatures vary wildly. I remember one November when I taught roasted turkey in sixteen Thanksgiving classes. I had the same-size bird, prepared the same way, using the same roasting pan, taken out of the fridge for the same amount of time, and the cooking time varied one hour from the slowest oven to the hottest oven!
How do you know if your oven runs hot? Well, if most of the time after you follow a recipe, you're thinking, "Huh. That's so weird. I always burn everything or dry it out," your oven runs hot! But the best way to test the temperature of your oven is to buy a portable oven thermometer that can give you an accurate read. Or have a service technician come and test ("calibrate") it for you.
Regardless, get to know your oven! Know if it cooks faster on the bottom or in the back. And adjust your cooking to reflect that by shortening the cook time or rotating the pan to expose it to equal amounts of heat, if necessary.
TIP: Always check the inside of your oven before preheating it. I have found lots of things in people's ovens that they had forgotten about, including last night's baked potato or this morning's oatmeal, or things they forgot to mention to me, such as their entire collection of baking sheets or their kids' artwork from school!
Stove. I much prefer gas over electric since gas heat adjusts much faster to changes in the dial. But with gas burners you need to keep those openings clean so they light properly.
TIP: If you have a combination range, which has an oven and stove, you should put the fan on if you are using both the oven and stove, to prevent the computer elements from overheating. They are so expensive to replace when they burn out!!
Refrigerator. Make a habit of cleaning out your refrigerator weekly. Quickly wipe down all the shelves and bins and pull to the front the food that needs to get eaten right away so you don't forget about it.
Store likes with likes (e.g., nut butters, jams, cheese, mustards, etc.) to find what you need more quickly. I have found that using a stainless-steel lazy Susan for nut butters and other condiments can really help with organization (lazy Susans can be found very cheaply).
To keep storage spaces clean, line the crisper drawers with washable liners and keep plastic trays for small items, to prevent them from rolling around.
Lastly, you can use your phone to remind yourself to vacuum the refrigerator and freezer vents every three months, to prevent the motors from overheating.
TIP: You can also use this opportunity to menu plan, since your cleaning will help you to know what foods need to get used up pronto. I do my weekly clean on Saturday morning; this helps with my Sunday menu planning.
I have listed equipment here that I believe is helpful to make the recipes in this book and facilitate an enjoyable cooking experience. It's best to keep the inventory of equipment simple. Don't hold on to gadgets that have one use or that you rarely use. Aim for quality over quantity. When I was first married, I started to build my collection of All-Clad pans and Staub cookware slowly one piece at a time, waiting to purchase when I saw a big sale at the store. I have maintained all the same pieces and they still function beautifully.
If you are on a limited budget or you are just starting out, you really only need a couple of good knives and a few pieces of heavy-bottomed, high-quality cookware with which you can do a lot. See the Resources section for specific brands and where to purchase.
Baking Pans. I recommend using baking pans made from glass/Pyrex, ceramic, enameled cast iron, or black baker's steel. Try to avoid nonstick coatings and untreated aluminum, both of which when heated leach into your food.
9- or 10-inch pie plate (2)
8- or 9-inch round cake pan (2)
Standard 12-cup muffin tin + unbleached parchment liners or reusable silicone liners
8-inch square baking pan
8½ × 4½-inch loaf pan
Not necessary, but nice to have if you like to bake: 9- or 10-inch springform pan
Baking Dishes. These are for such things as casseroles, brownies, granola bars, and even roasting a whole chicken. I use Pyrex, ceramic, or enameled cast iron.
9 × 13-inch
7 × 11-inch
Baking Sheets. I use rimmed baking sheets constantly for roasting vegetables, baking cookies, making granola, and so much more. It is very difficult to find heavy, stainless-steel rimmed baking sheets, so I line anything aluminum or nonstick with unbleached parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
I suggest at least two 13 × 18-inch "half sheet" pans and if you have a smaller oven, two 10 × 13-inch "quarter sheet" pans, too.
Blender. A good blender is so useful for making smoothies, nut milk, dressings, and creamy desserts. The stronger your blender, the more creamy and smooth the results will be. If it is in your budget, go for a Vitamix or another high-speed, professional-strength blender. They are worth every penny; they can turn cashews into cream and blitz rock-hard fruit into the smoothest puree. I use mine daily. You don't need both a standard blender and a Vitamix, however.
Coffee Grinder. A small electric coffee grinder is great for grinding seeds (e.g., flax) and spices. It's not an essential tool, but it can come in handy.
Colander and Sieve. Use colanders for draining pasta and veggies; a fine-mesh sieve is what you need for rinsing itty-bitty quinoa or straining stock to be ultraclear.
Cooling Rack. If you ever bake cookies, a wire cooling rack will help them cool properly. These racks are also handy for drizzling doughnuts!
Cutting Boards. You need at least one large cutting board, preferably with grooves on the edges to catch drippings from cooked meat, and a small one for smaller jobs.
I prefer wood, which is naturally antibacterial and won't dull your knives the way plastics do. Wood requires a bit more maintenance, so be sure to dry your boards well before putting them away and every couple of months rub a little coconut oil into the surface.
Food Processor. Your food processor will be your best friend in the kitchen because it makes quick work of such tedious tasks as shredding a dozen potatoes or slicing pounds of onions. You can also use a food processor for pastry dough, pureeing sauces and dips, making homemade nut butter, and sometimes pulsing vegetables. An 11-cup capacity is perfect for most home cooks. If you cook for larger numbers of people, you might find a 14-cup more useful. See the Resources section for the brands I use.
Check out my YouTube video for how to use your food processor. No matter which brand you have, you must keep it in prime real estate in your kitchen, or you will never use it!
Glass Jars and Containers. Unlike plastic storage containers, glass containers don't leach chemicals, are easy to clean, and don't hold onto odors. Glasslock brand containers are a great option for leftovers, and for cut fruit and vegetables. You can store all nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and the like in differently sized glass jars; you can buy them at such places as the Container Store, or you can simply soak the labels off of empty jars from things like nut butter and tomatoes and reuse them for storage. See here for how to freeze in glass containers.
Kitchen Scale. When you need to be accurate, there's no other way than with a kitchen scale. Choose one that can measure in pounds and ounces and can weigh at least up to 5 pounds.
Kitchen Timer. You can use the timer on your phone, but I find that having a dedicated one in the kitchen helps me to use it all the time. If you're a multitasker and cooking more than one thing at a time, a triple timer is a great help to keep you from getting distracted.
Kitchen Towels. Thin towels, such as flour sack towels or herringbone towels, don't leave lint, are inexpensive, and can also double for such tasks as straining yogurt or squeezing the water out of shredded potatoes.
Knives. Hands down, two of the most common questions I am asked are "Which knives should I buy?" and "How often should I get them sharpened?"
Before buying a knife, really hold it to see whether it feels comfortable in your hand. My local Sur La Table allows you to chop vegetables with their knives before buying one. See the Resources section for the brands I use.
You only need four knives to complete your kitchen:
A chef's knife, either a 6-inch or an 8-inch, or both
A 4-inch serrated knife for slicing tomatoes
A paring knife for trimming, poking beets, and coring fruits
A serrated bread knife
TIPS: Please, please, please keep your knives sharp. If you do nothing else I recommend, get your knives sharpened regularly! Prep work will be so much more fun, easy, and safe with sharp knives. All knives, even expensive ones, need regular sharpening. You can use your honing steel to sharpen your knives at home, but it's still best to take them every six months to a professional. Check your area for cutlery stores or ask your local cookware store if it does sharpening.
Hand wash your knives and dry them right away to make them last longer.
Meat Thermometer. This is nonnegotiable since this is the only way to determine whether your poultry or meat is cooked to the perfect temperature. If you aren't sure your thermometer is accurate, dip the tip of it into a pot of boiling water (put an oven mitt on your hand). If the temperature goes up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, it's a keeper!
Microplane Grater and Zester. A grater is useful for such things as ginger, Parmesan cheese, and garlic. You can use a finer zester for citrus and nutmeg.
Mixer. A stand mixer is great as it allows you to do other things while it creams butter or beats egg whites. My favorite is the KitchenAid tilt-head stand mixer. Make sure you have the paddle attachment, whisk attachment, and bowl. You can also buy different accessories to make pasta or ice cream, or grind meat. A handheld mixer is fine, but not as efficient as a stand mixer.
Mixing Bowls. Glass nesting bowls are easy to keep clean and easy to store. You need at least one large bowl, one medium-size, and one small.
Nut Milk Bag. If you plan on making nondairy milks frequently, a nut milk bag makes the creamiest nut milk ever. It takes up no space, is very inexpensive, and is reusable for years.
TIP: Keep a second nut milk bag for squeezing the water out of vegetables.
Pepper Mill. You can elevate your cooking simply by swapping freshly ground pepper for preground. Big flavor boost. Trust me.
Pots and Pans. Since untreated aluminum and nonstick cookware can leach aluminum and PTFEs and PFOAs, respectively, into your food at high heat, I only use stainless steel, enameled cast iron, or cast iron. (If you must own a nonstick skillet, look for one with a ceramic coating. They tend to scratch easily, but they are not terribly expensive if you have to replace them frequently.) Here are the basics:
Small: 2-quart saucepan with lid
Medium-size: 3- to 4-quart saucepan with lid
Large: 5- to 6-quart pot with lid
Extra-large: 10-quart stockpot with lid if you want to make a huge amount of stock or chili for a crowd.
Stainless-steel skillets (8-, 10-, and 12-inch)
Dutch oven (7-quart) for pot roasts, soups, and stews
Ruler. If you're like me and terrible at guessing measurements, a standard 12-inch ruler is essential. It can help, whether you need to measure a 2-inch cube of squash or figure out whether your pan is 8 or 10 inches. It's also handy for leveling off flour in a measuring cup.
Slow Cooker. The slow cooker can be a lifesaver. Prep in the morning, press Start, and dinner is done when you get home. You can also use your slow cooker to keep things warm. For example, you can finish a soup at four p.m. and transfer it to the slow cooker on the warm setting until dinnertime. Opt for one with a ceramic or stainless-steel insert rather than nonstick.
- "Browsing through Pamela's recipes always makes me feel hungry and this book is no exception. She has a real talent for combining fresh, real ingredients in a way that simply makes you want to eat them. Whether you're just getting started with cutting out processed food or you're a seasoned cook, her easy and delicious recipes and simple philosophy will appeal to just about anyone!"—Lisa Leake, #1 New York Times bestselling author of 100 Days of Real Food
- "When I became a mom, cooking healthy meals at home became a priority. Pamela's teaching and recipes make it super easy! Her tips for planning meals and prepping ahead have changed my life."—Molly Sims
- "Pamela is one of the most well-respected cooking teachers in Los Angeles, and this culinary bible is the next best thing to sitting with her, taking in her vast knowledge of whole, natural food cooking."—Catherine McCord, weelicious.com, author of Weelicious and Weelicious Lunches
- "This cookbook is for everyone; gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, or vegan. Not to mention, the recipes are delicious and loaded with my favorite 'Fab Four' wild proteins for muscle tone, healthy fats for glowing skin, plus loads of fiber and antioxidant-rich vegetables for gut health!"—Kelly LeVeque, BeWellByKelly.com, Holistic Nutritionist & Health Coach
- "Kitchen Matters is packed with tasty, enlivening homemade meals that are so easy and approachable, they become second nature. It's an incredible resource for anyone who's looking to rid their pantry of processed foods and get on a path to a healthier kitchen and lifestyle."—Jodi Moreno, author of More with Less and whatscookinggoodlooking.com
"Her food is refreshingly un-preachy; the emphasis is on showcasing seasonal produce at its peak."
"You'd better be standing in a kitchen when you flip through this book for the first time-the enticing color photos of the dishes will make you want to start cooking immediately."
—Taste for Life
"Beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout, Kitchen Matters is an impressive compendium of palate pleasing, appetite satisfying, kitchen cook friendly recipes that would grace any and all dining occasions."
—Midwest Book Review
- On Sale
- Jun 13, 2017
- Page Count
- 288 pages
- Da Capo Lifelong Books