These quick-and-easy, low-fat and low-sodium cooking tips focus on MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids), staple foods that form the basis of the Flat Belly Diet! These methods bring out the full flavour of MUFA-rich foods. We’ve thrown in a few key test-kitchen tricks, too.
ROASTING VITALISES VEGIES
Virtually any vegetable benefits from tossing it with a little canola oil, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper and then roasting it at fairly high heat (200°C) for 30 to 45 minutes (until it’s nicely browned).
Make sure to roast your vegies in a shallow baking dish—the bottom of a broiler pan or even a rimmed cookie sheet is fine—so the hot air surrounds and browns them nicely. Avoid deep casserole dishes. And don’t cover your dish—you won’t get the right colour or crispness.
If roasting is new to you, here are some of our favourite transformations:
• pale, bland cauliflower caramelises to a golden brown and takes on rich, nutty flavour.
• brussels sprouts lose their bitterness. They also avoid the mushiness that often results from stovetop steaming—roasted sprouts are sweet and crisp.
• potato slices emerge from the oven with a crisp, chiplike crust and tender centre. Combine these with similarly slivered sweet potatoes for a more colourful and nutrient-rich side dish.
POACHING PERFECTS FISH
Poaching is a simple way to quickly and gently infuse flavour without adding fat. Immerse fillets of any mild-flavoured, firm-fleshed fish in barely simmering liquid and cook until just opaque all the way through—about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on thickness.
Our favourite poaching fish: salmon, sea bass and cod. For a quick poaching liquid, roughly chop a carrot or two, a stalk of celery, and an onion. Add the vegies to a pan of water, along with a splash of vinegar or lemon juice; toss in a few whole black peppercorns, a bay leaf, a sprinkling of salt and any fresh herbs you like. Remove the fish and vegetables when cooked through and turn up the heat to reduce the poaching liquid to a sauce.
SLOW COOKING DOES MOST OF THE WORK FOR YOU
Slow cookers have earned a spot on many kitchen benchtops; they offer convenience, heightened taste and versatility. This method maximises flavour and minimises fat. Low-fat proteins, lean cuts of meat and dried beans are all easy to slow cook. Tips: cut raw meat into pieces and place them at the bottom of the slow cooker (this heats it up relatively quickly), and make sure cooking times are specific to your appliance (they differ, depending on size).
GRILLING IS THE GREATEST
For fast, low-fat meals, grilling is the way to go. Cooking over a flame melts off fat and imparts rich, smoky flavour to meat, chicken and seafood. For speed and simplicity, choose cuts of meat that cook within approximately 25 minutes over direct heat; try steaks and chops, or look for chicken pieces, fish, tofu and burgers.
Keep foods moist and flavours big by searing all sides to lock in juices. You may also want to marinate your meat before it meets the grill.
STIR-FRYING SERVES UP SWIFT ONE-DISH MEALS
A little oil and a lot of heat add up to a superfast, low-fat cooking method. Stir-frying requires some slicing and dicing in preparation, but it pays off with meals that cook in as little as 10 minutes.
Another advantage of stir-frying: it allows you to experiment with infinite combinations of proteins and vegetables. Thin strips or slices cook quickly and evenly over high heat; vegies retain their flavour, and proteins stay tender.
More stir-fry secrets:
• roll tofu cubes or strips of chicken in sesame seeds for a delicious added crunch.
• use baby vegetables, which are naturally sweet and require little to no prep.
• stir in a cup of frozen chopped spinach (slightly thawed) for 1 minute before your stir-fry is done to add colour, iron and flavour.