I’m learning to cook healthy

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 22, 2010

“Wow, Mama, that looks like a dish straight out of Southern Living Magazine,” my son said as I placed a bowl on the table. It was a recipe for Dijon chicken straight from one of the low-fat recipes in an American Heart Association cookbook. Thick brown gravy covered chicken breasts, zucchini, and carrot slices sprinkled with a little garlic. I wondered just how tasty it was since I had left out the Dijon mustard.

Just about the time I took the skillet off the burner, my daughter had arrived, opened the pantry door, and pulled the mustard out. It was sitting right in the corner where I’m accumulating more spices. It had been under my nose the three times I’d searched for it thirty minutes earlier. It was too late to stir in the one to two teaspoonfuls needed for the recipe.

Thankfully, the recipe worked fine without it.

Since I’ve been concentrating on low-fat recipes to prepare heart-healthy meals for my husband, I have purchased cookbooks, researched Internet sites, and had a consultation with a dietitian. Although I’ve always tried to be conscious of calorie counts, salt, fat, and sugar content, etc., it’s an absolute must now. It takes me twice as long to shop. I’m one of those people you might find in your way as you steer your cart down an aisle in a grocery store. There I’ll stand, deep in concentration, reading labels and trying to calculate total sodium content of two foods I want to cook at the same meal.

Frustration often sets in. Take pasta sauce. My daughter and I must have pulled every brand off the shelf looking for one that wouldn’t consume half my husband’s sodium count for a day. There are recipes in my cookbooks for that and other items such as chicken broth that I can make myself. I often remember the words of the cardiac rehab nurse who spoke with us in the hospital. She reminded us that so many convenient processed items on the grocery shelves have harmful and unhealthy ingredients. “We want everything instant, at our fingertips,” she said.

How true. It’s much easier to snatch a bag of shredded cheese off a dairy shelf even when there’s a block of the same kind at a cheaper price on the same aisle.

(Now how much trouble is it to pull out my grater and grate some cheese in my own kitchen?) It is easier to open a can of beans or black-eyed peas (although I do drain and rinse them to get rid of some of the sodium content) than it is go through the process of soaking dried beans or peas, then cooking them for an hour or so. The advantage is I can season them right.

I’m learning.

My goal is to put more and more low-fat dishes on our table that merit compliments for both looks and taste.