An Introduction to Cooking with Canola Oil
Fat plays several important roles in cooking. It acts as a heat transfer medium in frying, creates crisp textures and intense flavours when browning, moistens and tenderizes food, aids in leavening, creates emulsions and gives the mouth a feel we all enjoy. Compromise becomes the key in healthy living. Food can still taste great but accepting different textures, modifying cooking methods, using less fat and carefully choosing the quality of fat we put in our diet are the keys to success. Remember to replace hard fats with oils where possible. This will replace saturated and trans fatty acids with healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
It becomes a real challenge to change our cooking and eating habits when we have to change for healthy reasons. Most of us have somewhere between 12 and 20 recipes, which we make repeatedly and rely on in a crunch. Applying the low fat tips to modify your tried and true recipes is the best place to start. It will make low fat cooking easier to fit into your lifesyle.
Modify Your Recipes by Changing the Ingredients!
This takes a bit of trial and error or some cooking experience to know which ingredients can be changed without drastically altering the recipe. There are four general ways to change the ingredients for low fat versions of your favorite recipes:
1. Substitute the ingredient with a lower fat choice. Ex: Replace sour cream with a low fat sour cream or yogurt.
2. Reduce the amount of the ingredient used in the recipe. Ex. Adding more legumes, pasta or vegetables to a chili to stretch meat.
3. Eliminate the ingredient. Ex. Vegetarian pizza or switch to a tomato based sauce rather than cream sauce on pasta.
4. Use a small amount of a high fat food as a flavoring rather than a main ingredient. Ex. A bit of sausage to flavor a rice dish. It is better to try to satisfy your desire for a taste than to constantly fight a craving.
5. Replace fats in your diets with a healthy oil high in monounsaturated (good) fats and low in saturated (bad) fats like canola oil!
Modify Your Technique!
Use the following cooking techniques and ingredients suggestions to modify or assess recipes for low fat. Ask yourself questions like:
1. Could I use a lower fat cooking method? For example roast or grill pork chops rather than fry them.
2. Is there excess fat I could trim from the meat? How could I stretch the meat or do I need to serve such a large portion?
3. Could I substitute a lower fat alternative?
4. What am I willing to substitute without sacrificing good taste?
5. Have I replaced fats in your diets with healthier choices that are high in monounsaturated (good) fats and low in saturated (bad) fats like canola oil!
Poaching, Steaming and Boiling
- Use steam or liquid to cook vegetables, meats, eggs
- Experiment with seasonings and liquids like stock, wine, apple juice
- High heat for brief periods.
- Suitable for tender cuts of meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables that cooks quickly.
- To ensure even cooking allow foods to "warm up" before cooking.
- Grilled Vegetables: Brush large sliced vegetables lightly with canola oil and place on the grill. Cook on both sides until soft. Allow to char slightly. Delicious!
Pan Frying or Pan Steaming (rather than frying)
- A small amount of liquid or oil is used to cook ingredients in a non-stick fry pan.
- Ingredients are covered with a lid (smaller than the diameter of the fry pan).
- Steam escaping from the food has nowhere else to go, but right back into the food.
- Traditionally, associated with cooking larger pieces of meat. It is also an excellent way to bring out the flavor of vegetables.
Soups and Stews
- Cook soups and stews ahead of time. Cool and skim excess fat before reheating.
- Puree vegetables for a thicker soup base.
- Replace meat with hearty vegetables.
- Adds extra flavor to meats, fish, vegetables or even fruit.
- Acts as a tenderizing agent for less tender cuts of meat.
- Trim skin and excess fat before cooking.
- Limit portions to 3 oz. (about the size of a deck of cards).
- Stretch hamburger with pureed legumes or bulgur.
- Cook lean meats to medium rare to prevent tough meat.
- Bake/Roast don't fry. Even hamburgers and meat balls!
- Choose low fat alternatives.
- Use full fat cheeses judicially, as a flavor agent.
- Puree cottage cheese for a rich tasting cream cheese.
- Use evaporated skim milk to give a creamy mouth feel to soups and sauces.
- Grill or roast for more intense flavors.
- Oven Fries: Cut potatoes into wedges, toss with a teaspoon or two of canola oil and sprinkle with salt, seasoning salt or no salt flavorings. Bake on a non-stick-baking sheet at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for 20 minutes. Turn and bake an additional 10 - 15 minutes. Serve immediately. You can also dip fries in slightly beaten egg white for a crunchy coating. Sesame seeds or herbs can also be applied after dipping in egg white.
Grains, Legumes, Pasta
- Grains, legumes and pastas are all great sources of carbohydrates, which add interest to a meal and fill you up. Experiment and see what taste sensations you can find.
- Legumes: Nutritional powerhouses. Incorporate into your diet slowly to allow your body time to adjust. Try canned legumes for convenience.
- Bulgur: A staple of Middle Eastern cooking. Made by precooking, drying and cracking wheat kernels. Simply cover with boiling water and let sit for 5 minutes. The bulgur will absorb the water and be ready to eat.
- Couscous: Resembles a grain but is actually a pasta. It is made up of granules of semolina meal. Simply cover with boiling water and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Whole-wheat couscous is also available.
Adding Flavor Without Fat
- Use other ingredients to add flavor to foods. Try herbs and spices, garlic, ginger, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, flavored wines, Soya sauce, hot sauce, salsa, and small amounts of sugar.