Food Should Be Delicious. Period.

Food provides our body with the nutrients it needs for normal function, but its role extends far greater than that. Food connects with our emotions, helps us create memories, and joins us with friends and loved ones. Traditions and cultures are built around the food we eat and how we eat it. Food is an art, an outlet to express our creativity, and a way to spread generosity. Creating delicious food is not meant to be stressful. The process doesn't need to be complicated and it doesn't require a culinary degree. By developing a few simple skills, you can begin having fun in your kitchen and crafting flavorful dishes that happen to be nutritious.

Basic Techniques for Healthy Cooking

  • Grill: to cook on top of a direct heat source with little to no oil or butter. This produces charred grill lines and a smoky flavor.
  • Sauté: to cook quickly in a little oil (like olive or canola). This keeps the food tender and soft with bright color and benefits from added sauces, which add extra flavor.
  • Bake/Roast: to cook in an oven. This can result in a golden brown color with a little crispiness, and can keep meats tender.
  • Boil: to cook a food in hot water that bubbles and breaks the surface. This will soften vegetables, especially starches, such as potatoes and peas.
  • Steam: to cook food over the steam from boiling water, without putting it directly in the water. Foods will be soft, similar to those that are boiled.
  • Broil: to cook under direct heat, very quickly. This can produce a golden brown color on the top of dishes, melt cheese, add crispiness or toast bread.

The Elements of Flavor

Flavor is defined as a sensation detected throughout the mouth and nose through taste, texture, and aroma. Some people have developed a mindset that "if it tastes good it must be bad for you," but that couldn't be farther from the truth! Since taste is the number one influence that determines what foods we eat, learning more about developing flavors can help us enjoy the taste of eating right!

  1. Taste - The five most common taste profiles are salty/umami, sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy. They work together to create balance in flavor by complimenting one another in a dish. A well-balanced dish usually has at least three of these flavor profiles present. Here is an easy-to-use chart that includes foods in each of the five flavor profiles! Visit the cooksmart site for more printable cooking guides.
  2. Texture - A mixture of textures create a variety of sensations in the mouth, adding depth and interest to a meal.  An example of this would be lasagna, made with creamy ricotta cheese, soft noodles, juicy tomatoes, rough ground meat, and crunchy cheese browned on top.
  3. Aroma - The aroma of a food combines with taste and texture to balance the overall flavor. If a food has a less-appealing aroma, such as asparagus, it can be paired with a food that has a more appealing aroma, such as caramelized onion to create an overall better flavor.

Challenge:

This week, create a delicious salad using the following three guidelines:

  • Pick at least one cooking technique
  • Pair at least two taste profiles (salty/umami, sweet, sour, bitter, spicy) Hint: reference the flavor profile chart
  • Choose a variety of colors and textures

Example: Bed of spinach (bitter), a layer of beans and corn (sweet), crisp red pepper and onion (color/texture), grilled chicken strips (cooking technique) seasoned with cumin and chili powder (spicy), sprinkled low-fat cheddar cheese (salty), a spoonful of spicy tomato salsa (spicy), a dollop of plain Greek yogurt (sour, creamy) and the juice of 1/2 lime (sour).