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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cooking Can Save Your Life

Amidst our busy lives, we do everything possible to spend less time on daily chores like cooking. But really we should be spending more time in the kitchen.

Cooking nourishing meals is one the easiest and most effective ways to keep ourselves and our families in good health. According to a study from the National Institutes of Health, people who cook at home live longer than people who don’t, regardless of their knowledge of nutrition and physical ability to shop for food and prepare meals (Chen et al. 2012).

Researchers found that people who cooked at home at least 5 times per week were almost 50% more likely to be alive 10 years later, but even people who cooked less frequently saw benefits. The more frequently they cooked, the longer they lived.

If you're new to cooking or simply seeking inspiration, consider these cookbooks. They're some of my favorites for winter-time cooking and they also make great gifts.!important;%20margin:0px%20!important;All About Braising
This book is truly a "treasury of one-pot meals." Braising is an excellent way to produce delicious and succulent meals with inexpensive cuts of meat and relatively little effort. This week I made Lamb Shanks with Lentils and Curry on page 410, and served with a big green salad, it's my new favorite cold-weather meal.

All About Roasting
Also written by Molly Stevens, this book explores dry heat cooking and givers readers recipes that are simple, straightforward, and healthy. In addition to traditional roasts like beef, pork, poultry, and lamb, she offers recipes for less common foods like goose and goat, and less commonly roasted foods like fruits, vegetables, and seafood.

Vegetable Soups
Vegetarians and omnivores alike will appreciate the easy and delicious soup recipes in this cold weather staple from Deborah Madison. I love her recipe for Yellow Pea and Coconut Milk Soup on page 88. Next on my list are Peanut Soup Senegalese Style on page 94 and Lentil Soup with Pounded Walnuts and Cream on page 81.

Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special
Vegetarians and pescatarians will love these healthy and delicious recipes from the Moosewood Collective. I bought this book when I visited the Moosewood restaurant in upstate New York after falling in love with their house salad dressing (find the recipe on page 324). This cookbook has a lot of good recipes but my favorite is the Caribbean Shrimp and Vegetable Soup on page 165 (I often substitute firm white fish like halibut, arctic char, pollock, sablefish, or cod for the shrimp).

The Art of Simple Food
For novice cooks, this book is the perfect place to start. Inside Alice Waters shares simple and straightforward recipes that form the foundation of good home cooking. She teaches readers how to organize a pantry, shop for ingredients, plan menus, make basic sauces, and turn whole food ingredients into healthy and delicious meals using fundamental cooking techniques.  
The Art of Simple Food II is a great follow-up that focuses on fruits, vegetables, and herbs you can cultivate in your garden or find at your local farmers’ market.

This is a great book for people who want to cook more. Author Michael Pollan, also of The Omnivore's Dilemma, explains that the more you cook your own food, the less likely you are to be obese and suffer associated health problems. In his own effort to do more home cooking, he explores the "previously uncharted territory" of his kitchen and inspires readers to do the same. It isn't a cookbook but he does share a handful of recipes at the end to help readers get started using the same techniques he writes about in the book. 


Chen, R. C., M. S. Lee, Y. H. Chang, and M. L. Wahlqvist. 2012. “Cooking Frequency May Enhance Survival in Taiwanese Elderly.” Public Health Nutrition 15 (7): 1142–49.

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