10 Simple Recipes Everyone Should Know

February 15, 2010

Jamie Oliver won the 2010 TED prize this past week for his efforts to stop obesity. The facts and statistics he revealed in his accompanying TED talk were eye-opening and downright alarming. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight. Diet-related disease is the nation's biggest killer. Smoking costs the country less than obesity. And for the first time in four generations, current American children have a shorter expected lifespan than their parents by 10 whole years, largely because of what they eat at home and at school. One of the reason for this rise in obesity, diabetes and heart disease is that few people cook, instead relying on fast food and store-bought junk. The most shocking part is that some children don't even recognize real food when they see it. Jamie mentions that every child should learn how to make 10 recipes by the time they finish school, recipes that will get them through life without complications.

Here are the 10 basic recipes that I think everyone should know how to make. These simple foods are versatile, meaning you can easily switch them up to combat boredom. Oh yeah-- they happen to all be vegetarian.

  1. A killer low-fat salad dressing. Salads can be one of the biggest fat traps, and the culprit is usually the dressing. Load your plate with dark greens, a multitude of colorful veggies (think ROY G. BIV), and healthy protein like soy or legumes, then pour on a reasonable amount of flavorful, low-fat dressing.
  2. A healthy stir-fry sauce. Stir-fry is one of the easiest meals to throw together: protein, vegetables and sauce. However, the sauces you buy at the store can be full of fat, sodium and-- the horror-- MSG; skip the bottle and make your own. A good sauce can also serve marinade for meat, tofu or tempeh.
  3. A basic vegetable soup. It's easy to make healthy vegetable soups, but many of the commercial broths, stocks and bouillion cubes are laden with sodium and preservatives. Make a good quality stock from scratch, then throw in vegetables, beans, pasta-- you name it-- as you like.
  4. A reasonable comfort food, like bean and pumpkin chili or mac and cheese with hidden cauliflower.We all crave comfort from time to time, and sneaking in vegetables can be a great way to reduce the impact of our favorite comfort foods on our heart and waistline.
  5. A power breakfast, like veggie-heavy low-fat omlette or tofu scramble. Cereal, pastries and toast are often full of empty carbs that leave your stomach growling before you've finished reading through your inbox. Start the day off right with a healthy mix of protein and fiber.
  6. An easy casserole. This quinoa casserole is gluten-free, packed with protein, and super easy to cook. Add veggies to suit your taste.
  7. A satisfying snack. Hummus isn't low-fat, but a couple of tablespoons with celery sticks and baby carrots makes a tasty, hunger-satiating snack that won't pack on the pounds. Try experimenting with different flavors, like red pepper, roasted garlic or black olive to keep things fresh.
  8. A versatile side. Roasted vegetables make an incredibly flexible dish that never goes out of season; roast whatever is fresh. Heat caramelizes the sugars in the vegetables and brings out incredible flavor, pleasing even those reluctant to eat anything green. Serve roasted vegetables as a side, mixed with whole-grain pasta, over polenta, in salads, burritos or wraps; the possibilities are endless.
  9. A tasty dessert. At some point in your life, you are going to need to provide something sweet for the office, little league, a birthday party, a bribe, etc. And what is life without a (moderate) bit of sweetness? Cupcakes aren't exactly health food, but they do have built-in portion control, which is a significant plus. Just make sure you don't go crazy with the frosting-- that's where the real damage lies.
  10. A fancy meal to wow anyone. The elegance of quiche never fails to impress, while cutting out the eggs and crust saves calories.  Use a different vegetable or cheese and you have an entirely different meal.

What healthy dishes do you think everyone should know how to cook? image by really short



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goodmami's picture

Regarding the stir-fry sauce, MSG is not bad for you. There was a scare-article about "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" in the 1960s, but after numerous scientific studies no ill effects have been found related to MSG. Consider the fact that Japan has one of the highest life expectancies in the world and very low levels of obesity, and that they consume a large amount of MSG.


Donata's picture

...but why use msg if you're cooking at home??? Awesome talk points, love the idea of teaching kids how to cook and specifying the ten recipes everyone should know how to make. Here in the northwest culinary classes for kids are popping up everywhere. This is a great discussion to bring to our School District's PTA's to bring culinary classes as an extra-curricular activity. At the high school level the culinary classes are doing a really good job teaching students how to cook healthily and stylishly!

Bringing education to the "less fortunate" could also help with the obesity issue. I often volunteer at the food bank and we will have the most divine produce that goes literally untouched, I think, because folks have no clue what to do with it. Watching what folks buy with food stamps is always a tragedy to me as well.

Thanks to Jamie Oliver for re-kindling my desire to kick start a program here, similar to one available in Oregon, to promote nutritional awareness to children and the "less fortunate".

Karen's picture

While his focus is not on what is happening in our homes, the things we do to bring dinner and our children back to our and other people's tables is important, too. If our children learn to cook at school but never see their parents do it at home, it is likely to be a wasted lesson.

Gabi's picture

Even though I cook at home a ton, I too have been falling off the healthy food wagon a bit since testing Thanksgiving recipes for a whole month. I think this is a really great reminder not just that we should be teaching children these things, but as you say, that all adults should have these easy, nutritious recipes in their back pocket as well.