We learned so much about the importance of HOW our food is prepared. In this area, Beth became the point person—I am not a cook by any stretch of the imagination and have often joked about my ability to burn water! My one claim to any kind of a “gourmet” recipe is Misner Mush, a dish I created while in college. I made Misner Mush by combining Minute Rice (instant white rice) with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup and microwaving on high for three to four minutes! Please note that Misner Mush is NOT part of the Misner Plan. J
Before I was in remission, Beth made a point to wait to chop any vegetables until the moment she was ready to cook or serve them. When vegetables or fruits are chopped, they become exposed to the air and their nutrients begin to break down. This is one reason why fresh fruit juices are best consumed within ten minutes of their juicing! Oxidation begins breaking down the nutrients and antioxidants. I wanted all the benefit of those great antioxidants in my body, not in my refrigerator! Now that I am in remission, it is a bit of a time-saving technique for Beth to prepare each day’s vegetables during the breakfast prep and cooking time, storing them in the fridge for use later that same day.
If you focus on a Good, Better, Best philosophy, it is certainly best to wait until you are ready to use the vegetables or fruits to slice, chop or juice them. And it is best to consume them immediately. Storing them for later use reduces the available nutrients in the foods. This is why Beth did not make more than we could eat at any one meal. We did not store leftovers in our fridge the entire time I was testing positive for active cancer cells in my body. The only exception was my lunch, which Beth would prepare when she was cooking our breakfast. I take lunch with me to the office, put it in my fridge and then reheat it in my microwave at lunchtime, several hours later. This is obviously not in the Best level of our hierarchy of Good, Better, Best, but it is what works for me. And it is much better than fast food or a frozen dinner.
When it comes to cooking, Beth took out all of our Teflon pans and threw them away. Dr. Joseph Mercola writes about the safety of non-stick cookware. The conclusion Dr. Mercola makes will forever ring in our consciousness: “Teflon is perfectly safe to use, until you heat it.” Well, that is the point of Teflon cookware, to cook in it. Beth had been aware that scratched Teflon was not good to use, but how many of us get rid of our Teflon pans when they get a little scratch, or rather do your Teflon pans, like our used to, have many, many scratches and yet we continued to use them anyway? Of course they do! We did, too.
We invested in a set of All-Clad stainless steel cookware and a few pieces of Xtrema ceramic cookware. Beth found a couple of stainless steel skillets that have a ceramic coating and make great pans for making omelets. She has a couple of Creuset pieces, and she has her grandmother’s cast-iron skillets. There are the types of pots and pans Beth cooks in. For baking, she uses stoneware and glass baking dishes. When she bakes muffins, she lines the metal muffin tins with unbleached cupcake papers to avoid using a lot of oil or butter in the cups.
It is how one cooks in these various pans which becomes important. Our first lesson was in cooking in oil. Beth had stopped her Southern tradition of deep frying many years ago. Her deep fryer was donated to charity a long time back, but it had still been tempting for her to fill a large skillet with an inch of oil and cook up a batch of homemade chicken strips. She had to stop this practice. We learned that heating oil to a very high temperature causes chemical changes to the oil itself which makes it dangerous to eat. We learned that the “smoke point” of oils is critical when considering which oil to use in cooking and which oil to use after the foods are cooked for additional nutrition and flavor.
Beth cooks at a low temperature in coconut oil. For higher-temperature cooking she uses mild-tasting grape seed oil or for more flavor, tea oil. If she wants a bit of a butter flavor, she very rarely will use ghee (clarified butter) at a low temperature. Other than these oils, she does not cook, bake, or fry with anything else. Especially olive oil. Olive oil has a very low smoke point and is not healthy to eat when heated, but it can be very nutritious when eaten at room temperature. My favorite salad dressing is equal parts EVOO and fresh lemon juice with sea salt, garlic powder, Italian spices or freshly grated ginger. Or just by itself. This dressing goes well on grilled vegetables, steamed vegetables, cooked rice or quinoa. It has become one of my favorite condiments. I even take 2-oz bottles of this dressing with me when I fly. It helps the airline food taste better to me.
Steam “frying” is a very effective way to cook. You can heat about 1/4” of water in a skillet and add your cut up veggies once that water has come to a brisk boil. The steam will penetrate and cook your foods without the added oils, if that is your goal. What I was really surprised by was how quickly I lost weight while consuming sometimes up to ¼ cup of olive oil per day. It was not necessary to avoid oil for me to come into a healthy weight. Actually the use of healthy oils assisted my liver with detoxifying my body and processing extra body fat which previous had been difficult to burn off.
Beth studied the benefits of eating raw foods and did incorporate more raw food into the Misner Plan, but we did not go to exclusively raw foods. It is true that there are more active enzymes, the catalysts for digestion and complete nutritional absorption, but it is also possible to use digestive enzymes to assist with this process. We personally eat digestive enzymes with every cooked meal we have. I have been eating digestive enzymes for many, many years. Probiotics also aid our digestive processes and we use them both in capsule form and by eating yogurt and drinking kefir. I definitely eat many more raw foods than I ever did before and I enjoy them like I did not previously.
It is important to cook grains just to the point of being slightly soft. They should not be soggy or mushy (see, so much for Misner Mush!). When grains become soggy or mushy, the growth of molds or fungi can happen so much faster. Think of cooking your grains to the point of being al dente, just like your pasta! Before I was in remission, Beth was careful not to cook extra rice, for example, and put it in the fridge. The fridge is usually a place where the very resilient, opportunistic molds lurk. Giving them a fresh grain source of nourishment is a delight to them. Soggy and mushy grains have a high water content, again contribution to the faster proliferation of these microorganisms.
There are some basic cooking tools Beth needed to add to her kitchen inventory to prepare fresh foods from scratch. Gone were the bags of pre-cut veggies (look at the ingredient’s list…you will usually find preservatives in these foods), gone were the packaged grated cheese (certainly these will have mold inhibitors, not to mention some which even contain aluminum!), and gone were the frozen sweet potato fries. It is very true that washing, preparing, chopping and cutting fresh vegetables and fruits at each meal can be very time consuming. But having the proper tools can offset this and help you with your food preparation.
The basic tools we added to our kitchen were:
- Vita-Mix® blender (with BPA-free pitcher)
- Breville® juicer (both the Juice Fountain and the Juice Foundation Crush models)
- Cuisinart® food processor with the 12-cup and 4-cup bowls for large and small jobs
- Fine hand grater
- Vegetable peeler
- CutCo® knife set
- Yogurt maker
Beth found that it was important to wash up her tools immediately after using, rather than loading them in the dishwasher for later clean up. That way they were back in place and ready to be used at the next meal. Since there are just the two of us at home now—our kids are grown and out of the house, often the dishwasher is not turned on after each and every meal. It is not time consuming to rinse the bowls, pitchers and utensils immediately after using and then wash them with soapy water while the foods are simmering in the pots and/or pans.
These tools make chopping, slicing, grating, pureeing and blending the fresh food ingredients so much easier. They are an investment in your health, literally a health insurance payment!