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Easy Cooking Under Pressure

By Cheryl Forberg, RD
Image of Quick and Creamy Black Beans
Most of us are very busy people. With that in mind, most of the recipes I develop are easy to prepare. I try not to use too many fancy ingredients or expensive kitchen tools either. However, portion size is always key, so measuring tools are a must (and they’re also necessary for most baking recipes anyway.) My favorite tools include liquid measuring cups, dry measuring cups, measuring spoons, and a food scale. And here are a few other must-have kitchen tools as well as a rundown on my favorite cooking techniques.

My Must-Have Cooking Tools

Squeeze bottles: I love to keep a variety of squeeze bottles on hand in the kitchen. Not only do they allow you to aim, shoot, and squeeze small amounts of sauces or dressings into a pretty design on your plate (instead of pouring out a big glob), but the narrower the opening, the slower the pour, meaning that you use less dressing or sauce. And a smaller amount translates into fewer calories. I even like to put purchased bottled dressings and sauces into squeeze bottles, because they deliver a much smaller portion and they’re so easy to use.

Spray bottles: Cooking oil spray is used throughout this book to minimize use of added fat. Rather than using aerosolized cans, I recommend purchasing an oil spray bottle, which you can find in most health food stores. Fill it with your own fresh oils as needed. For regular baking and sautéing, fill the spray bottle with a mild-flavored oil. Cooking oils can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 4 months. Because they are composed of highly unsaturated fats, they will turn rancid within several months after opening. Buying a large bottle with a great price tag is not the best option, since you’ll be adding less oil to your cooking. When in doubt of your oil’s freshness, throw it out and open a fresh bottle. One tablespoon of rancid oil can ruin the flavor of an entire recipe.

Handheld zester/grater: This multitasking tool gets regular workouts in my kitchen. Did you know that more than 50 percent of the vitamin C in citrus fruits is in the peel? For that reason, I like to grate the zest of a lemon or orange or whichever citrus fruit I’m using (or eating) into a pitcher of water, or onto my salad or cereal. I love the citrus flavor, and I know I’m getting an extra bang of vitamin C and not wasting any part of the fruit. The other use for this tool is grating hard cheeses, such as Parmesan or Romano. Yes, it’s high in calories, but a little bit goes a long way, and this tool allows you to grate a fine dusting of cheese on your salad or whole grain pasta without breaking your calorie budget.

Cooking Methods

I have a lot to say about the importance of good fats in a healthy diet. Because fat is so rich in calories, it’s important to make your choices carefully. I like to eat my good fats in the form of avocados, nuts, seeds, and a little olive oil here and there. In terms of cooking, I can really keep the calorie count down when I focus on methods that do not require much added fat.

  • Dry-Heat Cooking Methods: Use hot air or fat for heat transference. Using nonstick cookware and ensuring that the stove or oven is set to the right temperature are essential to successful dry-heat cooking.
  • Baking: This method cooks food in an oven at a controlled temperature, usually in the range of 200° to 400°F, which is considerably lower than broiling and grilling temperatures. For this reason, baking usually takes longer. Also, since the hot air circulating around the pan is what actually cooks the food, don’t crowd the oven without expecting the baking time to increase. Opt for nonstick bakeware so there’s no need to grease the pan or add extra oil.
  • Roasting: Like baking, roasting takes place inside an oven, where food is surrounded by heat in a closed environment. The resulting coloring, from light to deep golden brown, adds depth to the food’s flavor and richness to the color of any pan juices.
  • Broiling: This method involves placing food directly under a heat source, such as an open flame or an electric heating element. Cooking is usually accomplished rapidly, since the temperature is quite hot. In addition, the food’s surface will brown and can easily char. Your undivided attention is required here, because this method is quick!
  • Grilling: This style of cooking places food directly over a flame, which can be maintained by charcoal, gas, or different types of wood. The temperature range frequently used is 400o to 500oF, which allows the food to cook very quickly, depending on how close it is to the heat. Like broiling, this method results in browning and a crispy exterior, and, depending on the heat source, can enhance your food with smoky flavor.
  • Dry sautéing: a food is to fry it, typically in a moderate amount of oil, butter, or both. Sauté means “to jump” in French. This method is very quick and therefore involves high heat. Using a good nonstick pan and an optional mist of oil, we can accomplish the same result with just a trace of fat. The key is to ensure that the pan is hot before adding the food, to reduce the chances of sticking. A good nonstick skillet is required, and an oil mister makes “oil rationing” a breeze!
  • Wet-Heat Cooking Methods: Use hot liquid (typically water, broth, butter, or oil) to cook a food. The food may be fully submerged in liquid, suspended over it, or submerged in only a shallow portion of liquid. When water is used as the liquid, no added fat is needed to cook the food.
  • Poaching: This method involves placing food directly into water or another liquid, which may be seasoned. The item to be poached, such as a salmon fillet, an egg, or a chicken breast, is submerged in hot liquid and simmered just until cooked. Although there are special pieces of equipment available for poaching fish and eggs, a shallow saucepan works very well
  • Steaming: In this technique, food is placed in a metal or bamboo basket over boiling water, which allows steam to circulate around the food and cook it through. Although water works well as a steaming liquid, you can also use fat-free broths or add herbs and spices, such as garlic or ginger, to boiling water to enhance flavor.
  • Pressure Cooking: This method requires the use of a special piece of equipment called a pressure cooker, which is a heavy pot with a very tight-fitting lid. This pressure chamber allows food to cook quickly, and drastically reduces cooking time. No added fat is required for pressure cooking. I was a little intimidated the first time I tried this, but if you follow the manufacturer’s directions, you should have no problem. This has been my favorite cooking technique this winter. The more I use it, the more I love it. Here is my latest pressure cooker recipe.
Quick and Creamy Black Beans
Using a pressure cooker makes this recipe a snap. If you want to go meatless, eliminate the sausage and use vegetable stock. To kick up the protein, top with a poached or fried egg. Leftovers freeze well or make an easy taco filling. Add extra broth and you have a fabulous soup.

Yield: Two Quarts; Eight – 1 cup servings
Image of Ingredients

2 teaspoons olive oil
1-pound cooked smoked sausage, sliced in ½ inch pieces
1-pound dried black beans, rinsed well
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and cut in julienne
1 Enjoya bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 T chopped garlic
1 seedless Sumo tangerine, peeled and separated into segments
2 ½ quarts homemade beef or chicken stock (unsalted)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon smoked salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon ground pepper d’espelette or ½ teaspoon ground cayenne
½ teaspoon ground coriander


½ cup chopped cilantro
Grated cheddar cheese
Lime wedges


Heat oil in pressure cooker over high heat and add sausage. Cook for a few minutes until it starts to brown - about 2 minutes. Add beans, onion, Enjoya pepper, garlic, tangerine, stock and seasonings. Cover and cook at high pressure for 50 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool. Release lid. (May take 10 to 15 minutes for pressure to release before safely opening the lid).

Remove lid and season to taste with salt and serve. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro, cheese and/or lime wedges if desired.

Nutritional Analysis (for 1 one cup serving):

Calories 300
Total Fat 5 g
Sat Fat 1 g
Trans fat 0 g
Cholesterol 25 mg
Sodium 470 mg
Carb 41 g
Fiber 10 g
Sugars 3 g
Protein 25 g
Vitamin A 4% RDA
Vitamin C 35% RDA
Calcium 8% RDA
Iron 20% RDA
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