Fast food and processed, convenience meals are widely blamed not only for the obesity epidemic that affects millions across the developed world, but also for many chronic, degenerative diseases.
Preparing healthy, nutritious meals need not be difficult or any more time consuming than nuking a pre-made curry or popping out for a burger. With the right kitchen appliances, both large and small, creating quick, tasty and nutritious meals is simple, says Cynthia Hew of Bon Vivant.
“People don’t always understand the value of large appliances. A lot of people purchase smaller appliances – steamers, pressure cookers, juicers and so on – but if you make the investment and spend the money up front, for example on a steam convection oven, you get this beautiful appliance that will reduce cooking time and also provide a healthy way to cook,” Hew explains.
Steam convection ovens tend to be a little smaller than conventional electric or propane ovens, although they easily fit a 10-pound turkey, for example. Steam ovens have a number of functions, so they can be treated as regular ovens, without the steam, as well as with steam. The steam setting is an ideal way to reheat food without dehydrating it or altering the flavour, as often occurs with microwaves.
“This can do everything a microwave can do but better, with the exception of popping popcorn. It also reduces your cook time by about 30 per cent so the convenience is there,” says Hew. “Even a three-day-old pizza will be brought back to life with a steam oven.”
Alternatively, you can cook full healthy, low fat meals from scratch on the steam convection setting, keeping nutrients and flavours locked into the food without the need for oil and fat.
Bon Vivant stocks steam ovens from Gaggenau, Thermidor and Miele.
Induction stove tops
“Often people just don’t know what is out there in terms of technology,” Cynthia says. This is true of many of the appliances Bon Vivant carries.
Induction stove tops are ideal time savers and energy savers, as well as providing a degree of protection from potential burns.
“It’s all to do with the magnetic energy between the cook-top and the pots,” explains Hew.
Magnets in the cook top react with the metal in the pans (you do need cast iron or 3-ply stainless steel pots and pans for these stove tops) to heat up much faster than conventional stove tops while remaining cool to the touch. A medium size pan of water can be brought to the boil in one to two minutes and when it is switched off, it cools instantaneously.
Not only does it make getting a meal on the go faster, but reduced cooking time also translates to lower energy consumption not only for the stove top but also means extractor fans, air conditioning units and so on have less work to do.
More than a blender
When it comes to small appliances, if you are going to buy one machine to speed up your food preparation and spice up your culinary repertoire, make it the Vitamix Professional Series 500.
“This is incredible,” Hew enthuses. “It will do everything from soups to dips to frozen desserts. It will crush ice, chop vegetables, it will mix dough, everything.”
With three settings (smoothies, frozen desserts and hot soups) and variable speeds it is the most versatile kitchen appliance you could hope for. Not only can it dry chop carrots and grate cheese, it will emulsify dressings, juice fruits, or make ice cream.
More than that, it can cook while it blends meaning you just throw in your veggies and broth, walk away for a few minutes and when you come back you will have a beautifully smooth, pureed, piping hot soup. Best of all however, because there are no detachable parts, it cleans in seconds – just add water, a dash of detergent and blend.
For those who are serious about healthy eating and want to ensure they get in their five a day and more, juicing is the way to go. 95 per cent of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables are in the juice and juices are rapidly absorbed into the blood stream, making them the quickest way in which the body can digest nutrients.
If you plan to juice fruits and vegetables regularly a dedicated juicing machine is recommended and the range of juicers from Breville are simply the best, says Cynthia. These excellent juicers produce 30 per cent more juice than similar machines from other manufacturers. With different settings for soft fruit and hard fruit, nothing is wasted and as well making juices these machines can make purees for smoothies or coulis.
People often make the excuse that they don’t have time to prepare meals from scratch, or that eating healthy is more expensive than eating junk. With the technology now being put into kitchen appliances, large and small, food preparation is becoming faster and easier all the time. With little more than the touch of a button you can now have fresh juices, soups and steamed vegetables ready in the time than it takes to call for a pizza. And let’s face it, there is no better investment than your own health.