My Favorite Hacks for Oil-Free Cooking
Many people balk at the notion that no oil is allowed during a fast. Some folks abstain from only olive oil and feel fine about using another kind during the fast, but others abstain from oil completely, which introduces an overwhelming list of cooking issues to overcome! An oil-free diet sounds hard, but it doesn't have to be. I've been living and cooking oil-free for a few years now and there are many little hacks I've learned along the way. Let me share them with you so that you might not bee so intimidated if you decide to give it a try for the fast. Here are what I found to be the three major problem areas and the tricks I've found to help me get around them.
The question I get from most people, who know that my family fasts perpetually, is "what do you eat then, salad?"
Yes, we eat salad...a different salads every night with flavors and textures and freshness that makes me wonder why we didn't eat like this before! Of course, the key to a really good salad is in the dressing, and during the fasting periods when oil isn't allowed, this can be a problem.
How do you enjoy salad without oil? I have the answer and I'll share it with you...I have the absolute best Oil Free Salad Dressing Recipes! And they're homemade, and they're easy to make!
If you have a blender, mini processor, or even a stick blender, you can effortlessly make the most delicious dressings without any oil at all, and your family will love them. It's as easy as dumping the ingredients in and blending them up! They all begin basically the same way: some vinegar, some water, some sweetener, some additions for bulk, and some seasonings. Just dump everything into the blender and go! Here's a chart I made up to help you.
Now that you have the list of dressings, how do you use them? Like this! Check out my 31 Salad combinations that pair with the dressings from my Salad Dressing Chart! The ByziMom's Garden Salads Guide
Everyone asks me how I enjoy things like sauteed onions or stir fried vegetables when I can't use oil to coat the pan. "Doesn't everything burn?" they ask. Well, no! Here's what I do.
When I've finished chopping or slicing my vegetables, I salt them and let them sit in the pan for a moment or two before I turn the heat on MEDIUM...not high. I stir them often, allowing the salt to draw the natural juices out of them to keep the veggies from sticking to the pan. You can keep a kettle of water on the stove and add a teaspoon of the cold water every so often as necessary when things look a bit dry, and I find this works really well. I can make beautifully browned, sauteed onions, with wonderful flavor without any oil at all. (Tip: The darker the caramelization on the vegetables, the deeper the flavor they develop!) I can add to the flavor by adding a drop of balsamic vinegar if I want to toward the end too. Stir fries are a breeze with this method using any vegetables I have on hand, and you don't have to use plain water to deglaze your pan! Wine (when permitted), tomato sauce, vegetable stock or juice, and nut milks can all be used to make sauces and gravies!
How about oven fries? Don't they stick to the pan? Here's my secret weapon for baking absolutely anything...is parchment paper. This is a glorious invention! When you're at the market, buy 2 rolls; you'll not want to be caught without it once you try it.
The perfect oven fries: Slice your fries however you like them (thick steak fries, thin shoestrings or even spiralized for the kids, and you can use sweet potatoes or white) and toss them with a little salt, some nutritional yeast and whatever seasonings you may want that night (rosemary is our favorite, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, whatever you like) and then dump them onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and toss them in to your preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes until they are soft and slightly browned. If you like them more crispy and well done, finish them under the broiler for a moment or two. When they look perfect, take them out and fold the parchment over the fries to make a little tent in which they'll keep warm and steam a bit to a tender perfection.
Another little hint: This method also applies well to fried rice!! Steam your rice first, in a solution of soy sauce and water, garlic and ginger; having added some chopped vegetables like carrot, zucchini, onion, mushrooms, baby corn, etc. When its done, dump it onto a lined baking tray and broil the top until its crispy and lightly toasted. Tent it in the same way for a few moments while you set the table and enjoy!
What do you spread on your bread if you can't use butter or olive oil?
I get asked this a lot, especially from moms who have kids to feed. It seems intimidating primarily because butter on bread seems like such a staple. Its a habit, a convention that we've all gotten used to, but it doesn't have to be the first thing you think of when making a slice of toast or a sandwich. We LOVE to toast our bread and rub it with a split clove of garlic before making a sandwich (usually fresh tomato). We also like to keep things on hand like avocado and hummus of all kinds, which add a creamy texture to a sandwich without having to use dairy spreads. I've also made spreads like cashew mayonnaise and cashew cheese spread; recipes for these can be found on my post about cheese withdrawl.