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Blog: On Health. On Writing. On Life. On Everything.

My Food Pyramid Is Topped By Freshness

February 20, 2011

Tags: food, arteries – hardening of, beet - red, blueberries – frozen, bok choy, butternut squash, cabbage – white, caraway, cell repair, chard – red, cauliflower, chana dal, cilantro, cod, development – stunted, diabetes, dill, eating well, fats – hardened, food - enhanced, food - enriched, food - improved, food - manipulated, food - processed, food - ready-made, food ersatz, food pyramid, food substitute, freshness, garlic, Government, green sauce, hake, high blood pressure, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, My Food Pyramid Is Topped By Freshness, obesity, olive oil, parsnips, pineapple mousse, quinoa – red, ribs - grass-fed, salt, shelf-life, split peas, sugar, vegetables

If the Government would ask me for my opinion of redesigning the food pyramid – which they won't because they go the food industry – this single principle would guide my food choices: Freshness.

There actually is no other food than fresh food; everything processed, enriched, manipulated, enhanced, improved, ready-made is not food but inferior food substitute. “Food ersatz” cannot build and repair cells as fresh food can – the outcome is stunted development and disease in the long run.

If you think you are doing yourself a favor by eating, for instance an apple-flavored nutritional bar – think again. That bar has too much sugar and salt, to start with, promoting obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure – cornerstones of the metabolic syndrome. Its ingredients are made to have a long shelf-life. Why would you want to eat something even mold doesn’t want to touch? Its oils a hardened to make them not go rancid quickly – and in turn those hardened fats will harden your arteries. Its apple flavor is artificial and does not what a daily apple does so well: Keeping the doctor away.

Good health is very easy: Move a bit every day, eat well and get enough rest. Then, love a bit – and you are all set.

The devil of course is in the fine print. What does “eat well” mean? Your mind starts spinning if you listen to all the advice in books, online and on TV. But all you have to know is: freshness. Go to a supermarket aisle and buy four different vegetables. Preferably organic (But organic is second on the list; freshness is first). Prepare a meal today with two of the veggies; another meal tomorrow with the other two.

Here is what we had for dinner yesterday: red beet salad (made from scratch, of course), Chinese baby bok choy, cod with cilantro and dill, split peas; frozen blueberries for desert. Today we will have red chard with garlic and olive oil, butternut squash puree, hake fillet with green sauce, red quinoa; pineapple mousse for desert. Tomorrow I will slow braise grass-fed ribs and white cabbage and parsnips with caraway, and serve it with cauliflower and chana dal; for desert the rest of the pineapple.

None of this takes long cooking (the green sauce I have frozen from last time). But we will have a great dinner every single evening. Ordering a pizza would not give my family the same health benefits.

Freshness

July 16, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, basil, beet greens, bratwurst, cabbage - baby, carrots, cauliflower, chana dal, chives, cilantro, coconut oil, dill, dressing, fennel, fish, freezing, freshness, Freshness, garbanzo, garlic, grains, gravy - ready-made, green sauce, kitchen machine, legumes, microwave, mustard, olive oil, onions, parsley, rhubarb, rosemary, sage, salt and pepper, split peas, sugar, thyme, vegetables, zucchini

We cannot eat perfectly healthy every single time we sit down to dine. But we should at least have an idea what the ideal of a meal can be.

Surrounded by friends and family, and outdoors – if possible. Even the tiniest of balconies will do; or an open window. A tablecloth would look lovely; at least a few matching plate mats, and always my best china. For whom would I keep it? My children will inherit what is not broken.

Ah, what for food? The answer is easy: vegetables. Tonight, at my home, it will be fennel – probably sautéed with onions, garlic and olive oil. And a baby cabbage, which I will steam whole with caraway. We will finish a leftover from yesterday (beet greens, cauliflower, young zucchini and green garlic). So, technically, we will have three veggies on the table – and I haven’t even mentioned meat or fish (I might do bratwurst today, in coconut oil – we still have some frozen from our May garden party, and we had fish or vegetarian for several days in a row. Served with chana dal (an Indian small garbanzo; they look like split peas, only yellow. One takes a cup of chana dal to two cups of water, brings it to a fast boil with a pinch of salt, and then simmers with a lid until all water is gone. The problem with chana dal (as with split green peas and most grains) is that they need skimming off some froth early on so that they don’t boil over.

For desert I will quick-cook rhubarb with a bit of sugar. Rhubarb is one of the few things that absolutely can’t go without sugar.

If freshness is the standard, then this is what we eat tonight: The warmed-up vegetables came from a friend’s garden– they were tender and delicious. The fennel is organic, from the supermarket; so is the cabbage. The cabbage and the rhubarb are local, the fennel came from far away. The bratwurst is organic.

Yesterday, with the fish, we had some green sauce – from the freezer. I usually make a batch for guests, and freeze the rest. I never use a microwave (not even for thawing) or use ready-made gravy or dressings, but I am not above freezing leftovers. Here is the Green Sauce recipe (you need a strong kitchen machine – a blender will not do):

Chop five cloves of garlic, a small onion and a handful of baby carrots. Add all the herbs you can put your hands on, one by one, and chop. Basil is a staple – and so are parsley, dill and cilantro. A few snippets of sage, chives, rosemary and thyme give fragrance. Add olive oil, a dab of salt and pepper. If it tastes boring (sometimes it does…), add a few teaspoons of mustard. Chop until fairly smooth. Chill and serve to fish and/or vegetables. Freeze leftover in portions.

If you live in the countryside (or if you have friends who bring you their produce) count your blessings. Otherwise make do with what you find in your supermarket. Organic is desired – but better a conventional vegetable than no vegetable at all! Local is super – but can’t always be had. I never go to the store with a recipe to follow: Number one, I am bad in following rules; number two, I go for what is fresh and what is cheap. I throw together what I think will work (olive oil and garlic rescue many of my dishes).

Brown rice or legumes (beans, peas, lentils, garbanzos) are dry. But vegetables should not be old or store-bought frozen or canned. Go for fresh, and strew on a few fresh or dried herbs. Here I say “dried” because fresh herbs can be very expansive – better dried herbs than no herbs.

No complicated cooking – just fresh produce. Enjoy!

No Time For Cooking?

May 18, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, basil, butter, carrots, cilantro, coconut oil - virgin, cheese, cumin, dill, fish, garlic, ghee, green sauce, herbed salt, honey, kale, meats, No Time For Cooking?, olive oil, onion, parsley, red kale, red lentils, rosemary, sage, salt and pepper, thyme, water cress

The argument most often used why people eat take-out food, TV dinners and in restaurants, is that they have no time to cook.

Once you understand that you cannot be healthy on ready-made foods, you will want to cook for yourself and your family. Contrary to popular belief, it does not take much time to cook.

As an example, let’s look at our dinner last night. This is what we had:

Fish filet with green sauce
Red kale in olive oil and garlic
Parisian carrots
Red lentils with cumin.

Sounds like an outlandish dish for you? For us, it is pretty much every-day fare. It did not take me more than half an hour to bring this fresh meal on the table.

Fish filet: We had cod, but any filet would do. – The green sauce is the tricky part; in this case it was a frozen leftover from when we last had guests. Melt some virgin coconut fat in a frying pan (no microwaving!), add frozen green sauce, wait until thawed before adding the fish. Fry on low until done (a few minutes). Instead of green sauce, I could have sprinkled the fish with dried dill, or fresh herbs from the garden.

Red kale: Cut in stripes, wash quickly in cold water. Add dried or fresh garlic (I used dried), olive oil, pepper and salt (I prefer an herbed salt). Sautee in little water until done (about twenty minutes). - Most vegetables taste delicious with just olive oil and garlic - try!

Red lentils: One cup of red lentils to two cups of water (this is the ratio for most grains and lentils). Add salt and ground cumin. Bring to a boil. Simmer until done (about twenty minutes).

Carrots: Wash carrots, cut in bite-sized pieces. Add parsley (dried or fresh; the original recipe asks for parsley; I had run out of it and used dried cilantro instead – you make do with what you have), white pepper, salt and a teaspoon full of honey. Butter or, better, ghee (clarified butter) is optional. Sautee in little water. Takes about twenty minutes.

Serve and, as they say, enjoy!

Green sauce recipe: You need a kitchen machine for this – a blender will not do: Chop a small onion, a few baby carrots and a few cloves of garlic in the machine. Add as many washed and coarsely cut herbs as you can put your hands on: Basil, parsley, cilantro, dill are my staples. Water cress, thyme, sage, rosemary and others are optional. Blend with olive oil, pepper and salt until smooth. Fill up with plenty of olive oil until frothy. Freeze leftovers in small tupperwares.

You might notice that I use a lot of healthy fats (coconut oil for frying, olive oil, ghee). They don’t make your cholesterol go up – cheese and meats will do that. My husband’s cholesterol hovers around 110 – enviably. Good fats lower inflammation in the body. AND you leave the table satisfied.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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