Saturday, February 22, 2014

Healthy Meals on a Budget of Time and Money

I am always amazed when clients say they can’t eat a healthy food style because they don’t have the time or the money. 

In reality, eating well is usually easier; in time and cost.  From a health viewpoint, eating real and fresh vegetables, whether raw or lightly cooked is offers more nutrition. 

It is always better to eat consciously
What does this mean?  Is is the ability to assess what your body needs and use food, herbs and spices to balance the body?  For example adding a dash of chili sauce to a soup helps our body start its furnace.  This is especially helpful when there is a rapid temperature change and we just can't seem to get warm.

Simple food can taste good and be extra nourishing too

My family’s food culture leaned towards the abundance of bread, cow’s milk, cheese meat and wheat.  When I was faced with avoiding all of these things for allergy and health reasons, I was really panicking.  What was I going to replace these with?

What I decided to do was flip cultures.  Asian and East Indian cooking easily avoided these staples and thus avoid the North American food rut.  Learning how to cook simply, using natural and fresh ingredients was my goal. I needed to learn different prep skills.

Think:  Cooking for a family of 12 with 1 pot and a Bunsen burner (and sharing an ounce of meat).

I was patiently coached by a friend who was a card carrying vegetarian. I also took some cooking lessons. 

What most simple foods require is a focus on developing and building flavour 
Learning methods of building flavour was the biggest epiphany for me.  The ingredients don't really matter so much.  Just work with ingredients on hand.

I remember seeing a recipe in a magazine for an Asian-style-cauliflower-coconut milk – fresh lime- thing. When I followed the recipe to the letter it just totally didn't work!  I made it again by using the flavour building system that I know, it was totally awesome!  The recipe 'my way' is below.

The rule of thumb is that when you are using fresh and raw foods, keep flavours simple so you can taste the food. Sauces should compliment flavour, not cover it.  The simpler, the better.

Asian food has a balance of flavours: 

Salt, sweet, sour, bitter and hot.

Salt- this can be fish sauce or oyster sauce, shrimp paste or soy cubes. 

Sweet- this can be soy sauce, honey, molasses, pickles, and agave or brown rice syrup. 

Sour- is vinegars and lime or lemon juice, or tamarind paste. 

Bitter- is usually the bitter dark greens that are common in Thai recipes. 

Hot- is chilies, chili sauce, chili paste, ginger, onions and garlic.  Wasabi or horseradish can also be used. I just love PC ‘Memories of Thailand’ Fiery Chili Pepper Sauce.  I use it as a dip as well.

Cauliflower Soup with Cumin and Lime
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 inch fresh ginger root, cut into thin slices
1 tsp ground cumin
2 medium onions diced
4 TBS oil (light olive oil)
1 Head chopped cauliflower
4 cups stock or stock/bullion cube combination
2 cup coconut milk

4 tsp fresh lime juice or more to taste
Herbamere or sea salt and pepper to taste

First Make Flavoured Oil
In a large saucepan, heat the oil.  Add the mustard seed and heat until they start to pop.
Turn heat to medium  and add the garlic and ginger root.
Remove them when the garlic just starts to brown

Cook the Onions and Spices
Add the onion and sauté until transparent.
Add the cumin and sauté for 2 minutes. Add a little water if necessary to keep spices from scorching

Next, throw in all the vegetables and the liquid (milk/broth and bullion cubes)
Add the cauliflower, coconut milk and broth and bring to a simmer.  Cook until the cauliflower is tender.
You can use small cubes of potato to add with cauliflower for a heartier soup.  IF you need to intensify the flavour, add as many vegetable bullion cubes as necessary.

To Serve:  Blend with a hand blender and add the fresh lime and Herbamere.
You can add a dash of any hot sauce, or my favourite, Thai chili dipping sauce.  Yum!
Garnish with a thin slice of lime and parsley or cilantro

Planned Attack:
When I have a windfall of vegetables I cook the vegetable part (not the onions because that is in the 'flavour department') separately and refrigerate or freeze this if I don't want to use it right away.
When I am ready to cook the meal I make the flavour part in a separate saucepan and then add the vegetable mixture to it.  Using frozen vegetables does not noticeably change the taste of the soup, but fresh is better of course. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Noodle Salad with Oriental Dressing

These days I am on a roll.  I want noodle salad with oriental style dressing.  For health reasons I do better with less wheat and gluten so I am using rice noodles.  Soba (buckwheat noodles) is a great choice too.  Asian salad just hits the spot when the weather feels too cold for tossed green salad.

This recipe has many uses and many forms.  Any leftover cooked vegetables can be dressed with this.  Top with grilled chicken, or seafood to create a full meal.  

The Oriental Dressing also makes a great marinade, especially for grilled chicken or shrimp.  It can be noodle heavy, or have little noodle but lots of vegetables.  When there is a plethora is greens, this works well too.

Note:  Arame is a Japanese sea vegetable that looks like black noodles. Grab a pinch and soak it in warm water, Saki, Tamari or soy sauce. Sea veggies are loaded with minerals and are a wonderful source of iodine. Iodine feeds the thyroid gland and boosts stamina and immunity. 

 Oriental Dressing
 ½ Cup Brown Rice Vinegar or sushi style seasoned rice vinegar
½ Cup Agave Syrup (amber)
2 Tbs water
1 large clove garlic, minced fine
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 Tlbs organic Grape seed oil or any mild tasting oil
½ tsp Toasted Sesame oil
1 tsp hot sauce or to taste (or more if desired) Here I use President’s Choice PC Choice Fiery Thai Chilli Sauce.  It is available locally and is the perfect balance of taste and spice.
1 tsp grated Lime Zest or 4 drops of Lime Essential Oil
Shake well and store in refrigerator

Have available wedges of fresh lime to squeeze over the top

Cook or soften any style of noodle such as Soba (Quick: I like vermicelli rice noodles that you soften by pouring boiled water over) until tender and rinse well under cool water.  Don’t overcook.  

Topping Suggestions:
Slice green, yellow and red sweet peppers sliver thin. Add fresh snow peas or even defrosted peas are great.  ¼ cup Arame Sea Vegetable soaked in a little Tamari Sauce or Soy Sauce.

Arame sea veggie has an appearance of thin black noodles in the salad. (Found in Health food Stores).

You can garnish with either black sesame seeds or brown. Gomasio (Japanese condiment) is good too.
I have on hand slivers of raw carrot that I have marinated in dill pickle brine.  They are softer and more flavourful than raw.  You can use raw carrots or blanch the carrots and run under cold water.
Top with greens: cilantro, basil, water cress, parsley, bruised kale, spinach……

Remember that the simplest of foods can taste good and be extra nourishing too.  ENJOY!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Learn to Cook Delicious Vegan Food

"Let Food Be Your Medicine" - Hippocrates 460 B.C - 370 B.C.

My belief is that Food and health are intricately entwined.  With this in mind, I am offering a 4 week program for individuals who are interested in learning Vegan Cooking. 

Introduction to Delicious Vegan Cooking
Thursday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m.
Feb 20th to March 13th,
Costs:    $140 per 4 Weeks               

Space is limited to 8 persons so register early

This four week program is for those who are interested in cleaner food, a diet with less meat, low meat or no meat or for those who entertain dinner guests who have special needs.
This is a ’hands on’ class; the goal is to make real food for real people.

This is also an opportunity to learn how and why different foods balance and heal the body

Benefits of Vegan Cooking
·         Healthier food
·         Cost effective
·         Fast and easy to prepare
·         Tasty and interesting meals
·         Simple meals & Recipes for each lesson

What people are saying.....

“Only glowing accolades for the culinary skill of Nelda. Beautiful thing is, it’s the healthiest nutrition this body ever consumed. Nelda, being a wonderful authentic soul is always willing to share her knowledge and recipes with clarity, enthusiasm and obvious passion.” GM

 "During my training to become a Kundalini Yoga Teacher I was truly privileged and grateful to have Nelda provide our lunches for us. I was a picky eater most of my life but after experiencing Nelda's wholesome dishes, I quickly realized that I was discovering my spirituality through food just as much as I was through the other components of the yoga training.  With Nelda's gift to us of fresh, light & clean foods to which she lovingly shared with us, I feel I was truly tasting and experiencing food for the first time.  

Fingers crossed that there will be a 'From Nelda's, With Love' cookbook soon!" TM
 “I have had the privilege of attending events where Nelda has catered the meals and have to say that I have never been so well fed, with such interesting and delightful food! Without reservation, Nelda’s meals are above and beyond any other catered event I have attended, or dining out experience I have had.”

“Having also attended programs taught by Nelda, I have to say that Nelda brings to the ‘table’ a vast and well thought-out knowledge that she shares with such clarity that it seems like you should already know it, even hearing it for the first time! Her ability to see and understand all aspects of health-to then apply and/or share that with her clients and students in a manner that everyone understands, is truly a gift. I would strongly recommend her classes to everyone, and I look forward to future classes with her myself!” CH

For more information contact Nelda McEwen