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. 

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