Bring Back the
Cooking healthy meals
from scratch with loved ones is an art, a joy and a gift.
The home-cooked meal is fast becoming a lost art. With that loss, we
also lose reverence for family time, and appreciation for what is
becoming one of the most under-rated domestic rituals.
While a home-cooked dinner can be a wonderful time of bonding for your
family, it can also provide an opportunity
to learn what real food is and where it comes from.
It’s easy to get caught up in our hectic lives. We rush to get the kids
off to school in the morning, exhaust ourselves at work all day, then
come home and take care of personal chores with whatever remaining
energy we might have. It’s not surprising that home cooking is
increasingly viewed as a tedious, arduous and unnecessary chore.
Instead, we rely heavily on eating commercially prepared food or
industrial home-cooked meals made with processed ingredients optimized
for maximum shelf life and manufactured by factory machinery.
Researcher Margaret Beck, of UCLA's Center on Everyday Lives of Families
(CELF), studied mealtime habits and rituals in the United States, and
found that some 70 percent of families take time to cook food, but that
the majority of that food is pre-prepared "convenience" foods, like
"Hamburger Helper" or some other mostly prefabricated fare.
Surprisingly, she found that people didn't save much time by using
convenience foods compared with making dinner from scratch.
Beck also learned that kids often eat separate meals, or at least different entrees, than their parents. Mothers make nearly all the
meals, and kids are often totally uninvolved in its preparation.
There is something fundamentally wrong with our disconnection from food.
We eat mindlessly and lack interest in the source, quality and
production of our food. Yet our apathy doesn't change the fact that our
bodies -- and therefore our minds, senses of well being and health --
are made up of this food we care so little about.
Many people view the daily preparation of healthy meals as an impossible
aspiration. They enter the grocery store without a list of ingredients
to buy, without knowledge about ingredients, and without specific dishes
in mind. So they resort to packaged and frozen foods or worse:
restaurants and fast food. Restaurants at
every corner are teeming with
diners, grocery stores’ convenience food departments can’t keep up with
long lines of people buying already prepared foods packaged "to go" and
online food delivery entrepreneurs who sell and deliver frozen “gourmet”
meals can’t keep up with the growing demand.
It’s time to get re-acquainted with our kitchens, with fresh ingredients
and the joy of cooking meals made from scratch with loved ones. It's
time to stop viewing meal preparation as only a means to satisfy the
requirement of eating, but as part of the joy and pleasure we take in
food, in nurturing our bodies and minds, and in each other's company
around our dinner table.
With practice, a few organizational skills and time-saving tips, eating
home-cooked meals can be easier, cheaper, healthier and immeasurably
more rewarding than conventional modern fare.
Healthy food can be prepared from scratch very quickly. The secret is to
develop an attainable strategy, and plan accordingly.
Here are 10 steps to fast, easy and healthy homemade meals:
1. Plan weekly menus.
Keep it simple and think
SLOW (foods that are Seasonal, Local, Organic and Whole). On your first
weekly day off, early in the morning, look up recipes in cookbooks or
online and use them to plan a menu for five or seven days for breakfast,
lunch and dinner. The idea is to create several weekly menus to re-use
in the future.
2. Eat more plant foods.
It’s quicker, easier,
cheaper and healthier. Your eating plan should include plenty of leafy
greens, colorful vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds,
tempeh, tofu, seitan. If you must animal protein or animal products such
as dairy and eggs, eat only free-range, grass fed meat raised without
cruelty and free of hormones and antibiotics. Fish eaters, stick to
wild fish and those lower in mercury. The more organic and local, the
3. Create a shopping list.
Built it according to the
menu and recipes but be sure to check your pantry and refrigerator to
see what you already have on hand. Take this opportunity to clean out
your refrigerator and pantry and re-organize.
4. Create a master shopping list.
Over time, maintain a list
of all items you ever buy using categories according to the store
sections you shop at (i.e. vegetables, fruit, refrigerated, bulk foods,
cleaning, frozen, baking, etc.) If you shop at more than one place or
store, break down the list further per location or do a list for each
store (i.e. Farmer’s market, Co-op, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc.).
The list is a “living document” that you should add to and cut from
5. Go shopping early in the morning.
Beat the crowds. And the old rule of thumb
still applies: Eat before you leave -- never shop hungry.
6. Buy only what is on your shopping list.
Stay away from packaged
foods and always read labels carefully. Don’t forget to shop at Farmers’
Markets if you have access to one.
7. As soon as you return from shopping, put things away.
Place the menu on a visible
area and plan what you’ll be cooking later that day or the next day. The
objective is to prepare items that take a long time to make or are more
involved in preparing such as soaking beans, cooking beans, brown rice,
making sauces or dressings, etc.
8. Plan on leftovers.
Plan on making sufficient
amounts of items that are popular with the family so you have leftovers
for lunch the next day. They can be warmed up as a snack or used as
ingredients to create a quick and easy second meal.
9. Centralize food information.
Keep the menus and shopping
list visible in the kitchen for easy access and reference for everyone
in the family to see.
10. Do it together!
Cooking and setting the
table should be a team
effort -- everyone at home helps. Play music, talk about the
food you're preparing, and enjoy each other's company.
Planning ahead and getting organized is key to making these time-saving
techniques worth while and pleasing. Eating homemade meals is nourishing
to your body, your health, your soul and your loved ones. And you’ll
reap the benefits by looking and feeling healthier, younger and more
relaxed and energetic. Let’s celebrate family unity with wholesome
home-cooked meals around the dinner table, bon appetite!
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WORDS OF WISDOM
Live Up To Yourself
“Live up to the best that is in
you: Live noble lives, as you all may, in whatever condition you may
-Logan Pearsall Smith
TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Your Wholesome Life
This newsletter and blog are
free, but I make my living providing
one-on-one holistic health counseling, either in person or by
I invite you to
contact me and let me help you make the changes you always
wanted to make, one step at a time. The first initial one-hour
consultation is free.
When it comes to overall health and happiness, it’s all connected; your
food, your relationships, your lifestyle and you career are all part of
the equation. I’d love to help you find your solution.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Give Beets A Chance
Of the list of vegetables
everyone loves to hate, nothing beats beets. One reason for their bad
reputation is that too many of us grew up eating canned beets. But
beets, also known as beetroots, are unfairly disdained. And while they
stain everything they touch once cooked, have high sugar content and
contain oxalic acid, beets have much more to offer.
Freshly prepared beets have a delectable sweet and earthy flavor. Not
only can they make a plate of food brilliantly colorful and beautiful,
but they’re a good source of anthocyanins, which are beneficial
antioxidants that may help protect against cancer and heart disease.
They’re also rich in potassium, B vitamin, folate, manganese and have a
pretty good amount of vitamin C, fiber, magnesium, iron, copper and
When it comes to beets, you can’t beat their value, either. Not much
goes to waste -- both the leafy green tops and the roots of beets make
nutritious additions to any meal.
The beet greens are incredibly rich in potassium, folic acid and beta
carotene. The leafy greens can be sautéed in olive oil with crushed
garlic, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper over low heat for a few minutes
until desired tenderness.
It should be noted, however, that beet greens (like Swiss chards and
spinach) contain oxalates, which are naturally occurring compounds found
in plants, animals and humans. The human body routinely converts
substances into oxalates. In concentrated quantities, oxalates may
crystallize in the body and
cause health problems. Studies have shown
that oxalates can also reduce the body’s ability to absorb calcium. But
when foods containing oxalates are eaten in moderation as part of a
well-balanced diet, oxalate containing foods have been shown to be
beneficial to a healthy person with a healthy digestive system. Unless
you suffer from kidney stones, calcium rich plant foods containing
oxalic acid overall contribute significant amounts of nutrients
including calcium to your healthy diet.
Although beets are available year round, their prime season is June
through October. Beets vary in shape; globe or cylindrical. They also
vary in size and color including deep red, golden orange and white.
My favorite method of preparing beetroots is by steaming them with the
skin on to maximize their nutrient retention. It takes roughly 30 to 40
minutes depending on the size. Once they’re tender to the prick of a
fork, remove from heat and rinse them in cold water over the sink. The
skins will slide right off.
Of course, baking (under 375 degrees) or roasting beets (above 375
degrees) are also simple ways to prepare beets with their skins on. Cut
greens off leaving one inch stems. Place in a pan or cookie sheet
uncovered and drizzled with olive oil or wrapped in aluminum foil. Bake
or roast for 50 to 60 minutes depending on size and oven temperature.
I like using small to medium sized beets; they taste better and cook
faster. To store, remove greens leaving only about one or two inches of
stem on the beetroots. The unwashed leafy greens will last a couple of
days in the fridge whereas the beets will last a couple of weeks if
stored in the refrigerator.
Once you get to know your beets, you might grow to like them. Give beets
a chance—try them in salads, raw (grated) or cooked (sliced). And let me
know how it goes.
Stay motivated - Read health-related research
news, events and commentary every day. Check out Amira's
Vegetarian Organic Life
Oats OK for Gluten-Free
After an extensive review of
scientific research, Canada’s federal health agency, Health Canada,
finds that it is
safe for most individuals with Celiac Disease to add limited amounts of
pure oats (oats not contaminated by gluten-containing grains
including wheat, barley, rye, spelt and kamut) to their gluten-free
diets. Health Canada advises, however, that certain individuals with
celiac disease might experience adverse reactions when consuming oats
and therefore recommends consulting a doctor before making any dietary
What is Celiac Disease and how is it cured?
Celiac disease, also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy, nontropical
sprue and celiac sprue, is a genetic autoimmune disorder that destroys
the villi, tiny finger-like projections, in the small intestine when
gluten-containing food is ingested preventing the absorption of
nutrients from food.
Although this inherited disease cannot be cured, it can be treated by
eating a gluten-free diet for life.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye (and, previously
believed, oats) that gives flours their doughy and elastic consistency.
What are the Symptoms?
Not everyone affected by this autoimmune disorder experiences noticeable
reactions. Symptoms among individuals who suffer from celiac disease
range in severity and vary but can include digestion difficulties,
abdominal discomfort and bloating, constipation or diarrhea, mouth
sores, fatigue, joint pain, irritability, skin rash, depression,
infertility, unexplained weight loss and numbness in the legs.
How Can You Include Sufficient Whole Grains in a Gluten-Free Diet?
While it’s widely believed that it is challenging to include enough
grains in a gluten-free diet, the reality is that it is simple enough,
especially when eating home-cooked meals made from scratch. Quinoa,
corn, pure buckwheat, millet, amaranth, brown and wild rice are
excellent grains that can be incorporated into a gluten-free diet. Many
gluten-free flours, pastas and cereals made from these grains can be easily found at many grocery and
health food stores. Note that products vary by manufacturer and it’s
important to make sure that specific brands you buy are gluten-free.
Find more information on celiac disease at the Celiac Sprue Association,
the Celiac Disease Foundation and the National Foundation for Celiac
Celiac Disease Foundation
Celiac Sprue Association
National Foundation for Celiac Awareness
ENJOY VEGETARIAN ORGANIC LIFE?
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VEGETARIAN ORGANIC RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Summer Loving Vegetable
Salad with Adzuki Beans and Quinoa
Click on the picture for a closer look!
It’s wonderfully gratifying
eating composed salads in the summer when many varieties of lettuces and
vegetables are abundantly available. It’s also an excellent time to
boost nutrient intake for a strong immunity system to fortify yourself
I love cooking seasonally, and my weekly trips to the farmer’s market
provide the obvious answers to what’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
This vegetable salad with adzuki beans and quinoa is loaded with
protein, vitamins and minerals. Made with freshly harvested seasonal
veggies from my local farmer’s market, including the earthy flavors of
beets, this salad is satisfyingly delicious with a symphony of flavors.
Cook’s Tidbits: Adzuki beans and quinoa make nutritious additions to a
healthy diet and making them once a week, on your day off, will simplify
your meal making process. Add them to soups, salads or make side dishes
or entrées out them.
Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 40 minutes
Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)
½ head butter lettuce (or green leaf lettuce)
½ head romaine lettuce
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
2 medium golden-orange beets, cooked, peeled and sliced
2 medium red beets, cooked, peeled and sliced (see Food for Thought
2 cups cooked quinoa, cold or warm (recipe follows)
2 cups cooked adzuki beans, cold or warm (recipe follows)
1 ripe avocado, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
1 large orange or red bell pepper, seeded, deribbed and julienned or cut
into thin slices
1 cup citrus cilantro vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Citrus Cilantro Vinaigrette: (yields about 1½ cups)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup flaxseed oil (or hemp or safflower)
¼ cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed
⅓ cup orange juice, fresh squeezed
¼ cup sherry wine vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1 large shallot, finely chopped
Leaves from 5 sprigs of fresh thyme, finely chopped (or 2 teaspoons
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
4 fresh garlic cloves, minced or crushed
1 tablespoon prepared mustard, whole-grain or Dijon
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups adzuki beans (picked over and thoroughly washed)
4 cups fat-free vegetable stock
4 cups water
4 fresh garlic cloves
1 small onion, cut in half
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup quinoa (thoroughly rinsed)
1 cup water
1 cup vegetable broth
Freshly ground black pepper
Adzuki beans preparation:
In a large pot, bring to a boil beans, garlic, onions, water and broth.
Stir occasionally and remove any foam that forms on top. Reduce heat,
cover and simmer until tender (about 30 to 40 minutes). Once they’re
done, add salt and let them cool off uncovered.
In a medium pot, bring water and vegetable broth to a boil. Add quinoa,
reduce heat, cover and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes until all the liquid
is absorbed. Add salt and pepper and fluff with a fork.
Citrus Cilantro Vinaigrette preparation:
In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients; olive oil, flaxseed
oil, lemon and orange juices, vinegar, shallot, thyme, cilantro, garlic,
mustard, pepper and salt. Transfer to a jar or bottle and keep leftovers
refrigerated. Taste for desired seasoning.
1. Place the lettuce, cucumber, bell peppers and onions in a large bowl,
add salt and black pepper and toss with ⅓ cup of the vinaigrette. Place
tossed salad on center of 4 dinner plates.
2. Arrange 4 slices of beets overlapping around the greens alternating
colors. Divide avocado slices into 4 portions and arrange them on one
side of the salad greens near the beets.
3. On a separate bowl, toss 2 cups of drained adzuki beans with ¼ cup of
the vinaigrette. On another bowl, toss 2 cups of quinoa with ¼ cup of
4. Top the greens and some of the beets on each plate with ½ cup of
quinoa and ½ cup of adzuki beans, drizzle each salad with a little more
vinaigrette if desired. Serve and enjoy.
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This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.
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