Welcome to Eat Well Every Day

Welcome to Eat Well Every Day!

I've spent years researching nutritional information, food ideas and recipes, because cooking and eating - especially with family & friends - are some of life's great pleasures. And guess what- healthy food doesn't have to be boring! It can be exciting and delicious!


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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In praise of meat – as a treat

My apologies to all vegetarians/vegans and animal welfare people of the PETA persuasion, but in today’s blog, I’m going to sing the praises of including small amounts of meat in the diet.
I will say right up front that I have no objection to the ethical, religious, moral or emotional arguments the no-meat people advance, and I admire them for sticking to their principles (although PETA’s PR approach seriously pees me off!).

No, I’m looking at small amounts of meat in the diet purely from a nutritional point of view, with some caveats as to how that meat is obtained and how frequently it should be eaten.

Meat: a source of quality protein

As an omnivore who still enjoys the taste of certain meats – especially roast lamb – I’ve found trying to become an ovo-lacto-vego almost impossible. Out of concern for impact of meat-eating on the environment, and out of repugnance at the way factory farmed animals are treated, together with the poor flavour of cheap meat, I resolved a year ago to become vegetarian.

Now, I know, intellectually, that it is entirely possible to meet all the human body’s protein needs from a vegan diet, but even for a healthy person with a functioning brain, the balancing act required is relatively hard work. In recent months, when my immune system has become fragile, I’ve realised I need to return to a more omnivorous diet which includes some fish (to be covered in another post) and small amounts of high quality meat.

Lamb: one of the top 20 healthiest foods

Recently researching immune-supporting foods, I was delighted to find that lamb – my favourite meat – is one of the top 20 healthiest foods, high in zinc and B vitamins s well as the full complement of amino acids.

This means that when we lamb-eaters indulge in a little expensive organic, free-range lamb (most lamb in Australia is free range – ie – grazing on pasture, but very little is organic or near-organic), we are getting real nutritional value from our carnivorous urges.

Meat: the organic fair trade 80% cocoa chocolate of protein

At Christmas with friends who have a variety of dietary challenges of their own relating to bowel problems and food allergies, I enjoyed the MOST delicious roast lamb I have tasted in many a year. Marinated overnight in a mixture of mustard, honey, garlic and rosemary, and roasted slowly, it was melt in the mouth tender, with an indescribably voluptuous flavour.

That was when I made the connection between lamb and organic fair trade dark chocolate (OFTDC - another surprisingly healthy food item). Buying OFTDC from the local Oxfam shop costs me double what I could spend on dark chocolate at the supermarket. So I only enjoy it about once a month, picking it up as I get my supply of OFT coffee beans. It’s a special treat - & I also get the good feeling or smug feeling that I’m helping the producers with my tiny dollars.

It’s the same with meat. Where people thinking about lessening their impact on the environment are encouraged to consider one meatless meal a week (‘meatless Mondays’), I aim for one meat-based meal a week. Similarly to the fair trade concept, I spin out my precious dollars on high quality meat from the wonderful farmer’s market. It certainly is not cheap, unlike the factory farmed cuts discounted at the big supermarkets! But I know that most of what I pay for a tiny loin of lamb, or a free-range chicken goes straight to the producer, and they can guarantee not only the quality and flavour of the meat, but also the quality of the life of the animal that died for my need for complete amino acids.

Here I must acknowledge my debt to Hugh Fearnley–Whittingstall, who has helped me clarify my musings on meat over the past 12 months.

So, to the recipe. I don’t have my friend’s recipe for our fabulous Christmas lunch, but here’s something similar (recipe adapted from one on www.taste.com.au in 2004, & I'm using the image that went with it).

Honey, Mint, Garlic and Rosemary Lamb Roast
  • Mini leg Lamb Roast: about 800 grams
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 bunch mint, leaves stripped & chopped fine,
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary
  • garlic – at least 3 cloves, chopped fine
  • red wine or balsamic vinegar, as needed

Chop the herbs and garlic together, using about half the rosemary.

Put in a large bowl or casserole dish, big enough to take the meat, and mix together with the honey, and enough wine or vinegar to make a thick marinade.

Rub the marinade all over the meat, working it in wherever possible, cover with plastic wrap and marinate in fridge for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.

To go with the meat:
  • 500 gram baking potatoes
  • 500 gram pumpkin

To Roast:
Preheat oven to 200 C.

Wash baking potatoes (Desirees are good) and cut in half. Pour a good slurp of olive oil in a baking dish, and roll the potatoes round in this. Cut pumpkin into similar chunks, leaving skin on, and toss in with potatoes. If you have room, you could add halved onions to the vegetables.

Take meat from marinade bowl. Cut slits in surface & poke in stems of rosemary. Place meat on a rack over the veggie baking dish, & pour over any remaining marinade.

Put in oven just above centre and cook for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 180C, and cook for about 30 minutes.

Let lamb rest, covered with foil for 5-10 minutes to allow the meat to relax before carving.

Serves 4 (or 1 for several wonderful meals)

Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Taste the Mediterranean – taste of health

There are hundreds of diets and eating plans designed to help people lose weight, gain more energy, build strength or endurance - diets where you have to count every gram of food, and diets where you can pretty much eat whatever and how much you like.

But there is one diet that isn’t so much a diet as a lifestyle, a reflection of thousands of years of a culture’s way of life, and that t is proving to be one of the best diets around for protecting and maintaining daily health.

What I’m talking about is the Mediterranean diet, eaten for thousands of years by people living in countries around the Mediterranean Sea. It is a way of eating that is high in vegetables, fruit, fish, whole grains, legumes and olive oil, with small amounts of dairy foods, but low in red meat, saturated fat and processed foods.

The Mediterranean diet is credited with preventing heart disease and high blood pressure, reducing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, depression, preventing asthma in small children, and even protecting the skin against sun damage and wrinkles!

Why the Mediterranean Diet is So Good

The basic foodstuffs in this food tradition provide all the essential elements the human body needs to function properly:
Fruits and vegetables: antioxidants, vitamins and riboflavin, iron, calcium and fibre
Fish: protein and Omega-3 essential fatty acids
Grains and legumes: protein, complex carbohydrates, iron, calcium, zinc, and B vitamins and fibre
Dairy: protein, calcium, riboflavin, vitamins A & D
Olive oil: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats for healthy skin and nervous system.
Wine is also a basic foodstuff in this eating scheme, especially red wine. Red wine contains the antioxidant polyphenol resveratrol. Perhaps equally important is that wine drunk in moderation relaxes the mood, allows us to enjoy good food and company and promotes digestion.

In Australia, we can not only enjoy the Mediterranean diet as an essential part of our eclectic multi-ethnic cuisine, thanks to all the Greek, Italian, Spanish, Croatian and Jugoslav, Turkish and Lebanese migrants who came here in the decades after the second world war. We also have a Mediterranean-style climate in much of eastern Australia, so we can grow the fruits and vegetables in our backyards and balconies, and eat them fresh picked. To say nothing of growing the grapes for home-made wine. How good is that!

As it’s summer, here’s a couple of cool dishes ideal for eating outside – a salad and a dip.

Greek Chickpea Salad

• 500 grams canned chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
• 2/3 cup spring onions, chopped into rings
• 3 medium cloves garlic, minced, pressed or finely chopped
• 2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
• 3 medium ribs celery, diced about 1cm pieces
• small handful chopped fresh mint
• small handful chopped fresh parsley (flat-leafed Italian parsley is
preferable, but curly parsley will do)
• 1 small head romaine, cos or other lettuce, torn or shredded

• salt & cracked black pepper to taste
• extra virgin olive oil to taste
• 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar to taste
• 1/3 cup feta cheese cut into cubes (optional)

Toss together salad vegetables and beans in a large bowl. Make a dressing with the oil and vinegar or lemon juice and condiments, pour over salad and garnish with feta cubes. Serves 4

Tsatsiki: Greek Yoghurt & Cucumber Dip

Make this at least an hour before serving to allow the flavours to blend and chill. It will keep, covered, in the fridge for three or four days

Blend together
• 500 gram tub of Greek or plain unsweetened yoghurt
• 1 Lebanese cucumber, peeled and cut into tiny cubes, or grated
• 3 cloves of garlic, pressed, minced or finely chopped
• salt to taste
• a few roughly chopped mint leaves (optional)

Garnish with a sprinkling of paprika and serve with pita bread, toasted Turkish bread or crusty Italian bread. Tsatsiki also makes an excellent dip to serve with crudities.

Buon Appetito!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tomatoes – the taste of Summer!

It’s Summer here in Australia, and when I went shopping for fruit and vegetables at our local farmers' market yesterday, I saw the most amazing range of tomatoes I’ve ever seen. I live in one of the most urbanised (and hip) parts of Sydney – Newtown – but we’re blessed with a weekly and superb farmers' market, where a huge variety of organic and almost organic foods is displayed and farmers talk enthusiastically about what they grow or rear.

The tomatoes ranged from barely the size of a grape to whoppers about 15 cm (6“) wide, and in colour from palest golden to the true tomato red. Many were heritage breeds, and I must admit, none were cheap. But the smell, and the shapes and colours! Gave a lift to the spirits even before tasting them.

Tomatoes are high in antioxidants, notably the chemical that gives them their red hue – lycopene. It’s one of the most effective antioxidants around, measured by how it quenches oxygen in laboratory tests. It’s 100 times more effective than Vitamin E, the most well-known antioxidant compound.

Given its antioxidant properties, there’s a lot of scientific and clinical research going on into the relationship between eating lycopene-rich foods and general health. Early research suggests some lowering the risks of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and even male infertility.

While tomatoes are the main source of lycopene, lycopene is also responsible for the colour of red carrots, watermelons and papayas, but not in raspberries, strawberries or cherries.

Of course, tomatoes aren’t the only antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables we can enjoy. I’ve written about the health benefits of some others: broccoli and grapes.

Eating seasonally – what a pleasure!

The wonderful aspect of eating seasonally is that food is at its best, nutritionally, but also in those important sensory aspects that make cooking and eating so enjoyable – taste, smell, colour, texture – you could almost say ‘personality’!

So here’s a couple of summer tomato recipes from Australia. For those of you in the northern hemisphere, here’s an interesting fact: processing tomatoes by canning or cooking actually increases the concentration of bioavailable lycopene. In fact, the lycopene in tomato paste is four times more bioavailable than in fresh tomatoes! Canned tomatoes and products such as semi-dried tomatoes and tomato paste will add lycopene and a rich flavour to your winter dishes.

Tomato Salad with Feta or Bocconcini

Per person:
• Handful of rocket leaves or mesclun salad greens
• Whatever fresh tomatoes take your fancy, sliced
• 3 bocconcini (fresh mozzarella balls) sliced
• OR 100 grams(3 oz) feta cheese, chopped roughly
• Handful of sweet basil leaves, torn
• Rock salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

Arrange prettily on a plate, and dress with a swirl of the best extra-virgin olive oil. Serve with crusty bread.

Roasted Tomatoes

Cut in halves 500 grams (1lb) of meaty tomatoes and lay in a single layer on a baking tray, cut side up. Sprinkle with salt, and brush with a little good olive oil.

Roast in a very slow oven (120 degrees C/250 degrees F) for 4-5 hours. Delicious on toasted crusty Italian bread with extra-virgin olive oil and some crushed garlic. Garnish with fresh basil.

Buon Appetito!