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!


vitamin C (11) antioxidants (9) calcium (8) garlic (8) winter (8) gluten-free (7) seasonal eating (7) protein (6) summer (6) cakes (5) iron (5) vegan (5) vegetarian (5) chocolate (4) cookies (4) flour (4) green vegetables (4) immune system (4) meat (4) pears (4) soups (4) vitamin A (4) B Vitamins (3) Mediterranean (3) almonds (3) beta-carotenes (3) casseroles (3) farmers' markets (3) fibre (3) fruits (3) ginger (3) lamb (3) lentils (3) limes (3) sustainability (3) Christmas (2) anaemia (2) apples (2) autumn (2) baking (2) beef (2) bones (2) broccoli (2) cancer (2) chickpea (2) cinnamon (2) dairy (2) feta (2) garbanzos (2) haemoglobin (2) mango (2) mushrooms (2) raspberries (2) stews (2) tomatoes (2) Australia Day (1) Indian cookery (1) Michael Pollan (1) Omega-3 (1) Omega-6 (1) amino acids (1) applesauce (1) beetroot (1) biscotti (1) biscuits (1) blood pressure (1) chicken (1) children (1) chilli (1) cloves (1) cocoa (1) coeliac disease (1) courgettes (1) dahl (1) diabetes (1) eggs (1) factory farming (1) figs (1) food combining (1) foraging (1) gardening (1) guerrilla gardeners (1) heritage vegetables (1) kidney beans (1) lactose-intolerant (1) leeks (1) lime juice (1) longevity (1) lycopene (1) marmalade (1) meatless meals (1) multi-coloured carrot (1) organic producers (1) parsley (1) prosciutto (1) pumpkin (1) red wine (1) rice (1) rye (1) salad (1) silverbeet (1) soy (1) spices (1) spinach (1) squash (1) street gardens (1) tainability (1) tapioca (1) teeth (1) tryptophan (1) whole foods (1) zucchini (1)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Gluten-free Baking

I had a query from a follower of Eat Well Every day, who said wistfully that she loved the sound of the ginger and almond cookies, but was afraid to make them as she has been advised to eat gluten-free, and wasn’t confident about substituting.

I know exactly her problem! I’ve been trying to eat gluten-free for some years, and have had to take it seriously in the past 12 months, once we discovered I have one gene for coeliac disease, and therefore can’t tolerate gluten. To compound the problem, as part of my diet to keep me strong and healthy while suffering ITP, I’m also on a lowish-carb diet and avoiding all grains (as much as possible).

So I can reassure this person – and anyone else with a gluten-tolerance problem – that every cake and cookie, quiche or slice I put up on this blog has been made gluten-free.

Gluten-free pear and almond loaf

Is it hard to substitute when cooking gluten-free?

The honest answer is yes – at first. I was fortunate in having a good friend who is both a nutritionist and married to someone with coeliac disease, so she was very experienced in cooking gluten-free. She passed on some basic cookie and cake recipes, which I still use. From them, I got the basics of substitution.

The main problem is that gluten-free flour does not respond in the same way as wheat flour. It has much less body without the gluten, and often doesn’t rise as well, take up the same amount of liquid as wheat flour, or cook in the same time. Some flours, like rice flour and corn flour (corn starch) are very light. Soy flour, on the other hand, is quite heavy, and has a strange smell, which fortunately disappears in cooking. Soy flour and besan flour (chickpea flour), another heavy one, are best combined with lighter flours.

So you experiment. Be prepared for failures, or more likely, not quite perfects. Once you get the hang of it and find a flour or combination of flours you like, gluten-free cooking is just as much fun and the results as delicious as cooking with wheat flour. (I say wheat, because that’s mainly what flour is, but if you’re avoiding gluten, don’t forget to by-pass rye and oats. No more rolled oats, but brown rice flakes make a perfect substitute.)

Commercial gluten-free flours

Commercial gluten-free flour mixes, while more expensive than wheat flour, are fairly easy to find at your supermarket or health food store. Before I had to avoid grains, I found a commercial mix of rice flour, soyflour and tapioca quite good, although it was rather lumpy and needed sifting two or three times.

Now I use Orgran all-purpose flour, which is made from maize starch (corn flour), tapioca flour, rice flour and guar gum. It’s a lighter mix, and the ratio of rice flour to other ingredients is lower. I don’t usually endorse commercial products, but I’ve found this mix very easy to use, with consistently good results.

For some recipes, such as the pear and almond cake, and the next recipe, I add a bit of extra body by substituting with a couple of tablespoons of besan flour.

So, to the recipe: Beetroot Chocolate Brownies

This is my take on Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall's Chocolate and Beetroot Brownies. I was quite taken by his idea of treating beetroot as a fruit, and copied the recipe a couple of years ago, before I got serious about baking gluten-free. Now I've modified it to omit the wheat flour.

250g (10oz) dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces, or dark chocolate chips
250g (10oz) unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus more for greasing
250g (10oz) caster sugar
3 free-range eggs
150g gluten-free flour (1½ cups), plus 2 tablespoons of besan flour
baking powder (baking soda) to make flour mix rise
250g of beetroot, boiled until tender, peeled and grated or chopped very fine
A 20x30x3cm (8x12x1 inch) baking tray (known in Australia as a Swiss roll or lamington tray)

Turn the oven on to 180C (350F). Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl or jug, and put on a lower shelf in the oven to melt. When partly melted, stir, and put back for a few more minutes to melt completely.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs and sugar together, and in a separate bowl, sift the flours and baking powder together. Cut or grate your cooked beetroot.*

When the butter and chocolate are melted, mix them, a little at a time into the egg and sugar mixture. Then fold in the sifted flour very gently, and lastly, the beetroot. Do not beat, just mix together gently.

Pour mixture into a greased and lined tray, smooth the top, and bake in the top of the preheated oven until just cooked. According to H F-W “a knife or skewer pushed into the middle should come out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Don't be tempted to overcook them!”

He says 20 minutes should be long enough. However, whether because of the g-f flour, the fairly large eggs, or a slightly lower oven temperature, my brownies took 30 minutes. Test every few minutes after the 20 minute bell.

Leave to cool in the tray before cutting into squares. Makes 24.

*To cook beetroot: Scrub gently under cold water, but do not cut roots off or peel the vegetables. Put in a large pot with plenty of water, cover, bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes, or until tender. Allow to cool slightly, then, protecting your hands with rubber gloves, slip the peel off and remove the roots.

Buon appetito!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Almonds and Pears

“Almonds and pears” – sounds like something out of an old nursery rhyme, or maybe some Cockney rhyming slang. But it isn’t either of those, it’s two ingredients that are cheap, plentiful and healthy, which combine together beautifully in many recipes, especially cakes and cookies.

I’ve told you about pears – ‘the gift of the gods’ and why pears are counted in the top 100 healthiest foods.

But what about almonds? The humble ‘nut’ (botanically, it’s a ‘drupe’ not a nut, but who’s counting?) of a tree related to peaches and apricots, with the most glorious blossom in early spring, the almond has been revered for thousands of years as a symbol of fertility and happiness. When you see the white froth of almond blossom, you know spring is just around the corner.

Believed to have originated in the North of Africa and western Asia, almonds are now grown in many countries with a Mediterranean climate, including Australia. Australia is the world’s third-largest producer of almonds, after California and Spain. No wonder we can always get fresh almonds relatively cheaply!

Almonds can be bought as plain raw nuts, roasted, blanched, blanched and slivered or flaked, or as almond meal. Because the Omega-3 and Omega-6 content can be damaged by high heat, it’s preferable to dry roast the nuts yourself, instead of buying commercially roasted almonds. Put them in a single layer on a baking tray and roast for about 20 minutes in a low oven (no higher than 100C or 212F).

Almonds’ high nutritional value

Because of their subtle flavour, almonds can combine with almost any other food But it’s not their versatility that includes them in the ‘healthiest foods’ – these nuts are actually given ‘qualified health claim’ status by the United States’ Food & Drug Administration in recognition of the health benefits of eating almonds every day.

For such a small item, an almond packs a mighty nutritional punch. As well as their high protein content, almonds have monounsaturated fat, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, fibre, and as much calcium as cow’s milk, along with good amounts of Vitamins A, C, E and D, all the B vitamins, folate and Vitamin K. Then there's the minerals: copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.

So, to the recipes: Pear and Almond Cake

Almonds combine beautifully with pears in this cake, which can double as dessert, warmed slightly and served with cream, icecream or yoghurt. Or you can toast slices and spread with soft butter.

2 cups sugar
3 cups pears, peeled and diced,
2 cups plain (all purpose) flour and baking powder to raise,
1 teasp bicarb (baking soda)
1 teasp salt
2 teasp cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup oil or melted butter
2 teasp vanilla essence
1 cup slivered almonds

Mix together the pear pieces and sugar and leave for 20 minutes or so to develop juices.

Sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon and raising agents, then add rest of the ingredients and stir well. Bake in a greased large square tin or a Bundt pan at 180C (350 F) for 1 hour.

Ginger and Almond Cookies

Remember to make the dough well ahead of when you want these cookies, as it has to sit in the fridge for several hours to firm up before baking.

¾ cup (190 g/6 ounces) of softened butter
1 cup packed, soft brown sugar
2 tablesp light molasses, honey or Golden Syrup
1 egg
1½ teasp baking powder
½ teasp salt
1 teasp fresh ginger, grated finely, or at least 1 teasp ground ginger (more if you prefer)
1¼ cup plain (all purpose) flour
1 cup ground almonds (almond meal)
48 blanched whole almonds (cheaper to blanch your own.)

In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses/honey/Golden Syrup, the egg and ginger. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then mix into sugar and butter mixture until you have a soft dough.

Form the dough into two logs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Meanwhile, blanch your almonds, if you haven’t bought ready blanched ones. Put them in a heatproof bowl, pour hot, (not quite boiling) water over them and leave to cool, when you can slip the skins off.

Cut the dough in slices and shape these into walnut sized balls. Put about 2" apart on a greased cookie sheet, and press a blanched almond into centre of each ball, flattening them slightly. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in a 175C (350F) oven until lightly browned on bottom.

Makes about 4 dozen.

Buon Appetito!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

More Hearty Winter Casseroles – Goulash

This is another of my old favourites from the 1970s. Cooked slowly in the oven for three or four hours, it transforms stewing steak or gravy beef into a savoury, slightly spicy – and in the 70s, distinctly exotic – dish redolent of paprika, tomatoes and caraway seeds. There's a potato topping to this casserole, or you can add dumplings instead to make a really filling dish

A Hungarian friend has since told me this is not an authentic goulash, so I haven’t called it Hungarian Goulash, as the 70s recipe did!

500 gm (1lb) stewing steak, cut into 4cm (1½ inch) cubes
500 gm (1lb) potatoes, sliced thinly
400 gm (12 oz) canned tomatoes & their juice
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or smashed
slurp of oil for sautéing
1 tablesp paprika, sweet or hot, (or a mixture, depending how hot you want the goulash)
1 tablesp marjoram (or oregano if no marjoram)
1 tablesp caraway seeds
1 teasp sugar
Hot stock, about 2 cups – you may not need all of this

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and sauté the onions and garlic until the onions are soft but not browned. Remove to the casserole. Turn up the heat and brown the beef cubes briskly all over. Sprinkle with the herbs and spices and add to the casserole.

Pour the tinned tomatoes and their juices into the frying pan and stir briskly to pick up any bits of meat or onion left behind. Add sugar to balance the tomatoes’ acidity, and pour into the casserole. Stir the mixture together. Add the hot stock, gently, a little at a time, until the meat is just covered with liquid.

Cover the casserole and cook at 160C (325F) for an hour and a half. Lower the temperature to 150C (300F) and cook for another hour and a half. While the casserole is cooking, make the dumplings, which you will add before the last 30 minutes of cooking.

If you’re not doing dumplings, layer the potato slices carefully over the top of the meat, pouring a little more hot stock over them to moisten them. Leave the lid off the dish and cook for the last 30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and slightly crispy.

For the dumplings:
60 gm (2 ounces) self-raising flour or plain (all-purpose) flour and ½ teasp baking powder
a 250 gm packet of suet mix
Water, about ¼ cup to mix

Mix ingredients to a stiff dough. Divide into 8 and roll into small balls. Add these to the casserole when there is still 30 minutes of cooking to go, burying them in the stock. You may need to add a little more stock if the dumplings aren’t covered.

Serve with steamed and buttered carrots and cabbage. Serves 4.

Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hearty Winter Casseroles - Boeuf Bourgignon

August has just begun and at last we’re on the downhill run to Spring. But it is still winter, and August is the month when the old saying “as the days grow longer, the cold grows stronger” holds true. So, despite sunny days in Sydney that can reach 21C at midday, there are still chilly nights and gloomy grey days, (especially in Melbourne and Tasmania), and that means warming winter stews.

Stews and casseroles are interchangeable terms. Technically, a casserole is cooked in a casserole dish in the oven, while a stew simmers gently on the top of the stove. But really, they are interchangeable, the main point to remember is to cook slowly and gently. You can use a crockpot or slow cooker, a casserole or a stewpot, but DO NOT use a pressure cooker! Pressure cooking a stew results in tough meat and bland flavours and is a waste of good ingredients.

In an earlier post I wrote in praise of meat as a treat, not as something to be had every day. In that post, I talked about lamb – my favourite meat, and one of the world’s 100 healthiest foods.

So this time I’m focusing on beef – actually stewing steak and gravy beef, (sorry, I don’t know the equivalent US term). Australia is fortunate to have high quality meat that is relatively inexpensive, and stewing steak and the slightly fattier gravy beef are budget pleasing cuts. They are cheap, incredibly nourishing, and respond best to slow, gentle cooking, melting into tenderness and creating rich flavours with the other ingredients.

What’s so good about beef?

• High quality protein with all the essential amino acids in one package in relatively large amounts. One hundred grams of beef contains approximately 33 grams of protein.
• Iron, specifically haem iron, the easiest one to absorb. Iron is so essential for avoiding anaemia, and for enabling the blood's red cells to carry oxygen around the body. That 100 grams provides a hefty three to four milligrams of iron.
• Vitamins B1, B2, B6 and B12, zinc, selenium and phosphorus – good amounts of these essential vitamins and minerals.
• Tryptophan, the “feel good” food element. Tryptophan is an amino acid that works as a precursor to serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, appetite and mood. Foods rich in tryptophan are said to be “good mood foods”. Beef has tryptophan in spades – 100 grams contains about 0.33 grams.

So to the recipe: Boeuf Bourgignon

This is not the upmarket version that Guillaume Brahimi prepares, but a more budget conscious, down-to-earth casserole that’s probably nearer the French peasant original. As the name suggests, the meat was originally cooked in Burgundy. Since appellation contrôlée, we can no longer buy Burgundy in Australia, so choose a hearty red wine such as a cabernet-merlot or cabernet shiraz blend. Even a good cask wine will serve the purpose.

1kg (2 lb) stewing steak cut into 4cm (1½ inch) cubes
125 gm (4 oz) streaky bacon, cut into strips
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 (or more) garlic clove smashed or chopped
1 teasp salt and ¼teasp ground black pepper
1 tablesp plain flour
500 ml (2 cups) red wine
250 ml (1 cup) beef stock (or chicken stock)
2 tablesp tomato puree
½ tsp thyme
1 bay leaf

16 small button onions or shallots peeled
60 gm (2 oz) butter
2 tablesp olive oil
375 gm (12 oz) button mushrooms

Put the flour with the salt and pepper into a large paper or plastic bag, and shake gently to mix. Drop in the beef cubes, a few at a time and shake to coat the meat with seasoned flour. Keep the bag firmly closed as you shake, you don’t want flour flying all over the kitchen and you!

If your casserole is safe to use on the stovetop, fry the bacon strips in it until the fat is rendered out and the pieces are crisp. Use a large frying pan if you can’t fry with the casserole. (The frying pan needs to be big enough to hold the meat, vegetables, stock and wine.) Take out the bacon, leaving the fat in the pan.

Add a big slurp of oil and heat until sizzling, throw in the meat cubes in batches so as not to crowd them, and brown all over. Set aside with the bacon. Now add the carrot and chopped onion and fry briefly.

Put the bacon and meat back into the casserole/frying pan, add the tomato puree, thyme, bay leaf and garlic, then pour in the red wine and stock. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, stirring as it boils, and turn down to a low simmer. Allow it to simmer gently for five minutes to cook off all the alcohol, then transfer casserole to a preheated 160C (325F) oven. Cook for 3 to 4 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the mushrooms and shallots. Heat up half the butter & olive oil in a small saucepan and sauté the onions or shallots for about 10 minutes until softened and brown. Set aside and repeat with rest of the butter and oil and the button mushrooms.

When the meat is tender, pour off as much of the liquid as you can from the casserole into a saucepan. Pop the cooked onions/shallots and mushrooms into the casserole, tucking them in around the meat. Bring the cooking juices to a boil, and simmer until reduced to about a third. Pour back into the casserole.

Serve with potatoes, either steamed or mashed and creamy, and steamed green vegetables.
Serves 4.

Another Beef Casserole in the next post!

Buon Appetito!