Friday, January 3, 2014

What Is Healthy Food?


When I spoke, about the Primal and Paleo diets in my last article, I promised to dedicate my next article on the same subject. I concluded that it all comes down to having a healthy and balanced diet, with moderate portioning and home cooked, not readily bought food off the shelf.
In ancient times, people had to do with what they found or bagged in their surrounding areas. I am a very practical person, if I may say so and when I try to imagine how life would have been those days, I see somebody wake up in the morning with a hungry feeling in his stomach, so what to do now.
He or she is going to look for something to do away with that feeling and without a refrigerator filled with what not, I imagine that instead of killing and eating one of the ‘cave mates’, a less emotional measure would be to look for some animal to catch instead.
If there were only a few people, one bird, rabbit or something small would do. Later when more people were existent, more prey was needed, or more food for that matter. Humans taught themselves and each other better ways to stay alive. I do understand that wheat and grains were not available but plants were in abundance and our cave man friends must have eaten some of them. Development has therefore always been a part of life.


Development that has led to bad, better and good products as we know them today. 
Our way of eating healthy food should also be like that of the cave man, go to your local market and find produce that suits you. 
Cook it yourself and avoid processed foods that contain loads of sugar, preservatives and other artificial coloring and flavoring. You do not need them.
My definition of healthy food: home cooked, fresh ingredients, moderate portioning.
The introduction of processed foods and convenience products has led to us buying those foods for the obvious reason of convenience. 
Fast food arrived and was popularized as being quick and convenient. This was a disastrous development. Millions of people are addicted to fast food. Even the fact that fast food is being described as the heroin of the modern generation still does not stop people from consuming fast food.
I saw this guy who weighed 543 pounds. He went through a gruesome weight loss program lasting one full year.  With all his dedication he lost half of his weight, awesome right, BUT, he takes the bus home from work to avoid the temptation of passing by a fast food joint and not being able to resist and stop if he drives his own car. Wow. Is that fast food addiction, or is it me?

Many of us have products of the processed food category on our kitchen counters or in the pantry. Ketchup (sugar), bottled pasta sauce (sugar), chips (sugar, salt), cookies (sugar), soy sauce (salt) and the list goes on. Store bought bread has at least 12 added chemicals to keep it “fresh” longer. All preserved meats and seafood, smoked or not, contain salt and sugar. To make these products, bacon and smoked fish and so on, they are brined or dry salted, both methods contain salt and sugar. Sugar is used for color after smoking and salt to preserve the meat or fish. 
I do not think that you have to omit some of those products completely but rethink if they are your daily diet.  
You may think, but it is easy, convenient, grab a packet, stuff it in the microwave and I am done.
Well if you wish to place yourself in that category, good luck

If you wish to eat healthier, read on.
A vacuum sealer is a great tool to help you, keep your foods fresh, semi or half cooked, raw and fully cooked, saving money and giving you peace of mind by knowing what you eat, because you cooked it yourself. 
Portioning of food and the balance of ingredients are another great money saver.
I mean, four slices of bacon, with three fried eggs, a scoop of baked beans and a few slices of toast. Do you really need that every morning?   
Portioning of food is perception!!
This is not my wisdom but scientifically proven. Your brain tells you via vision, (you looking at your plate) when your stomach is full or satisfied. By using a smaller plate and with that obviously a smaller portion, you will have the same ‘I am full’ feeling than you have by using a bigger plate and a bigger portion.  

Observe a well balanced mix on a plate. I fully agree that 40% protein, 40% vegetables and 20% carbohydrates is a good mix but ensure that your cooking method points at the vegetables and protein. The carbohydrates are then eaten last and less, this is better for you as the carbohydrates take longer to digest and the nutrients of the protein and vegetables are the first to be absorbed in the blood stream. 

Some tips as promised to help you reduce cost. 

Healthy food does not have to be expensive by default.
Tip 1:
Do not throw any of your purchased food away. When pre-preparing the vegetables you just bought for vacuum sealing and storage, you will have some end pieces or root pieces. Carrots, celery, leeks, coriander and so on, these roots are more flavorsome than the parts you cook to eat. 
Prepare a mix of those root pieces and vacuum seal them. They are great to use in stocks and as a base when you cook a roast. They stay healthy for at least a week in your refrigerator and you can freeze them also if you like.
Tip 2:
Watch for cheaper cuts of meat and fish, instead of lamb leg or lamb chops, use lamb shoulder, de-boned rolled up lamb shoulder makes a great roast. Same thing goes for pork shoulder. Slice thinly when it is cold, portion, vacuum seal and you have a great cold cut for sandwiches, salads, or a cold platter dish for a weekend lunch.
Pork trotter is such a much undervalued cut of pork meat. But a piece of meat that is really lovely to eat.

Try this simple recipe,
4 Nos Pork trotters
1 Nos Roughly chopped medium onion
1 Nos Red chilly
3 Cloves Garlic
1 Bunch Garlic (cut in half)
4 Stalks Coriander root, keep the leaves for later
½ Cup  Vegetable oil
1 Bag Of your own earlier prepared vegetable roots
1 Stalk Rosemary
2 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp Vegetable oil

Pre-heat your oven to 325 F.
Prepare a marinade of the onion, cloves of garlic, chilly and coriander stalks by placing them in a blender and blending them fine, while blending, add the oil.
Season the pork trotters with the marinade and salt and pepper.
Place your own vegetable roots on the bottom of a baking tray with the garlic bunch, add the rosemary and the butter and vegetable oil. If there are no onion pieces in your vegetable root mix, add some.
Place the trotters on top, roast in your oven for 2 ½ hours or so, depending a bit on the trotter size.
After the roasting time the meat will come off the bone and is lovely, flavorful and great tasting.
Remove the trotters from the tray, add 2 Tbsp of flour to the tray with all the vegetables and mix well, add 1 Cup of stock and simmer for 5 minutes.
Press all this through a sieve, rest for a minute or so, you can now scoop of excess fat easily as it will float on the top.
Serve the trotters as they are or remove the meat and serve with the gravy and garnish of your choice. 
Vacuum seal and chill or freeze.

Enjoy !!

Here is another tip,
If you find that one whole bunch of garlic is a bit too much for your gravy, remove it before you add the flour.
Cool the garlic until you can handle it and press the flesh out.
Mix the garlic with some butter, finely chopped onion, some finely sliced coriander root, salt, pepper and a bit of oil. 
This makes great roasted garlic butter, roll it into a sausage shape, vacuum seal, and freeze.
Flavored butter like this works great on all sorts of meat and also seafood.
Any questions? Please ask and I will be happy to help wherever needed.   

Written for PMG by:
Professional Chef Marinus Hoogendoorn 
Culinary expert in recipe development.

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