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Archive for the ‘.Basics’ Category

Salads and sides add variety to our meals.  they add color, texture and freshness to balance meats, pastas, rice and other entrees.

Salads stimulate the appetite and intensify the activities of salivary glands and gastric juices.  They are high in fiber and sweep the colon clean of post digestive debris.

For maximizing on nutrition choose–

  • Loose leaf lettuce such as Romaine and endive, which have more nutrition than the iceberg lettuce.
  • Buy dark green broccoli and deep orange carrots.
  • Buy veggies which are in season, or produce grown locally.  Vegetables and fruits which have travelled long distances and stored for more days tend to diminish in nutritional value.
  • Fresh, frozen veggies are also nutritionally good to use.
  • Avoid leaving cut fruit or vegetables outside or uncovered in the fridge for a long time, as this will destroy vitamins—a slice of cucumber can lose 1/3 of its Vitamin C in just one hour.
  • Wash salads and veggies thoroughly before cutting. A good portion of the water soluble vitamins, namely the B group vitamins and Vitamin C will get washed away along with some other nutrients if cut and then washed. 
  • Raw salads eaten just before a meal do not generally create flatulence as food contains some salt.  In the presence of salt, saliva breaks down the carbs in salads more effectively.

USDA dietary guidelines recommend 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables for children over two.  Barely 15% have this quantity, while half the kids below twelve do not eat any fruit at all on a given day.

What to Avoid

Since we are dealing with multiple allergies, there are certain questionable ingredients that I stay away from–  aged cheeses and mushrooms are high in MSG , honey contains pollens of different kinds and could create a problem, and also sesame seeds which have been identified by the Ministry of Health, Govt. of Canada as a main allergenic food.

In any case, use utmost caution before using any new ingredient.

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Dressings and Dips

A simple vinaigrette dressing is excellent with crunchy leaves. For kids who might find vinegar too tart, there is lemon juice. Vinegar is mostly gluten free, except when derived from barley malt. If malt is derived from any other source, it is usually mentioned on the label.

Some of the dressings available on the shelf might be just fine, but please read every ingredient in detail.

Some quick and simple dressings for (4-6 servings)

Basic Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar / lemon juice
  • 2-3 teaspoons sugar
  • Whisk all ingredients, then pour on salad.

Orange Dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Beat well, using a whisk or fork.

Herb Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar / lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt.
  • Mix and beat well.
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed slightly
  • Dried or fresh, finely chopped herbs of your choice—basil, oregano, thyme, parsley,—just get creative with flavors.

Additional Ideas for that Extra Zing

  • Use lemon or orange zest, berries, cherry tomatoes, grapes, oranges, pineapples—fruits of your choice, with good crunchy lettuce, spinach, arugula and other such green leafy veggies.
  • Vary dressings, garnish with sunflower or pumpkin kernels,serve with cooked meats of your choice, and watch the salads disappear!

Caramelized Sunflower / Pumpkin Kernels

  • For half a cup of kernels, use 3 tablespoons of brown sugar. Roast seeds lightly in a pan, add sugar and continue to roast till sugar caramelizes and forms a rich brown coating on the seeds. Remove from pan and cool before adding to salads. These are wonderful alternatives for nuts. Seeds are also rich in vitamin C.
  • Lightly roasted, roughly crushed flax seeds also create a healthy,nutritious and crunchy topping.

Dips

  • Sour cream or thick yogurt is an excellent base for dips. Soft silken tofu or tofutti is a good dairy free alternative. If ready dips on store shelves have dubious additives, get plain sour cream and flavor it with simple ingredients of your choice—finely chopped green onion, dill, cilantro, basil, garlic—the list is endless

Gluten free, Eggless “Mayonnaise”

Mayonnaise is just off the list for most people with allergies. But try this delicious alternative, which is a great substitute for the original.

Ingredients

  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup milk /soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons corn-starch
  • 3 Tablespoons vinegar/lemon juice,
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon wheat free, gluten free mustard powder or paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Method

  1. In a small saucepan, heat 3/4 cup milk.
  2. Mix corn-starch into remaining 1/4 cup milk.
  3. When the milk in the saucepan has almost come to a boil, add the cold milk-corn-starch mixture, stirring continuously till sauce thickens.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. When sauce has cooled, add remaining ingredients and chill.

Use with potato salad, chicken salad, wheat and gluten free macaroni, and anything else you fancy.

Chef’s tip: Add a dollop of sour cream before using the prepared ‘mayo’.

Variation

To one cup gluten and egg free “mayonnaise”, add 1 Tablespoon finely chopped green pepper, 1 Tablespoon very finely chopped green onion, and toss in another Tablespoon of finely chopped olives or pimiento.

You have just created an allergy free Thousand Island-like dressing!

Olive Oil

This is great to use, especially for dairy allergic people. It is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, Omega 6 and the Omega 3 fatty acids. Nutritionists recommend extra virgin olive oil, as the process through which it is obtained ensures retention of maximum nutrients. It has the highest percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids.

Extra virgin olive oil is ideal for salad dressing, while virgin olive oil is good for cooking as it has a higher smoke point.

It is important to store olive oil (and other oils) in dark colored bottles or steel jars. Too much light and air destroys nutrients

Sunflower, Pumpkin and Flax Seeds

These are good sources of Vitamin E Buy kernels, as seeds have a husk like covering which needs to be removed. It is always good to lightly roast sunflower kernels. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc. they give us essential fatty acids and protein when eaten raw.

Flax seeds are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids, and are excellent for those who cannot have fish.

Flax meal is convenient to buy, as dehusking and coarse grinding is not necessary. Flax meal is best when lightly roasted and stored in an airtight bottle in the fridge. Flax can turn rancid very quickly.

Mustard

Make sure that the mustard you buy is gluten free.

American mustard is usually made from white mustard seeds blended with sugar, vinegar and colored with turmeric.

English mustard is also made from white mustard seeds but has a greater pungency. It is sometimes mixed with wheat flour for bulk and has turmeric for color. It is important to watch out for any wheat ingredient before using this mustard.

Dijon mustard is made from husked black mustard seeds blended with wine, salt and spices. It is necessary to find out from the manufacturer whether wheat or gluten ingredients have been used in the wine fermentation process.

 

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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken leg quarters
  • (I prefer to use skinless chicken to minimize the fat)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium onion cut into quarters
  • ½ bunch parsley
  • 1 large stalk of celery
  • 6-8 peppercorns
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and slightly crushed
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 4 cups water

Method

  1. Place chicken quarters in pressure cooker. Add all the other ingredients and water.
  2. Follow manufacturer’s directions to cover, cook and bring to high pressure.
  3. Reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat Allow pressure cooker to cool or follow directions for slow release of pressure.
  5. Transfer chicken pieces onto a plate and strain the broth and solids through a sieve into a bowl. Press solids to release any liquid (I prefer to press down on a sieve to obtain maximum liquid)
  6. When chicken has cooled, remove meat from bones. The meat may be used to garnish soups, add to stews, rice etc. But generally meat that cooks for a long time till it is very tender, may lose some of its taste as the juices and goodness have been released into the broth.

Broth can also be made in a large saucepan on a stovetop.

Put in all the ingredients and an extra cup of water. After it comes to a rolling boil, lower heat and cook on low for 35-40 minutes, till the meat is very tender and is partly loosened from the bones.

Chicken broth can be used in many delicious ways

  • Make Chicken Noodle Soup with flat rice noodles and thinly   sliced vegetables of your choice.
  • Make a hearty soup from leftover veggies and,chicken chunks. Add pinto/kidney beans and a handful of cooked pasta or leftover rice.
  • Use broth to add to other soups for enhanced flavor.
  • Use as additional liquid in white sauce.
  • Use in place of any canned soup that a recipe demands—just add a level teaspoonful of corn-starch mixed with cream or water and add to one cup of chicken broth. Bring to a boil till it thickens.

This is a great substitute for canned Cream of Chicken soup required in any recipe.

Fact File

Chicken Soup is the best comfort food ever—both for body and soul! For centuries,much before Grandma’s days, it has been a favorite remedy for colds and asthma. Recent scientific studies support this belief. Chicken soup helps to clear congestion. The blend of nutrients it contains is said to slow down the activity of certain white blood cells, reducing the pain and inflammation which occurs when these cells fight infection, thus relieving cold and flu symptoms. Also the spices in this soup, garlic and pepper for instance, help to clear mucus, make breathing easier, and boost the immune system.

Whatever the factors, chicken soup is delicious, and this basic broth will help you create yummy varieties.

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