Simple Tools for a Lifetime of Health
QUESTION MARK – ASK THE NATURAL CHEF
Chef Mark Reinfeld
Co-author, Vegan World Fusion Cuisine
Would you like to lose weight and keep it off without going on a “diet”? How about saving money on your food and health care costs? What if I told you that you could accomplish these things by learning simple 7 minute techniques that will also allow you to create delicious and healthy meals for you and your family?
Most people would like to feed their body the best foods possible. For many, the idea of creating their own healthy meals is intimidating at best. Be comforted. We have taken all the questions we have received over the years about healthy cooking and distilled the answers into a simple formula.
To our surprise, we found that the foundation for all the healthy and delicious cuisine you would ever wish to create can be accomplished by learning simple 7 minute techniques. In this first article we will introduce you to some of the basic tenets of natural food preparation. In our next article we will explore some of these 7 minute techniques more in depth.
The natural way
Many people are becoming aware of the importance of eating in a healthier way. The medical profession is finally getting on board that a variety of illnesses can be reversed or prevented simply by making different food choices. On the surface, placing the word “natural” in front of the word “food” seems to be a redundancy. Yet if one were to look at the ingredients listed in many of the “foods” in today’s mainstream marketplace, it would become clear why the distinction is an important one. Chemicals, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives are unnecessarily included into many of our foods and therefore into our bodies.
“Natural” food preparation is based upon the belief that food is best consumed in as close to its whole, unadulterated state as possible. This means working with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, unprocessed grains, unbleached flours and unrefined oils and sweeteners. It also means leaving out the harmful chemicals and preservatives. The incredible thing is that preparing foods “the natural way” is easier, much healthier, less expensive, more fun and—needless to say—tastes better.
“Let thy food be thy medicine.” – Hippocrates
Did you know that many of the ingredients in your kitchen cabinet have been used medicinally for thousands of years? A major principle involved in natural food preparation emphasizes the connection between eating these ‘health giving’ foods and feeling ‘healthier’. The food you eat is likely to be the most important variable in the healing process. Quite possibly, many of the illnesses that are prevalent today would be prevented, cured or minimized with the aid of appropriate changes in one’s diet and lifestyle.
It’s also fascinating to learn that many of these foods with reputed healing qualities, such as some of the common spices you regularly enjoy have a rich folklore. For instance oregano was considered a symbol of joy and happiness and was used in marriage rituals in Ancient Greece and Rome.
Tools of the trade
Now more than ever a cook has incredible tools to choose from. Cooking is in vogue these days so many companies have developed a wide selection of utensils for the modern day chef. The more comfortable you are with your kitchen utensils and appliances, the more inspired and motivated you will be to prepare your own food. Start building your kitchen utensil and equipment inventory, as your means allow.
Go with the flow
We encourage people to make changes that feel good. There should be no sense of deprivation. Begin to introduce a healthy dish or two every now and then and you will feel your body asking for more. Most people do not make diet or lifestyle changes overnight and are not willing to instantly sacrifice all of the foods they are accustomed to eating. We feel that long lasting dietary changes are more likely if made gently, with foods that are delicious and easy to prepare.
Remember…the cook is never wrong
Learning how to use these tools to prepare delicious and healthy food is an ongoing process. It is truly a joyful journey of trial and error. It’s fun to experiment. Sometimes you will be pleased with your experimentation and other times you may not. Be gentle with yourself as you discover the tastes and combinations that work best for you. Use recipes as a starting point to explore your own culinary creativity.
In the beginning
All recipes involve some form of prepping. It’s the first step in the creation process. This is where you will get to know all of the wonderful ingredients in natural food preparation. Every vegetable, fruit and other ingredient has its own unique flavor. You will begin to discover your core foods, those foods and flavors that taste and feel incredible to you.
Before beginning any preparation, create a clean work space. Remove as much clutter from the kitchen as you can. We suggest playing your favorite music and bringing in some flowers if you wish so as to make your environment as pleasant as possible.
We recommend using the freshest, organically grown ingredients whenever possible. Organic products are grown without the use of powerful and toxic chemical pesticides or fertilizers, many of which have not been fully tested for their effects on humans. Organic farmers employ farming methods that respect the fragile balance of our ecosystem. This results in a fraction of the ground water pollution and topsoil depletion that is generated by conventional methods. Most people have also found the taste and nutrient quality of organic products to be superior to that of conventionally grown food.
Why plant based
Our food choices have a direct impact upon our health and upon the health of our planet. Most people who include more plant based foods in their diet experience optimal health, increased energy and attunement to their environment.
A great deal of evidence exists indicating that the over consumption of cholesterol and saturated fats found in animal products leads to heart disease and certain forms of cancer. Other studies have been done suggesting that the over consumption of animal products leads to obesity- for both children and adults, diabetes, hypertension, gout and kidney stones.
Choose life… living foods
There is a growing interest in preparing foods that have not been cooked. It is coming to be a specialized area within plant based food preparation. These Living Foods are nutrient rich foods that have not been heated above 116 degrees. This preserves the heat sensitive enzymes and allows for the maximum amount of the naturally occurring life force to remain in the food.
Instead of cooking the food, Live Food preparation involves soaking, sprouting and dehydrating to create the flavors desired. People on a Live Food diet report feeling healthier and more vibrant than ever before. Try adding some live foods to your diet and you will surely notice a difference.
Please understand that this information can truly transform your life. By choosing your own ingredients and preparing your own food, you make the choices that affect your health and wellness. You can turn your life around and feel better than you ever have felt before.
These techniques will demystify the art of natural food preparation. They teach you skills that will ultimately enhance the flavor and overall yumminess of your food, to keep you excited about the meals you prepare. The beautiful thing about learning to prepare food in this way is that you are creating delicious cuisine that is also good for you.
What are these life-giving techniques? Check out the next article where we examine some of the simple tools that will allow you to create a lifetime of health and well being.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Reinfeld is the founding chef of the Blossoming Lotus Restaurants and a recipient of a 2006 Platinum carrot award given by the Aspen Center of Integral Health to ‘Americas Top Healthy Gourmet Chefs’. He is a recognized authority in the field of healthy cuisine. Mark is the coauthor of Vegan World Fusion Cuisine, winner of 8 national awards.
None of the above is intended as medical advice. Since every individual’s health condition and circumstance are unique, we recommend seeking the services of a qualified health care professional before using any of this information for medical purposes.
7 minutes prep / 25 minutes cook / 6 servings
12 oz brown rice penne pasta
4 cups roasted veggie sauce (below)
¼ cup fresh herbs, minced
3 cups assorted vegetables, steamed, sautéed or grilled and chopped
ROASTED VEGETABLE SAUCE
3 Tbl olive oil
2-3 medium tomatoes, quartered (3 cups)
1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)
1 medium zucchini, chopped (1 ½ cups)
6 large garlic cloves
4 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbl basil, minced
2 Tbl Italian parley, minced
1 Tbl nutritional yeast
2 tsp sea salt or to taste
¾ tsp fresh ground black pepper, or to taste
¾ tsp oregano, dried
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 Tbl soy sauce (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tomatoes, onion, zucchini, garlic and olive oil on a baking sheet, coat veggies with oil and roast for 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Place in a blender with remaining sauce ingredients and blend well.
2. While vegetables are roasting, bring 2 quarts water to a boil in medium size pot. Add penne pasta and cook until tender, approximately 8 minutes. Strain and add to large mixing bowl with sauce and remaining ingredients. Mix well and enjoy.
~ try varying the veggies with your favorites.
~ replace penne with pasta of your choosing.