Eating fresh herbs daily

A couple of days ago, my photo for my #100happydays was of some chives growing in our garden. I love my herb garden.  It is right by my kitchen, so it is easy to nip out there and pull off a few leaves of something or other.

I eat fresh herbs daily and so was interested in some reading I was doing for my studies which was comparing different government food recommendations in different countries.  I was looking at the the New Nordic diet NND which is a gastronomically driven, regional, organic and environmentally friendly diet from Denmark.

The NND was developed by a collaboration led by Rene Redzepi from the world-leading Copenhagen restaurant NOMA.  NOMA held the title of "best restaurant in the world" for 3 years. Shortly after opening NOMA, Rene held a conference with other chefs in Denmark and they collaborated with the University of Copenhagen to create a healthy diet, showcased in the local restaurants that could also be easily used for home cooking.



The NND is based on regional foods in season, with a strong emphasis on palatability, healthiness, and sustainability, while staying in tune with regional food culture and dietary habits.


The basis of the diet is comprised of the following food groups:
  • fruit and vegetables - especially berries, cabbages, root vegetables and legumes
  • potatoes
  • fresh herbs
  • plants and mushrooms gathered/foraged from the wild
  • nuts
  • whole grains
  • meats from livestock and game
  • fish and shellfish
  • seaweed
The majority of foods are organically grown and of Nordic origin.

Yes - they include "fresh herbs" as a food group.  I don't believe any other government dietary requirements mentions herbs at all.

Herbs have lots of different effects on the body - with each having their own little "niche" of health benefits, for example oregano has antibacterial and anti fungal effects, thyme and rosemary are both good antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, mint helps with digestion,  and basil helps with pain, reduces cholesterol, etc.  So using a variety of fresh herbs as part of your daily diet brings lots of benefits - never mind the flavors they impart.

The research on NND shows that eating this style of eating leads to great health improvements and weight loss, with people eating the food ad libitum - i.e. freely.  The OPUS project is continuing research on the diet.  More information on OPUS and the NND are in these links, including their research with school children.

I have to confess, there is another reason why the NND piqued my interest!  I am going to Copenhagen in May for my husband's birthday celebration.  A couple of weeks ago, I stayed up one night until nearly 2am, and I managed to get a reservation to eat at NOMA while we are there. I am so excited.  I can't wait to eat at such a creative restaurant. They employ two full time "foragers" who go out and forage for the food every day.  Apparently, if a restaurant in Denmark doesn't employ a forager, its not really a "proper" restaurant!!!!!  I love the idea.


So in the meantime, I will continue to eat my home-foraged (!!) herbs daily, until I go to Copenhagen and eat Rene's amazing creations!  

Do you grow fresh herbs? Its something easy we can all do - even if you don't have a garden.  It not only makes food tasty but is good for your health.

Watch this space….you know you'll be hearing more about NOMA and Rene (who is definitely a Great Dane!) and the NND.
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July Harvest


I bought my husband a new collapsible bucket this week.  I know - how romantic can I get?  I was really tempted with the lime green one - but that is my favorite color, so I got him the blue one - as that's his favorite color! Only seemed right!!



The reason for the purchase - (in addition to my loving him :-D) - was that we do a lot of harvesting of fruits and veggies in our garden,  and we have big things to collect fruit in but not really anything nice for smaller harvests.  So if we are picking a whole tree of apples, that's fine - or 12 trees of olives or loads of grapes...no problem but just a few items tended to go in a horrid old red bucket.  But no longer!



The new collapsible blue bucket  now comes to the rescue and it got its first use this week! And it did a fine job.

We put in some:
kale
padrone peppers - these are my 2013 new favorite food
green figs
black figs
peaches and
apricots

What a colorful harvest.

I'm so happy to have an early fig harvest this year. Some years we only get them in the fall but we've had quite a few July figs this year and it looks like an amazing number will ripen for the fall.  We will definitely be figged out! Glad family will be staying with us to help us out.



What did you harvest this week?


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Wednesday's harvest - plums and potatoes


We had a good harvest day today from the garden.


The plums have been ripe since we got back from England last week, so John picked a few more, as the birds outside are enjoying them too much.  I have to say however, that I'm not a great plum fan, so I'm going to make them into chia jam - leaving just a few fresh for John to enjoy.



But our exciting harvest of the day was our first potatoes!  Having been away for a month, we didn't really know what had gone on with the potatoes and how do you know when they are done etc, as we hadn't see flowers.  So we ventured carefully under the soil and look what we found!



What colorful beauties - and lots more where they came from. Red, white and blue...



Life definitely is good! I know I am going to have a baked blue potato for my dinner tonight! Roll on dinner time.

And just so he was not forgotten, little Harold got one of the carrots that was "culled" due to thinning of the carrot plants!  He seemed to enjoy it!

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Chickpea crepes (and upgraded Moroccan Bean Stew)

As I said a couple of days ago, I made a yummy Moroccan bean stew this week - enough for a few meals.

Reheating it, I've added a few other ingredients - which has bulked it out a little so it's gone further, and also improved the flavor, I think.


First of all I added a bunch of kale, fresh from the garden.  Yummy. Tastes even better because you feel all that green is good for you!

And for my last bowl, I've added a handful of currants. I loved the sweetness as part of the spice mix, and wanted to build on that a little, so the currants did the trick.  Not too sweet, like I think raisins could have been, but the currants lift the flavor nicely.


These photos also show my chickpea crepes I made to go with it.  I tried using the batter to make small blinis, but they tasted heavily of "bean" so I wasn't that keen on them.  But the thin crepes don't taste beany at all - so could go with sweet or savory accompaniments.

Here is the chickpea crepe recipe: Makes 6 crepes.
150g chickpea flour (garbanzo bean flour)
1 egg or egg replacement
200ml water

I made the crepes on my aga, so put a non-stick sheet directly on the simmering plate (no frying pan needed) and poured the batter on there, so I didn't need any oil.  I love making pancakes, crepes etc on the aga, directly on the plate!

But if you don't have an aga :-(, heat a little coconut oil in a frying pan.  Add some batter and swirl it around the pan to spread it out into a circle and cook on medium heat until the edge start turning golden (~1minute).  Flip it over and cook for another minute.  Remove from the pan and keep warm.

These will make nice wraps too - quite flexible and strong enough to place lots of vegetables in them.

Do you change your meals throughout the week when you make a big pot of something? What sort of things do you add?
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Food coupons for fruit and veg

How refreshing!  Publix supermarket - (a supermarket in the south of US which we used to go to when we lived in Florida), have been offering money off coupons at their stores for produce!  I don't think I've ever seen that before.


Normally the food coupons you get stuffed in your Sunday newspaper give money off highly processed foods.  But these latest coupons are for any fruits or vegetables, including organic produce.


A great way to encourage people to eat more fruit and vegetables and less processed foods.

I hope some other supermarkets follow their example.  Well done Publix.
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Swimming in tomatoes!

The joy of growing your own fruit and vegetables: you wait for ages to begin harvest, then have masses all at once!
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Even with just two tomato plants, we are nearly overwhelmed with tomatoes! We pick them just about everyday but yesterday seemed to tip me over the edge. We've been managing just eating them raw, but I now know I have to get cooking with them. I'm planning on making some roasted tomato soup and then also trying some tomato sauce. I've never tried that before. Should be fun.

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For today however, I'm roasting some for my lunch and will have them on some gluten free toast.

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They are drizzled with blackberry balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled with homegrown oregano and marjoram. Hmmm. Here's the oil-free recipe. Can't wait for lunch time.

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Recipe: Balsamic Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
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Ingredients:
Cherry tomatoes
Balsamic vinegar - plain or flavored
Fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano, marjoram

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F/ 200 degrees C
Halve tomatoes and place on silpat or parchment paper on a baking tray. (It is important to use a non stick surface as no oil is added in this recipe.)
Sprinkle with chopped herbs of your choice
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar
Roast in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes.
Serve warm with crusty bread or on toast.
Store at room temperature for maximum flavor.
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Make the switch to non-dairy

I was interested - and excited, to read Mark Bittman's article in Sunday's New York Times, entitled "Got Milk? You don't need it!"

You should read it. Please, take a couple of minutes and click on the link above.


We have been fooled by the Dairy industry for long enough.   Milk is not good for us - even skimmed milk - for the reasons Bittman mentions, but also because it is considered to be a cancer promoter in more than just prostate cancer, as highlighted in the China Study, by T. Colin Campbell.



And we won't all get osteoporosis because we don't drink it.  Levels of osteoporosis are highest in those countries where milk is drunk!

So let's stop drinking milk and using dairy products, and stop encouraging our children to drink it.  You may well feel better for it. Drink water instead, or delicious nut or non-dairy milks.  And yes, you can find soya and non-dairy cheeses too, and yoghurts and ice creams and......Here's my current favorite non-dairy milk:


Or make your own! It's easy :-D

Switching from dairy to non-dairy products is a huge step forward in taking care of your health.
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Sticky labels on fruit

Have you ever wondered what those sticky labels are all about on your fruit?  While they may be primarily for the sellers, there is useful information on them for buyers too, so don't just dismiss them as something you have to remove - take a closer look!

The numbers on the labels (PLU - Product Look-Up number) consist of either four or five numbers and they are used to classify fruit in three different ways: conventionally grown, organic, and genetically modified.


All four-digit coded fruit is conventionally raised, so could well be contaminated with pesticides and fertilizers.  In the photo above, the 4030 number is the number used for kiwi fruits. So all kiwis will have 4030 in their PLU.  Other fruits have their distinctive number, for example a Granny Smith apple is 4017, Comice pears are 4414, etc.  Some fruits have a different number depending if it is large or small., e.g. a small Granny Smith is 4139, instead of 4017.

Five-digit codes either begin with the number 8 or the number 9.

If the first number of 5 digit code is an 8, then it means the fruit has been genetically modified, and grown conventionally.

If the first number of a 5 digit code is a 9, then it means the fruit has been grown to the standard defined by the National Organic Board and is certified Organic.


So in the photo above, the 3435 indicates that this is a Piñata Apple and the 9 in front indicates that it was grown organically.

You may also be interested to note that the adhesive used on the labels is safe to eat (!), but the label is not!!

So get out there and look for those 5 digit numbers beginning with a 9! But don't eat the label :-D
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