By Linda Cornelius
ecogal Author and Designer
Ecogal is not a recipe blog, but changing your life to a healthier toxic-free living inevitably touches on how you shop for your food and how you then implement it in the kitchen.
So here we go: a few tips to change basic habits in an easy way!
Easy switch: Standard white rice to organic whole rice.
White rice has been milled to remove the bran and much of the germ, reducing fiber and nutrient content drastically. The grain is further polished to take away the remaining layer of germ, which contains essential oils.
Substitution: Whole organic rice (inlcuding all sorts of wild rice) is the whole grain with just the first outer layer (husk or hull) removed through milling. It retains its fiber and germ which contains vital nutrients.
There are so many interesting types of rice and each has a special taste, so just be adventurous and try them out.
How to: the main difference here is cooking time. Whole rice usually needs about 30-40 minutes to cook, but it all depends on the size and type of grain. Check the instructions. Then just prepare all your preferred dishes with whole rice, no other changes needed.
Benefit: Apart from the nutrition values, that you can check here: Organicfacts.net, and here: Organicauthority.com, whole rice has a wonderful rich taste even when eaten alone, and is just as easy to use for dishes. Brown rice will keep you going much longer before you get hungry.
Tips: I usually prepare a big portion due to the longer cooking time, and then I freeze the excess for later use. You can either prepare the finished dish (for example a great risotto) or just cook the rice and add the remaining ingredients later. One batch of cooked rice will allow you to diversify the finished dishes as you wish.
To re-heat: just add a tiny bit of water in a pot or pan, add the rice and let it simmer at low heat for 2-3 minutes. No need to add any kind of fat or oil. Ready!
Easy switch: White pasta and spaghetti to whole organic equivalents
How to: Just get your desired pasta as whole organic version.
Benefit: Not only is is healthier, but the taste is much more vibrant and interesting. Even a simple tomato sauce with fresh basil will rise to new heights.
Tips: I prefer Kamut to wheat, because the taste is much more like the white pasta. It’s a question of personal preference, I usually find whole wheat pasta tasting a bit like cardboard! But in organic food stores you may find other kinds to esperiment with: spelt is great, but do try for example rye pasta and other varieties. Some times you will also find pasta that has been mixed with spinach (green pasta) or with hot pepper (chilli) or even algae. You can also experiment with organic rice-pasta or maize-pasta (make really sure it’s organic so no OGMs present).
The cooking time is a bit longer, usually. Do check the package instruction for each variety.
Easy switch: For bread-making, just buy spelt or kamut for the best taste, unless you happen to like whole wheat.
Benefit: Enjoy a richer taste and more fibers.
Tips: Whole flour does not rise and become as ‘fluffy’, compared to white flour. So if you bake cakes or bread they will be less ‘airy’. A trick is to add a small percentage of organic white American Flour (Manitoba), which has a higher strength and helps the rising. If you add too many other goodies, like grains, nuts, fibers or seeds, the bread will rise even less. But the taste will still be great.
Easy switch: Drop the processed salad dressing and make your own in 1 minute
How to: I usually make a great and simple dressing starting with some yogurt, salt and pepper, which are then spiced up with mixes based on whatever ingredients I have available: choose between any spices, even mixed together: you may add some tomato sauce, garlic, Feta cheese, or use mustard, grated lemon peel or some lemon juice, turmeric… just experiment away or look at the dressing you usually bought and see what spices are added there. Then copy at home with the yogurt-based you prepare. Have fun and enjoy.
Benefit: It’s much lighter in calories, and the yogurt brings you the greater nutrition value and probiotics that a standard dressing will never have. Adding turmeric also enhances the nutrition value.
Tips: Make sure you buy un-sugared and un-sweetened white yogurt, check the label carefully for added sweeteners or sugar. If you can and dare: add fresh garlic for more taste and health value!
Easy switch: Use spices to give rich taste, instead of salt
How to: While you may still use a bit of salt, adding lots of spices is a healthier way to create a rich and vibrant taste for any dish.
Benefit: We all know too much salt is not good. But we don’t like bland dishes, so experiment away with spices instead!
Tips: I usually add greater amounts of spices than the various recipes state. This is especially true of the basic spices like oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary and so on. It’s a question of taste however, you be the judge for quantities. But basic spices are also: hot pepper, cayenne pepper and turmeric, as well as seeds such as sesame.
I grow as many as I can in small pots, it depends on having enough light available on your windowsill, balcony or in your garden. Buy some spices in pots and enjoy having fresh spices at your fingertips when cooking like the chefs do!
Fresh spices have a richness in taste that I really like, and I use them everywhere, from salads to cooked dishes. Plus you get all the superfood benefits spices offer.
See the benefits of the single herbs at Nutrition and You.com
Easy switch: Replace standard salt with whole salt
Sea salt is produced through evaporation of ocean water or water from saltwater lakes, usually with little processing. Depending on the water source, this leaves behind certain trace minerals and elements. The minerals add flavor and color to sea salt, which also comes in a variety of coarseness levels.
Table salt is typically mined from underground salt deposits. Table salt is more heavily processed to eliminate minerals and usually contains an additive to prevent clumping. Most table salts also have iodine added, an essential nutrient that helps maintain a healthy thyroid.
How to: Just experiment with the many salt variations available: Himalayan rose-colored salt, Celtic, French, Sea-salt… try them out and decide which ones you like best.
Benefit: More minerals and taste. But do remember: it is still salt, it’s best to be restrained in using it.
Tips: If you add garlic or dried spices to salt you can obtain various mixes to further enhance the taste. You can sometimes even buy mixes, such as Trocomare where the advantage is that the overall sodium content is less, since it’s mixed so much with spices.
I hope you enjoy some of these easy switches, and as usual tell us more in the comments, what switches did you make?