Focus on healthy eating in 2014

Published 12:00am Saturday, January 4, 2014

Most of us are probably eating better than we did a decade ago, and I think the main trend for 2014 is not to diet, but to eat healthier. If you eat the right foods and lower the portions, the weight will come off. Yes, it is hard to do this every day.

Here are some tips for getting this new healthy 2014 started. Eat more grains, less white flour; more leafy, hearty greens; more heritage-breed pork instead of that plastic-wrapped supermarket stuff; more pristine, sustainable fish; and more grass-fed beef! We need to build our meals around these ingredients, and you will not even think healthy, but delicious.

We should eat breakfast every day, if possible, and a good one. One of the reasons to keep extra-cooked grains around is because they can be added to pancake or waffle batter, quick breads, muffins, and even vegetable fritters. Grains are replacing pasta these days. Store grains such as millet, wild rice, barley, wheat berries, farro, black rice, oats and spelt in zip-lock bags or airtight jars and they will keep for months in a cool pantry.

To begin the year with a good start, Anderson did a spicy pork and mustard green soup.
To begin the year with a good start, Anderson did a spicy pork and mustard green soup.

Greens are always on the healthy list. Kale was the thing in 2013, and I used a lot of it in salads and really liked it. You should never leave a farmer’s market without a bunch of spicy mustard greens, chard or hardy collards. They are so easy to use. You can sauté them, make a sauce or add to a stew. They are super greens, and you should eat them every day.

Fish is the new chicken. Many of us are choosing fish over poultry because fresh fish is easier to find and fillets are quick to cook. Fish should be wild caught and not from China! Choose fish that is plump and pristine and the eyes should be clear and bright. Avoid fillets that appear flat, mushy, or dull or that smell fishy. Fresh fish should not smell like much.

I was happy to see that a trend for 2014 is to eat your meat. Today’s well-sourced, well-raised meat has earned a prime spot on your plate. It’s better for you, and that is science talking, not me. It can also be better tasting. The key is knowing how to cook it. We talk about meat differently than we did a decade ago. You are getting protein with a side of adjectives – “grass-fed,” “pasture-raised” and “Heritage breed.” A lot of these words are confusing. We seem to all be on a learning curve with these terms. Mainly people want to know where and how their meat was raised. Heritage-breed pork may naturally have more fat, but all that goodness has higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Grass-fed beef tends to be much leaner than conventional beef, both in terms of marbling and in the amount of external fat. All cuts of grass-fed deliver a pronounced beefy, almost-mineral flavor, that once you have cooked it, is unmistakable. Cook the skirt, flank, and hanger steaks hotter, faster, and a little rarer than you would cook cows fed on grain.

Other trends include gluten-free foods and nut milks. I will not go into all that today but save it for another time. But I do know that many people are looking for some good gluten-free recipes. I will have some of those at a later date.

To begin the year with a good start I did a spicy pork and mustard green soup. This is good and easy and healthy.

Taken from January 2014 ‘ bon appétit’

SPICY PORK AND MUSTARD GREEN SOUP

4 servings

½ lb. ground pork

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tsp. finely grated peeled ginger

1 tsp. Sichuan peppercorns, crushed

¾ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

½ tsp. cumin seeds, coarsely chopped

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 bunch mustard greens, torn (about 4 cups)

4 scallions, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tsp. fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)

8 oz. wide rice noodles (I had some narrow at hand so used those.)

Mix pork, garlic, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and cumin in a medium bowl. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add pork mixture; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring and breaking up with a spoon, until browned and cooked through, eight to 10 minutes.

Add broth and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until flavors meld, eight to 10 minutes. Add mustard greens, scallions, soy sauce, and fish sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until greens are tender, five to eight minutes; and season with salt and black pepper.

Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions, drain.

Divide noodles among bowls and ladle soup over.

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