Food is an easy way to enhance the quality of your life

If I had to choose a few good things about the upcoming winter season, it would be the freshness and calm as the snowflakes gently fall, and a sabbatical from the yard and field work that consumes so much time in the growing season.

As we shift indoors, there are many ways to fill our time and due to what is going on in the world around us with the pandemic, my focus this year will on preventive health.

My favourite mug reminds me to be positive and proactive each day as I sip my morning coffee.

Inscribed on the side is, “each day is a new beginning, an opportunity to write your own happy ending.”

There are many easy ways to enhance the quality of your life.

For example, satisfy the need to learn something new.

Humans never quit learning because things are always changing and we are adapting. I love the saying, “when we know better, we do better,” and a great way to gain information is through reading.

We often forget to nurture this need with our busy schedules.

Reading is a great way to keep up to date whether it is on the internet, in a good book, magazine or newspaper.

During these times of uncertainty, we need guidance from sources that are inspiring, educated and work to better the world around us. I would like to share a book that is timely, preventive and overflowing with knowledge about health and the food.

Dr. William Li has written Eat to Beat Disease and it is a publication that will inform and help you with good health.

Another way to enhance the quality of your life is to use food as medicine.

Some of the best medicines are found in our kitchen cupboards.

We are preparing meals at home, and making informed decisions on what we put in our bodies will satisfy and balance us.

This book teaches us that certain foods are “grand slams” in activating our health defences. Here are some of his food suggestions to incorporate: cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, mushrooms, leafy greens, garlic, apples with peels, pomegranates, blueberries, fresh parmesan cheese, walnuts, flaxseed and dark chocolate.

Starter:

Sustaining breakfast smoothie

I am just not a breakfast eater, but I do love a smoothie, and what a great way to kickstart your body with a drink full of nutrients. Try adding in a less common antioxidant-rich pomegranate, which is in season over the winter.

Simply cut the fruit in half and have fun digging out those tasty little seeds. If this seems too tedious, look for frozen seeds in the freezer department. You can also add a splash of pure juice.

  • 2 or 3 ice cubes
  • 1 1/2 c. water 375 mL
  • 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil 15 mL
  • 1/4 c. fresh or frozen blueberries 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. fresh or frozen pomegranate seeds 60 mL
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/4 c. chopped spinach 60 mL
  • 2 tbsp. protein of your choice, (hemp seed, almond milk, protein powder, walnuts or plain Greek yogurt) 30 mL
  • 2 – 3 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice 10 to 15 mL

Blend the above ingredients together until smooth.

Main course:

Grilled chicken salad with blueberry vinaigrette

  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil 15 mL
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 1 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper 1 mL

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 c. olive oil 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. blueberry preserves 60 mL
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup 30 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. ground mustard 1 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. salt .5 mL
  • dash pepper
  • 8 c. washed and prepared greens of your choice (pressed for time use prepared packages) 2L
  • 1 c. fresh blueberries 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. canned (drained) or fresh mandarin oranges (I prefer canned) 125 mL
  • 1 c. crumbled feta 250 mL
  • crumbled walnuts (optional)

Toss the chicken with oil, garlic, salt and pepper; refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. In a small bowl or jar stir together the vinaigrette ingredients, cover and refrigerate.

Saute in a skillet or grill chicken, covered, over medium heat until a thermometer reads 165 F. Let rest for a few minutes before slicing into thin pieces.

Place greens on a serving plate. Top with chicken, blueberries and mandarin oranges.

Whisk vinaigrette again; drizzle over salad. Top with cheese. Serves four.

Note: You could substitute beef if desired. Also you could use leftovers in the marinade. For a green salad, leave out the meat. Source: adapted from www.tasteofhome.com

Instant Pot parmesan chicken and rice with mushrooms

The parmesan cheese offers vitamin K2, an anti-cancer nutrient, in this warm dish. And using the Instant Pot is so convenient.

  • 4-6 chicken thighs or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, thawed
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil 15 mL
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp. dried herb blend (or by combining 1/2 teaspoon each dried basil, thyme, and oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon each parsley and rosemary) 10 mL
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder 5 mL
  • 2 tbsp. butter 30 mL
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic 5 mL
  • 1 c. sliced mushrooms 250 mL
  • 1 c. long grain white rice or brown rice (rinsed*) 250 mL
  • 1/3 c. fresh-grated parmesan cheese 75 mL
  • chopped parsley, optional for garnish
  • 1 1/2 c. chicken broth 375 mL

Set Instant Pot** to saute. Rub chicken with oil, then season all over with salt and pepper to taste. Add garlic powder, and one teaspoon dried herbs. Add chicken to pot, brown for one to two minutes on each side, then move to a plate.

Add butter and garlic to the pot and stir one to two minutes until butter is melted and garlic lightly browned and fragrant. Add mushrooms and stir for two to three minutes until browned.

For white rice: Stir rice and one cup of broth into the pot. Add 1 teaspoon dried herbs. Set steam rack in the pot with the handles up. Place chicken on the rack. Cover and set to pressure cook or manual for five minutes. Cook, then do a natural release for five minutes, remove lid.

For brown rice: Stir rice and 1 1/2 cups of broth into the pot. Add one teaspoon dried herbs. Set steam rack in the pot with the handles up.

Cover and set to pressure cook or manual for 10 minutes. Cook, then do a quick release, then place chicken in the pot on the rack and return the lid.

Set to pressure cook or manual for five minutes, cook, then natural release for five minutes.

Remove chicken and rack from the pot.

Fluff rice with a fork and stir in parmesan cheese. Garnish chicken and rice with chopped parsley, cracked black pepper, and additional cheese, if desired and serve. Makes four servings.

*  Rinsing the rice removes the starch and keeps it from sticking to the bottom of the pot

** If you don’t have an Instant Pot, you can use the slow cooker. Saute the garlic and mushrooms in the butter before adding to the slow cooker, then adding your rice and chicken. This will take three to four hours on high or four to six hours on low for white rice and five to six hours on high or six to eight hours on low for brown. Source: www.lecremedelacrumb.com.

Desserts and snacks

Let’s keep things simple.

Try some sliced apples with peels with sliced gouda cheese (which is a great source of Vitamin K2) or a few squares of 70 percent cacao or higher dark chocolate loaded with flavanols, which are beneficial to your heart health. Lindt bars are popular for beginners.

Spiced banana bundt

Not willing to give up on baked goods? A banana cake that uses yogurt and seeds add nutrients to this sweet treat.

  • 1/4 c. olive oil* 60 mL
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar 300 mL
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
  • 1 1/4 c. mashed bananas(4 large) 300 mL
  • 2 c. flour 500 mL
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder 6 mL
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 2 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg 2 mL
  • pinch cloves
  • 1 c. plain Greek or regular yogurt 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. dark chocolate chips, optional 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. chopped nuts or hemp seed for protein, optional 125 mL

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).

In a mixing bowl, mix the oil and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and then add the vanilla. Add bananas and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.

Fold into the creamed mixture alternately with the yogurt until well combined. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts and hemp seed, if desired.

Spoon into a greased bundt pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool, remove from the pan and dust with icing sugar if desired.

Cut into slices. Serves 12.

* In all of the above recipes I have used olive oil due to the reference of Dr. Li, the book I am reviewing. Any other oils of your choice can be substituted.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

We are inside more now that we are transitioning to the winter, and the furnaces are running.

Our indoor air may lack moisture. When our body is dehydrated, our organs do not function smoothly and often we get headaches and become susceptible to many illnesses. Dehydration also shows up on the way your skin looks.

We should be sipping water throughout the day and Dr. Li recommends coffee, green and black tea, which have protective qualities. He also talks about consuming the odd beer, in moderation, because it is made from hops, which contain polyphenols. I am in for a night cap.

Supplement

It is difficult to get enough of some vitamins and probiotics from food alone.

To boost our bodies natural defences, consider taking vitamin D, vitamin C, probiotic and omega 3 Supplements.

Health Canada recommends between 400 and 2,000 IU for a daily allowance of Vitamin D and a minimum of 500 milligrams to a maximum of 2,000 mg of time-released vitamin C.

Both supplements will help to ward off colds, viruses and other diseases.

Also include a probiotic combination that includes the bacteria Lactobacillus Reuteri, which boosts our immune system and helps keep our microbiome or gut health in check.

Studies now show that the gut communicates directly with the brain, so if your gut is not healthy your brain is not functioning at optimum levels.

As well, consider taking an Omega 3 supplement for brain and skin health. I like the Care (Natural Source Omega 3-6-9 available at local Co-op pharmacies). Read your labels and talk to your health-care providers before starting supplements, the amount will be based on each person’s health profile.

What about zinc?

Consume foods that contain zinc. It plays a large role in the synthesis of protein, as well as maintaining healthy cell production in the body.

Oysters contain more zinc than any other food, but probably not our first choice when we are not feeling well.

Other sources of zinc are animal proteins, beans, legumes, nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, whole grains and fortified low-sugar breakfast cereals.

Be well, keep warm and check out more of this great information at www.drwilliamli.com.

Dr. Li also offers a free shopping list to take shopping with you.

Looking for COVID-19 coping stories

The past six months have been strange, disruptive, freeing and lonely.

How have you coped?

What have you learned or what are you now doing differently?

Please share your experiences, stories and thoughts with us.

A draw for a gift basket of Canadian-made products will be made from all the entries on Dec. 7.

A sample of reader replies will be shared in future columns.

Please send your Coping With COVID Ideas to team@producer.com or mail to:

The Western Producer,
1000-3530 Millar Ave.,
Saskatoon SK,
S7P 0B6

All entries must be received by Dec. 7.

Jodie Mirosovsky is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com

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