recipes for healthy living

Category: Shopping Lists

Store cupboard Health Heroes ♥♥♥♥♥

Here are a few of my favourite foods for health boosting properties. I always keep them on hand at home and include as many of them as possible when I’m planning out our meals for the week.

An amazing source of Omega 3 fatty acids, also know as linseed is a great addition to any diet. Look for them already cracked otherwise you will need a coffee grinder. Sprinkle them onto porridge, in salads, home baked flapjacks, home made granola and onto vegetables. They are also really good thrown into the pot when making soup. Try this Granola with some flaxseeds.

This beautiful coloured spice contains the active compound curcumin which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties which are really helpful to relieve pain from sports injury, arthritis or other chronic pain conditions such as peripheral neuropathy. As a sufferer, I include it in my diet when ever I can. It’s also a really powerful antioxidant – attributed with delaying aging including development of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. I have several curry recipes in my index, one of my fav’s is here.

Rapeseed Oils
This has a higher level of Omega3 fatty acids than even my beloved Olive oil, and a higher smoking point so better for cooking. It also has a neutral flavour so I tend to use this for cooking and keep my extra virgin olive oils for dressings. Rapeseed oil has also been seen to help reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.

This is one of my favourite super foods and I have even been using it to make breads and wraps. It is a great source of protein and heart friendly fats with a great mineral content. A good source of magnesium – so if you suffer from headaches or migraines you should include more of this in your diet. Try these great burgers if you are unsure about quinoa, they will convert you for sure.

Tomatoes contain high doses of the potent antioxidant Lycopene which is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers. It is also associated with increasing your protection against sun burn so while you shouldn’t go without, it can be a helpful anti aging agent!. Its better absorbed when the tomatoes are cooked and eaten with oil and canned is great too for the winter months. My favourite recipe for tomatoes two ways are here.

Semi dried tomatoes

Green tea
Full of catechins – plan chemicals that are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. These will act as a boost to your skin care regime to aid aging (Gotta love that), it addition it is believed that they can protect against coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis as well as high levels of triglycerides. While I’m personally more of a caffeine fan, I do try get some green tea into me regularly…oh an it has great fat burning qualities too!

Full of amazing compounds, not only does garlic add great flavour to dishes, it has powerful antibacterial and anti fungal properties. Apart from helping with digestive problems, coughs and colds, it has also been shown to help reduce bad cholesterol in the blood. I love the flavour of it and try get it into as many of my main dishes as possible.

Buying chicken – What to look out for

The Irish are big lovers of chicken, buying close to 30kg per person every year.  But when you tuck into your roast chicken do you know where your bird is from, indeed does it matter? The truth is that in Ireland there is a strong possibility that the chicken you just bought or ate in a café has come from Thailand. I have nothing against imports or Thailand specifically but when I’m buying meat, fish or poultry I honestly don’t want it to have travelled thousands of miles before it reaches my shopping basket. I also don’t want it flushed with Carbon Dioxide – often done to imported poultry as it artificially extends its shelf life.

I have been completing my environmental food safety qualification recently and this has exposed me to food labelling and the legislation around this in the EU and in Ireland in particular. These laws and standards can be quite useful in helping you know where your chicken is from so that at least the decision you make about the chicken you buy is an informed one.

Price pressures means that imports have soared with almost 200million fillets coming into the republic each year.  Supermarkets often use reduced chicken prices as an enticement to get us consumers in the door discounting the price as a loss leader to keep shoppers coming.  The reality is that we are all under financial pressure every day doing our best to stretch our budgets so not many of us can afford the luxury of buying organic or even free range chicken but what can we do to arm ourselves with the best knowledge in order to buy the best product for our family?

Look for the Bord Bia Quality Mark.
Bord Bia Quality Assured Chicken is easily identified on packaging, with either a Republic, Northern Ireland or both sticker. Where you see Bord Bia Q Mark on a product it means that the product has been produced in accordance with a set of required quality standards.  The flag and the ‘Origin Ireland’ on the mark verify that the product was produced, in its entirety, in Ireland where you see this mark it means that the food was farmed and processed in the Republic of Ireland . There are also marks relating to Northern Ireland and both the Republic and Northern Ireland together.

Bord Bia Logo

Bord Bia Quality Assured Chicken labels on packaging means the meat complies with their food safety, traceability, welfare and production requirements at every stage from the farm to the consumer.  While it is true that most chicken sold is Ireland is conventionally farmed and won’t have the much stricter standards on animal welfare and sourcing of chicken feed of ‘Organic’ or ‘Free Range’ chicken, at least you have assurances on where the animal has travelled from, the use of antibiotics and other food safety standards as well as supporting the Irish farmer. if you can stretch your budget to free range or organic with this mark, then even better!.

Learn to read the label of pre packaged chicken
The origin of the chicken can be checked in a number of ways, firstly through the unique number given to by the Irish Department of Agriculture which is printed on all chicken labels. This number will consist of the letters IE for Ireland followed by a three letter code indicating the unique factory code and then EC indicating that it is part of the EC. So to be sure look for IE XXX EC. The UK will be indicated by UK, FR for France and DE for Germany.

For my overseas readers I guess the important point in all of this is to examine what you are thinking of buying, learn what your country’s food labelling requirements are and if in doubt ask!

Ask your friendly Butcher
Many of us buy our chicken loose at the meat counter in the butchers. I know that I have often forgotten to ask where the chicken comes from – I get caught up in the banter in the butchers and sometimes forget. Most butchers have very high standards and adhere to all the legislation around the labelling of loose chicken, not all are as thorough so remember to ask where the bird is from before you buy.  The law states that loose poultry meat should display the registered number of the slaughterhouse or cutting plant, and in the case of poultry meat imported from third countries( i.e. from outside the EU), an indication of the country of origin. That way if it has travelled from Thailand at least you know before you buy. If you don’t see the information displayed, ask.

Store Cupboard staples

I do believe that a recipe is a guide. If you have the main ingredients listed but are missing a herb or dont have a shallot that’s not a reason for not doing it, substitute with the herbs to hand or throw in an onion instead… See whether you like the result and if so.. Bingo – a new recipe. It is nice though to know that you have a good store cupboard of ingredients at hand so that when you get started in the kitchen you don’t have to go to the shops.

So with this in mind here is a list of the main things I always have in the press or the fridge as my base supplies for when I fancy doing some cooking…. I have loads of other favourites but this is the list for now…

Olive oil – extra virgin and basic.
Balsamic Vinegar.
Sherry vinegar.

Stock or Stock cubes – Yes it’s nice to have fresh home made stock but there are many good substitutes. Marigold (though watch your extra salt as it is quite salty), Knorr Bouillon. I also order veal stock on line from la rousse foods as it is just amazing for any gravys or sauces like madeira or red wine jus.

Fresh herbs – Flat leaf parsley – never curly unless Im making stuffing (yum by the way), chives, basil, coriander. I grow thyme, tarragon, rosemary and marjoram in the garden which are really easy.. even I can’t kill them.

The bare minimum spices/flavourings I have to have are coriander, cuimin, fennel, Bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon. I always like to also have paprika, cayenne, all spice, star anise, juniper, mace, nutmeg.

Red and Green chillies
Fresh Ginger
Fresh Garlic
Salt – sea salt, maldon or himalayan
Pepper – black, though I do like white from time to time. I don’t add pepper automatically when Im seasoning, just salt. I only add pepper if its’s in the recipe.

Anchovies and Capers – delicious in salsa verde, livining up a gravy or even in a herb crust.

Honey – I always have a jar in the press just in case Im making a dressing or icing for my carrot cake..

Nuts – I always have a selection of nuts – macadamias are my favourite for adding to brownies though sadly quite pricy. Walnuts for making Walnut pesto for the top of a mushroom or celeriac soup.Cashews and hazlenuts for roasting and tossing into salads for crunch and peanuts for roasing and boiling when making a red peanut curry.

Pasta and Rice – Despite the misgivings about both related to diet and health, I do have a sleection of both at home. I cook and eat them in very small quantities, I buy spelt pasta for my husband, for myself and my daughter I buy the fresh pasta made with eggs and always have risotto, basmati and wild rice in the house. Personally in small quantities both work well for me but I do accept it’s not for everyone and certainly does not have much of a place in your diet if you are trying to reduce your weight or have bloating and or lethargy type issues.

Beans and Pulses- I always have a few cans of beans – borlotti, cannellini, kidney and chickpeas. Same for lentils – red green and black. Beans and lentils are great for casseroles and take flavour nicely through addition of stocks, spices and herbs.

Shallots / Onions – I always have shallots, red and white onions in the press. They form the basis of so many recipes you will never end up throwing them out.

(New addition thanks to Dee – tomato passata, soo useful especially in lovely little Ireland where the tomatoes can often be tasteless and anaemic cos they have had no sun on their bones… so to speak).

Don’t feel you have to go out and buy all these though – every week or so buy another one and buy in small quantities to keep them fresh and at their best. I comb the shops at the weekend and always have a little list in my bag, of things Im missing and if I see something interesting I buy it – right now I have some Za’atar in my press – not yet used but watch this space.

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