Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Just in Time for the New Year: Clean Food!

Clean Food
A seasonal guide to eating close to the source with more than 200 recipes for a healthy and sustainable you.
Terry Walters

Clean food is first a guide to eating in a way that recognizes how far processed foods have moved away from nature and teaches us how to embrace foods closer to the source. With big business deciding what lines our grocery shelves, and the alarming steps the food goes through to get there, now is more important than ever to get back to basics and learn to love food that loves us back.
I know, this is the holiday season and all bets are off, but the New Year is soon upon us and this feeling of a blank slate is the perfect time to cut back on the bacchanalia and embrace “Clean Food”.
The book begins with “A Universal Approach to Diet”, not a one-size-fits-all approach but an invitation to investigate what works for you using honest and fresh ingredients. Largely vegan, I think it is to the author’s own credit that I (an omnivore) didn’t even notice this fact for quite a while. While we do eat meat and dairy, I also like to work from vegetarian and vegan sources for balance and nutritious recipes.
Ms. Walters goes into Balance and Well-being, only slightly new-agey to me (but I am ultra-sensitive to that!) Then the book goes into a very informative section, The Basics, which gives a great breakdown and explanation of tools, ingredients and methods. I particularly liked this section and found it quite a handy reference guide.

Moving into the recipes, the book, like many cookbooks these days, is divided by seasons. This only makes sense with a cookbook designed towards eating what the body needs and I was relieved that exceptions are made for ingredients that are favourites but not locally available. I don’t think I could live without olive oil and citrus.
There are recipes with meat substitutes, seitan and tempeh and the like. I can’t bring myself to eat them and was happy that they were in the minority of recipes. The majority of the 200 recipes focus on healthy and “clean” food with good flavour and colour variety. The author wants you to discover the joy of eating in tune with your body and have fun doing it.
That being said, I was tempted to throw a little cheese on some of the menu items. Baby steps.

I made six recipes from the book, each turned out pretty tasty indeed.

Traditional Hummus
This was a very traditional hummus indeed, I was happy to make it as it is a great snack to have in the fridge. Perfect for sammies or crudités. I would be tempted to add a little more lemon juice but this is a great jumping off point. Walters gives some delicious variations as well, like roasted garlic and roasted red pepper.

Rice Noodles and Peanut Sauce Rolled in Nori
I thought this was genius. Rice noodles drizzled with a delicious peanut sauce (that I made a double batch of - it was so good) and wrapped in healthy nori (seaweed). Such a nice switch-up from regular summer rolls and so much more healthy. Makes me wonder what else I can wrap up in nori.

Artichokes, Fennel, and Olives over Penne
This was a tasty pasta with lots of my favourite flavours in it. I love the crunch of the thinly sliced fennel. I thought it cried out for feta though... Ok, I wouldn't make a good vegan. But that is the great thing about this book - variations are welcome.
We had the leftovers for lunch the next day and I thought they tasted even better.

Roasted Portobello Sandwich with Sun-dried Tomato Aioli
What can I say? The title says it all. Roasted Portobello Sandwich with Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli. Is that a thing of beauty or what? This is the steak sammie of the veggie world. Totally delish and satisfying.

Sautéed Yams with Ginger and Lime
I love this idea of doing sweet potatoes or yams shredded. So much more interesting than a mash or chunks. I will be using this method again and again and experimenting with different flavours.

Raisin Nut Bars
Ever read the side of a box of granola bars? It reads like a box of cookies: all sugars.. until you get to the list of chemicals. I love the idea of making my own. These were chewy and tasty, a little crumbly but perfect for the commuter's lunch.

In the end, this book is filled with lots of great recipes to get you on the track to eating in tune with your body. Some of the ingredients require a trip to the health food market, but most are readily available. Walters is laid back in her approach to cooking and encourages playing with the recipe and working with what you have. A great way to start the New Year!