Getting Sick Can Be a Sign of Good Health

With considerable frequency, clients sit in my office and list a sizeable range of nagging symptoms, chronic conditions, and perhaps their numerous surgical or pharmaceutical treatments. Just as common is to follow this list with some version of the statement, “My health is quite good really”.

To me this is an astounding assessment.

However with further questioning I have come to understand that what people mean is they don’t often have illnesses of the brief but intense, possibly bed-domiciled variety such as colds or flu. Another version of this reasoning is evident from ex-smokers. They remark incredulously that they never got ‘sick’ until they gave up smoking. There are similar reasons for this.

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Food and Travel in the Middle East

United Arab Emirates

On my birthday, I ride a camel into the Arabian Desert and dine with Bedouins.

We start with watermelon drinks, camel milk (rich and nutty), and tiny cups of thin coffee served the old way while chewing a date for sweetness. Then creamy lentil soup and griddle-fried flat bread made by hennaed hands. The main is camel stew (tastes like beef), lamb baked below ground, rice pilaf, lemon and fattoush salad. Last is fresh fruit with luqaimat: small saffron doughnuts sticky with date syrup. Read more

Paleo Spice Cookies

Makes 2 ½ dozen

Paleo; no gluten, grain, dairy, cane sugar or soy; with option for peanuts

Dark, moist and chewy. Rich with spicy flavours – and spices are high antioxidant achievers. Low starch and high protein helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Lovely as a snack, for lunch boxes, or as a morsel of dessert on a platter with fresh fruit. Or for sharp colour contrast, sprinkle a platter of Paleo Spice Cookies with whole freeze-dried raspberries. They and the coconut products listed are all in most supermarkets. Or serve a cookie beside a small parfait glass of Chia Pudding (see my 4 recipe options), or my Vegan Caramel Nut Ice Cream. Read more

Beetroot and Dill Dip

Beetroot and Dill Dip/Topping/Spread   makes 1 ¼ cups

Paleo; no gluten, dairy, legumes, onion, garlic or nightshades; with option for vegan

Fabulous colour that shouts nutritious good looks.

Excellent dip with sliced carrot, kumara chips or corn chips. Or for a hearty Chef Salad, you can toss pasta, quinoa or rice, cubed tofu  or back beans, or steamed veg – or a mixture – with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a platter. Make a depression in the middle and fill with the beetroot topping. Sprinkle with fresh dill or parsley. Surround with leafy greens. Read more

NEW Tasty Strategies for Gut Health

How many different plant foods did you eat in the last 7 days?

The average American consumes just 5. Dr Jeff Leach, of the Human Food Project, says good health starts with 25 per week. He aims for 55 to 70 (my breakfast alone has 20). A robust, well populated gut microbiome of diverse friendly bacteria is now linked with less risk for obesity, gut and mood disorders, heart disease and cancer. Read more

Lamb or Beef Red Wine Ragout

Lamb or Beef Red Wine Ragout   serves 3-4
No gluten or dairy; low grain

Deep, dark substantial notes. Yet so easily done for all this rich reward. Many slow cooking cuts can be used to melt into submission. Stewing cuts such as lamb shoulder or beef blade are good options; they are cheaper and have more flavour. I was more adventurous and used sheep heart. All are top sources of highly absorbable iron and zinc.

“Rah-goo” is a French term for meat simmered in sauce. Serve with a vegetable mash such as kumara, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin and garlic. Steam, then coarsely mash with preferred milk option, olive oil, Harker or Pacific Harvest sea salt with kelp. Yum.
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Thai Chicken Rissoles

Makes about 20 small

Paleo; no gluten, dairy; with options for legumes

Tender, flavourful morsels. Shape them as tiny finger food, substantial meatballs or oblong rissoles. Cook in 6 minutes or use a BBQ hot plate. Serve with extra chopped coriander or drizzle with homemade mayo, chilli sauce or satay sauce.

Layer left overs with lettuce, grated carrot and choice of sauce and place in wraps: nori sheets, 100% cornmeal tortillas, soaked rice paper – or use taco shells. Or serve with a side salad, plus rice or pumpkin mash. Read more

Smoky Red Pepper Pesto

Makes ¾ cup

Vegan; no gluten, dairy, tomato, soy or other legumes

Gorgeous deep colour and flavour notes. Super easy. Wonderful as a dip, spread, salad dressing, or a zingy splash to top soup, pasta; plain, grilled or BBQ chicken, lamb chops, fish, tofu, eggplant.

Natural colours and flavours can indicate high levels of antioxidants, which help lower the inflammation that characterizes at least 80% of all health conditions.

Replacing the parmesan in this pesto is a similar umami (savoury) flavour from flaky savoury yeast. This is the same yeast that is used to make Marmite. See my Dynamite recipe for an easy equivalent without the sugar and additives. Yeast is high in B vitamins and hard-to-obtain chromium so important for energy delivery. Read more

Vege Nachos

Serves 4

No gluten, dairy, cane sugar; with options for tomato, potato, legumes, vegan and Paleo

A fiesta of bright colours and flavours. Serve as a big Mexican-style platter. This can be an easy, popular dinner served with a salad or mixed steamed veg such as carrot, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts or broccoli. Add rice or bread for heartier appetites. Small amounts of plant protein from different sources, or mixed with a small amount of animal protein can upgrade satiety and nutrients. Learn more about your protein needs here.

Colours can indicate a specific range of antioxidants and other supportive micronutrients. Eat 5 helpings from the 5 colours of fruit and veg daily to get the best array of health helpers.
Here crisply coated vege slices are used as a base instead of corn chips. These are topped with tomato or pumpkin sauce and protein options; a flutter of leafy greens then creamy aioli or guacamole. Ole! Read more

Eggs and Chicken: Surprising Facts from the Farm

It’s Always Girls’ Day Out at Big Paddock Farm

These ladies are liberated. All 50,000 of them. They spend the morning dining, strolling and dust bathing, which is like a body scrub at a day spa. They prefer to do this communally so they can chat.

At Whangaripo valley near Matakana, we food writers walked Big Paddock Farm as their free range hens followed with friendly interest. They were happy to be held and stroked, when not pecking at our worm-like shoelaces. Nearby cattle help scare off predatory hawks and feral cats.

Owners Mathew and Jill Quested were our hosts. Matthew gave us a tour while correcting common assumptions. Related birds in the wild are used to being in flocks of tens of thousands. Free range hens do not have the strictly controlled diet of caged cousins, so egg sizes vary and are a nuisance to grade. Small eggs tend to be from younger hens and might be more nutritious. Ideally eggs should be eaten within 4-5 days of laying, but in the supermarket are probably 35 days old. Deep orange yolks are usually due to synthetically coloured feed. Even if organic feed is used there is no guarantee it is non-GMO. Free range meat chickens need to be reared indoors for the first 22 days. Surprisingly, they are then able to move outside for only about an additional 10 days before slaughter. How does this warrant the free range name badge and price?

Philosophy Creates Practices
Big Paddock Farm sells its eggs under that name locally and in supermarkets under Otaika Valley Eggs. Sometimes I have bought a different brand of free range eggs. I was horrified to discover that this is but a sneaky sub-brand from an inhumane cage-egg producer. But hey, the carton had a nice photo of a family on the farm!

It is suspicious when a major cage egg producer also offers free range. There is often something missing when the motive is purely profit without the originating philosophy. The premise is the same with big bread companies that start making gluten-free versions. The loaf will be without gluten, but often contains numerous artificial additives, cane sugar, highly refined milk powder, fractionated soy, cheap oils and more. Such companies are not motivated by the holistic perspective and so don’t factor in its principles.

Meat Chickens
In New Zealand nearly all farmers breed Cobb or Ross chickens for eggs or meat. These have been selectively bred over many generations to put on weight very quickly. Matthew’s statement checked out on the poultry industry page of a government website. At only 34 to 42 days old, broilers (chickens reared for meat) reach the desired weight of about 2kg and are then slaughtered. Chickens would normally take six months to fully mature.

Four main standard producers of broilers dominate the market. The largest is Tegel, owned by a Hong Kong private equity firm; then Ingham’s, owned by Australian investors. Next is Brinks, 50 per cent owned by Van der Brink family and 50 per cent by the VDB investment group. Turks is a smaller family-owned producer in Taranaki.

There is no legislated definition for “organic” or “free range”, so independent certification is required. Only a handful of farms offer organic broilers. Organic standards require chickens to be reared for at least 52 days. Companies such as Bostock (available at supermarkets and butchers) wait for 8 to 10 weeks. Bostock also manages every aspect of rearing, growing their own organic feed, doing their own slaughtering and packaging to ensure complete oversight.

Back to the Farm
Eggs are an excellent source of easy to digest and highly utilisable protein. A great choice for babies, children, the ill and the elderly  – and just about everyone else. Wonderfully little on the farm is wasted. Older eggs are wanted by bakers for making the best meringue. Eggs found in the paddock are given to pigs. Old birds are used for stewing (prized for flavour by savvy Chinese customers) or later yet for pet food. Excrement from the roost is used as fertiliser by farmers who then need less chemicals.

Light triggers laying. If you could look inside a hen there would be about 35 eggs in different stages of development. As one reaches maturity a hard calcium shell is created. We were shown one which had been expelled without a calcium exterior. It could be squeezed like a bouncy ball.

After our tour came brunch: scrambled eggs with chives, two types of local smoked salmon with leafy greens, warm artisan bread and homemade cinnamon brioche. Jill produced all this with relaxed competence in the cosy farm staff kitchen while a proprietary hen walked in to visit.