Nutritious Memories

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Going Green: The Basics of making a salad

Greens and dark green leafy vegetables can be used in sandwiches, salads, as a side dish or even as a main meal. Despite their versatility, some people may have a somewhat aversion to the greens, or may find it challenging to incorporate these greeny leafy vegetables in their meals. Most answers that I usually hear are:

1.  I have the SAME tossed salad every time, so I don’t see the need to have it all the time.

2. I prefer food with more exotic flavors.

3. I’m not too sure how to prepare a salad that looks and tastes delicious.


Firstly I’d like to say that I have experienced all of the three categories that I mentioned above . However I also would like to point out that there are some alternatives  and ideas that you maybe overlooking, which may help make a salad a bit more interesting to eat.  First I am going to start with an analogy.  Cracking an egg and eating it raw does not sound too pleasant or tasty (Well at least in my case). Instead the egg can undergo different cooking procedures and with the right ingredients to make  scrambled eggs, poached eggs, french toast, or even omelette stuffed with your choice, which overall results in a fabulous meal. If you get this concept I’d like to use to this method with green leafy vegetables. A bowl of lettuce, with tomatoes and cucumber, really does not really sound pleasing to many people. People are aware and know that they are nutritious, but something still seems to be missing  . What I am trying to illustrate is that adding other ingredients (which I will discuss in this post) does helps make a difference. Before moving on  I would like to briefly discuss the common types of leafy green, where to find them, and their nutritional values.

Types of Leafy Greens

Cos & Baby cos hearts

Cos lettuce have long green leaves, which consists of a of a white rib, which runs along the center of the lettuce.  Cos lettuce leaves has a crisp and crunchy texture, along with a subtle sweet flavour.  As for Baby cos lettuce, they have a delicate flavor. These are generally available all year round. Cos lettuce is a suitable  leafy green to use in Caesars salads.

Iceberg

This is the most common and popular variety of lettuce, that most people would have comes across. Used in pretty everything from sandwiches to coleslaw.

Baby Spinach

Are soft tender in texture. They have a clean and mild flavor. They are perfect in sandwiches, salads, soups and pastas.

See: Different type of leafy greens for different types of  green leafy vegetables.

Nutritional Profile

Although the nutrition may differ in each leafy greens, generally they provide a good source of Vitamin B groups riboflavin, thiamine, niacin and B6 , C, E and K. As for minerals leafy greens are a good source of  folate, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium and are also rich in antioxidants such as Beta- Carotene.

The iron in leafy greens is a non-heme iron from. The absorption of this form of iron is not as efficient as heme iron (which can found in meat, poultry and fish). To overcome this, drinking fruit juices rich in vitamin C does help increase the absorption of iron by converting  the non- heme iron into heme iron from, which can be readily absorbed thought the small intestine. This turns out be great (especially if you enjoy juice). But why not use it as an opportunity to add another serving of vegetables, as vegetables are also rich in vitamin C.  You’ll also receive a bonus of adding more antioxidants and nutrients that are so good for you.

The Basics of making a salad

If you feel like you don’t have the cooking skills or knowledge do not worry. Almost all salads preparations are suitable for even those who are beginners in the kitchen. Here are a few suggestions, which will help you enable to create a delicious salad.

1.Visit your local supermarket/ fruit or vegetable shop/ farmer’s market.

They usually have small brochures with description of leafy greens and how to use them. If in doubt the people work in the fresh food section would be more than happy to assist.

2. Try adding fruit to salad

Strawberries, grapes, and nectarines are good choices, especially mangoes .This can be your chance to experiment since mangoes are in season now. A mango salad mixed with leafy greens, baby spinach leaves, cucumber along with a light lime dressing is quite refreshing and delicious. (I’ll post a link for a few recipes under the resources section).

3. Try adding nuts 

Most people would probably say  that they are a bit high in fat (stay clear from the fats!!!). Yes that true nuts are quite energy dense. However the types of fats found in nuts are considered to be the  healthy fats, which I have mentioned in a previous post 101 on dietary fats .  Many studies show that consuming nuts a few times a week helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, but here’s the important point, portion control is crucial, the Heart Foundation suggests a  small handful (around 30 grams) of nuts. Nuts are also a great source of protein (suitable for vegetarians), fiber, minerals and also have antioxidants (Yes I know I’m always talking about the antioxidants, but you’ll get more benefits if you get antixodiants from various kinds of foods).

Try making your own dressing.

It’s very easy and interesting to make and is convenient, as you are in control of how much dressing you want to make. This is where exotic and unique flavors comes into play, as different cuisines (from the Mediterranean to Asians salads) have different ways creating  dressing and vinaigrette’s. Ever since I learned how to make different types of vinaigrette’s I can’t go back to the ones in the stores. It’s not that there all bad. Sometimes I think some dressings are a bit salty or overpowering. I believe it’s a manner of personal preference, just make sure if you do choose to buy ones in the stores watch for the sodium, especially the ones that are labeled fat-free. ( I’ll post a link that shows how to make a salad dressing, by my favorite nutritionist Nutrition Diva!!!!).

5. Consider adding some herbs.

Fresh herbs smell great and are like the finishing touches in many meals. Dietitian Karen Inges suggests that adding some herbs is an excellent way of boosting daily antioxidant intake and also aids in building the body’s defenses.

6. consider adding another serving of vegetables . Even mushrooms are perfect alternatives, or eggs.

Preparation and Storage

When buying salad greens in the store, try to look for crisp leaves, that have no traces of  discoloration, slime, or wilting. Always wash salad greens before using them to remove unwanted materials. Try to use them within a day or two in order to get the full flavor and freshness.

Hopefully when you feel comfortable in making salad try to incorporate this in most of your meals. I challenge you to try a new leafy green vegetable to make a salad,  instead of  buying pre-packaged salad, try going for the self- serve . The prices usually ranges $15.00 -18.99 kg, however  I usually get enough for 2 cups for 1 meal and it ranges from $.50 to $1.50. I find this cheaper and a great way of mixing other leafy greens. Don’t forget that 1 cup of leafy greens counts as 1 serving of vegetable intake.

Resources

http://www.woolworths.com.au/wps/wcm/connect/website/woolworths/Search+Results/ (Types of leafy greens)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15ueE89dbXM (How to Make the Perfect Salad Dressing )

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/21250/lettuce+avocado+and+mango+salad (Mango Salad)

http://suburbantomato.com/2011/05/lettuce-sing/ ( Kitchen gardening Blog ).

http://www.burkesbackyard.com.au/factsheets/Food-Health-and-Nutrition/2UE-salad-greens-growing-tips-and-recipes/6017 ( Recipes: Dressing and Vinaigrette).

http://healthyblenderrecipes.com/recipes/basic_green_vinaigrette_dressing/ ( Recipes: Dressing and Vinaigrette).

http://www.healthyfoodguide.com.au/articles/2005/april/edible-garden-salad-greens ( How to start a small garden).


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Strawberry Shortcake

There’s nothing like the smell of a homemade cake, cookies or freshly baked bread in the oven.  Originally I was going to make a strawberry tart recipe from master chef, however my first attempt was a complete failure :( , so I thought I should stick to something a little more realistic.

I have never really considered myself a person who bakes, in fact the only cake/pie that I have probably baked was a  Sara Lee apple crumble pie :) . However I wanted to really to start learning the acquired skills for not only baking but cooking as well. So here goes my second attempt of baking.

Making the shortcakes wasn’t too bad, I did managed to mix all of the ingredients together without a food processor/ electric mixer ( i used a blender instead), but it took longer than I expected. Forming the dough into a smooth ball was a problem for me since it was incredibly sticky, so I needed to cover the dough with a bit of flour.

Instead of buying whipped cream, I decided to make my own from scratch, for the strawberry shortcakes i used pouring cream to make the whipped cream.  After whisking the cream for a long period of time like 2-3 minutes it started to become fluffy, the whipped cream is now ready, i used vanilla extract and some icing sugar to flavor the whipped cream (Got that from the master series 2 recipe book).

After chilling the dough I completing forgot that I did not have a cookie cutter to cut them into perfect shapes, I was looking around  and the only I kitchen utensil I found at the time was a Santa Claus  tin cake , ( Well Christmas is coming). So I had to use a small knife, though it wasn’t the best circle shape,  it still got the job done :) .

Well there you have it, here is the strawberry shortcake, actually there supposed to be 7 of  ( I wonder where they all went?) . Overall I enjoyed the whole expirience (not cleaning the kitchen since it was a huge mess) and everyone enjoyed their yummy treats .  For the topping I followed the recipe from the Master chef series 2 recipe book. Here is a link to another very good recipe for making strawberry shortcakes. I got this recipe for the shortcake from a children cook book.

Resource:

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/20231/strawberry+shortcakes