For an optimum well being it is important from a balanced diet that can support the body everyday.
Below you can find more information to learn about some of the food properties, so you have more awareness to choose products to use in the kitchen.
The basic rules for a balanced natural diet are very simple:
Eat mainly whole or semi-whole cereals regularly (whole rice, pasta, and others), many cooked and raw seasonal vegetables, little animal protein (preferably fish, egg every so often, or white meat), replacing them with vegetables (vegetables and derivatives such as Tempeh, Tofu and Seitan).
Learn to appreciate foods as useful as those not so much used today such as dried fruit (hazel nuts, almonds, sesame and sunflower seeds etc) and seaweed (excellent in soups and in salads).
Consume only seasonal fruit, preferably not so close to meal times.
Use condiments sparingly, and only those of high quality: whole sea salt, freshly squeezed oil, rice or apple vinegar and condiments rich in vital enzymes such as traditional Miso and traditional Soya Sauce.
Replace sugar, synthetic and refined sweeteners, even if biological, with more appropriate and natural sweeteners: occasionally cereal malt and honey.
Drink pure water to start with, and then traditional herbal teas and sometimes a glass of a good wine or good beer for pleasure.
Use foods produced from biological agriculture, which forbids the use of synthetic chemical substances in treatments (insecticides, pesticides, weed killers) and certifies only eco-compatible natural cultivation techniques, free of genetically modified organisms (OGM). Additionally biological products do not contain preservatives, chemical colorants and hydrogenated fats.
Limit the consumption of red meats and pork products, sugar, fructose and other refined sweeteners (including sweets and drinks which contain them), milk and dairy products and synthetic, colored food and drink with preservatives, as much as possible.
And finally chew well: every food reveals all of its true taste and its vital quality when it is chewed to the core.
Little introduction to a natural daily diet, complete and balanced.
How to beign
Natural eating should be approached gradually, avoiding only the most imbalanced foods at the start and replacing them with others which are relatively more balanced. In the meantime you will get to know the newest foods and those which are still unknown and learn to cook them and consume them using the appropriate methods.
Sugar and industrial sweeteners, together with red meats, pork products, milk, more fatty cheeses and, naturally, foods with colorants and preservatives etc, can usually be quite rapidly eliminated or reduced to a minimum without causing any problem. These can be replaced with similar foods which have more favourable characteristics.
Balance at table
Everything becomes easier when you get to know at least the basics of a simple and intuitive principle, characteristic of macrobiotic feeding, which helps to achieve a better balance as regards daily eating: the principle of Expansion/Contraction which Asians call Yin/Yang.
Some of the following principles will help us to understand the basic ideas:
- Eating foods that are very dry and rich in salt determines a state of contraction in the tissues, and consequently the desire to take on more liquids, watery and sugary foods, which on the contrary dilate and distend the tissues.
- In addition foods rich in fats and proteins but deprived of carbohydrates (meats, egg, cheeses, pork products) lead to a state of high tension and hardening. As already said, this increases the desire for liquids, but even more for sweets: indeed the system automatically looks for the sugars necessary for its function, which are absent in this type of food.
Naturally, the need that the system is looking to satisfy is so strong, that it is looking for sugars which are already considerable and ready in a simple form: therefore the desire for pasta or rice which contains starch is not noticed, but a desire for sugar and sweets. Sweets have a very expansive effect which to a certain extent temporarily balances the effect of animal food. It is therefore a matter of an unstable equilibrium and also becoming very dangerous in the long term.
Eating for the most part in people sways between two extremes formed of food from animals and dry and salted foods on one hand, and on the other hand from sweets and alcoholic or sugared drinks. Usually this happens when we are totally unaware and sometimes even against our will: many of us would indeed like to limit our consumption of sweets, but do not manage to do so because they do not understand the cause. Getting to know the Expansion/Contraction principle will be easy to understand since to be successful in reducing sweets foods you must at the same time reduce foods which unleash the desire and the need, and therefore eat animal and salted foods even less. Instead whoever finds it difficult to reduce animal food, might think in reverse and reduce sweets at the same time, thus encountering significantly fewer problems. In one word: opposites attract, and one cannot be managed without also managing the other at the same time.
Saving time in the kitchen
Preparing good natural food certainly requires a lot of time and effort, but with some advice you can save time.
- After shopping for vegetables (perhaps once a week) spend more or less one hour washing them, then wrap them up individually in a clean tea towel to keep them fresh (carrots are very easily kept in a cotton bag).
- Cook noodle soups, soups and minestrone soups for two meals.
- Also cook the rice and the other cereals for three servings. You can easily heat them up again, or turn to countless recipes which will allow you to re-use them at the time: roasts, salads etc.
- Dedicate a shelf of your kitchen cupboard to cereals, one to vegetables, one to sweets and dried fruit, one to condiments, one to bread and biscuits etc. With this order looking for things will be much easier and quicker.
- With cooking finished, do not create a mountain of dirty crockery in the sink. As you go along using utensils or pots, rinse them and put them to drain. Without these obstacles you will move better and quicker, and the time used for cleaning will be greatly repaid.
- If you find it difficult getting organized in the kitchen, make a list of meals which you are on the point of preparing, beginning with that which the longest cooking time and finishing with the quickest. A salad which does not have to be cooked should be prepared last. During the preparation there will be, without a doubt, superimpositions, but you will find it infinitely better especially if you have guests and wish to prepare many meals.
- It is really useful to have a sink with two basins with a draining board, rather than one single basin. Moreover a good work top possibly to the left of the stove and another to the right of the sink is essential. If you are planning your kitchen, or if you have the opportunity to adapt it to new requirements, take this arrangement into consideration: sink – wide work top - stove, so that the work top enables full use of the other two resources.
- Suitable tools should be used for every work and the kitchen is no exception.
Utensils for the new kitchen
Suitable kitchen tools will enable you to save so much time and effort, and to obtain a better result. Following is a list of the most essential.
- Get a good wooden solid and stable chopping board. The minimum dimensions are 30 X 50 cm but if you have the chance, look for one that is bigger.
- Also get a good knife for vegetables with a squared blade, and learn the technique of using it. You cannot imagine how much time and effort you will save which you will feel greatly satisfied by. With time you will create a set of knives with various functions.
- Buy a flame breaker plate, of metal or cast iron, to intervene between the flame and the pan: the cooking of whole cereals often requires a low and diffuse flame.
- For cooking you will need wooden spoons. In addition to this, get some flat wooden spatulas for cereals.
- To wash cereals, vegetables and seeds, you will need a large colander with a handle, with small holes.
- The pan must be able to hold fire well without burning the food. Choose steel pans with a very thick base, or better still cast iron pots. Avoid non stick or aluminium.
- Use a gas cooker (or wood, if you are in a situation to be able to do it), and avoid electric. Important: keep the heat to a minimum so that it is very low, because a lot to cooking can be carried out with a flame smaller than that usually used.
Your new diet puts an emphasis on cereals, and among these rice, whole pasta and millet have to be tried first. Immediately after try pearl barley, pearl spelt, couscous and follow with all the others.
Among the vegetables, start with red lentils, small or average sized lentils and red azuki soya beans which are quicker and easier to cook and for a non accustomed intestine to accept. For breakfast, corn flakes and other cereals prepared without sugar are good to start with flakes and muesli to follow.
Among condiments which are not really basic, the following should be introduced to your habits as quickly as possible: a good freshly squeezed sesame or sunflower oil, soya sauce (Shoyu or Tamari), Miso (condiment for soups and broths), apple or rice vinegar, and raw sea salt.
Teas aged for three years (Kukicha) or light (Bancha, Hojicha) are two very pleasant and versatile drinks, with a very low caffeine content.
A big step can be to replace usual sweets with others without sugar. The new diet often begins with avoiding the desire for something sweet, and it is better to have a solution available which has been adapted to not resorting to the customary sweets: biscuits, stewed fruit, cracker breads and small bars without sugar are very useful for this. The malt from rice or maize is a basic sweetener, to be tried directly spread on bread, or as sweeteners for breakfast, deserts and various culinary preparations.
Some basic foods and suggestions
Rice is the easiest cereal to eat, even whole, in grain form: other cereals, such as wheat, barley etc, have too hard a rind to be used daily, or like Millet or Black Wheat, reveal themselves to be less versatile in the kitchen. Given that the consumption of grained cereals is more advisable, for sure preservation of quality nutrition, than those in the form of flours (pasta, bread, biscuits, etc), whole or semi-whole rice should occupy pride of place in natural eating.
Varieties of rice from La Finestra sul Cielo allow for all requirements to be met.
It is the whole rice grain that is only deprived of the external husks but is still in possession of bran and germ. The germ is the part of the grain richest in fats and vitamins. Compared to the refined one, whole rice is richer in protein, vitamins, minerals and fibre essential for the correct working of the gut. It therefore is a basic food for humans, acting as a central axis for proper eating, with a warning for it to be preferably accompanied by protein of vegetal rather than animal origin.
Whole rice based preparation – For best results, it is better to cook the whole rice in the pan for a long time, after it has been well washed. Measure the quantity (for example: four cups), put it in the pan, fill the pan with cold water, wash it by hand and remove the turbid water (not the rice, and to do this use a large colander with small holes). Repeat all of this three to four times. Then measure the cooking salt and water: for each cup of rice use a pinch of salt and a cup and a half of water (therefore for four cups of rice, use four pinches of salt and six cups of water).
Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook on a low flame, with the help of a flame breaker plate, for 45 minutes: remember that long grain varieties cook more quickly than the round and short grained. It is better not to drain whole rice: the water must instead dry all, so that its wealth of nutritional substances is preserved to the maximum. Eat it as it is, seasoned with a little oil and soya sauce, or use it in other preparations.
It is better to cook rice in double the quantity as immediate needs require, so you can use it the day after in other preparations (soups, salted with greens, salads, etc). To do this, after cooking it put it in a terracotta bowl, and with a wooden palette knife enlarge it and take plenty of air for all grains. It keeps in the fridge for a few days.
Whole long grain rice is more suitable for salads, stuffed and baked meals; those with round grain for risottos, soups and croquettes. Therefore, both find their best use if cooked alone and then used to accompany greens, vegetables, seaweed and vegetal protein in place of bread. Whole rice is indeed already very tasty by itself and a little olive oil, soya sauce or black wheat (sesame seasoning) is enough to make a good dish around which the entire meal can be based.
Semi whole rice
Partially released form the external cellulose cuticle, semi-whole is a lighter rice, also available in long or round grain. Suitable for those who cannot tolerate excess fibre, but who wish to have a cereal which is however more whole and rich from the point of view of nutrition. Basic preparation of semi-whole rice – It is not necessary to wash it; for the remainder, proceed as for whole rice, but reduce the cooking time to 15 - 20 minutes.
White Rice: This is the most used rice, which is free of germ and an external husk layer. It is poorer in nutritional substances, but lighter and quicker to cook. It is suitable in the spring and summer when there is a desire for fresh salads and spring rolls, cooked together with foods of an animal origin, as in the case of risottos with fish or sea food.
Basic preparation of refined rice – Cook it in a normal pan for 15 - 20 minutes, in the usual way, draining it for the purpose of cooking.
Light and delicious, with long and acute grains of this esteemed variety is suitable for any culinary preparation, both if you prefer the whole or refined type. With regard to other varieties, it is much higher in protein. Absolutely special for preparing a crispy rice salted in oil, Thaibonnet rice is very light even if consumed in whole form: indeed it possesses a more delicate external husk layer and is easy to chew. For many people, it represents a choice which is more pleasing to use daily compared with the other varieties of whole rice and even more pleasant in the summer months.
Thaibonnet rice base preparation – Preparation and cooking are the same, according to the type, to those for whole or refined rice. Cooking times are around 40 minutes for whole Thaibonnet, and 15 - 20 minutes for refined.
Rice in depth
Our food traditions are so rich in rice based recipes that it could be forgotten that this cereal has been a rare and exotic food in the past, and that its discovery has represented a turn around in man’s history.
The planting of rice was cultivated for the first time thousands of years ago on the largest Asiatic river banks: Ganges, Yellow River, Tigris and the Euphrates. The cultivation of rice distinctly pronounced the rhythms of the daily lives of the people of ancient China, brahmanic India, Mesopotamia and Africa, who dedicated innumerable rites and celebration to this cereal, a pillar of the entire Eastern culture. Rice has traditionally given maximum value for life, and in the classic Chinese language the ideogram that expresses the vital energy concept is represented by steam coming from a pot of rice.
In the meantime, in the first century BC, rice appeared in the Mediterranean and in continental Europe too.
For the Greeks and Romans rice was essentially a healing food and, because of its rarity, very expensive. The precious grains, imported by Alexandria ad Aegyptum, garnished the most sumptuous meals on special festival occasions. Always rare and sought after, rice has traversed the happenings in European history untill when in the XIV - XV centuries progress in irrigation techniques has permitted its cultivation on a large scale and its spread to all levels of population. It was Italy that gave Europe the opportunity to appreciate this extraordinary gift of nature, with its Vercellese and Milanese rice paddies.
Today La Finestra sul Cielo takes its place in this marvellous history, offering better varieties of rice cultivated without synthetic manures and pesticides, in accordance with the rules and rhythms of nature of a thousand years ago.
The variety of rice known as Basmati originates from the plains at the foot of the Himalayas, particularly Pakistan. Following this, the cultivation of this variety has extended to other eastern regions (Thailand etc) and recently also to the west: today Basmati is in fact also cultivated in Europe and in the United States of America.
The fine grain of this greatly esteemed variety has an absolutely inimitable scent and the flavour is likewise beyond comparison.