Cooking from scratch is one of the best changes you can make for your health. First of all you know exactly what’s going into your food – no preservatives, no added chemical colorings and artificial flavors, no unnecessary added sugar or salt. Now I’m not saying that you will be cooking without adding your own sugar and salt, not at all! But you will be in control of both how much you use and the type. Personally I never use white sugar; I just don’t like the taste, I prefer the more caramelly taste of raw brown sugar. I also only ever use Himalayan pink rock salt as it has a bunch of other minerals in it as well as sodium. Cooking from scratch gives you this choice!
I am always reading nutrition labels when I go grocery shopping, so I was not surprised when I heard, on an NPR show about America’s food industry induced sugar addiction, that 74% of all items on US supermarket shelves have hidden added sugars. 74%! I usually end up putting things back on the shelves just because the list of ingredients read like a biochemistry experiment! This is what you’re doing to your body when you eat this stuff – experimenting on it, when you should be feeding it wholesome and nutritious food.
Cooking your own food, from start to finish means you take back control of what you eat. As a nation we have surpassed saturation points with sugar to the extent that so much of it is added to everything we eat that we do not recognize the point at which the taste is not affected anymore. We pass the point where sugar is a sweetener and go way beyond that point, but now the only change is the chaos it is wreaking on our bodies. The food does not taste any sweeter. In the majority of cases the sugar can be halved and the taste would not alter.
I actually did a couple of experiments on people in our restaurant. We inherited the usual sweet tea and Shari’s famous salad dressing, both of which had scarily high levels of added sugar in them. As soon as I took over I cut the sugar in both by 30% and watched people’s reactions for a week. Absolutely nothing! Nobody noticed that anything had changed. This told me that we still had not quite reached the saturation point, therefore we could go even lower before the taste changed. So, we cut it again by another 30%, now down to about 40% of the original amount. Still nobody noticed. I ended up actually cutting the amount of sugar to a third of its original amount without affecting the sweetness. This sounds ridiculous, but I am afraid it is too common a practice. Restaurants and fast food outlets literally pour buckets of sugar in to make sweet tea and other drinks, with no forethought either about taste nor about how this is affecting people’s health.
I remember also inviting our neighbors over for dinner one summer evening. Dessert was really simple, fresh strawberries and whipped cream. My neighbor joined me in the kitchen while whipping the cream. “Aren’t you going to add sugar (to the cream) or vanilla?” she asked. “No,” I answered, “cream is perfectly sweet just as it is.” She did not reply, but after dessert she said, “Well I have certainly learned something today. Cream certainly does not need sugar adding to it. You are quite correct. We do need to rethink our automatic reactions to just add sugar to everything without even thinking about it.” And that, in a nutshell, encompasses my entire view on the US’s sugar consumption. It has become an addiction, something that you add without giving it a second thought. Which is a travesty in many ways, to our health of course, but also to our relationship with food. We are forgetting what foods actually taste like, because everything is disguised with sugar. Let’s get back to having a range of exciting tastes to tantalise our tastebuds. Food should be exciting, not mundane.
So, my message to you for 2017 is to get back in the kitchen. You don’t have to fork out for cook books, there are so many recipes available online. Cook from scratch, enjoy your food. Yes, use sugar and salt in your cooking, but choose which types you use and experiment with quantities. I make a banana loaf every week for my son to have a slice of with his school lunch. The recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, over time I have reduced this to 1/3 cup and there is no noticeable difference in taste. This will vary depending on the type of sugar you use as well – honey, molasses, date sugar, coconut sugar, raw brown sugar, white sugar. Which you choose is up to you, but cooking from scratch will get you healthier and more in tune with both your body and its needs and your food. This is important. The future of our children depends on what we feed them today. Please think about that.
Here’s one for you to try (was always a popular one in our restaurant and it’s also GF):
Almond and Raspberry cake
18 tblsp butter, plus extra for greasing
1 cup superfine sugar (you can put regular sugar in the blender for a couple of minutes)
5 large eggs, separated
3 cups ground almonds (you can grind whole almonds in the blender)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups raspberries
1 Preheat oven to 275F (140C). Grease a 10″ (25cm) springform cake pan with the extra butter and line the base with parchment paper, making sure the paper is exactly the same size as the base.
2 Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl (or in mixer). Add an egg yolk, mix well, then add a little of the ground almonds and stir well. Repeat until all yolks and ground almonds have been added. Add the vanilla extract and stir well.
3 In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks with an electric hand mixer. Gently fold into cake mixture with a large metal spoon to keep the mixture as light and fluffy as possible. DO NOT STIR! Reserve 6-12 raspberries for later. Transfer half the cake mixture to the cake pan, arrange half the remaining raspberries on top, then add the rest of the cake mixture and finish with the remaining raspberries. Do not mix in the raspberries or they will color the cake mixture.
4 Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until cooked through. Use a toothpick or skewer to test if it’s done. Insert into the center, if it comes out clean it is done.
5 Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Once cool, carefully remove the springform and parchment paper. Decorate the cake with the reserved raspberries to serve. Whipped cream optional.
For more recipes like this, check out The Healing Foods book Click here