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Happy Heart: Mushroom and Bean Bolognaise with Wholemeal Pasta

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Bean and Mushroom Bolognaise with Wholemeal Pasta

Serves: 4 – 6

There are some comforts that are difficult to contemplate sacrificing. For me, a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise was once a friend and a warm blanket. Yet I was wearing the meal for many days to come, with the bacon, the mince, and the handfuls of cheese. Delicious! But the meal provided close to zero nutrition. One of the wonderful things about changing your health and your attitude about food is that you can still enjoy the things that you love, varied in a way that nurtures your body, rather than abusing it. This a great recipe to make with kids too. My daughter loved helping me make the fresh pasta dough, believing that we were playing with play-dough. The great thing about getting kids involved with cooking is that they can’t wait to eat their creations. So, if safe, include your kids in as many healthy cooking projects as possible.

Note: I have made the pasta from scratch in this recipe, which is something I recommend in as many elements of cooking as possible. Making fresh pasta, bread and hummus (to name a few) means that you know exactly what ingredients are going into the development process. You avoid preservatives and are able to shop for organic ingredients, hence avoiding nasty hidden GMO’s. Don’t be scared of making home-made pasta. It is actually very easy. But if you just don’t have the time, a packet of wholemeal pasta would suffice. Just be sure to look at the label when purchasing so that you know what is in the pasta and hence, what you’ll be putting into your body.

INGREDIENTS

For the pasta:
2 cups wholemeal flour
2/3 cup water
½ tsp salt

For the bolognaise:
1 tsp coconut oil
1 red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic (or 1 tsp garlic flakes)
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
420g tin four bean mix, drained
1 potato, sliced into small pieces
100g sweet potato, sliced into small pieces
100g pumpkin, sliced into small pieces
generous handful broccoli, diced
375g mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp tomato paste
400g diced tomatoes
500ml vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

For the pasta:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until it forms a dough. Sprinkle some extra wholemeal flour onto a workbench and knead the dough lightly, until it becomes a smooth ball. Keep adding extra flour until the consistency is no longer sticky.
  2. If you have a pasta making machine, proceed to rolling the dough through the different levels, flattening the dough to a couple of millimetres of thickness.
  3. Being a vegan pasta (no egg) and having no oil in the recipe, I found that when I tried to put the dough into the fettuccine cutter, it didn’t separate well. I tackled this by laying the flattened dough out on the table and simply cutting the sheets into fettuccine sized strips.
  4. If you do not have a pasta making machine, you can simply avoid the second step and roll the dough out by hand until you achieve the desired thickness. Make sure to dust your bench with flour first so that your dough doesn’t stick to the table!
  5. When you are ready to prepare the pasta, simply cook it for a few minutes in a pot of boiling water, drain and put aside for assembly.

For the bolognaise:

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a pan and sauté onion until soft. Add the garlic, turmeric and cumin and stir quickly and thoroughly.
  2. Add the mixed beans, potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, broccoli and mushrooms and mix well. Cook for a few minutes then add the tomato paste. Ensure that the paste is well implemented through the mix.
  3. Add tinned tomatoes and vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for about a half an hour, or until the potato is cooked through.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and serve alongside some of your fresh wholemeal pasta.
  5. You’re done! Smile and be proud, and most importantly, enjoy! Food is there to be enjoyed so savour every healthy bite. Bon appétit!

Happy Heart: Plant Based Nutrition

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I have to first begin by saying that this isn’t a new idea to me. I have been battling with the morality of eating meat for most of my adolescence and early adult life. I have gone back and forth from vegetarian crazes, only to come crashing down by the depletion of energy often earned from poorly planned meals. What I lacked, I now realise, was the proper understanding of nutrition. Once upon a time I would have scoffed at the thought. Of course I knew about nutrition! I knew that a salad sandwich was a healthier choice than McDonalds…it was mostly common sense, knowledge that we acquire over the years. But the truth is; there is a big difference between claiming the knowledge of a healthy life and implementing it. Yes, a salad sandwich is healthier than a McDonald’s burger but I knew nothing of combining grains and pulses for complete proteins, choosing whole grains over refined grains to provide healthier energy. I didn’t know anything about processed foods, the poison of GMO, the corruption of the billion-dollar meat industry, or the severity of greenhouse gas emissions from the animal agriculture industry. I knew that heart disease was the leading cause of death in my country, and yet the idea that I could potentially lead myself down that road was not a concern. Those kinds of things happened to other people.

As a result, I have been on close to every diet known to man. I have detoxed, living on lemon water and cold tea; I have tried low carbs; high carbs; low fat; no sugar…I’ve counted calories like a nun counting rosary beads. And what for? What do any of us do it for? Why do new diet books sell like hotcakes (cruel analogy)? I think it’s because we all feel like we are under this constant amount of pressure. It comes from all sides, this weight. It firmly attaches itself to our shoulders and demands that we carry it around wherever we go. Work gets us down, and that adds a little more to the weight. Family troubles, a little bit more. A magazine cover shows us an image of what women and men are ‘supposed’ to like, add some more. Sooner or later we start acknowledging that it is a part of us, rather than a parasite that we have allowed into our hearts. We start to look around, seeing all the things we’re not, all the things we should be, all the things we want to be, all the things we want to do, want to afford, and that pesky weight whispers to us every time we do. “You think you can be like that? Look at you, you aren’t good enough, you’ll never be good enough”. What a joke! We have allowed ourselves to be completely governed not only by politicians with sleazy grins but by a pressure invisible to anyone but the person carrying it. How great would it be to let that rope go, leave that weight behind you and start fresh? How incredible would it be to fill your life only with positive, soul-fulfilling thoughts?

I have come to the wonderful conclusion that health works from the inside out. If you are looking for something that will help you drop two dress sizes by the end of the week, keep looking. But if you are at the end of your tether, if you’re sick of trying to look like someone else, fit into someone else’s clothes…if you’re searching for a way to change your life for the long term, for the better – then welcome! As a wonderful novelist once said, “you do not have a soul, you are a soul, you have a body” (C.S. Lewis). By first nurturing the soul, you can learn to nurture the body. Only when you take care of both, will you be on the way to true health and happiness.

Now, let’s not beat around the bush. I love food. I adore food. I am constantly planning meals and designing recipes. We are so blessed in our society to have access to food whenever we want it, whenever we need it. However, most of us are malnourished. That’s right! We may be living in the land of obesity but our bodies are as malnourished as they would be if we were starving. This is because the choices we make affect our health on astronomical levels. We choose to eat food with little or no nutrition, and then go to the doctor for a prescription to the health problems that start to cripple us. To make up for the lack of nutrition, we buy vitamins and health supplements – anything to avoid eating the foods that might save our lives. As T. Colin Campbell says in his incredible book, The China Study: “everything in food works together to create health or disease. The more we think that a single chemical characterizes a whole food, the more we stray into idiocy”. Campbell goes on to share his incredible findings on the negative effects of animal based protein on our bodies. Suffice to say that there is a reason that the biggest cause of death in our society is heart disease. There is a reason why so many of us are burdened with diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and poor nutrition. Most of us consume animal based protein on a daily basis, and Campbell believes that our poor health and our food choices are no co-incidence. In fact, what we choose to put in our bodies affects our health, happiness and vitality.  But the truth is, for most of us, the idea of giving up animal based products sounds like an absolute nightmare! You may have been eating it your entire life, or scoff at the thought of feeling full on ‘rabbit food’. This is a common attitude and one that I once shared. But in reality, plant based nutrition can be satisfying and incredibly delicious. All it takes is a little bit of planning and a willingness to nourish the body and the soul. You don’t have to give it up all at once, it would actually be unwise. But “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” and even if you try adding a few vegan or vegetarian recipes into your diet a week and slowly work your way towards a goal of long-term heath, your body will be thanking you for it.