Linking nutrition, lifestyle, women’s health

THE BOOK: The CSIRO Women’s Health and Nutrition Guide, by Jane Bowen, Bev Muhlhausler and Gemma...
THE BOOK: The CSIRO Women’s Health and Nutrition Guide, by Jane Bowen, Bev Muhlhausler and Gemma Williams, published by Macmillan Australia, RRP $39.99
Forming positive lifestyle habits, rather than restricting calories, and focusing on nourishing women’s bodies is the aim of Australia’s national science agency’s latest book.

The CSIRO Women’s Health and Nutrition Guide is focused on the specific links between nutrition, lifestyle and women’s health.

Another key determinant of women’s health is hormones which can have a profound effect on women’s bodies and minds at all stages of life.

The authors, Dr Jane Bowan, Associate Prof Bev Muhlhausler and Gemma Williams are all scientists, and nutritionists or dietitians.

They provide advice and information on hormones, how they work and how they change over time from puberty and early adulthood including fertility and pregnancy through to menopause.

In each section they give case studies, advice on foods that are best eaten during those stages and health issues women can face.

There is also a section on lifestyle diseases - 43% of women aged over 45 report having at least one chronic disease - the early warning signs, common causes and how to take action.

In response to this they urge women to form new habits by giving tips on disrupting an unhealthy habit and how to create a new healthy habit such as being more active, eating well, reducing alcohol consumption and not smoking.

They urge women to take small steps first by starting to include healthier recipes into their everyday cooking repertoire providing meal plans and suggestions for breakfasts, lunch and dinners.

There are handy guides to cooking grains, portable lunches, freezer-friendly soups, platters, brunches and salads.

This extract features their slowcooker dinners using their spice boosters for extra flavour.

PHOTOS: ROB PALMER
PHOTOS: ROB PALMER

Slow-cook dinners 

Each dinner serves 4

The flavours in these dinners can be tailored to your individual taste with additions such as chilli, herbs, sumac, capers, anchovies, salsa verde or mustard. A range of vegetables can be included — use whatever is left in the fridge.

These meals have been designed to be prepared ahead on weekends in large batches. Let the flavours develop over a few days, then enjoy a meal ready to heat and serve.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, place the ingredients (other than the grain and ‘‘toppers’’) in a heavy, lidded ovenproof stockpot and cook at 160degC (140degC fan-forced) oven for 4 hours.

Heat the oil in a large, deep non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the spice booster and meat or alternative protein and cook, tossing, until just seared. Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker.

Add the vegetables and stock. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours, stirring occasionally.

Prepare the grain and divide among serving bowls, then spoon on the slow-cooker portion.

Serve sprinkled with the ‘‘toppers’’.

Spice boosters

A spice booster can be used as a flavour base, dry rub or seasoning when you’re cooking or making dressings, marinades, dips, salsas or sauces. Or sprinkle over your meal as a flavour enhancer just before serving.

Mixing these yourself works out to be more economical and avoids the inclusion of extra salt.

Make ahead of time and freeze.

Allow the slow-cooker meal to cool slightly. Divide the grain among individual freezer-safe containers, then spoon on the slowcooker portion. Cover and freeze.

Thaw in the fridge overnight and gently reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave on medium.

Make sure your meal is piping hot throughout before eating.

Units per serve

Meat & salt 1.5 | grain 2 | vegetables 3 | oil 2

All-purpose chicken

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp all-purpose spice booster (see below)

600g diced chicken breast

2 carrots, chopped

3 sticks celery, sliced

2 green capsicums, seeded, cut into 3cm pieces

1 cup (250ml) salt-reduced chicken stock

640g (4 cups) cooked brown rice

Topper

chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 bunch English spinach, leaves picked and wilted

All-purpose spice booster

This flavour-enhancing mix will become your secret ingredient. It can be rubbed on to chicken, or pork prior to pan-frying basic ‘‘meat and three vege’’ meal or added to soups and casseroles, mashed potato and rice or any other side dish that needs a pop of colour.

Makes ⅔ cup

Prep time 5 minutes

3 Tbsp sweet paprika

2 Tbsp garlic powder

2 Tbsp onion powder

1 Tbsp dried parsley

Method

Place all ingredients in a screw-top jar, seal and then shake until well combined. Store in a cool, dark place for up to two months.

Asian pork

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp Asian spice booster (see below)

600g diced pork

1 red onion, chopped

3 sticks celery, chopped

2 red capsicums, seeded, cut into 3cm pieces

1 cup (250ml) salt-reduced chicken stock

720g (4 cups) cooked buckwheat

Topper

coriander leaves

3 pieces baby bok choy, halved and steamed

Asian spice booster

There are various lemon pepper blends available -  be sure to select one that is made with plenty of dried mixed herbs and flavours such as capsicum, parsley, onion and garlic and has minimal salt added.

Makes ½ cup

Prep time 5 minutes

1 Tbsp onion powder

1 Tbsp garlic powder

2 Tbsp ground coriander

2 Tbsp ground cumin

2 tsp lemon pepper

Method

Place all ingredients in a screw-top jar, seal and then shake until well-combined. Store in a cool, dark place for up to two months.

Mexican chicken and bean

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp Mexican spice booster

400g diced chicken breast

400g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

2 red onions, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

3 zucchini, chopped

1 cup (250ml) salt-reduced chicken stock

640g (4 cups) cooked wholegrain penne

Topper

coriander leaves

3 cups mixed salad greens

lime wedges

Mexican spice booster

If you don’t like a lot of heat you can leave out the chilli powder. For those feeding young children, a good option is to make th spice blend without it, then add the dried chilli to taste for those who want it in their meal.

Makes ⅔ cup

Prep time 5 minutes

2 Tbsp sweet paprika

2 Tbsp smoked paprika

2 Tbsp ground cumin

2 Tbsp ground coriander

Optional

1-2 tsp chilli powder

Method

Place all ingredients in a screw-top jar, seal and then shake until well-combined. Store in a cool, dark place for up to two months.

Italian lamb

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp Italian spice booster (see below)

600g diced lamb

2 leeks, chopped

4 carrots, chopped

1 bulb fennel, chopped

1 cup (250ml) salt-reduced beef stock

720g (4 cups) cooked pearl barley

Topper

1 bunch silverbeet, white cores removed, wilted

basil leaves

Italian spice booster

This is the go-to seasoning blend for pasta sauces, but you can also sprinkle it on vegetables or potatoes for extra flavour, or mix it into salad dressings.

Makes ⅔ cup

Prep time 5 minutes

2 Tbsp dried basil

2 Tbsp dried oregano

2 Tbsp dried marjoram

1 Tbsp dried thyme

1 Tbsp dried rosemary

Method

Place all the ingredients in a screw-top jar, seal and then shake until well combined.

Store in a cool, dark place for up to 2 months.

Note: For a vegetarian option, replace lamb with a combination of cannellini beans and lima beans , and reduce the cooking time to 2 hours.

Indian beef and chickpea

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp Indian spice booster (see below)

400g diced beef

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 red onions, chopped

3 sticks celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 cup (250ml) salt-reduced beef stock

720g (4 cups) cooked quinoa

Topper

coriander and mint leaves

3 cups baby spinach leaves

Indian spice booster

Spices are the foundation of all Indian cooking and this combination will make your curries sing.

Made with families in mind, we’ve omitted the chilli, but you can add it to your recipes to taste.

Makes ½ cup

Prep time 5 minutes

3 Tbsp garam masala

1 Tbsp ground coriander

1 Tbsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp ground turmeric

Method

Place all the ingredients in a screw-top jar, seal and shake until combined. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 2 months.

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