Last month while my husband was visiting friends in Colorado, I had a summer dinner party with some girlfriends. We like to eat freshly-prepared foods and we have differing food allergies, so the challenge was to prepare items that were gluten-free, soy-free and low in sodium.
I always enjoy trying new recipes using ingredients that are easily accessible and contain a good supply of micronutrients, also known as "vitamins and minerals."
It's very easy to load up on foods that are filling but have little or no nutritional value, what I call empty calories. I'm also big on reading food labels and if the list of ingredients includes items that sound like a chemistry experiment, I leave it on the shelf.
So using my formula of not too much meat and always include vegetables, I prepared spicy chicken kebabs and a kale and feta frittata. My friends added sweet potato patties, quinoa with vegetables, melon salad and a spinach, almond and mango salad, all accompanied by various dips made with yoghurt, spices and herbs.
Where any recipe called for flour, we substituted with gluten-free brown rice flour. We finished off the meal with a lemon almond cake made with almond flour, served with Haagen-Dazs pineapple and coconut ice-cream.
Reading the ice-cream label we recognized every ingredient in there. Yes - we enjoyed every bite of this delicious, healthy feast.
It has taken us a certain amount of experimentation, churning out good and bad recipes, some trial and error to reach this point. We watch Food, Inc. and Forks Over Knives, read books by Michael Pollan, some of us met with doctors and eventually figured out what works for each of us.
The common thread is that we know that the food we eat affects how healthy we feel.
What also helps is finding local sources of information and supplies. Carol, a reader in Key Largo contacted me with information on a gluten-free bakery, Deland Bakery (www.delandbakery.com) in north Florida. You can order online from their amazing range of breads, muffins and cookies.
The Good Food Conspiracy store in Big Pine Key carries organic produce from the Redlands area fresh every Monday and vegan and gluten-free baked delights from Cupcakes, a Big Pine bakery.
My latest discovery is the Stand-up Paddleboard store in Summerland Key which supplies organic and eco-friendly products. Tell them what you are interested in and they will find you their best price for it.
If you are willing to drive to Homestead, you can stock up on produce at the Redlands Farmers Market. I visited the market a few weeks ago and it was a real treat. It caters to the local Mexican community and the sounds and sights transported me to another country for a couple of hours. Not everything is organic but the produce is incredibly fresh, varied and cheap.
I believe that eating lots of fresh produce is good and if it's organic that's better. However, if it isn't organic, it's still good for you.
And there's nothing like a farmers market or a colorful display of foods to provide a real feast for the eyes and the body.