by Katherine Danesi
I don’t know about you, but I am always on the hunt for a fantastic salad recipe, one that works with the season when it comes to ingredients, taste and consistency.
Today, I discovered the utterly appetizing recipe for a Fig and Arugula Wheatberry Salad via a tweet from @SELFmagazine and bit, only to discover another nine fabulous, hearty fall salad recipes in a slide show: Kale Salad with Apples and Hazelnuts; Caramelized Root Veggies and Grain Mustard Vinaigrette (topped with a fried egg); Corn, Chard and Bacon Salad; and more.
Three recipes to change your life. I originally came across the concept in this past Sunday’s New York Times. The Week in Review section contained a series of articles with the theme “Sustainable Life.” In one piece, Mark Bittman offered a compelling argument for cooking at home (it’s cheaper, healthier, and sometimes faster than eating out), along with three recipes that he believes can change the way we eat and live. It’s a simple premise – cook and eat real food. And Mr. Bittman shows us how to start.
Each includes an extensive list of variations and substitutions so that, should decide to embark upon a cooking adventure, you’ll be able to stretch three meal ideas into a few dozen.
As Mark Bittman said to Meredith Viera on this morning’s Today Show, “What you need is not so much a diet as a way to eat.”
Amen to that.
Published: December 31, 2010
Yield: 4 servings.
2 tablespoons good-quality vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 scallions, chopped
1 pound broccoli, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces, the stems no more than 1/4-inch thick
8 ounces button mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch chunks or thin slices and blotted dry
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper.
1. Put a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add half the oil, swirl it around, and immediately add half the garlic and ginger. Cook for 15 seconds, stirring, then add the broccoli, mushrooms and all but a sprinkling of the scallions. Raise heat to high, and cook, stirring, until mushrooms release their water and broccoli is bright green and beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Sprinkle with salt; add 1 cup water. Stir and cook until almost all liquid evaporates and broccoli is almost tender, another minute or two more, then transfer everything to a plate.
3. Turn heat to medium, add remaining oil, then remaining garlic and ginger. Stir, then add chicken and turn heat to high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken has lost its pink color, three to five minutes.
4. Turn heat to medium. Return broccoli, mushrooms and juices to the pan, and stir. Add soy sauce, sprinkle with more salt and some pepper; add a little more water if mixture is dry. Raise heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced slightly and you’ve scraped up all the bits of chicken. Taste and adjust seasoning, garnish with remaining scallion and serve.
Stir-fries work with virtually any combination of vegetables; protein-dense food (meat, poultry, fish, tofu, etc.) is optional. Use pork (like shoulder), shrimp, beef (like sirloin), or tofu instead of chicken; slice the meat thinly or the tofu into cubes.
Use cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, green beans, snow peas, carrots or spinach in place of either the broccoli or the mushrooms or both. Or use other mushrooms.
Use fish sauce instead of soy sauce and finish with a squeeze of lime to give it a Southeast Asian flavor.
Use olive oil, skip the ginger, use onion instead of scallion, and substitute 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary or thyme to give it a Mediterranean flavor profile.
Use coconut milk instead of stock; 1 tablespoon curry powder instead of soy sauce to give it an Indian flavor
Fitness Magazine published an informative piece titled, “10 Surprising Health Benefits of Yogurt.” These benefits include: flatter abs courtesy of calcium; a strengthened immune system from good-for-you bacteria; high blood pressure prevention from the potassium; and red blood cell and nervous system maintenance provided by vitamin B12. Check out the article for the other six, as well as a list of their Favorite Yogurts.
As for what to look for when choosing a yogurt, keep in mind that not all yogurts are created equal, and some can actually do more harm than good. The Healthy Apron has a great post on How to Pick A Healthy Yogurt. In a nutshell, you want to make sure that you’re not ingesting too much sugar (many of the fruit-in and flavored yogurts are high in sugar content – more than 20 grams of fat per 6-ounce serving) or too much fat (eschew the full-fat offerings for lower-fat varieties – less than 3.5 grams of fat per 6-ounce serving).
I tend to go for 1% Plain, organic if I can find it. You can always sweeten it up with a little honey or agave nectar (the latest healthy sweetener). I like to squeeze the juice that’s left from half a grapefruit to give it some extra flavor. Add your favorite fruits, nuts, seeds, granola, whatever is appealing.
An added bonus? If you’re really in a jam (i.e. the jar of mayonnaise has seen its last scrape), plain yogurt will do its part hold together a decent tuna sandwich (with a little red onion, salt and pepper).
If you’re not already eating yogurt, try including it in your daily menu a couple of times a week. Your body will thank you.
This year, The FEED Foundation, established in 2008 by Lauren Bush and Ellen Gustafson to raise funds for the United Nations World Food Program‘s school feeding initiative, turned its attention to school food in the United States with the launch of FEED USA:
FEED USA is a new campaign to improve school food all across America as well as a new brand of FEED products. … The cornerstone of FEED USA is the funding of teacher-led, school-based interventions; which will allow local activists to see the challenges to improving nutrition in their own schools and ask for specific projects and supplies to address those challenges.
As part of their solution, FEED USA recently kicked-off their first FEED USA Project: funding for teacher-led nutrition initiatives in schools across the country. In a Kiva-like format, teachers’ project requests are displayed (description and photos), along with the “dollars-to-go” until a project is fully funded. On the list, which can be sorted by state, you’ll find everything from outdoor and container gardens, to cooking classes and composting lessons. An individual can help with as little as $5. “Once the project is fully funded, DonorsChoose.org will deliver the materials to the school, then send you photos and thank-you letters from the classroom you helped.”
To help raise funds, FEED USA has a line of FEED USA bags co-designed with the Gap. With each bag you buy, $5 is donated to the teacher/project of your choice.
Further, there is a Funding Opportunity for Teachers. Through their partnership with DonorsChoose.org, for a limited time, FEED USA is offering “Double Your Impact” matching funding for projects submitted by teachers from a list of 8 suggested food-related projects. The list includes initiatives such as Gardening at School, Cooking in the Classroom, and a Class Trip to a Farmers Market. Teachers can submit projects for funding at www.donorschoose.org/teachers.
And then there’s Whole Foods Market, who recently launched their Back to School program, the cornerstone of which is a fund raising effort to put salad bars in 300 schools by January 1, 2011. The school nutrition problem as they see it?
Highly processed foods are standard fare in many school lunchrooms, and more than two-thirds of public schools serve lunches that exceed recommended limits for fat content. And, we’re paying for it with our kids’ health. At least 30 percent of children are overweight, childhood obesity has more than doubled, and it is predicted that one in three will develop diabetes.
The Whole Foods Market solution?
Whole Foods Market is proudly partnering with Chef Ann Cooper, a.k.a. “The Renegade Lunch Lady,” to help schools make a change. … With your donations Chef Ann Cooper will install a salad bar in at least one school near each of our U.S. stores. That’s almost 300 salad bars! Help start the conversation about salad bars in every U.S. school.
Make a donation at any Whole Foods Market store in the U.S.to help us Put Salad Bars in Schools, or donate online at The Salad Bar Project.
Feed our children well.
I came across an enlightening piece, “Eat an Apple (Doctor’s Orders),” in the Food section of last Thursday’s New York Times. It describes an innovative nutrition program being run in Boston, “in which doctors write vegetable ‘prescriptions‘ to be filled at farmers’ markets.” Program participants receive coupons to be redeemed at the markets for fresh fruits and vegetables. The idea is to provide low income families with the means, and the incentive, to try out fresh produce and prepare more meals at home. The goal? To show that healthy eating is good preventive medicine. “Doctors will track participants to determine how the program affects their eating patterns and to monitor health indicators like weight and body mass index.” The hope is that the families will reduce their consumption of unhealthy, salty and sweet snacks as they increase their consumption of healthy produce.
The clinics administering the project are sponsored by a foundation called Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited (CAVU). A non-profit, Wholesome Wave, based in Bridgeport, CT, and the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture each provided $10,000 in funding.
And, apparently, Massachusetts is not the only state taking the initiative. “Thirty-six states now have such farmers’ market nutrition programs aimed at women and young children.” Which is a good thing. Because the very real cost of what we’re eating goes like this:
Childhood obesity in the United States costs $14.1 billion annually in direct health expenses like prescription drugs and visits to doctors and emergency rooms, according to a recent article on the economics of childhood obesity published in the journal Health Affairs. Treating obesity-related illness in adults costs an estimated $147 billion annually, the article said.
Pay now or pay later. That’s the choice. And that does not even factor in the most important outcome of programs like this, the positive impact on quality of life … priceless.
The Huffington Post has a great piece in their Living section, written by Mark Hyman M.D., “Why Quick, Cheap Food Is Actually More Expensive.” He makes so much sense – as do Michael Pollan, Jamie Oliver, Michelle Obama – I am beginning to think that we’re at a tipping point when it comes what and how we eat.
In the article, Dr. Hyman explains how we’ve ended up with highly-processed food that is so much less expensive than fresh, whole food, namely, massive government subsidies for corn and soy crops. An abundance of both corn and soy makes the cost of food containing high-fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated soybean oil (trans fats) cheap when compared to the price paid for fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, and nuts. The uses for these crops don’t stop there. “Corn and soy are also used to feed cattle for the production of meat and dairy.”
In addition to the food we choose to eat, how and where we choose to eat it, makes a difference. We don’t cook nearly as many meals at home as we used to – over 50% of our meals today are eaten out – further exacerbating the problem.
However, what Dr. Hyman argues is that that the price paid at the grocery store is not the real cost to the consumer. There are hidden costs that, when factored in, make the bag of spinach look like a bargain. Costs that are associated with the harm we are doing to our bodies (the statistics are alarming) and our planet, not to mention our society, just by the way we eat. He writes:
This is what you need to remember:
1. The true cost of unhealthy food isn’t just the price tag–in fact, the real costs are hidden.
2. Eating healthy doesn’t have to cost more.
Read it. You might believe it too.
The temptation is no doubt great. You take your large knife, slice off the woody stems of a bunch of beets, and toss them, along with their leafy greens, into the trash. Before you do so, I strongly encourage you to reconsider.
When cooked properly, not only are they delicious, but they’re nutritious as well, “Beet greens are emerging as a nutritional powerhouse, rich in potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, betacyanin (a potent antioxidant), leutin, thiamin, riboflavin, folate and vitamins , A, B6, C, E, and K. In fact, researchers discovered that beet greens are even more nutritious than the roots!”
Having purchased a couple of bunches of beets at the local farmer’s market, I thought I’d give the greens a try. After searching for, and finding, a number of recipes that seemed tasty and easy to prepare (and gluten-free), I settled on Sauteed Beet Greens with Garlic, Olive Oil and Persian Lime by Heidi on Melissas.com. I loved them, even the leftovers, which I proceeded to eat cold the next day.
If this particular recipe doesn’t appeal to you, I came across two others that might: Beet Greens from Simply Recipes (bacon, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, sugar, and cider vinegar) and Sauteed Beet Greens With Garlic and Olive Oil (garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes) from the Fitness and Nutrition section of The New York Times.
Try them. You just might like them.
A quick addendum – in case you’ve never previously cooked the beets themselves, here’s what I do and it works like a charm. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees ( a bit higher if your oven runs cool). Trim the beets (keeping the greens, of course!) and wash, skin on, under cold water. Place the beet roots in aluminum foil, making a tent. Drizzle with a quarter-cup of water, and then fold the foil over, creating seal. Place on a cookie sheet (or another piece of foil) to catch any juices and then into the oven for 60 minutes. You’ll smell the beets cooking. Test with a fork to see if they’re done – the fork should go in easily (larger beets will take longer to cook). If they’re done, re-fold the foil and let cool on top of the stove. Then open the foil and peel the beets – the skin should rub off. If it doesn’t a paring knife should do the trick. Slice the beets and serve with goat cheese, walnuts, olive oil, salt, and pepper, alone or on a bed of arugula or spinach.