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January 24, 2011

A Late Start

Since the holidays, I had adopted the lazy habit of making pasta every night for dinner. At first, it wasn’t a problem—in fact, it was great. We were all trying different nutritious sauces, getting a good mix of protein and vegetables, and enjoying the kinds of meals that your body craves in winter.

Slowly but surely, however, our pasta-filled January led to bad habits. Jerry started to notice that, while maintaining a disciplined exercise program and being pretty careful about his eating, he was putting on weight and not feeling so svelte. Worse still, my kids started to crave and ask for plain pasta and no longer wanted to eat vegetables. I started to panic! I had come so far with our vegetable intake and now I felt like I was taking 10 steps back.

It happened in just a few weeks—and almost imperceptibly. In fact, it wasn’t until I sat down and really looked at exactly what we’d been eating the past few weeks that the problem became obvious. What started as a desire for hearty meals had turned into an unhealthy food crutch.

So, I’m making some adjustments. I’m making seasoned black beans instead of pasta, quinoa instead of rice, and using more avocado and less animal protein. I’m making changes that are more nutrient dense, less processed, and less based on white flour options. The composition of our plates is looking different these days as well. For example, tonight the focus of our meal is a quinoa avocado salad with a Sriracha (spicy!) vinaigrette, raw veggies (one less thing to cook!) and just a bit of chicken will be on the side. Whole-wheat pasta is an improvement—it’s more wholesome and sometimes less processed than white flour based products—but better still are substitutes that comes from the ground, like legumes (beans!) and whole grains (quinoa! barley! farro!)

I’ve also consulted a food bible—Michael Pollan’s Food Rules, a plain-sense book about healthy eating habits. “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead,” it states.

“This rather blunt bit of cross-cultural grandmotherly advice (passed down from both Jewish and Italian grandmothers) suggests that the health risks of white flour have been popularly recognized for many years and, as far as the body is concerned, are not much different than sugar. Unless supplemented, it offers none of the good things (fiber, B vitamins, healthy fats) in whole grains—it’s little more than a shot of glucose.” In other words, all this pasta was being processed as sugar in our bodies.

It makes sense that Jerry wasn’t feeling so great. This is why my kids were craving “plain” pasta as well: plain pasta does not challenge the taste buds a bit, and once the body gets used to abundant glucose, it craves it even more.

I keep Food Rules by my bed. Open any page and you are reminded of how simple it can be to make healthy changes. Mr. Pollan’s tips harken back to a time when we didn’t mess up our bodies so much by eating foods that are technology based. It’s full of quick, easy-to-remember tips. Here’s another favorite: “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.” I love that. Such a simple and powerful message—the kind that can empower you to make small changes that will eventually add up and keep you living longer, leaner and stronger.

For now, I am just going to acknowledge that I got a late start to my new year’s resolution of cooking with more whole grains and more veggies, and be grateful that I know how to get us back on track. I am attempting to get my family eating more like our ancestors (and what I resemble most in the morning—a cavewoman.) I am foraging for things at the market that were found on bushes or tress, growing in the ground, living in the fields and swimming in oceans or lakes. I hope my often finicky family goes for it.

Posted by do it Delicious
Category: Personal Thoughts

January 7, 2011

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

You, your friends, and your kids will love these Sweet and Sour Meatballs from Double Delicious. Serve them with toothpicks as an appetizer or a fun meal alongside egg noodles and veggies. In the Double Delicious book, it states you need to pre-heat your oven. This is unnecessary! Please reference this recipe instead. My apologies!

Prep time: 35 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Yield: serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices soft whole-wheat bread, crust removed, torn in pieces
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1/2 cup broccoli puree
1 large egg
1/2 pound ground chicken or turkey (at least 90% lean)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup low-fat, reduced-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 teaspoons steak sauce
1/4 cup crushed pineapple in natural juice, or 1/4 cup fresh pureed pineapple
1 tablespoon orange marmalade

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook 7 to 8 minutes, stirring often, until the onion softens. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, until the garlic is fragrant. Place the bread in a large mixing bowl with the cooked onion and garlic, yogurt, broccoli puree, egg, chicken, salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Form into 1/2-inch meatballs and set on a sheet of waxed paper.

2. Heat the remaining olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the meatballs and cook 7 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are browned. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining meatballs.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the onion and sugar. Cook 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and slightly browned. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, cooking 1 minute more. Puree with an immersion blender or transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour over the meatballs and serve.

Nutrition Facts
Calories: 322, Carbohydrate: 19 g, Protein: 19 g, Total Fat: 15 g, Saturated Fat: 2.5 g, Sodium: 605 mg, Fiber: 4 g

Posted by do it Delicious
Category: Delicious Recipes

January 4, 2011

Butternut Tomato Soup

What’s better than a hot bowl of soup on a cold winter’s day? Try this nondairy, sweet and tangy Butternut Tomato Soup from Double Delicious. It’s sure to warm you from the inside out.

Prep time: 25 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: serves 10

3 shallots, peeled
4 stalks celery
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups diced, peeled, and seeded butternut squash (1 small squash, about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 1/2 quarts low-fat, reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, preferably “no salt added”
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Topping (optional)
1 cup silken tofu
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Slice the shallots and celery with the slicing attachment on a food processor. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and celery. Cook until the shallots begin to soften but not brown, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Add the butternut squash, vegetable broth, diced tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

3. Cover and cook until the butternut squash becomes tender and is easily mashed with the back of a metal spoon, about 45 minutes.

4. Puree the soup with an immersion blender, or in a standing blender or food processor in batches.

5. To make the topping, place the tofu, Parmesan, and salt in a mini-chopper or food processor. Whip until smooth and serve with the soup.

Nutrition Facts
Calories: 91, Carbohydrate: 12 g, Protein: 4 g, Total Fat: 3.5 g, Saturated Fat: 0.5 g, Sodium: 260 mg, Fiber: 2.5 g

Posted by do it Delicious
Category: Delicious Recipes