Friday, October 11, 2013

What The Heck Do I Do With...

I have a lot of clients who come to me with this basic question:

"I got (x vegetable/ingredient).  Now what?"

So I thought I'd assist you in your healthy eating endeavors by giving you some very basic "Food 101" cooking lessons, which should help you be able to play with most ingredients of your choosing.

Green leafies:  not just for the fashionably inclined.

If you know anything about me, you know I'm all for leafy greens.  The more, the merrier.  They are chock full of nutrients while providing very little caloric bang for your buck.  The ultimate in healthy foods.  And there are a million kinds-- tat soi, bok choy, kale, mache, collards, spinach, beet greens, turnip greens, dark lettuces, chard, cabbage-- not to mention the green leafy cousin veggies, such as broccoli, broccolini, Chinese broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and all the other cruciferous veggies.  Here's a pretty cool list of green leafies so you can learn a little more about what's out there.

Whenever you see a green leafy veg, the easiest ways to work with them are:
  • Salads (if they have a thick stem, like collard greens, it's a good idea to pull the leaves off the stem and discard the stem first before preparing in any manner) 
  • Saute quickly in a bit of high-quality oil (they don't take much cooking to be done)
  • With big leaves, substitute the leaves for sandwich bread or tortillas (don't have to discard stems for these)
  • Pesto-- add any green veg to raw garlic, nuts of your choice (try raw/soaked walnuts or almonds-- awesome in pesto!!), and a little bit of salt and extremely high quality extra-virgin olive oil in the blender or food processor; pour over spaghetti squash, grated zucchini, sprouted grain or einkorn pasta, or use as a sandwich spread.
  • Add to chili or other large-pot dishes (I do this with pretty much anything I make in the pressure cooker).  Always add at the very end, after the meal is done cooking but still hot-- the greens will melt right in!
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels Sprouts can easily be roasted in the oven at about 400 degrees for maybe 15 minutes, or until they're a little golden.  Throw on a bit of coarse salt and pepper and eat like popcorn.  

Not THOSE Roots.

Root veggies include carrots, beets, yams, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabaga, parsnips, radishes, and lots more.  They tend to be very comforting in the wintertime in particular. As a bonus, they tend to be very inexpensive.

Whenever you encounter a root veggie, try this:
  • Soup.  Carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabaga, parsnips, and celery pair really well for a great veggie soup.  Throw in some pearl barley for fiber and extra protein.  Carrot soup is easy and nourishing!  There are a million ways to make Russian Borscht, and they all tend to be hearty and healthy (nix sour cream for unsweetened coconut yogurt). 
  • Chips.  Cut beets, turnips, sweet potatoes, and other similar veggies into rounds (as thin or thick as you like) and roast, brushed with a little high-quality oil (I like coconut oil for this) at about 400 degrees for 10-20 minutes, depending on thickness. Add some salt if you like.
  • Baked whole.  Beets and most potatoes (skip white potatoes in favor of purple or sweet potatoes for more nutrition) do well wrapped in foil and roasted at around 400 degrees (400 degrees is kind of my default temp :) ) for 45 min-an hour until cooked through.  Dress with a little walnut oil or other very high quality oil and a little coarse salt and herbs if you like.  

I call celery, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, bell pepper strips, cucumber, zucchini sticks, baby carrots, and such "dippers."  They are easy, healthy snacks, provide you dip them in something healthy.  Baby carrots and celery go well with a little pure almond butter (easy to make yourself).  Guacamole is awesome, and you can make it easily by blending avocado, fresh salsa, and lemon juice in your blender (or just avocado and lemon juice works fine, too).  Black bean dip is easy and filling.  You can also just add lemon pepper to the coconut yogurt recipe above.

I call spaghetti squash and summer squash "pasta veggies" because they do great as a pasta substitute.  For spaghetti squash, stab with a knife several times all over the squash, and then pop on "high" in the microwave for 12-15 minutes, depending on the size of the squash.  Cut in half, take out the seeds, and scrape the pulp into a bowl with a fork.  Summer squash is easily grated into "spaghetti" using a food processor or spiral slicer.  Leave it raw.  With all of these, add your favorite tomato sauce (look out for added sugars/corn syrup in most commercial jarred tomato sauces!!!) or the pesto above, or even a healthy Alfredo sauce if you're feeling adventurous.   

Hope this helps somewhat with your food adventures!  Let me know how it goes!

Liked what you made?  Got your own suggestions?  Got questions or comments?  Post 'em here!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

This Is 40.

On Friday, I had my 40th birthday.

People are always surprised when I tell them that.  They tell me I "look much younger than 40," that I "look 20-something," and so on.  And while all this is extremely flattering, I'd like to respectfully disagree.

Because as far as I'm concerned, this is what 40 looks like.

40 is strong and healthy.  40 is energetic and lives life to the fullest.  40 is not "too old" to aspire to a triple bodyweight deadlift, to embark on new adventures, to grab the world by the tail.  And neither, for that matter, is 50, or 80, or 200.

I've experienced a lot of losses this year, including a big one on my birthday (I had to put my sweet baby, my 19 year old cat, to sleep after a long and ferocious battle with renal failure).  And if there's anything I've learned from this it's that life is short and beautiful, and there are no guarantees.  Moping around the house making excuses for yourself gets you nowhere, brings no one back, and solves none of your problems.  So be who you want to be, live how you want to live, take care of the body you've been given so that it will cooperate with your choices, and don't let your age dictate one thing. 

And so I will continue to lift heavy things, eat great healthy food, travel, appreciate my loved ones, sing in my bands, chase my passions.  I will take all intriguing opportunities that come my way and make the most of my time on this planet. 

Because this is 40.

And it is going to be epic.