Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Monday, January 21, 2013

Just 2 things...

I like to focus on what TO eat, as when you get into what NOT to eat it always seems so judgmental.  Or elitist.  And for the most part if you fill yourself with good stuff, you won’t eat as much bad stuff.   The only problem is that there is an entire industry trying to make bad stuff look good.  Not only to taste good, but even to seem healthy.  

If I had to pick just 2 things to eliminate from the diet of all my friends and family, it would industrial corn and soybeans.  In the US, corn and soy (unless organic) are mostly grown from genetically modified (GMO) seeds which are scary on several fronts (environment and health .. click this link for a long explanation), are subsidized by the government so they are cheap, and can be processed into a wide array of foods, many of which are on my “NOT to eat” list.

If you eliminate corn and soy, it takes out a lot of known junk foods: everything that has high fructose corn syrup (soda, a lot of cookies and breads, some crackers, some chips).  It also takes out one of the widely acknowledged evil foods, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (the source of trans fats), and many of those unpronounceable ingredients in processed food:  Dextrose, maltodextrin, modified starches; sorbitol and xylitol and other artificial sweeteners.  

But it also takes out most meat: chickens, beef, pork are all fed a meal that is primarily made from GMO corn and soy meal (as well as other scary things, like antibiotics and arsenic).   One way around this is to eat organic meat.  Yes, you will pay a premium for this, but at least it is becoming more available.  But I’m willing to pay more (and eat less meat) from the reduced risk of antibiotic resistance bacteria, higher omega-3 fats from a grass based diet, and just some of the nastiness of industrial meat production.  Not to mention the issues from GMO foods.  The other way around this is to eat wild game.  I’m am fortunate to have some hunters in my family, and right now, a nice supply of elk.  

I’m still learning to cook very lean meat like elk. Grass fed beef also tends to be lean and sometimes tough.  Last week (those several days of honest to God freezing cold weather in Phoenix) I made up this mushroom soup, and added the elk at the very end, so it was just barely cooked.  It came out very nice.  This would also work well with grass fed beef.  

Mushroom Soup with Elk

Serves 4

1 package dried mushrooms (optional)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, halved and sliced (moon shapes)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ pounds mushrooms, halved or quartered 
½ cup wine
1 quart beef broth
1 – 2 cups of additional broth, mushroom water, or water
½ cup “10 min Barley” ** or other cooked or quick cooking grain
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or other herb
½ pound elk or other lean red meat, thinly sliced

** The barley is a new item from Trader Joes...  its dry, but precooked.

If using dry mushrooms, soak in a cup of boiling water.

Heat the butter and oil in a large pot, add onion slices and salt.  Saute until the onions are a bit browned (can do in 10 minutes over medium heat, but need to watch and stir often so as to not burn, or can do low and slow in 30 – 40 minutes).  Add garlic and mushrooms, cook until the mushrooms start to give up their liquid.  Add wine, scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  After the wine has reduced a bit, add the beef broth.  If using the dried mushrooms, chop and add, also add the soaking water (make sure to not get any grit).  Add more broth or water to achieve the desired “brothiness” for the soup.  Add barley.  Bring to a boil, cook for about 10 minutes or until the grain is done.  Add thyme and meat, stir to distribute meat.  Let soup heat a bit, but don’t bring back to a boil.  Serve.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year, and get your hand out of the bag

Happy New Year! I have to admit, I’m not the resolution making type. But the new year is a good time to think of changes to make, new things to try. You know I’m a fan of small changes, and I more and more believe that to maintain a healthy weight, the key factor is good habits (which I need to get back to after a somewhat gluttonous week or so!)

If you want to try to change just one habit, here is a recommendation: Don’t eat out of a bag. I know, this might seem almost un-American, as so eloquently stated on the Cobert Report.  But to help your mind make a connection with your stomach, make sure that you see what you eat.  If you want some chips, get a bowl, dish some up, put the bag away. If you get some fast food, take everything out of the bag before you eat it.

If you would like to try one new thing, start thinking of vegetables as being the main dish of a meal, the meat and starch as being a side. I find this thinking helps me keep the vegetable inventory under control. And helps me eat that half plate of veggies every meal.

For an example of a good vegetable main, I am sharing the recipe that I made for our Christmas dinner (yes, there was turkey to go along with it!). I adapted it from the December Fine Cooking issue, where I changed out onions for leeks (because I had a bunch of leeks), half and half instead of cream, and fresh (whole grain) bread crumbs instead of Panko. And re-wrote the instructions so the made better sense to me. So I don’t think I’m starting the year by violating copyrighted material.

Carrot and Sharp Cheddar Gratin

Serves 4

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 leeks, diced about ¾ cup
½ cup half and half
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 ½ lbs carrots, peeled, cut cross-wise if large, in ½ inch pieces

2 ounces sharp Cheddar, grated

1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 ounce fresh bread crumbs, ~1 slice of bread
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

Heat oven to 350F. Oil a 7x11 baking dish (or similar).

Heat oil in 10 inch skillet or medium sauce pan, add leeks and salt. Sauté until leeks are starting to brown, about 7 minutes. Add half and half, mustard, and pepper, stir well with wooden spoon to get any browned bits. Add carrots, bring to a simmer and cook until the carrots are tender-crisp, about 10 minutes.

Mix all the crumb ingredients together in a small bowl.  (side note - the food processor does an excellent job of making crumbs... Any bread will work, as long as its not too sweet, as it will brown too quickly)

Pour the carrot mixture into the prepared baking dish, scatter Cheddar over the top, then top with bread crumbs. Bake until the carrots are tender and crumbs are golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let rest a bit before serving.