Sunday, March 30, 2008

More Great Greens

I've been a creature of habit when it comes to the morning green smoothie. Day in and day out, I plunge huge amounts of little spinach leaves into different fruit and banana combinations and purée away. While I eat a wide variety of other greens at other meals, I've been really in a rut mornings. I decided to make a concerted effort to change that.

Here's a wonderful glass filled with super satisfying tastes and loaded with nutrients and guess what? It's really green. . .chock full of the chard pictured above and you have this pretty pink potable. Frozen banana, a cup of frozen blackberries, filtered water and Swiss chard. Amazing, isn't it?

For those turned off by green drinks, unless it's brews on March 17th, using lots of deep red berries with the greens provides a lovely rosy red drink while still delivering the many benefits of fresh greens.

On the other hand, sometimes it's fun to make a true green cocktail for an afternoon pick me up. Here's a mock Margarita. Cucumber, apple and romaine run through the juicer not the blender!

Greens are plentiful, flavorful, nutrient-dense, affordable and easy to prepare.

Friday, March 21, 2008

This Pastel Palette of Spring is
Sure to Please the Palate

Isn't the English language amazing? Look how many spellings and meanings of a simple word there are: palate/pallet/pallette/palette - how confusing for the beginner and it often trips up an old timer, too.

Using the bright, soft colors of spring vegetables in a lightly dressed salad is pure pleasure. Served alone as above, or mixed with a big bowl of greens, the fresh flavors are surprisingly bold when the flavor is boosted with a little diced jalepeño and some minced sweet onion and fresh cilantro.

The dressing is simply juice of a lime with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

This combination is fresh from the garden bright red radishes, a crisp light green cubanella pepper, kernels from two ears of freshly picked Florida corn, one jalepeño, finely minced and half of Vidalia onion.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Greens 'n Beans
Turnip greens, onions, carrots and great northern beans

Add more broth and you've a super soup, less broth and it's a wonderful side. Much like Goldilocks, I found this amount to be JUST RIGHT for a quick, easy supper.

Simple peasant fare has more appeal to me, particularly as I grow older, than fussing about with complicated steps involving a myriad of ingredients. I'm really into the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) mentality. When planning meals around 50 - 75% raw food, one quickly becomes enamored with the simplicity of washing, peeling, chopping, plating and eating.

I don't like all the gimmicky raw foods. Synthesizing cooked foods with seeds, nuts, dates, etc. has no appeal to me. Though I marvel at the fabulous combinations creative raw foodists come up with. If I were committed to eating 100% raw, I might be singing a different song. But, for now at least, eating organic, whole foods, mostly plants, mainly raw is my lifestyle. And it's great.

Omnivore's could easily add some interesting sausage to the greens and beans and have a quick take on a casoulet. Or use the greens and beans as a side dish with pork or chicken. As a vegetarian dish it works well as the main course, but could just as easily be a starter or a side dish.

This broth is made for dunking. Hunks of hearty whole wheat bread or dark, chewy pumpernickel are perfect for sopping up the 'bottom of the bowl'. Served with a crisp, green salad and a glass of mellow red, it's simple, yet truly satisfying, while being especially kind to the pocketbook.

Try it with canned beans and pre-washed, chopped greens, some simple good broth or bouillon, like Rapunzel, and it becomes a 30 minute deal.

If you choose to pre-soak and then cook the beans ahead of time, it's tastier and more economical. Using a good homemade chicken or vegetable broth boosts the flavor. The following makes approximately six cups of greens and beans.

Beans 'N Greens

Note: The choice of greens is certainly variable. Choose collards, kale, spinach or turnip greens. And use a bean that you have on hand or one you prefer.

4 TBS extra-virgin olive oil; 3 cloves garlic,minced; 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper; one pound dark greens, washed, sliced in strips; 1 cup* of vegetable broth or chicken broth; 2 cups great northern or other white beans. If using canned beans, a 15 ounce can is fine.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper, stir until fragrant, about one minute. Add the wet, washed greens by hand fulls and allow them to wilt a bit before adding more. Toss them a bit in the oil and garlic. When all the greens have been added, add the broth, cover and cook until greens are just tender. Be careful not to overcook the greens. Add the beans and simmer gently until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste drizzling with balsamic or sherry vinegar when serving.
*for soup increase broth to a total of 4 cups.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Keep It Simple

A salad plate comprised of a few simple components constitutes a tasty meal!

A little of this with a bit of that makes a delicious salad plate.
Slices of roasted beets and English cucumber accompany hearts of Boston Bibb lettuce sprinkled with diced tomato, pan roasted walnuts and itsy-bitsy pieces of Feta cheese ,all lightly dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.
It doesn't take a large quantity of flavorful ingredients to boost a simple dish into a satisfying low calorie meal. For one serving, I used half a red, ripe tomato, a scant tablespoon of Feta cheese, minced, a few pieces of pan roasted walnuts and a couple of roughly chopped Calamata olives to top two quarters of a fresh sweet, crisp head of Boston lettuce. A few slices of roasted beets tossed with a little sherry vinegar, and some sliced cucumber amounted to a delicious, light supper. A perfect example of Michael Pollan's mantra: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants, with my added two cents worth: mainly raw. Fast, easy and delicious.
I added a warm slice of whole wheat pita and a lively glass of crisp, cold Riesling. A nutritious, satisfying, low calorie meal made in minutes, eye appealing and palate pleasing.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Love These Greens!

While the bulb end of root vegetables gets most of the attention, the powerhouse of nutrition is the attached green tops. Think carrots, parsnips, radishes, beets. Traditional supermarkets carry the root ends brightly displayed in their orange and red skins, but rarely do we find them with the fresh green tops still attached. That's when a trip to the farmer's market or local produce purveyor really pays off.

It's those bright green leaves we need. The ones that are nourishing the bulb end tucked into the dirt. Those very leaves reaching up toward the sun, gathering the energy to perform the miracle of photosynthesis, storing life giving nutrients within the leafy cells and veins, the very leaves that often get chopped off and disposed of, or never make it to the market as they grow limp and die, while their root ends sit in a warehouse for months on end, waiting to be swaddled in plastic packaging and shipped thousands of miles.

Many years ago, I listened to Christiane Northrup, M.D. present some simple guidelines for eating well for health and weight loss. She advised we eat smaller portions of many colored foods. The darker the better. The foods on our plates should be jewel toned, dark greens, orange, red, brown, yellow.

Sautéed beet greens with raw corn and tomato salad.

We would do well to follow the advice from Michael Pollan in his book, In Defense of Food. "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants". The 'not too much' portion is what I'm working on. I've extended that by adding my own two additional words: mainly raw.

I have no problem avoiding processed food. It's never been an attraction for me. No canned meals, frozen entrées, or packaged 'helpers' for me. The paper goods and pet foods aisle at the supermarket are about the only inside aisles I visit. No up and down each of those vast canyons for me, with their walls of colorful packaging that house foodstuffs filled with synthetic chemicals. I make a straight bee-line for the produce department, the TP and tissues aisle, then the cat food shelves and I'm out of there.

Romaine and cuke salad, black rice with almonds, green beans & yellow zucchini

Green smoothies in the morning, lots of juicy raw veggies for lunch and often for dinner, too. Occasionally, some enticing roasted veggies or some lightly cooked greens. It doesn't really take long to get out of the meat and potato mentality and other bad habits we grew up with, lashed to the Standard American Diet (SAD). Just remember that all those charts and pyramids we were indoctrinated with in school were prepared and presented to us by the meat and dairy councils.

Fill that morning smoothie with as many green leaves as you can!

And if you're still asking, "Where do you get your protein?" Check out Dr. Leslie Van Romer's delightful, light-hearted, simple explanation in her article, Do Elephants Eat Cows For Protein?