Tuesday, March 20, 2012

And the beet goes on

Just wanted to post a quick update on my veggie adventures.  Last week I received beets in my produce box, which was a little scary because I've only ever eaten them in a restaurant, but in a way I was kind of glad that I was forced to learn how to prepare them.  And it turns out they're not scary at all!  The other night I made a Tart with Beets, Figs, and Chevre (goat cheese), a recipe I found on gojee.com, a really fun site where you can search by what ingredients you have, as well as put in what you don't like (so I won't get any recipes that have mayonnaise or mustard in them...yuck!).  The tart turned out really good!  When I first saw the size of it, I was afraid it wouldn't be enough for two people, but because the crust turned out to be more like pie crust, the richness of it made it so that we only ate about two-thirds of it (because we were eating intuitively and stopped when we were satisfied).  Here's the full recipe, as well as some photos I took of my beautiful creation:

Tart with beets, figs, and chevre
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 Tbs. cold butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. white vinegar or lemon juice
  • 3-4 Tbs. ice cold water
  1. In a food processor, pulse together the flour and salt to combine. Then, pulse in the butter chunks until you have a mixture that is a coarse meal that still has pea sized pieces of butter in it.
  2. Pulse in the vinegar and the water one Tbs. at a time until the dough just starts to come together. Then, turn it out and press it into a ball with your hands.
  3. Flatten the ball of dough into a thick disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. You can prepare the beets while the dough refrigerates
Beet and fig tart
  • 3 medium beets
  • olive oil, salt and pepper
  • tart dough (from recipe above)
  • 6-8 oz. chevre (soft goat cheese)
  • 1/3 cup dried mission figs, stems removed, sliced into thin pieces
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (I used already-reduced balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint leaves
  1. Preheat your oven to 425F. Wash and peel the beets, then slice them into rounds that are about 1/4 inch thick.
  2. Toss the beats with a splash of olive oil. Spread them out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet (you may need to use 2 baking sheets) , then sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they are tender and easily pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool briefly.
  3. Turn the oven down to 400F. When the tart dough has chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a circle about 1/4 inch thick (or a bit thicker). It can have ragged edges, that’s fine, but fix any cracks by pressing the dough together with your fingertips.
  4. Crumble the chevre into small chunks (this is a slightly sticky process) and sprinkle half of the cheese onto the tart crust, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges.
  5. Sprinkle the sliced figs on top of the cheese, then follow this by layering on the beets (still leaving a 1-inch border). Sprinkle the rest of the chevre on top.
  6. Fold over the edge of the tart, toward the center, folding and overlapping the dough to keep it circular-ish. Slide carefully onto a baking sheet (if it is lined with parchment paper, it makes things – especially clean-up – easier) and bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted.
  7. While the tart is baking, put the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn to a simmer, then cook until thick and syrupy and reduced by about three-quarters, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside. (I skipped this step because I used already reduced balsamic vinegar purchased from my grocery store)
  8. When the tart is finished, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes. Before serving, drizzle the balsamic syrup all over it and sprinkle the mint leaves on top. Slice the tart into thin slices to serve as an appetizer. Or have bigger slices accompanied by a green salad for lunch or dinner.

From the looks of it, this recipe seemed pretty involved, and I assumed it would take me a really long time to prepare it.  It turns out it was fairly easy (especially since my awesome new food processor did all the work in preparing the dough for the crust!), and the actual hands-on time was less than an hour. Not too bad for a gourmet-ish meal!

Sometimes, however, I can't afford to make something that requires an hour of hands-on time, so I like to have go-to meals that are quick and tasty. One standby dinner we've been making a lot lately are tostadas.  My husband grew up in Mexico, where these were a staple in his household, usually topped with things like beans, ham, cheese and avocado.  Tostadas look like hard taco shells flattened out, and can be topped with almost anything you want.  I believe they also sell a whole wheat version, but I have yet to find them in my grocery store.  When we make tostadas, we usually start with a base of refried beans, and then throw on some sliced avocado and panela cheese...two of those are usually enough for me as a meal.  Last week we mixed it up a little and used chopped up green leaf lettuce from our produce box, as well as some leftover crockpot chicken my husband had made (basically just chicken breasts, whatever salsa you like, throw it in a crockpot and cook on low overnight) to create a sort of taco salad tostada.  They were super quick, and really yummy!
My husband added hot sauce, which looks really pretty, but I prefer it without (I have wussy taste buds!)
I'm realizing that preparing a delicious, well-balanced, satisfying meal doesn't always have to be super involved and complicated.  However, sometimes it's fun to challenge myself to try to make something new that might take a little more effort. Either way, I'm happy to avoid having to order in or eat out as frequently, because as long as I'm eating at home, I'm not only saving money, but I can also have more control over what's in my food.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Paddy's Day and the giant chocolate bar

I went out briefly last night for St. Patrick's day (I had to debut my awesome O'bama t-shirt!), and ran into a friend who confessed that he had been reading my blog.  He said it was good, but, "I just can't do that right now."  I asked him what he meant, and he said that he couldn't eat whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it, because he would eat crap all the time and be enormously overweight.  I think that's a common misconception about intuitive eating, and one that I hope to dispel in this blog.  I'm realizing that it's quite difficult to explain the entire philosophy in short blog posts (you really should read the book or listen to the CDs in order to truly get it!), but I suppose I can be more clear about this particular issue.

So let me say this once and for all: intuitive eating is not just about eating whatever you want!  It's about giving yourself permission to eat anything you want, whenever you want it.  Allow me to explain the difference: by giving yourself permission to eat all the "bad" foods you've never allowed yourself to eat (without enormous guilt or a promise to run 5 miles the following day), the food no longer has control over you, and when you encounter a previously forbidden food, you may find that you'll be more likely pass it up or only eat a little bit of it, rather than go on an all-out binge, because you'll know that you can have it whenever you want.  Sure, maybe in the beginning when you give yourself permission to eat any food you want, you might find yourself eating cupcakes and pizza all day every day, but after a few days, these coveted foods won't excite you as much.  It's called habituation -- repeated exposure to a "forbidden" food item eventually causes you to grow tired of it, and you no longer desire it as you did before.

A great example of habituation happened in our household over the holidays.  A friend of mine gave my husband and me an enormous block of really good quality chocolate as a Christmas gift.  I'm not joking when I say this thing was huge-- it literally came with a little hammer to crack pieces off of it!  During the first couple of weeks of having this thing on my kitchen counter, we would crack off pieces of chocolate every day, often more than once a day.  After a couple of weeks, it came to the point where a day would go by without having a piece, and then sometimes a few days would go by without any chocolate consumption.  Eventually, a couple months later when we were about two-thirds of the way through it, the size of the remaining chunk of chocolate seemed to remain constant for a few weeks.  The chocolate was still really good, but it no longer held any power over us.  We would only have a piece when we really wanted it, as opposed to just eating it because it was there.  That's what habituation and unconditional permission does.
My husband ready to chow down on our enormous chocolate bar!
The other thing that I perhaps haven't been clear enough about on this blog is that intuitive eating isn't just about eating whatever you want...it's also about listening to your body to see what makes it feel its best, and eating accordingly.  If you only ate what you wanted based on taste, you might think that you would eat hamburgers and cookies all day every day.  But the truth of the matter is, if you listen to your body, after a few days you'll be begging for a salad or some steamed veggies, because you won't be feeling too hot if your main source of fuel comes from these high-fat high-sugar foods!  Once you've given yourself unconditional permission to eat these foods and experimented a little with varying amounts of them, you'll very likely find that you can still feel good while enjoying them on occasion and perhaps in smaller quantities, and maybe paired with something not quite so rich in fat and/or sugar.

I hope that clears things up a little.  I know that the idea of "eating anything you want" is completely foreign to most people, and it seems pretty counter-intuitive as a way to achieve a healthy lifestyle.  But within the context of the entire philosophy of intuitive eating, it really does make sense, and I truly believe that adopting this way of thinking can help you to achieve a balance in your life that will ultimately lead to improved physical and psychological health.  It certainly has for me!

Now that I've clarified things, do you think this could work for you?  I'd love to hear what you think!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Veggie adventures

Recently my husband and I signed up for organic produce delivery from Farm Fresh To You.  I had known about this company and ones like it for a while, but had resisted signing up for it because the idea of having random fruits and vegetables delivered to my house kind of stressed me out.  What if I got something I didn't like and/or didn't know how to prepare and it went to waste?!  I just knew that having a bunch of vegetables sitting in my refrigerator would be super stressful, and I didn't want to deal with it.  However, when a woman approached us near the entrance of our local grocery store and said they were offering a promo, my husband got really excited and before I knew it, we were members.
Produce at my doorstep
The contents of my latest Farm Fresh To You box
The great thing about this company (and maybe others like it...I'm not sure) is that you can go online to select items that you never want delivered, as well as check to see what's being delivered in the next box so you can call and make changes to the contents if necessary.  I've only set a few exclusions (things like kohlrabi and collard greens that are a bit too foreign to me!), and I have yet to call to make any changes, because I'm kind of liking the idea of being forced to prepare and eat vegetables that are a bit unfamiliar to me.  I tend to buy the same vegetables every time I go shopping, but now I have a refrigerator stocked with things like leeks, radishes, bok choy, and romanesco, and I'm learning to use them to make some pretty yummy dishes.  Even though it's been a little stressful because I'm pretty busy with school and work these days, I must say it's turning out to be a fun experience trying new recipes and discovering what vegetables I like that I had never considered preparing before.

In the process, I've also rediscovered a pretty amazing book I've had for many years that had been collecting dust on my book shelf.  It's called Vegetables Every Day, and besides containing recipes for almost any vegetable you've ever (or never) heard of, the book also explains how to store each type of veggie, how to prepare it, and during what time of year it's available.  From this book, I found my first successful recipe using two items from my produce box: leeks and red potatoes.  Here it is:

Creamy Leek and Potato Soup
4 medium leeks
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
Freshly group black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup heavy cream (I happened to have half-and-half in my refrigerator, so that I used that instead)
1. Trim and discard the dark green tops and tough outer leaves from the leeks.  Remove the roots along with a thin slice of the nearby white part.  Halve the leeks lengthwise and then cut them crosswise into thin strips.  Wash the sliced leeks in a large bowl with several changes of clean water, or until no grit falls to the bottom of the bowl.
2. Heat the oil in a large casserole or Dutch oven.  Add the leeks and saute over medium heat until tender and golden, about 10 minutes. (Do not let the leeks brown.)
3. Add the potatoes, stock, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.
4. Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. (Do not puree any longer than necessary or the potatoes will become gluey.)  Return the soup to the pot and stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream and the parsley.  Bring almost to a boil, adjust the seasonings, and serve immediately.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to take a photo of this soup, but I can tell you that it was quite good with some french bread dipped in it.  Yum!  And it tasted even better the next day when all the flavors had had a chance to meld together.

As I've said in my previous blog post, I'm not the biggest fan of vegetables, but something like this makes trying new vegetables fun, and I believe that eating should be a fun experience, and it's even more enjoyable when you're challenging your taste buds to try something new.  I'm certainly not forcing myself to eat these vegetables (that wouldn't be intuitive!).  Instead, I'm simply expanding my horizons, hoping I find more food items that I like so that when I'm hungry, I might listen to my gut and decide that a dish made with leeks or bok choy is exactly what I'm craving.

I'll keep you posted on all my other veggie adventures as the boxes keep coming, and next time I'll try to take photos of my veggie-based creations.