Summer Dinner - Veggie Style

Even though it is September, the farm stands will continue to offer delicious, fresh, clean food for many more weeks. I made a stop to one today and picked up corn on the cob, tomatoes, a bunch of green onions, and some peaches. Everything there looks beautiful and delicious, how can you put up with grocery store "freshness" in comparison?

Mission #1 - have corn on the cob for dinner. I am a big fan of this stuff. Loved it all my life. When I was growing up, we used to have that for our entire meal from time to time. This was easy for us since we grew acres of the stuff and didn't want it to go to waste. My cravings for it begin early, usually before it is ready for harvest. I get a dozen ears, steam half of them today, and save the other half for another day. Doesn't it look fantastic? Oh, my mouth is a-waterin' just looking at it! It tastes so good as it is, we keep it clean without butter or salt.

Eating corn alone doesn't fly in my house. It can certainly be the main attraction on the plate, but I have to come up with a side dish to go with it. I vamped up a recipe I found from Engine 2; they inspire me! Striving to eat clean is so worth the work. Everything tastes great and the health benefits are phenomenal. Here's a vegetable dish you can make and serve hot or cold.

Gnocchi with Veggies
Serves 6

In a non-stick pan, cook a diced onion with broth or white wine until it begins to be tender. Add 4 chopped carrots and 4 chopped celery stalks. Stir and cover for a few minutes until the veggies begin to soften slightly. Add 16 ounces can of no-salt added chick peas and a cup of green peas. Stir and cover to steam everything until hot. Sprinkle with Mrs Dash and ground black pepper. Set aside.

Cook the potato gnocchi (frozen kind for the low sodium factor) until done. Add to veggie mixture and serve topped with parsley.

This is a gorgeous meal. Colorful and healthy. You almost don't want to eat it, until you try the first bite, that is! Pour some seltzer in a glass and drop in some frozen fruit for flavor. You may want to include a swizzle stick so you can get every last berry out of the glass.

Clean summer eating at it's best! Try it; I bet you'll like it!


Potato salad made clean

I have been remaking recipes in order to clean up what we put on our plate this year. Some of my recreations have been good, others have wound up in the trash can. This is the way we find out what works and what is disastrous! We have to stop being so hard on ourselves when it comes to trying new things. We are not world class chefs; our efforts do not have to match that level.

This year has been full of ups and downs. Discovering the deliciousness of fresh juicing and the side benefits of health it brought along with it has been an up. Sitting by my husband in the emergency room after his stroke was a humbling low. And all the ranges inbetween, feeling blessings and losses, being encouraged by the way people around us have responded to us, wondering what we are to do with our experiences over the days to come, have made us grow in character and understand ourselves and others more.

I do know that we cannot let go of eating right. Sometimes it is a big challenge to not let the guard down and just run through a drive up to get something quick. Let's face it, eating right takes work. It needs attention. My generation has always had fast food available to them. The chain restaurant business is bigger and more popular than ever, and you have no idea what they are putting in your food and what you are really eating.

Why potato salad? What's so great about cleaning up something insignificant as potato salad? Just ease up on the mayo and there you go, it's cleaned up. No. It's not as good as it can be. I like cold vegetable salads but they typically include milk, mayo, or buttermilk as the goo that everything sticks to. This goo is not heart friendly. Dairy products are not the best thing going for you when it comes to eating clean.

The other day, we were going about our day, doing lots of stuff, and realized that we were hungry, really hungry. So I had to come up with something to hold us over until dinner that was somewhat substantial and tasty. I rummaged through the fridge and came up with this fabulous remake of potato salad. We ate it up so quick, I never even had the chance to take a picture.

Gnocchi Salad
6 side servings

Cook one bag of potato gnocchi (the frozen kind that is low sodium, not the kind on the store shelf that is high sodium). Drain and rinse. Place back in hot pot. Put a splash of veggie stock in pot (or a TBSP olive oil), add 2 entire stalks of chopped green onion, one diced medium (or several cherry sized) tomatoes, garlic powder, and one small shredded carrot. Mix, top with parsley, and serve hot or chill to serve cold later.

This was a happy accident! It is full of flavor. I hope you try it. If you want to make it more potato salad like, cut the gnocchi into smaller pieces. Try adding other vegetables in it. Take it easy on the oil, if that is what you decide to add. It doesn't need much! This is a delicious, low sodium, low fat, high nutrient alternative to the fatty original that will be dished up at all the labor day parties next weekend. And this one won't spoil in the heat.


Would you drink this?

That was the impending question. Sitting in the glass was what looked like green slime that was harvested from an algae ridden pond. The brain can't help itself but to say, "No!" to that.

About a month ago, I watched the documentary, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. Actually, I watched it through from start to finish twice in one weekend. There was so much in there that sparked interest and concern in me, I couldn't let it go. What was it that seemed so right?

We knew we needed to eat better. We realized that fresh fruits and vegetables had to take rule over most of our plate. How much salad can one person tolerate? The western way of eating doesn't cater to this way of thinking.

When I would plan a meal and make a grocery list, I would think like this:
  • How many days am I going to shop for? I think 6 would do it.
  • What meals do I want to prepare for those 6 days?
    • beef dish
    • chicken dish
    • pork chop dish
    • some sort of fish, if I have to
    • shrimp is good, we like shrimp
    • what's left? Oh, a ham steak or a ring of sausage.
  • Now I'm getting somewhere. What will I serve with the meals?
    • potatoes and carrots will go with the beef. I'll probably make beef stew.
    • mashed potatoes, corn for chicken dinner.
    • peas and carrots for the pork chops.
    • rice goes ok with fish, right? and maybe green beans.
    • bacon wrapped shrimp. oh yeah!
    • steak cut potatoes or sweet potato fries with the ham.
  • I've got my list, now to the store!
Do you see my problems? Everything I make is centered around what meat will be served. And my veggie choices are really slim. This isn't anyone's fault, it is the way our society has been taught to think. When you go to a restaurant, you look at the list of entrees which are all meats and you get two sides to go with it. Same problem.

So the day I went to the store and got my first $30 juicer and started making the tasty green juice for my morning nutrient supply, I knew people wouldn't show much support. I held a clear bottle of the power packed juice in front of someone at work one morning and asked him if he would drink something like this. Squishing his nose in disgust he promptly stated, "No!", which didn't surprise me in the least. If you had asked me the same question a few months ago, I would have had the exact same response.

The sad thing is, a plant-based diet can do so much good for you. You really can heal damage done to your body from the pure nutrients found in the good foods that spring forth with life from the ground. If an elephant can get big and strong by being a vegetarian, why can't a person? Ok, I'm not interested in becoming a hard-core vegan, but I do want to eat myself well, not slowly poison myself to death by eating things that do not benefit my health. Let's just say I have a lot of rethinking to do on meal planning. And I don't care what it looks like, I will gladly drink the green juice, but I'll house it in a travel mug to keep the looks of disgust away.


I have a confession

When I was a kid, things were different than they are now. Grocery shopping meant getting whole, unprepared foods, kids went outside to play no matter what the season was, the family would get together and sit at a table to eat dinner that mom made from scratch, and having a snack meant to go get an orange or have some popcorn. Microwaves just came out and dining at a fast food restaurant was an occassional treat.

I remember when the McDonalds in Mechanicville was the cool, new place in town. It was in eye-shot from the big Episcopal church where we went on Sunday morning. You could walk out of those gothicly tall, red double doors and see those golden arches one short block away. It was an easy walk for a hungry youngster but I wasn't allowed to go anywhere alone yet. I still wanted those burgers; they were so mouth-watering as long as they had no onions.

The special order "no onion" was a problem at McDonalds. They premade all the food. And who knows how long it sat under heat lamps before you ate it. So the "no onion" request was futile at best. They always said it couldn't be done. And they were right. The little onion chunks would set up into the bun and it was nearly impossible to not taste them. My only hope was to go there when our family friend, David, worked the counter. He would go to the grill guy to ask him to make one up before the onions were pressed onto the bun and then bring the freshly compiled ketchup-mustard-pickle masterpiece to the hopeful little 9 year old girl behind the counter. A lot of time has gone by since those days.

I was a semi-slender kid but I was always tall. As a matter of fact, I was the second tallest person in my class all through grade school. Valerie was my only classmate who was taller than me. My self image wasn't horrible but it wasn't great either. It was the 70's. If you had blonde hair and you didn't look like Farrah, or if you were a brunette and didn't look like Daisy Duke, there was something wrong with you. The movie Grease made hot pants and satin jackets popular. Nair paved the way for us to want to wear short shorts. How could you possibly measure up? We tried anyways.

So I rambled on a little. Just what is my confession? I don't like being weighed. That's it. I didn't like it when I was a teen and I still don't like the idea of getting on a scale as an adult. Actually, I don't know many women who do. How many of us take our shoes off before they weigh us at the doctor's office? I do every time. That extra 10 ounces could throw me over one pound more than I actually am. I understand this and try to keep in mind that I don't have to be so hard on myself. Afterall, we have work with what we have been given.


Newfound Land and a Challenge

No, not the country! I'm referring to the land of eating clean. A handful of years ago, my DH and I starting searching for ways to eat healthier. We had side effects that didn't seem right and knew we needed to improve our diet. So began the journey to find a way that would work best for us.

Here's my challenge to you. Want to try an eye-opening experience? It won't cost anything. It will show you something about your eating habits. Take a piece of paper, any paper will do - notebook, sticky note, used envelope out of the trash can - and write down what you eat and drink for one day. Anybody can do something like this for one day. If you are so inclined, try doing it for more than one day.

Why bother writing it out? It will give you a snapshot of what your fearfully and wonderfully made digestive system is having to process for you. It will show you how much meat you eat, how much water you drink, how many vegetables you avoid, what kind of cravings you are addicted to. I'm not suggesting this for calorie counting. This is just a means to begin to know thyself and to be open to something new. Will you take the challenge?


Would you do it?

Juicing. I'm not talking about just making fruit juice. I'm talking about REAL juicing. Juicing that the most hard-core juicers drink. Yes, I'm talking about green juice!

My DH and I watched "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead" on Netflix. Actually, we watched it twice and I was interested in the idea of trying to implement vegetable juicing into my routine. Thankfully, my DH is not opposed to eating healthy and trying to improve in that arena so I got a small, entry level juicer made by Black & Decker for $30.00 and a bagful of produce. Here's my record of the start of the journey.

The Dreaded First Few Days
b'fast: 1/2 pineapple, 1 carrot, 1 orange
lunch: 2 stems kale, 2 apples, 1 carrot, 5 cherry tomatos, 4 celery stalks, small bunch of parsley, squirt of lime juice, small piece of ginger root. Made 2 glasses of juice, I drank half and put the rest in the fridge.
Dinner: steamed cauliflower, roasted beets and greens with onion, chicken strips.
Snack: popcorn with butter and salt, bottled oj
Didn't feel sleepy after our regular, early afternoon Sunday dinner. No nap today. Tongue feels metallic. Didn't feel hungry but did feel a bit foggy.

coffee with creamer
b'fast: 1 stem kale, handful of spinach, 2 celery stalks, 6 tomato, 1 carrot, 1 apple
lunch: same juice as b'fast, bowl of 3 bean salad
snack: nut/raisin/m&m trail mix (kinda saltier than I wanted), handful of blackberries and 3 strawberries
glass of pino grigio with 4 crackers, swiss cheese slices, and blue cheese
dinner: beef stew meat, potato
still feeling pretty good. a bit bound. a little foggy.

bfast: 1 stem kale, handful spinach, celery, tomato, carrot, apple, parsley
water and berries
lunch: veggie black bean soup, whole grain bread
snack: nut trail mix, 4 whole grain crackers with one baby bel garlic cheese wedge
dinner: chicken and steamed broccoli with al fredo sauce over rice, water
Bad day: very sleepy, headaches, eyes ache, neck ache, took an afternoon nap. still bound. irratable. Crass. Metallic taste on tongue but not as bad.

bfast: coffee with cream, kale, spinach, celery, tomato, carrot, apple, parsley
Bolthouse Farms green juice and water
lunch: banana, nut trail mix, crackers and baby bel garlic cheese
water, cup of tea, smoked cheddar cheese on crackers
dinner: pork chops, corn
carrot juice
Feeling MUCH better today. Slight headache, no longer bound, much better mood though still a bit crass. No more metallic taste in mouth. Feeling more energy at night.

Are you afraid to try juicing? It will not hurt you. It will not taste sweet or salty or oily or milky. I best describe it like this: you know that wonderful smell in the air right after someone mows grass? If you could bottle that smell and drink it, that is how green juice tastes. It's good and good for you!