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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Simplicity at its Healthiest

Need a break from heavy holiday foods? I have a great recipe for you with collard greens. Now, maybe you all don't love collard greens. That's because you haven't tried them this way.

Being from New England, I didn't eat a lot of collards. In fact, I didn't eat any until I signed up for a food co-op last year and found myself getting collards on a regular basis. (Side note -- don't you like the word "collard"? Something about it sounds very distinguished and good.) So, I found myself scrambling to find recipes for new things like kale, collards, and kohlrabi. For this collard greens recipe with sun-dried tomatoes, onions, and brown rice, I don't even remember how I came across it. I think I pulled it together from a few different sources. This 5 ingredient recipe is so simple and healthy that it's refreshing to make after Thanksgiving.

Some of you may be wondering, "but what about protein?" Well, let me tell you about protein. According to Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe (and other scientific studies as well), there is protein in a lot more than just meat, dairy, eggs, and tofu. Most of the plant foods we eat contain protein. It is true that we need to get complete protein, meaning that unless we get all 16 amino acids at some point in the day, our protein is incomplete. As long as you eat a variety of foods, there's a good chance that you're getting enough protein. Brown rice and collard greens are good sources of protein and they're complementary (meaning they supplement missing amino acids that the other does not have). Additionally, although meat has high protein in its make up, the amount of protein our body is able to use from meat is actually on the same level (or lower) as eggs, dairy, and even some grains.

In conclusion (as I write this research paper for you all), meat protein has its place in our diet (hopefully you choose local and sustainable), but it is not the holy grail of protein. It is a protein among many proteins. Frances Moore Lappe's overall message in her book Diet for a Small Planet is that the earth has enough resources to feed hungry people. The problem is that a lot of those resources go toward feeding livestock instead of directly feeding people. In poorer countries, only the wealthy can afford meat, while the poor starve because the grain is not made available to them. This is a simplified version of a worldwide hunger problem, but hopefully you see my point.

I encourage you to eat less meat. Not just that, but choose local, humanely raised meat that has quality in both taste and life. An animal that lived a quality life before being slaughtered is better for our earth, our palates, and our peace of mind. With that, I give you...collards.

Collard Greens
Serves 2-3 main dishes, or 4-6 sides

1 bunch collard greens
1 cup dry brown rice
1 large onion
8 sun-dried tomato halves in oil
2 tablespoons oil from sun-dried tomato jar, or olive oil

1) Combine rice and 2 cups water in rice cooker, or combine in pot on the stove. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer about 40 minutes.

2) Chop onion. Heat oil in large saucepan and add onions until slightly carmelized, about 10 minutes.

3) Chop sun-dried tomatoes and add to onions. Stir around for a minute.

4) Stem collard greens. Fold leaves over and chop into "ribbons." Chop again the other way, so you end up with roughly square pieces of collard greens. Add to onion mixture and stir around to coat lightly with oil. Cover and let soften for about 5 minutes. Collards are done when they're slightly tender but not mushy.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sweet Potatoes...Again!

Somehow November got away from me. I've made more than just sweet potatoes for the past month, I promise. But nothing that was very blog worthy. So, I bring you yet another recipe for sweet potatoes. Hey, at least it's appropriate! Last year around this time I posted a recipe for a delicious soup/stew that had nothing to do with Thanksgiving.

This recipe is so versatile that you can have it as a decadent side, a light dessert, or even as part of a brunch. I love it. It's so easy, and you can adapt it as you wish without messing it up. I found the original version somewhere on Epicurious and made some changes. I took out a bunch of the sugar, the eggs, and the heavy cream. You can experiment with adding all those things, especially if you're having it as a dessert, but I think sweet potatoes are sweet enough. I really wanted to enjoy the essence of them with the added bonus of a crunchy streusel topping. Are you salivating yet? Add it to your Thanksgiving line-up. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Streusel
Adapted from Bon Apetit July 1995
Serves 4-6

2 lbs sweet potatoes
3 tablespoon crystallized ginger, minced and divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut

1) Peel sweet potatoes and dice them into 2 inch cubes. Combine with enough water to cover them in a large pot and boil until tender. Drain water and mash. Stir in 2 tablespoons of crystallized ginger. Spread in a 2 quart square baking dish.

2) Combine remaining ingredients together in large bowl. Mix until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over the sweet potatoes.

3) Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Introducing the tuber of the season! That's right, folks, it's not actually a potato (and it's not a yam, either) but it's a tuber. And I love it. It's available every week through my community supported agriculture, and Justin has insisted we get it every week. Fine with me. This tuber is so versatile and tasty that I could probably get it every week for a year and still find new recipes to use it in.

Some favorite recipes I've come across include Sweet Potato and Apple Fritters, Sweet Potato Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Icing, Sweet Potato Ice Cream, Fusion-Spiced Sweet Potato Soup, and Sweet Potato Bison Chili (I know this link brings you to a recipe for turkey chili with pumpkin, but I've used sweet potatoes and bison instead with delicious results. Actually, you can find my version here). Yum!

This recipe is simple as can be: roasted sweet potato, good yogurt, a drizzle of maple syrup, and toasted pecans. Wondrous. Try it - it's so easy that it seems it can't possibly be as delicious as it is!

Roasted Sweet Potato
Serves 4

4 medium sweet potatoes
1 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
4 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 cup pecans, chopped and toasted

1) Heat oven to 400 degrees (use the toaster oven if you're making just one or two).
2) Scrub and assess your sweet potatoes. Pick out any eyes or weird spots.
3) Wrap each potato in foil and into the oven it goes, straight on the rack.
4) Bake for 45-60 minutes until tender.
5) Remove from foil and mash a bit. Top each potato with 1/4 cup yogurt, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and 1/4 cup of pecans.

Do you have a favorite sweet potato recipe?