We recently screened the Michael Pollan documentary “In Defense of Food” based on his bestselling book of the same title. Pollan distills his advice down to three simple tenets: “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.”
Eat Food: simple, yet profound advice, particularly in today’s “food” landscape, dominated by industrial food producers and lots and lots of sugar in every imaginable form. I won’t get into this more in this post, but if you’re interested in learning more, click this link to watch “In Defense of Food” in its entirety.
I am most definitely an omnivore, but I do take the aforementioned points to heart. It is so easy to grab quick, simple carbs when we are hungry. Instant oatmeal, perfect! Ooh, that muffin is just what I need! I am certainly inclined to turn to these types of items when I’m hungry and don’t feel like preparing anything. And while I may be satisfied in the moment (or even for a few hours), I notice that it is increasingly difficult to eat enough vegetables in a day when I’m filling myself with other, well, “fillers.”
As I became aware of my tendency to eat “fillers” (even if they were wholesome and organic) rather than vegetables when I was hungry, I made a pact with myself to see what would happen if I consciously chose “real food,” primarily in the form of vegetables, instead. Now, when I prepare meals for myself, I attempt to have at least 2 different servings of vegetable each time (breakfast included – my meals throughout the day all look pretty much the same).
And, if your family is anything like mine, I have found that I can get more vegetables in them when it is an all-inclusive dish, rather than a side dish. The trick is, I must HAVE prepared veggies/meals in the fridge to eat!
In the height of summer I find it easy, even pleasurable, to follow Pollan’s advice. Fresh, delicious, local produce is easily obtainable, and the flavors of summer’s bounty are a sensory delight. Alas, it is January, months before our local growers will have fresh, local produce available and the variety of winter produce, in general, is sparse. I admit, I tend to be a little less than enthusiastic about food preparation when arriving home from work with the daylight already completely gone. All I want to do at that point is put on my Hello Kitty pajamas and snuggle up on the couch with the cat. Surely, I am not the only one!?? But, I digress.
Given all of this, and how very easy it is to be seduced by comfort foods that leave us feeling heavy and unnourished, I thought I’d share some of my favorite vegetable recipes with you (wait, don’t give up on me yet!) – to help (hopefully) motivate us all in the area of eating (real) food – mostly plants – this winter. I would love for you to also share a favorite with other readers. Perhaps this way, we’ll each emerge from this winter with just a little extra spring in our step – feeling a bit healthier.
I adore sweet potatoes (or perhaps they’re yams…I don’t know for sure), but I do tire of them quickly as autumn turns to winter and I’ve been eating them almost daily in their simple baked form. In more recent years, I’ve taken to adding a dollop of coconut manna and mashing it in with the sweet potato to add both a different flavor dimension and some healthy fat. You can also do this with winter squash, as in this recipe. But, when I just can’t eat one more baked sweet potato, I remember that I love rosemary roasted sweet potatoes. The combination of the sweet and savory together is perfection. If I want an easy full meal that incorporates this nutrient dense powerhouse, I’ll make Chipotle Black Bean and Yam Stew – a hit with the whole family.
Kale is a vegetable I’ve only recently learned to love. Dark green leafy vegetables have not often occupied space on my plate, but in an attempt to increase both iron and calcium in my diet through whole food sources, I’ve been finding recipes that I actually enjoy – and even crave. This butternut squash and kale recipe is fantastic. I know, I never thought I’d be using the word fantastic to describe a kale recipe, but truly, it is!
For a super yummy, colorful, veggie loaded salad that I love try this Asian Coleslaw. If I make a big bowl of this up on the weekend, I can (and will!) happily eat it daily until it is gone (and so will my 13-year-old son!) True confession: I don’t always use the Napa cabbage in this recipe…sometimes I just use green cabbage and I think it is just as good. And, this recipe for Sauteed Red Cabbage with Apples and Onions is a great side dish that I regret not trying sooner than I did.
A couple of our family favorite meals that are loaded with vegetables are: Chipotle Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, Smoky Tortilla-less Soup, Rainbow Thai Chicken Salad and Curried Chicken Salad. One note on this curried chicken salad: I originally used this recipe as a jumping off point and added A LOT more veggies to it to make it my own (and I also use Vegenaise, rather than the homemade mayo in the recipe, since I am allergic to eggs). When I say I add more veggies, I mean I really add more veggies – think diced red peppers, carrots, onions – basically whatever I have in the house that would work. I have also made this curried salad with canned tuna instead of chicken, and it is just as good! Again, a real crowd pleaser in our home.
If nothing else, writing this post has re-inspired me to make some super yumtastic meals featuring generous servings of delicious vegetables. Now that I’ve got that covered, I’ll have to watch myself on the “not too much” piece of Pollan’s advice.
Please do share your favorites too!