A Kitchen Inspired by a Plate of Many Colors
Have you ever looked down at your plate and been struck by the beautiful simplicity of the colors sitting before you? I recently experienced such a meal at one of my favorite local restaurants. While I love to eat healthy, I generally do not order a salad as a meal. On this Monday afternoon, I decided soup and salad sounded just right. To my taste buds’ delight, this little salad of char roasted acorn squash topped with baby arugula and peppery toasted pecans danced in my mouth with every bite. The buttery orange squash against the emerald green leaves proved that even in the winter months our plates and palettes can be blessed with a variety of inspiring colors, flavors, and textures.
As you create your wellness intentions or resolutions for this coming year, consider taking a stroll through the produce department to guide your way. While you circle the bins be sure to pick up some crisp red peppers or a tumbly butternut squash as the centerpiece for your plate. Be curious and explore new territory in your kitchen. We all know there are a multitude of plans, styles, and trends that soar in and out of the food world trying to direct us on what is the best way to eat for health. For the most part there is one common element in food styles that I try to keep center stage as I prepare meals for my family – Eat Lots of Vegetables. This does not have to be overwhelming, but can be a fun game of filling your plate with many colors.
I will admit that through my research and recipe development over the years my family has dutifully sat at the table and ate whatever I put in front of them. Sometimes with an overwhelming approval to make the dish again and sometimes with a weak smile from my husband and a not so subtle toss of the food on the floor by my 2 year old. One thing I have learned through my experimentation is that I get better results when I combine a new vegetable with ingredients we already love. As I eased my husband into the taste of hearty and deliciously bitter greens, I did not hesitate to cook leaves of kale or rainbow chard in a piece of bacon to help his palette adjust and associate the taste with something he loved. Now he will happily munch on this Rainbow Kale Salad with no problem. My daughter, who has not learned to love the texture of greens just yet, prefers hers blended into a creamy blueberry smoothie with banana and vanilla.
As you venture into your wellness intentions or resolutions for the year, here are a few tips that may help increase the nutritional value in your meal.
Start with a recipe you love, and do not try to change too many components at once. Remember your early science experiment days- you always need a control to compare your changes.
If your recipe requires sautéing in oil, try the steam frying technique instead. You simply eliminate the oil, and use small amounts of water in a hot sauté pan to cook your veggies.
Add a new vegetable to the dish. Consider the flavor, texture, and where you will add this vegetable into the cooking process.
Find a few frozen vegetables that you enjoy, and can have on hand for quick and easy meals. This is economical and time saving. Of few of my favorites, are spinach, peas, and broccoli.
Reduce or remove the meat from your recipe. Consider making the vegetables the main component with the meat as an accent.
To add richness to a dish, sprinkle a small handful of chopped nuts, olives, or avocado on top.
Below are a few of my family’s favorite revised recipes from the last year. Feel free to enjoy as they are, or give them your own touch.
Quinoa Veggie Balls with Pasta and Tomato Sauce
Makes 24 Balls: Enough for 2 meals, served with Whole Grain Pasta and your favorite marinara sauce.
1 Cup Yellow Onion, diced
2 Cloves Garlic, diced
1 Cup Baby Spinach or Baby Kale
½ Cup 365 Unsalted, Roasted Sunflower Seeds
1 Carrot, diced small
1 Cup Unsalted Canned Beans (Black beans, pinto, or cannellini)
2 Teaspoons Dried Basil
2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano
½ Teaspoon Caraway
½ Teaspoon Fennel Seed
½ Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
2 Cups Cooked Quinoa
Steam sauté onion, carrot, and dried herbs/spices until slightly softened. Add in garlic and greens. Cook until greens are wilted-add more water or stock as needed to keep veggies from sticking in pan.
In a food processor blend together sunflower seeds, beans, and sautéed veggies. You do not have to puree totally smooth-some texture is good in the balls.
Stir together with quinoa, shape into 1 ½ inch balls.
Bake at 375 F until heated through and crispy on the outside.
- These freeze well, don’t bake ahead, just freeze, and bake when ready to eat.
- Do not put quinoa balls into sauce until ready to eat- they will get soggy and fall apart.
Mediterranean Fish Stew
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 small fennel bulbs, quartered and thinly sliced
1 Cup Sweet Potato, Peeled and diced
1 Cup Carrots, Peeled and diced
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
½ Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 (28 ounce) can Italian-style diced tomatoes, with their liquid
4 (4-ounce) White Fish Fillet OR 1 ½ Cups Cooked Creamy White Beans
¼ Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley, to garnish top
½ Cup Green Olives, chopped to garnish
Heat a large saucepan to medium high heat, add onions and cook for 1 minute. Add fennel, sweet potato, and carrot cook for 5 minutes more. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for 1 minute, then add white wine. Simmer for about 5 mintues then add tomatoes and 1 cup of water. If using beans, add them at this point. Simmer with pan covered until vegetables are tender about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Push vegetables to the side, arrange fillets in the skillet, then cover with vegetables. Cover skillet and simmer over low heat until fish is just cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve fish with vegetables and broth spooned over brown rice. Garnish with parsley, chopped olives, and a light squeeze of lemon juice.
Super Pink Applesauce
1 Large Bag or Tote of Apples
1 Large Beet, peeled and diced
2 Cups Fresh Cranberries (or frozen if you cannot find fresh)
1 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
For Variety add any of your other favorite baking flavors:
- A pinch of clove
- A dash of Nutmeg
- A Spoonful of Fresh Chopped Ginger
Wash all apples, and cut into 1 inch size pieces, removing the core.
Toss apples, beets, cranberries, vanilla, and spices into a pot. Add a couple of tablespoons of water.
Cover pot and turn heat to medium. Allow apples to steam in pot with lid closed until they are super soft and almost burst.
Mash with a fork or potato masher as much as you like. For super smooth applesauce puree in a blender or food processor.
Enjoy warm, or refrigerate for up to 1 week.
- For a little extra sweetness, you can add a splash of maple syrup or honey before cooking.
Food is a huge inspiration in my life. Over the last 5 years I have enjoyed embracing a healthier cooking style. I have seen that cooking in a healthier manner does not lesson your appreciation for flavors and artistically plated dishes. In my heart I will always take after my Great Grandfather, whom my family would tease when he would ask at breakfast what was going to be served for dinner. There is an uplifting motivation as my day unfolds if I know there is a yummy home-cooked meal packed with nutritious foods to look forward to at the close of the day. I hope this coming year will open your hearts and minds to be curious in your kitchens, and your plates will be filled with many colors as the seasons reveal their flavors.
Have a favorite way to prepare meals in a healthy way? Tell us in an email to [email protected].
With “A Kitchen Inspired” we will share with you the current and up and coming ingredients, products and cooking methods that inspire our team members, chefs and the kitchen at Whole Foods Market Dublin.
Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com, NASDAQ: WFM), is the leading natural and organic food retailer. As America’s first national certified organic grocer, Whole Foods Market was named “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” by Health magazine. The company’s motto, “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet”™ captures its mission to ensure customer satisfaction and health, Team Member excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement.