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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Think Outside the Box

squash.jpg…And outside the package for that matter.  But really I’m talking about trying new things.  We will crave what we feed ourselves and we can acquire the taste for practically anything.  What I mean is that the more sweets and junk food you eat, the more you will crave it.  The more health food you eat, the more you will crave it.  I made a batch of naturally fermented pickles and beets (they are full of enzymes, vitamins and probiotics, fabulous living foods).  They were so delicious.  I got to where I was craving my beet kvass (the beet juice) every day.  I have gone through kicks of drinking a raw apple cider vinegar tonic daily (again, full of enzymes) and would look forward to it and crave it.  I even noticed that if I were craving a sweet the craving would go away if I had something sour, like vinegar or pickles.   

When there is a strong motivation you get creative and you make yourself like things.  Typically a big motivator is weight, I know it shouldn’t be, but it is.  I tried lowcarb eating to lose some weight a few years ago and so had to get creative with foods.  As a result I got hooked on some really healthy foods.  I started eating plain yogurt instead of the sweetened varieties, like Yoplait for example.  I used to hate the taste of the plain yogurt; I was very accustomed to the sweet kind.  But I made myself eat it because it was high in protein and fat, but very low in carbs.  The carbs are actually lower than the nutrition facts even tell you.  The nutrition facts are figured based on the milk before the yogurt making process.  But during the process the lactose (milk sugar) is converted into lactic acid.  So I tried it and became very accustomed to it and love it now.  I eat it practically every morning with my eggs and have started making my own, so I can have a product that is organic, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free for a fraction of the cost.  I started my daughter on it at 9 months old and now at 2 she still loves it.  I have discovered that a dollop of plain yogurt is a wonderful addition to my waffle topped with fruit sauce; it is reminiscent of whipped cream.  Yogurt is a great source of beneficial bacteria (probiotics). 

While on the lowcarb diet I also discovered quite a few vegetables that are so delicious that I didn’t even know I liked.   You want to stay away from breads, pasta, and potatoes on lowcarb diets, so I found myself substituting vegetables.  I found that I really like sautéed zucchini and yellow summer squash, steamed spinach, asparagus and roasted winter squash, particularly acorn and butternut squash.  I think when vegetables are prepared properly most people will like them.  All these foods are so good because they are full of fiber, something we don’t get enough of in our standard American diet. 

In our effort to cut out packaged foods, we are now making homemade muffins to eat for breakfasts and snacks instead of granola bars.  (I just make a big batch on the weekends; I’m not making these every day!)  We also make homemade popcorn for snacks instead of chips.  When popcorn is cooked in good fat it is a healthy food, it’s a whole grain and so has plenty of fiber.  I started cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts for my husband to use for lunchmeat instead of deli meat.  Lunchmeats contain fillers and chemicals like nitrites and nitrates.  Plus I’m saving so much money this way. 

So think outside the box, substitute something healthy for unhealthy, acquire the taste for new foods.  Have some oatmeal for breakfast instead of cold cereal; it’s less processed.  Try natural sweeteners (not artificial).  I use Stevia in my tea and it tastes great.  This can apply to other areas as well; try natural remedies instead of always reaching for medicine, try baking soda and vinegar to clean house with instead of toxic chemicals. 

Roasted Winter Squash
With fall here now I am in the mood for squash.  Most of the time I like to eat it roasted and mashed as a side dish instead of mashed potatoes.  I cut it in half and scoop out the seeds.  Then I place it on a pan and roast it at 375° - 400°F for about an hour or until it is fork tender.  Then I scoop the squash out of the skin and mash with butter and salt.  This works for all winter squash varieties, Acorn, Butternut, etc.  I haven’t had success with steaming it, it seems to hold water and you don’t want watery squash on your plate. Here is another yummy way to cook Butternut Squash.  If you have never tried Butternut Squash before, this is a great recipe to try, since there are other flavors here as well.

Pasta with Butternut Squash

This is from Bon Appetit, October 1997 issue.  I have made a few minor adjustments. 

¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary or ½ teaspoon dried (I didn’t have any on hand the other day so I used 5th Season brand Italian Herb blend instead)

3 ¼ cups 1/3-inch pieces peeled Butternut Squash (I don’t measure, I just cut one squash into cubes)

8 ounces plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped (I always use a 14oz. Can of diced tomatoes)

½ cup water

2 ½ ounces ¼-inch thick prosciutto slices, finely chopped (I’m sure this would be quite delicious, but here in Tulsa I have yet to find prosciutto at the store)

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I usually omit this, too.  It tastes great without it so why make things difficult.)

12 ounces shell pasta (recipe calls for medium shells, I like small shells, use whatever shape you like as long as it’s similar to shells, for example you wouldn’t want to use angel hair pasta, it just wouldn’t work.)

¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (feel free to use Kraft, I do for this) 

Now a Butternut Squash doesn’t peel easily like a potato or carrot.  You will want a sharp knife.  I slice off the stem at the top and slice a small slice off the bottom so that it will sit flat.  I then stand the squash up on its end and take my knife and slice thin strips of the peel off in a downward motion.  Then when the squash is peeled I cut it in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds.  For this recipe you want small cubes.  I cut my squash halves into slices and then cut cubes from the slices.  I hope this makes sense, it’s really fairly simple.  Next time I make this recipe I will have to take pictures. 

Heat ¼ cup Olive Oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, celery and rosemary and sauté until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.  Add the squash cubes, tomatoes and ½ cup water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Cover and simmer until squash is tender, about 20 minutes.   

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite.  Drain.  Return pasta to same pot. 

Add 2 tablespoons oil and squash mixture to the pasta and toss.  Season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with Parmesan cheese.  The original recipe says to toss with the Parmesan in the pan, but every time I do that the cheese ends up sticking to the pan and the spoons.  I hate waste so I just garnish at the table and toss in my own bowl.

1 comment:

  1. I can hardly wait to try the roasted winter squash! I am getting 6 butternut squash (or is the plural "squashes"?) from my food co-op this month (they were $1 each and I couldn't pass up such a bargain.) I'm sure glad they keep well, and these new recipes will come in very handy.

    Enjoy this fall weather!