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Shut Up and Eat Your Vegetables

August 9, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

Vegetables. Some of you may have jumped for joy, while others may have thrusted your spinny chairs backwards in disgust.

I’ve volunteered as a counselor-in-training for a couple summers now, and one thing that’s been consistent is the lack of vegetables these kids are eating. On occasion, I’ll see someone’s mom has packed him or her some baby carrots, but other than that, I’ve seen NOTHING. Some of them will have fruit, but it’s usually dwarfed by a mostly-bread sandwich and some kind of chip and/or processed sweet.

“But they’re kids! They’re picky!”

Sure, kids’ taste buds are largely defined by the fact that they haven’t fully developed yet, but part of the reason they’re not eating vegetables is where their influence is coming from. I know there are plenty of adults out there that dislike vegetables just as much as five and six year-olds do.

This is part of the reason why SAD (the Standard American Diet) fails: people aren’t eating enough vegetablesInstead of having a big salad or a sauteed spinach omelette for breakfast, people are downing non-fat “fruit” yogurts (trust me—it’s mostly sugar and chemicals in there, not fruit) and bowls of carb-dense cereal. Tell me, where are the plants? How is a crunchy pellet or flake considered food and chosen over a delicious, nutrient-packed vegetable?

It’s time to change. We need to stop avoiding vegetables and replacing them with “healthy” substitutes, like “veggie” chips and juices. I challenge you, whether you’re a newbie to real food eating or an old-timer, to aim to eat at least a serving of vegetables with every meal.

Daunted? Lost? Lazy? I’m here to help with four of my favorite vegetables and two different ways to prepare each of ‘em.

1. Cauliflower

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Before going paleo, I barely ate cauliflower. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it…I just didn’t know what to do with it. Now that I’ve incorporated so many vegetables into my diet, cauliflower has become one of my best friends. It’s not only high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and fiber, but also makes the perfect canvass for a plethora of spices and seasonings. It’s the marriage of broccoli and potatoes in the best way possible.

So, how do I prepare it?

  1. Roast it. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss 4 cups of cauliflower florets with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a bunch of seasonings. I like using about 1/2 tablespoon each of paprika, garlic powder, tumeric, and cumin, plus a tablespoon of nutritional yeast for a slightly “cheesy” flavor. Roast until the tops are a dark shade of brown and the cauliflower is tender to the touch, about 30 to 35 minutes.
  2. Rice it. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse 2 cups of cauliflower florets at a time until the size of rice grains or cous-cous (depending on the texture you’re going for), about 30 seconds. In a pan, melt 2 tablespoons of ghee or butter over medium heat, then add all of the cauliflower. Add your seasonings of choice, then saute until softened but not squishy, about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover tightly with a lid until you’re ready to eat.

2. Tomatoes

Technically, tomatoes are a fruit, but today, I’m ignoring science. So take that. Anyways, when they’re in season, cherry tomatoes are my favorite food—hands down. Sweet, juicy, and just a bit crunchy, it’s like eating a piece of nature’s candy. If you’re not eating many tomatoes, now is a great time to get started: tomato season is end of July through end of August, at least where I live, so these little guys will be at their freshest and tastiest. Tomatoes are also an excellent source of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and lycopene, which contributes a boatload of antioxidants as well as the bright red pigment.

So, how do I prepare them?

  1. Sauce them. Got squishy and/or overly ripe tomatoes lying around? Make a quick sauce! Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil or butter in a skillet over medium heat, and add 2 large or 3 small cloves of minced garlic. Saute until fragrant, then add in 2 cups of chopped tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of red chili flakes, and let cook until the tomatoes have mostly broken down, about 6 minutes. During the last minute or so of cooking, add in 1/3-1/2 cup of finely chopped fresh basil. Serve over grilled chicken or roasted spaghetti squash.
  2. Sandwich them. I love the combination of tomatoes and balsamic vinegar, and avocado makes it even better. In the bowl of a food processor, blend 2 very ripe avocados with a generous pinch of salt until smooth, about 2 minutes. Cut a fat heirloom tomato into 1-inch wide slices, then lightly drizzle with some good balsamic vinegar. (No glucose syrup here!) To assemble, spread a heaping tablespoon of avocado onto a tomato slice and top with another of about the same size. Finish with a crack of black pepper, if you’d like.

3. Kale

Kale is amazing. If you don’t like it, I don’t like you. Sorry, that’s how I roll. Out with the kale haters.

I’m kidding! Chances are, if you have terrifying memories of kale, it’s because it hasn’t been fresh and/or prepared in the right way. I must admit…bad raw kale is pretty disgusting. Even if you have an emotionally-scarring back-story, I highly recommend you give this leafy green another try. It has a mind-blowing amount of Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A, plus some calcium, which can be hard to come by if you’re staying away from dairy. My favorite type is Tuscan kale—the kind with the big, thick leaves bursting with crunchiness.

So, how do I prepare it?

  1. Massage it. Yes, I said massage it. Massaged kale salads are insanely tasty; so tasty, in fact, that they were the number one dish I missed while I was in France. Oddly enough, my favorite time to have one of these salads is at breakfast, but it’s perfect for a light lunch, dinner, or even snack. All you do is wash and dry a BUNCH of chopped kale, drizzle on some good olive oil and a bit of vinegar/citrus juice, and massage the liquids into the kale with your hands. The kale is ready when it’s turned dark green and feels considerably softer in texture. It’s best if you let it sit for at least 15 minutes before digging in.
  2. Crispify it. Kale chips are sweeping the nation. You don’t need a mandolin or a dehydrator to make them: you just need some olive oil, salt, a big baking sheet, an oven, and some kale! Simply toss your choice of kale with a scant teaspoon or two of olive oil (you don’t want a lot—it’ll weigh it down), salt, and some spices, if you’d like. (Paprika, chipotle chili powder, and garlic powder are my go-tos.) Lay the kale on the sheet, and bake at 400 degrees until dark green and crispy, about 15 to 20 minutes. Do not stir. Serve immediately and resist eating the whole batch.

4. Carrots

I was a rabbit in a previous life. I am OBSESSED with carrots. I usually eat them every day, sometimes twice a day. I swear, I will eat carrots over almost anything. It’s a good thing they’re fantastic for you: plenty of Vitamin A (I guess I really like Vitamin A, don’t I?), fiber, and beta-carotene, which like lycopene is chock-full of antioxidants as well as natural pigments. Carrots are also a great kid-friendly choice: they’re bright, crunchy, and sweet, perfect for packing in lunchboxes and dipping in nut butter.

So, how do I prepare them?

  1. Mash them. If you like mashed sweet potatoes, you’ll love mashed carrots! Either boil them in water until soft (about 10 minutes) or roast them in the oven at 400 degrees until browning and tender (about 35 minutes), then transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Blend with 1/3-1/2 cup of full-fat coconut milk (depending on how creamy you want it), a tablespoon of butter or coconut oil, a good pinch of salt, and about 1/2 tablespoon each of paprika, turmeric, and cumin. Process until smooth, then taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
  2. Slaw them. Grate enough carrots to amount to 4 cups or buy them already prepared. Toss with 1/4 cup of mayonnaise (I always make my own—you can use this recipe), a tablespoon of maple syrup, a generous pinch of salt, a good crack of black pepper, and either 1/4 cup of red raisins OR a chopped apple. Let sit in the fridge for half an hour before serving.

So, have I convinced you now to give vegetables a try? If you didn’t see one you liked here, you could try…

…asparagus, beets (golden and red), broccoli/broccolini/broccoli rabe, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, cucumbers, eggplant, fiddlehead ferns, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnips, rutabegas, spaghetti squash, spinach, sunchokes, sweet potatoes, or zucchini, just to name a few of my favorites.

What’s your vegetable of choice and what do you like to do with it? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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My Month in France

August 1, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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Hi everyone! It’s so good to be back and with you all once again.

For the past month, I have had the pleasure of staying in St. Laurent du Var, France, with a loving homestay mom and amazing new friends. Although there were some difficulties and awkward moments, I had a good time and am glad I chose to spend the month abroad.

Here are some of the highlights!

1. Fenocchio Ice Cream

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I actually ate pretty healthfully while I was in France: I barely had any refined carbs (bread, pasta, pizza…etc.), didn’t touch a single processed snack or candy, drank only water, and always made sure I was getting protein and some form of fresh produce with every meal.

But Fenocchio ice cream was my paleo rebellion.

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I’m telling you: THIS WAS THE BEST ICE CREAM IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. Over the course of my 4 weeks, I sampled 18 different flavors on 6 different occasions. I sampled chocolat piment (spiced chocolate), cappuccino, yaourt aux fruits rouges (frozen yogurt with a strawberry/raspberry swirl), cacao(dark chocolate sorbet), fraise (strawberry), creme beurre sale (salted caramel), cannelle (cinnamon), fleur de lait (not exactly sure still…), chocolat orange, cookiesconfiture du lait (vanilla with a caramel-like swirl), marron (chestnut), mandarin, amaretto (basically sweet almond), amarena (vanilla with a black cherry swirl), pain d’epice (gingerbread), bounty (coconut with a chocolate swirl), and tiramisu. 

Ugh. My stomach hurts thinking about all of those flavors at once. 

But was it worth it? In my opinion, yes. I know I’m probably not going to have ice cream again for a long time, and who knows when I’ll next be in the south of France? I kept a very clean, balanced diet throughout the day and was walking everywhere. Still, no sweets for me for a while!

2. Gorges du Verdon

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I really didn’t want to go here at first. It was a two and a half hour bus ride and I was dreading going kayaking/canoeing in the middle of nowhere. When we pulled up, I wished that I had stayed home and slept instead.

Little did I know I was in for a pleasant surprise.

The Gorges were some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.The massive cliffs towered above cascading waterfalls and the water was a perfect shade of turquoise. My friend Lee and I wound up hopping out of our boat and going for a swim by the waterfall…it was incredible.

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3. Fireworks on Bastille Day

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Honestly, I’m not a huge national holiday person, but I do love fireworks. (Then again, what teenager doesn’t enjoy loud, explosive objects?) Watching a million bursting lights go off above the beach was spectacular…there’s no other way to describe it.

It also gave me a great chance to use the firework setting on my camera!

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4. Dinner with Friends

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In the south of France during the summer, most of the food is simple and fresh: there was a lot of ratatouille (served hot or cold), quiche with summer vegetables, and lightly seasoned cuts of chicken and fish. Although it felt great to eat such clean meals, about halfway through the trip, my friends and I began to get cravings for our favorite flavorful ethnic foods. 

Twice during the second half of the trip, my roommate and two friends of ours had dinner together featuring Indian and Mexican food. For Indian night, I made tandoori chicken with roasted sweet potatoes and rice for the girls, then carrot cardamom pudding (minus the chia seeds) and fresh mango for dessert. For Mexican night, I made pulled chicken with a spicy warm salsa, topped off with avocado and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Neither meals were really authentic, but they were delicious, and so much fun to share with appreciative (and hungry!) friends.

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5. Going Exploring

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Some of my best memories from the trip were wandering around towns and cities with my friends without any purpose or agenda in mind. Whether we were in Vieux Nice, St. Paul du Vence, or San Remo, Italy (as pictured above), we had a great time chatting and meandering through small cobblestone streets and cutesy boutiques.

No matter if you’re 16 or 60, exploring a city on foot is really the best way to go, at least in my opinion. Sure, you can get the feel of a place on a bus or tram car, but you can’t hear the murmur of people around you talking, smell the local herbs wafting through the air, or find hidden shops or galleries you might never have guessed were there.

You might also run into a cat or two…always a plus for me.

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I am so thankful for the time I spent in France this summer, but I’m looking forward to kale salads, reading signs in English, and visits to my local butcher once again. (I haven’t had pork in almost a month!)

What is your favorite vacation destination? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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Baaad to the Boneless

April 5, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

What’s not to love about lambs? They’re fuzzy, adorable…

…and delicious.

Best of all, if you get the right cut, it can be on your weeknight dinnerplate with realitively little effort.

To achieve a defined flavor, I started the night before with a marinade. We had some deteriorating arugula in the fridge, so I decided to make a pesto.

In the food processor, I blended 2 cups of arugula, 1 large clove of garlic, a large handful (about 1/4 cup) of walnuts, and 1/3 cup of olive oil. This sauce is highly customizable—experiment with using basil or mint in place of the arugula and hazelnuts, pistachios, or macadamia nuts instead of the walnuts.

Then, I poured the pesto into a large ziploc bag with 1/3 cup of orange juice and added a little over 2 pounds of boneless leg of lamb. After sealing it up, I vigorously shook the bag to fully distribute the marinade. I marinated it in the fridge for about 18 hours, but anywhere from 2-24 hours should suffice. (The longer, the better—just don’t exceed a day.)

To cook, I heated the gas grill to about 450 degrees and put the lamb in the center. 7 minutes later, I flipped it over and let it cook for an additional 7 minutes. Ideally, you want to get the lamb to 125 degrees for somewhere between rare and medium rare.

Before eating, I covered the lamb with some tinfoil for about 10 minutes, then thinly sliced it to serve.

To go with our farmyard friend, I made an unusually interesting eggplant medley.

First, I heated a large skillet dry over medium-high heat and charred two eggplants on all sides until nearly blackened, about 20 minutes total.

While the eggplants cooled on a cutting board, I melted 1 tablespoon of organic refined coconut oil in the same skillet, then sauteed 1 medium red onion and 1 large red bell pepper with 1 large clove of crushed garlic.

Once the veggies were tender and beginning to brown, I poured them into a large bowl to cool.

Don’t worry, the eggplant was not forgotten! When it was near room temperature, I peeled off the charred skin and roughly chopped it into 1/2-inch-ish chunks. I added it to the onion, pepper, and garlic in the bowl and mixed it all up with a wooden spoon.

My favorite part was definitely the embellishments. To the bowl, I added 1 large handful of chopped walnuts (again, about 1/4 cup), the juice of one lemon, 1/4 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds, 1/3 cup roughly chopped parsley, and a big pinch of paprika and cumin. I seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.

And there you have it: a simple, tasty Middle-Eastern inspired dinner to impress your family, friends, and/or yourself! If you eat dairy, I highly recommend spooning some good quality yogurt onto your plate to dip everything in.

So, what do you like to marinate your meats in? Leave me a comment and let me know!


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