My 20-something nephew Nate admitted that he doesn't read the Gourmet Activist Recipe Newsletter we send out every week or so. What Nate is interested in is meeting and impressing girls. Ah, said, if you only learned to make one terrific recipe, there's no better way to impress a woman! One of Nate's eyebrows shot up: He was intrigued; this was doable.
In a terrific food article in the New York Times last weekend written by Mark Bittman, food journalist and author of Food Matters and The Food Matters Cookbook, he encourages people like Nate who have a minimal relationship with real food. Bittman explains just how easy it is to make the transition from convenience take-out and fast food to eating a healthy diet of real food. For example:
Did you know ~ on average, home-cooked foods have 6% less fat than away-from-home foods?
Did you know ~ normal-weight Americans spend just 7 minutes more per day than overweight Americans shopping for and preparing meals?
College boys should know that college girls are very interested in statistics like that. Bittman also makes the point that learning just three simple recipes ~ with no additives, preservatives, trans fats, artificial flavorings or ingredients or outrageous calories counts ~ can get anyone beyond the world of junk food in just a few days.
He suggests a stir-fry, a crunchy salad and a rice and beans meal that are nutritionally sound and environmentally friendly. These recipes can be made with meat, poultry or fish, but are also satisfying when made as vegetarian or even vegan dishes.
For whole food beginners like Nate:
All you need is a sink, a refrigerator and a stove; a pot, a skillet and a bowl; a couple of knives; some utensils; a strainer and a cutting board. Frozen vegetables are okay as a substitute for fresh vegetables, especially in winter, and you'll want to stock some oil, vinegar, grains and legumes. You'll need to learn to chop, apply heat and stir. As for time: about the same amount you would spend driving to and from McDonald's, maybe a little longer until you practice a little.
As Bittman points out, Nate, a chicken pot pie from KFC has well over 50 ingredients, most of which are artificial and can't even be purchased by consumers in a grocery store. And home cooking, besides tasting better and being less expensive, requires less energy, water and land per calorie, and reduces your carbon footprint. All this will impress your date, too ~ not bad!!
Here's Bittman's Lentils and Rice:
2 T. olive oil, plus a little more for drizzling
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4 oz. bacon or sausage, chopped,optional
1 T. minced garlic
Salt and ground pepper
1 C. lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 C. long-grain brown rice
3-4 bay leaves
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
- Put oil in large, deep saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add onion, celery, carrot and meat, if using. Cook until vegetables begin to become tender and meat begins to brown in places (5-10 min.). Add garlic and some salt and pepper and cook for another minute or two.
- Add lentils, rice, bay leaves and 4 cups water (using chicken or vegetable broth instead will add flavor). Bring to boil, then lower heat so liquid bubbles gently, and cover.
- After 30 minutes, if rice and lentils are tender and liquid is absorbed, the dish is ready. If lentils and rice are not tender, add enough liquid to keep bottom of pot moist, cover and cook for a few more minutes. If rice and lentils are soft and there is much liquid remaining (unlikely), raise heat a bit and cook, uncovered, stirring once or twice, until it evaporates. Discard the bay leaves. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Fluff with a fork and serve, garnished with fresh parsley and drizzled with olive oil.
Make healthy, whole-food, sugar-free, low-fat, low-sodium, low-calorie, gluten-free, wheat-free, lactose-free or low-carb meals and treats ~ and keep your whole family healthy!
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