Recently, a friend of mine and I (hi Emma!) decided to cook dinner together. She texted me the idea, and just as I was about to respond with "Great! Let's make gnocchi with vodka sauce!" she warned, "But it has to be healthy."
Healthy? Well, sure, I definitely want to be healthy. That's a no brainer! But it wasn't until a sat down and started thinking of what we should actually make that I realized most of what I enjoy cooking (and certainly most of what I end up posting on this site) isn't exactly going to win any gold medals for being a healthy choice.
It's not that I don't care about healthy food. I do, a lot. In fact, I really like healthy food and consider myself to have a fairly balanced, nutritious diet. One of the problems is, when it comes down to what I'm going sit down and write about in my blog, health foods aren't usually at the top of my list. Comfort foods are my favorite, and while I definitely don't eat them all the time, those are the foods I get really excited about. So those are the foods that end up here.
The other problem is that I absolutely can't stand how many Americans perceive "healthy foods." Personally, I'm much less concerned about calories and carbohydrates than I am about using real ingredients. I would much rather use a tablespoon of butter than a tablespoon of butter-flavored no-calorie product that was dreamed up in a laboratory and is loaded with artificial ingredients and preservatives, which can be potentially toxic to our bodies. Call me crazy, but I'll take the calories thank-you-very-much and I sincerely believe that despite a higher caloric content, I would be making a healthier choice for my body. Those are principles that I cook and eat by. I also really dislike the obsessive mentality that some Americans seem to have about healthy eating and living. There seems to be an all or none mentality with so many diets out there -- NO carbs, NO fats, NO red meat -- I can hardly keep track! Eating real and delicious food in moderation sounds a lot more enjoyable, and more healthy, to me.
However, I have been reflecting on my diet recently. Since being sick over the past few months, I have taken a huge interest in natural and alternative medicine. It seems to be really paying off -- I feel great, my energy's up, and I'm feeling healthier and happier than I've been in a long while. But all this focus on my health has kind of thrown my diet into sharp relief. I often don't eat as well as I should, indulging in rich, fattening, or sweet foods too frequently. Those types of foods are okay, once in a while, but I want to really work on improving my day to day nutrition so that the medicines and supplements I'm taking can work better.
I'm starting with these muffins. Whole grain carrot muffins to be precise. They're hearty and filling, each one brimming with carrots and crunchy pecans. There's only a scant 1/3 of a cup of brown sugar (which is far less refined than its white cousin) in 12 of these muffins and a whopping 1 1/2 cups of grated carrots. Served warm with a pat of butter and a drizzle of honey, they're a perfect way to start the morning and a wonderful snack in the afternoon. The recipe comes from Martha Rose Shulman of the New York Times.
I also thought I would make a quick list of my favorite healthy recipes that I've posted on this site. This is not comprehensive, just a collection of highlights. There are quite a few worth mentioning. Now, when I say healthy, I don't necessarily mean low calorie. I'm talking about foods with good fats, good grains, and good ingredients -- foods that are nourishing for your mind, body, and soul. Isn't that what health is really all about?
A Few of Favorite Healthy Foods
Easy Pad Thai
This recipe is light, easy, and perfect for summer. Look for brown rice sticks in your local health foods store for a boost of nutrition
A fresh classic. Don't just eat it with bread, try it on grilled fish or chicken as well.
Vegetable Spring Rolls
I love these. They're fresh, easy, and a great way to eat more raw veggies. Try them with shrimp or tofu for a little extra protein. While the peanut dipping sauce that's served along side is certainly not low fat, my favorite recipe uses natural peanut butter, nutritious coconut milk, and delicious shallots and ginger.
This is one of my favorite breakfasts when ruby red grapefruits are in season.
Double Broccoli Quinoa
My all time favorite quinoa. So delicious. With parmesan cheese and a touch of cream, broccoli pesto is certainly rich, but this dish is loaded with veggies and good fats in the avocado and almonds.
Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies
Who doesn't love chocolate chip cookies? These are made with whole wheat flour, no refined sugar, and tons of grated zucchini. And the good news? They actually taste better than most chocolate chip cookies I've had.
Ginger Garlic Fish in Parchment
This is one of my favorite ways to prepare fish. Serve over a bed of brown rice and it's a perfect meal
This was my first food blog post! I still make this exact recipe all the time in the summer. It makes a great lunch. Substitute the feta for roast chicken for some protein.