After all of the indulgent foods that we consumed between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, Brian and I have been more than ready to get back into our typical, mostly healthy*, eating routine. We've bookmarked page after page of easy-to-prepare, full-of-veggies, yet still homey and comforting meals in some of our favoritecookbooks, and also in some newtitles gracing the bookshelf. It is my hope that the month of January on Bella Eats will help all of us to get back on track and break our dependence on cheese plates before and dessert after most meals, as lovely as that may have been.
*To be clear, Brian and I believe in non-restrictive eating and the idea that nothing is off limits as long as moderation is practiced. So don't be surprised when small amounts of butter, cream, bacon etc. still appear in the lists of ingredients for recipes that claim to be healthy. Balance is key to a healthy diet, and we strive to prepare meals that are full of flavor and satisfying so as not to feel deprived of something that is important to us - delicious food!
Whenever I feel off-track, out of balance, the need for a healthy meal after weeks of parties and holidays and travel and restaurants...I turn to dark greens. Full of nutrients and flavor, the consumption of a heaping pile of kale, collard greens, swiss chard, mustard greens or spinach as a side dish or addition to soup or salads has me instantly feeling like myself again. The most common preparation for us is to simply saute' any of the above greens with extra-virgin olive oil and garlic, finishing them with a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea salt and freshly-ground pepper. Occasionally though, I'll have the desire to try something different, such as when our friends gave us a heaping pile of mustard greens from their garden just before the big snowstorm hit in December.
Mustard greens have a spicy, peppery taste, and these particular greens were especially flavorful. We'd sauteed some in our typical fashion and, while still enjoyable, the spiciness was on the verge of being too overwhelming for us. I turned to Vegetables Every Day for an alternative method of preparation (our go-to book for veggies, always) and was so pleased with the result of my search. The creamy sauce and sweet onion tempers the spiciness of the greens but still allows their mustardy flavor to shine through. I could have eaten the entire bowl-full as a meal on its own.
Brian and I enjoy greens on the side of many dishes, but a recent discovery has been the deliciousness of greens on top of one of our favorite meals, sausage with peppers and onions. We stocked up on pork sausage from Double H Farm to get us through winter, and will throw a few links on the grill for a quick and tasty lunch or dinner quite often. Saute' red bell peppers with sweet onions in a bit of olive oil and garlic until tender. Serve sausage on a bun (whole wheat, for a healthier alternative) topped with peppers and onions and a generous helping of these greens. Add extra Dijon mustard if you're as big a fan as we are.
Wash the greens in several changes of cold water, then strip off the leafy green portion from either side of the tough stem. Discard the stalks and rip the leafy portions into small pieces. Add the greens and 1 tsp salt to the boiling water. Cook until the greens are tender, about 8 minutes. Drain well.
Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the greens and toss to coat with the butter and onion. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Whisk the cream and mustard together in a small bowl. Add this mixture to the skillet and cook just until the greens absorb some of the sauce, 3 to 4 minutes. Adjust the seasonings and serve immediately.
I try to keep things pretty simple around here. Its not too difficult, since Bella Eats truly is a reflection of mine and Brian’s life. We both work full 40-50 hour weeks, getting home around 6:30 each evening ready for a glass of wine and a quick, delicious meal. By the time we change out of our work clothes, play with the pups and perform a little garden maintenance, its nearly 7:00 and the sun is starting to sink behind the trees. To avoid eating at ridiculously late hours (which does still happen on occasion) we must keep our weekly dinners as uncomplicated as possible.
I take pride in the fact that we don’t keep a lot of pre-packaged food in our house. If you open our freezer you’ll find some vegetables, a TON of fruit (blackberries from our garden and peach slices from the local orchard), some veggie scraps and a pork shoulder bone waiting to be made into broth, homemade everything bagels, a few varieties of muffins and a loan box of Kashi 7-Grain Waffles (a vice - I love them). What you won’t find are Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine or Skillet Sensations dinners. I firmly believe that everybody has time to make a quick, healthy and delicious meal for themselves and their family, if you just keep your fridge and pantry stocked with some key items. I won’t list those items in this post (are you even interested?!?) but I will give you links to a few of the quick, simple meals we’ve made in the past:
Vegetable Fried RiceTrio of Salads and Whole Wheat FlatbreadPasta with Sausage and GreensCrockpot MinestroneChicken TostadasRaw Kale Salad with Roasted Vegetables
This simple approach to evening meals extends to lunch as well. On most days, Brian and I will come home to eat. We are lucky enough to live just 2.5 miles from the office where we work (yes, together!) and enjoy the afternoon break from our computers almost as much as our dogs enjoy being let out for some mid-day fetch. Sometimes we’ll have leftovers from the night before, but more often we’ll make ham sandwiches or simple PB + J’s with our plethora of jam. Lunch at home is relaxing and much less expensive than anything we could purchase from the many restaurants downtown.
Lately, my lunch of choice has been tomato and hummus sandwiches served on rustic bread, occasionally with a slice of high-quality ham from Double H Farm or some cured meat from Feast. But really, all you need is the good bread, fresh summer tomatoes and homemade hummus to make a very satisfying sandwich. This is special hummus though, blended with mustard flavored by spicy chipotle peppers. The mustard I used is a Saucy Mama product, and I think it has been our absolute favorite of all the condiments sent to us for the recipe contest I am participating in. We’re almost out, and will definitely be purchasing more when it is available in our area. I love that it still holds the tanginess of the classic yellow spread, but adds a spice very unlike the creole and dijon mustards we typically have on our refrigerator door.
Maybe I shouldn’t call this condiment hummus, since it does not contain any tahini. Perhaps “chickpea spread” is more appropriate. No matter what you call it, I hope you’ll make it. Its simple, quick, healthy - and more than likely you've got all of the ingredients on hand. If you try other mustards, please let me know how they turn out. I’ve been pretty hooked on this one and haven’t been able to stray...
Chipotle Mustard Hummus
1 (15oz) can of garbonzo beans, drained and rinsed
Place garbonzo beans, mustard and lemon juice in the small bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to chop garbonzo beans. Scrape down sides of bowl. Turn processor on and slowly add olive oil while continuing to process. Turn off processor and scrape down sides of bowl. Process again, continuously, for 2-3 minutes until you have a smooth, creamy consistency.
Serve on tomato sandwiches or enjoy alone with crackers.
Also, I have two more bottles of Saucy Mama Lime Chipotle Marinade to give away! To my two readers who won the last give-away, your sauce is coming. I promise. For some reason I’ve had a difficult time making it to the post office lately... If you are interested in trying out this great sauce, leave a comment before my next post.