Thursday, August 12, 2010

Preventing Cancer: It's this easy...and this tasty.

In previous posts, we’ve talked about implementing the weekday vegetarian plan or moving from your farm share box to a meal plan. For those who don’t have a big pile of recipes in the kitchen (or who are at work trying to figure out what to make for dinner that night), the internet is a GREAT resource for just this type of meal planning.

Last week I realized I had a bunch of eggplant from my farm share that I needed to use up. I was at the office, so on my lunch break (of course), I went to a few of my favorite websites for recipes using eggplant. On Smitten Kitchen, I found a recipe for an eggplant and barley salad. I looked through the ingredient list to see how it aligned with my recipe goals:

- Whole grains? Yes – the recipe base is barley, a tasty whole grain. I think you could also substitute brown rice if that’s what you have, but we always have barley in the freezer (which helps keep it from going rancid in the sweltering swampy summer heat of St. Louis).

- Vegetables? YES! In addition to eggplant, the recipe calls for zucchini and tomatoes. Both are in season and were looking fantastic at the Washington University School of Medicine Farmer’s Market last Thursday so I grabbed both.

- Color? Lots of it! Nothing makes a healthy dish less appetizing than a sea of drab brown colors. But Deb’s recipe is full of color – green (zucchini and lots of fresh herbs), red (tomato), purple (red onion, eggplant and olives)

And of course, the ultimate test was the taste – which was delicious. I scaled back the oil, salt and sugar by about half and skipped the cheese and thought the result was fantastic.

Knowing that I was going to make this on the weekend and that my husband would appreciate some meat after a week of delicious meatless meals, I headed over to another favorite website, One Hungry Mama, for some ideas. I’ve found that one of the keys to keeping my sanity when cooking family dinners is to focus on one dish and keep everything else simple. Since the barley salad had a good amount of chopping involved, I was looking for a main course dish that involved little to no effort. As usually happens, Stacie had the perfect option – slow cooker ribs. While ribs aren’t appearing on any “healthy living” list anytime soon, they are a fine “occasional” food, particularly if that is your only red meat for the week! I’d never thought to do ribs in the slow cooker before but the ability to drop them in and forget them was hugely appealing. And, as Stacie notes, the slow cooker is a great resource for hot summer days when you don't want to turn on the oven (see above). My family’s favorite barbeque sauce isn’t sold in stores around here (hint hint Dinosaur guys), but thankfully, they have a cookbook that includes the recipe for their Mutha sauce. I like to cook up a batch at the beginning of summer and freeze it in 2 cup portions. Since I still have a bit left, I decided to use that instead of Stacie’s Asian BBQ sauce recipe (that I’m hoping to try another day). I knew I’d want to throw the ribs on the grill at the end as Stacie suggests to get that nice crisp edge so I scaled back the sauce I put in the slow cooker to about one cup (the sugars in barbeque sauce will burn on the grill and you’ll get too much char). When the ribs were done in the slow cooker (perfectly cooked, falling off the bone), I slathered a tad more sauce on them (about ¼ cup) and put them on the grill for about 3 minutes. When I took them off, I slathered on another 1/3 cup of sauce and served the rest on the side.

Last, I took some gorgeous sweet corn I picked up at the farmer’s market and cooked that. It was a great summer meal – full of flavor, whole grains and vegetables.

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