Thursday, December 17, 2009

Entertaining with Vegetables

Last week the theme was weight loss.

This week the topic is making conscious and self-loving food choices.

My intention is to also include tips on how to integrate those choices into family-friendly meals with health, weight, budget, flavor, and interest in mind.

As it happens, I was invited to a dinner last night and the host is vegetarian and a self-taught whiz in the kitchen.

William made a sumptuous meal for 10 and it was full of complex carbs, specifically vegetables with seeds, egg, and yogurt added for protein, texture, color and calories.

Complex carbohydrates are found in vegetables, fruits , nuts, seeds and grains and they should make up at least half your daily food intake with simple carbohydrates, like sugar and white flour (cookies, cake, candy, etc.) making up a very small percentage of your daily, caloric intake.

It's easy to assume that an all-vegetarian meal will be unfulfilling, leaving you wanting for more, such as a filling dessert, but that's not the case if the vegetable dishes include enough fat and or oil to satiate the appetite.

If there isn't enough fat and or oil in a meal, then we do tend to reach for more food and often that will be simple carbs, like a dessert. Therefore, it's important to get good fats and oils into our diet because they're satiating and they discourage our desire for simple carbs.

The addition of grains like quinoa and buckwheat (both of which are high in protein), rice, barley, and pulses such as beans and lentils, adds starchy complex carbs and bulk to a vegetarian meal which also helps satiate the appetite.

William's dinner did not include any starchy complex carbs and I have to say I didn't miss them.
I loved the way his dishes were simply a combination of fresh seasonal vegetables colorfully presented in large bowls, and topped with yummy things like sunflower seeds, capers, and sesame oil. (I also noticed that he squeezed agave nectar over the pumpkin dish below.)

Whether or not you're watching your weight, you might like to try one or all three of William's vegetarian dishes over the holiday season.

Pumpkin with Green Beans & Capers
1) Thinly slice a butternut pumpkin, leaving the skin on.
2) Chop a brown onion and toss into an oil-lined skillet with the pumpkin pieces, gently cook over med heat.
3) Meanwhile, blanch a couple handfuls of green beans in a pot of boiling water for one minute, drain, and then toss the beans into the skillet with the other veggies.
4) Add some cherry tomatoes, a tablespoon each of pumpkin seeds and capers; salt and pepper to taste, and drizzle with Agave Nectar if you wish.
5) Turn heat to low so veggies stay warm while you prepare the next dish.

Braised Onion, Fennel, Tomatoes & Seeds
1) Chop a Spanish onion into chunks.
2) Slice a whole fennel bulb into pieces.
3) Saute onion and fennel in a skillet with whole green beans and whole cherry tomatoes until veggies have wilted but are still slightly crunchy.
4) Season with a dash of Tamari or Braggs Amino Acids and top with roasted or raw sunflower seeds.

Chunky Spinach Salad
1) Wash, drain and rip spinach leaves into pieces, toss into a large bowl.
2) Peel and slice into chunks a couple of ripe avocados, place them atop the spinach.
3) Grate one raw beetroot, red or golden, and spread it in between the avocado chunks.
4) Liberally sprinkle sunflower seeds into the gaps between the grated beet and the avocado.
5) Squeeze juice from a lemon or an orange over the salad.
6) Dollop spoons of yogurt about the top of the salad, and then adhere half boiled eggs to the yogurt.
7) Line the edge of the bowl with peeled and sliced orange pieces.

To Serve: Place hot vegetables onto warm platters and present them with the salad plus small side bowls of additional yogurt, seeds, nuts, and lemon halves, and sesame and or olive oil for drizzling.

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