It can be difficult to eat healthy this time of year. Especially here in the Northeast where we just made it through one of the coldest February’s on record. Heavier fatty foods like mac and cheese or meatloaf and mashed potatoes are often enticing while really fresh produce is harder and harder to find. We have to remind ourselves to “eat your vegetables” like our mothers always said, because the idea of a salad for lunch when it’s 5 degrees outside, just doesn’t cut it. Enter the Middle Eastern Vegetable Bake. This vegetable mélange is the solution to healthy eating and cold weather cravings – with a touch of warmth.
Warming one pot meals are a welcome site this time of year. After shoveling multiple inches of snow in the bone-chilling cold, coming home to a hot steaming bowl of chili could not be more comforting. Plus this chili is healthy (bonus!). I used turkey instead of beef for this lowfat version but the spices and an uncommon special ingredient round out the flavors of this dish to make it just as tasty as the beef version. The special ingredient is chocolate. Yes, chocolate. Not the sweet kind but unsweetened and no, you won’t taste it. It simply adds a deep rich flavor to the chili.
Macaroni and Cheese is an American classic. It’s practically a staple in our diets, or at least the boxed version was while growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. When craving the favorite cheese drenched pasta, how do you decide which one to make? From baked and boxed to fancier truffle and healthier spinach versions – there’s a variation to match any specific craving. I keep it simple: if I’m craving comforting mac and cheese and willing to consume large amounts of this caloric delight for dinner, I want the real deal. Extra cheesy baked macaroni and cheese with a lightly crunchy top – no funny business.
This mac and cheese recipe is not from my grandmother’s books or any of her colleagues, it’s a creation of my own. As I expand this blog to include other classic recipes besides those of my grandmothers, classic baked mac and cheese was a obvious necessity. My grandmother had very few pasta recipes – I’m not sure if this was due to the time period (1960’s), or if it was just a category she was still in the process of mastering. Either way, there are some great classic pasta recipes out there, such as mac and cheese, that I felt should be included here.
As the darkest and coldest part of the winter looms, the next three months or so are the most difficult to get through. There’s little to look forward to (the Super Bowl doesn’t quite do it for me) and spring seems so far away. This is when I remind myself that it’s stew and soup season. These hearty but often healthy dishes can be as comforting as a fire in a fireplace (which most of us don’t have in NYC) on a cold winter day. If this winter becomes anything like last years – and lets hope it doesn’t – stews and soups are like that forgiving friend that’s always there for you. The cook times can work around your schedule and often the longer a soup or stew sits, the better it tastes. An easy one pot meal that can be made in the slow cooker while you’re at work.
With the holidays behind us, we feel guilty about our episodes of gluttony. Though it may not last more than a week or two, we make New Years resolutions to exercise more and eat better. The gyms are packed and there’s that buzz about kale, quinoa, chia, and other healthy super foods. Since grapefruit is said to have properties that help reduce belly fat and we have all heard about the health benefits of avocado, I present you with this light Grapefruit, Avocado, and Fennel salad. A salad reminiscent of summer yet perfect for your post-holiday health kick, no matter how short it is.
You may be thinking that this healthy salad seems too modern to have any connection to my grandmother and the early American foodies. However, I actually found this recipe, in it’s most basic form (no fennel), in “The James Beard Cookbook,” by James Beard. I’m not sure of its history before his cookbook but to me, this qualifies grapefruit and avocado salad as a classic.