Sunday, September 26, 2010

Baby carrots as junk food?

Oh please, do we really have to lower the bar to that level? According to a recent article in the New York Times, apparently "Eat 'em like junk food(tm)" is the next approach to entice people to increase their vegetable intake. Sigh.............I am not often speechless.

I only read about 20 of the comments. I just don't have it in me this morning to formulate a response.

I expect that most of my readers are vegetable lovers and eaters, but please feel free to chime in with your thoughts, no matter where on the spectrum they fall.

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Addendum: I am still distraught and speechless, but I recommend reading the following blog post interviewing Mark Bittman, cookbook author and columnist for the New York Times. The last line in this interview says it all; somehow cooking needs to become the norm again, and I agree with Mark that means ordinary people cooking ordinary, healthy foods (like vegetables!) to eat every day. The cooking standards should not be fancy foods, time-consuming or fancy preparation, fancy dinners (ok - once in a while, but not every night), and definitely not fancy TV chefs. I am resurrecting my crockpot to solve my own "time" problem while we juggle the farm and two houses along with always, always, always cooking in bulk.

Please share your thoughts and tips about how you manage to cook and eat healthy foods in spite of all the pressures not to do so that our society presents!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Recipe: Crockpot Ratatouille

I need more crockpot recipes like this one that I can make in the morning, head off to the farm to work or the farmers' markets to sell or a day's worth of running around for errands, and then come home when my energy or daylight is gone and eat some great food with no more effort!

I got this one from another market vendor (Mary Ann Blazek at the Ypsilanti-Downtown Farmers' Market), adapted somewhat based on what I had available, and have made it over and over again.

It is so beautiful and delicious that I am tempted to consider unearthing old crockpot cookbooks to find (or appealing to my blog's readers to send me) tried-and-true, delicious, easy, healthy, mostly vegetarian crockpot recipes that are a full meal (or need very little added to be a full meal), so that I don't feel the need to send up a flag for help in order to eat as well as I "preach". :-)

Maybe this will be my next book (just kidding! really - no time right now for that!).

Anyhow, here is my crock-pot version of ratatouille, the perfect dish for the end of summer vegetables.

Crockpot Ratatouille

2 large (3 medium) onion, sliced
4 small zucchini sliced (~4 cups)
2 large green peppers, cut into thin strips (I used yellow and orange peppers)
1 large eggplant sliced (I used 3 long skinny ones)
2 cloves garlic minced (I used 4 and sliced them so the garlic could still be identified in the dish)
6 large tomatoes, cut into wedges (I used 3 large tomatoes and 1 pint of canned tomatoes)
2 tsp. salt (I used only 1/2 teaspoon, adjust after cooking to your taste)
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried basil (use fresh at this time of year, ~1/4 cup, small leaves or thinly sliced)

Layer half the vegetable in a large crockpot in the following order:
onion, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, peppers, tomatoes. Repeat the layering process with the remaining vegetables.
Sprinkle basil, salt, black pepper, and parsley over top.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Cover and cook on LOW for 7-9 hours. (I started on HIGH for 1 hour and then reduced to LOW for ~7 hours. The vegetables were perfect - al dente, not mush, and still beautiful in color!).

The first time I made this, I took it to a potluck supper. The second time I made it, I added 1 can of cannellini beans (drained and rinsed) for some protein and then served it over brown rice that I had made ahead of time for a one-pot, one-plate, easy and delicious meal.

Other years, I have also made ratatouille in large batches at the end of the summer and then frozen it in 2 cup portions. The uses are endless: serve over baked potatoes, baked fish, add to soup stock, as a side dish on its own merit, etc, etc. This year, since we are still trying to empty our freezer before moving it out to the farm (soon soon!), I am joining a local CSA that freezes locally-grown, mostly organic, fruits and vegetables. Next year, I'll get back to doing our own. It will seem heavenly to finally be only in one house. :-)

(Photo: Crockpot Ratatouille - close up)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD