Buenos Dias beautiful people! I started my day with 8 awesome miles, and the New York Times’ audio digest podcast.
I listened to a great editorial (click here to check it out) by one of my favorite writers, Mark Bittman, about the big food industry’s efforts to clean up their act and market “healthy” choices. Under close scrutiny, these new food-products are really just so much more heavily processed sugar, salt, and fat, dressed up in appealing pastel colors. Mark Bittman’s editorial is timely, as Domino’s is currently expanding a campaign called the “smart slice:” a pizza product designed specifically to be served in elementary school cafeterias as a supposedly wholesome lunch.
Let’s take a look at Domino’s rationale. The smart slice’s crust is made of “51% white whole wheat flour,” the “lite, reduced-sodium mozzarella cheese” has half the fat of regular mozzarella, the sauce has “30% less sodium than [their] regular pizza sauce and contains the antioxidant lycopene,” and “lean protein like chicken and ham are available.” Good golly! Reduced sodium, slightly more than half of the flour is white-whole wheat (which is about as close to a whole grain as I am to Meb Keflezighi’s marathon time), and chicken and ham are available! What a great healthy option for our children! We should all call Domino’s right away, thank them for their valiant efforts, and ask them how much profit they are making shilling this federally subsidized, synthetic-slice to our nation’s children.
I apologize for the sarcasm. However, programs like the smart slice, or efforts to roll back nutritional requirements in school lunches directly harm our children, while funneling taxpayer dollars towards monolithic food-processing companies who, frankly, don’t need any extra help making a profit. According to the CDC, childhood obesity rates have quadrupled in adolescents over the past 30 years. A daily dose of pizza is not going to curb this epidemic, no matter how “smart” the slice is. Reduced-sodium overly processed crap is still overly processed crap.
Healthy eating doesn’t need to be complicated. We don’t need the food industrial complex to synthesize healthy food-like products to nourish our bodies. We can make our own delicious and nutritious meals for a fraction of the cost if we’re willing to put in just a little bit of effort. I love food: REAL delicious food made from things that grew in the ground, and I want to share my enthusiasm with you, my gentle readers. I also want to share recipes for healthy eating that can be prepared on a PhD candidate’s stipend and limited free time. So I’m going to step off of my soapbox and into the kitchen. Welcome to the second installment of Wellness Wednesday! Grab yourself a frying pan, put on some groovy tunes and let’s get cooking!
Today we will be making what I call: Hassle-Free Hash. It’s super simple and comes together in about 30 minutes, start to finish. Before you begin, gather the following cast of characters:
1 sweet potato
½ an onion
2 cloves garlic (more or less to taste)
¼ lb ground turkey (substitute extra-firm tofu or seitan if you are vegetarian-ly inclined)
Approximately 3 cups, or a good-sized bunch of chard with the stems trimmed (kale, spinach, arugula, bok choi, or collard greens will also work well here)
Coconut oil (olive oil will work as well)
1 tsp each dried sage, rosemary, and thyme
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 lemon wedge
Low sodium soy sauce
The measurements I gave yielded one serving for a hungry grad-student-runner-person. If you aren’t constantly carb-loading I’d scale down to half a sweet potato. If you’re serving more people scale up the protein accordingly. OK. Got everything? Let’s get cooking.
First chop your sweet potato into ¼ inch rounds. You want them thin so that they will cook quickly.
Now heat up a frying pan over medium high heat. I used a non-stick frying pan, but a cast-iron skillet would do even better. Hold your palm an inch or so above the pan to check if it’s hot, then add about a tablespoon of coconut oil. Let that melt
Add your sliced sweet potatoes to the pan in a single layer. Don’t stir them around or mess with them yet, just let them do their thing and cook- it will be OK.
While the potatoes are cooking, chop up your onion and garlic.
Give the potatoes about 5-7 minutes on the first side, then use a spatula to flip them over. They should have some nice color.
Give your sweet potatoes about 2 minutes on the second side, then dump the garlic and onions right on top.
Add generous dashes of salt, and pepper. Then stir everything around with your spatula, turn the heat down to medium, and let the onions cook for a few minutes. Your kitchen should be starting to smell amazing right about now.
Add the ground turkey to the pan
Use your spatula to break up the ground turkey and move it around in the pan so it cooks evenly. Add your dried herbs, and sing some Simon and Garfunkel to yourself.
Let the turkey cook a few minutes. While that is happening, chop up your greens.
Add the greens to the pan. Now: we’re going to add some kinda strange ingredients, but trust me. Everything will turn out delicious and there is a method to my madness.
First, squeeze some lemon juice over the greens. The acid adds brightness to the dish.
Next, add a dash or two of soy sauce. I promise that this won’t make the dish taste “Asian.” Soy sauce is naturally rich in charged amino acids, making it a great source of Umami flavor. Umami is referred to as “the fifth taste,” it makes things taste more savory. You won’t notice the soy sauce, per se, but it will make the whole dinner taste more satisfying and rich.
Finally add about a quarter teaspoon of ground nutmeg. I don’t know why nutmeg goes so well with leafy greens, but it REALLY works. Try it–I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Stir everything together and cook for about three to five minutes until the greens have wilted.
Serve with a big-ass salad (if your name is Sam), a delicious beer, and some light reading material. Religious iconography is totally optional.
Happy Wellness Wednesday everybody. Have a delicious day!