Nutrition for Dummies

in Lunch & Dinner,Sides,Snacks,Veggies

Plant based eating is most important these days for optimal health. My definition of plant based eating means 2/3 of what you eat each meal are vegetables and maybe some fruit, however vegetables are best to emphasize. I am not against plant based protein sources such as legumes and tempeh although *tofu is controversial, as well as dairy for many. Wild fish is an excellent source of protein and I also do include grass fed meats and most definitely organic, free range, no added hormones whenever you can.

Focus on vegetables and good quality protein* as your main source of nutrition. Having some basic ingredients on hand, both refrigerator and pantry items is a good place to start. Simplicity and ease is important these days as many of us are juggling work, family life, tasks of daily living and more… Grocery stores make it easy if you can pay a bit more for washed bags of greens of all kinds, already cut up veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, spiralized zucchini, pineapple chunks, etc.)

Ideas for the Fridge and Freezer:

Onions, (yellow, red, green)* fresh ginger, celery, carrot, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and of course what is in season (asparagus in the Spring) zucchini, bags of arugula, spinach, mixed greens, and 1-2 bunches of  lacinato kale, organic eggs, sheeps milk feta, a brick of parmesan, unsalted butter

I like to keep protein sources in the freezer such as grass fed beef, organic chicken legs, thighs, breasts and a whole chicken, wild salmon fillets and patties, ground turkey, shelled edamame*, medjol dates, cubes of home-made pesto (without the cheese or nuts), extra bags of almonds, pecans, walnuts, unsalted butter, a bunch of fresh dill, whole nutmeg, peeled fresh ginger (this grates easily when frozen)

For those who eventually want to branch out, here’s some unusual ingredients that you might consider purchasing from an Asian grocery store that can enhance your seasoning repertoire:

Miso paste (I prefer yellow or white), tom yum paste, tamari or coconut liquid aminos, red or yellow curry paste, chili paste with garlic, toasted sesame oil, dried shiitake mushrooms (whole and sliced), cans of water chestnuts

Other less unusual fridge items are Better than bouillon chicken or vegetable base, white wine, salsa (mild or medium) grey coupon mustard, coarse mustard

Basics for the Pantry:

Cans of wild salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, garbanzo beans, cannellini beans, red kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, balsamic vinegar (dark brown and white), rice vinegar and others you enjoy, a variety of olives, raw nuts of various kinds (almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts), fresh garlic heads, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and a variety of seasoning such as ground cinnamon, cumin, paprika

Here’s 3 meals out of one main ingredient: 

Buy a whole roasted organic chicken.

Meal 1: Cut up your favorite parts and eat the chicken warm the day you get it with a simple homemade slaw or green salad with a  vinaigrette.

Meal 2: Take the rest of the chicken, bones and skin, minus the breast meat and place in a small soup pot, cover with water and cook for 30 minutes. Remove chicken but leave skin and bones and add chunks of cut up celery, carrots, onions, chopped garlic as a base and let cook for 45-60 minutes. Discard skin and bones and late add  sliced cabbage, zucchini rounds, broccoli florets and/or greens such as kale, swiss chard, beet greens, etc. Cook  another 5-10 minutes.

Season soup with a helping T of Better than Bouillon vegetable or Chicken broth or a veggie or chicken cube. Trader Joe’s sells 21 Seasoning Salute which is a lovely combination of dried herbs that adds great flavor.

Add back in chunks of chicken.

If you have fresh parsley, dill or frozen or fresh basil, this would be nice.

Top it off with fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste.

Again serve with a simple salad.

Meal 3: Chop the white meat from the chicken breasts and place in a bowl, chop celery, grate carrot and/or apple, finely chopped red onion or green onion, fresh parsley, and seasoning of your choice: salt and pepper, maybe cumin or paprika. Or omit the apple and add chopped olives of your choice.

Dress chicken and veggies with preserved lemon sauce dressing, vinaigrette or Coe’s favorite mayonnaise.

Another Idea: Keep white fish such as tilapia, cod, catfish, or snapper in the freezer. It thaws quickly  especially if you put it in a bowl of warm water while still in the package. Or, pull out some beans from your cupboard if you prefer a vegetarian option. You might mix 3 different kinds such as kidney, cannellini and garbanzo beans for varied color, texture and flavor. Or, you might check your freezer for frozen , shelled edamame and either use this instead or add them to the beans or fish.

Pull out a heavy large skillet with a lid and set on the stove.

Cut up all your veggies in advance and be loose about it.

Onions are always good, as well as fresh garlic and ginger, chopped up.

Mushrooms of any kind, even dried shiitakes are fantastic for texture and flavor. If you are using dried shrooms, place in a small saucepan and cover with water and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Slice and set aside or use as a side dish by adding some sliced green onions, a touch of toasted sesame oil and a splash of rice vinegar or lemon juice.

After you brown the onions in a bit of fat of your choice (avocado oil, ghee, even bacon fat), add broccoli or cauliflower florets and/or white cabbage. Cover and cook on medium high till a bit underdone. Remove all the veggies, reheat the skillet, add a bit of ghee or avocado oil and quickly saute the fish fillets and when almost done, 5-7 minutes on each side, add the veggies back in for another few minutes.

If you have any fish sauce, white wine, tamari or liquid aminos, sprinkle a bit on the dish for flavor. Season with herbs, fresh or dried and salt and pepper to taste.

Anybody know what tempeh is? It is a traditional soy product originating from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form. It contains more protein, and more fiber than tofu, and is also high in vitamin B2, and the minerals copper, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. Consuming tempeh is not only a great way to add healthy soy to your diet, but it also is a way to boost intake of fermented foods and ensure adequate protein intake.

Many people do not realize that tempeh needs to either marinate or cook in water or broth before cooking as it is dry and absorbs flavor and moisture quite easily.

You can cube the tempeh (1 package) and marinate in a cup of liquid, a little white wine, a smash of fish sauce, some liquid aminos or tamari, rice vinegar, lemon juice, and a splash of toasted sesame oil. Let marinate for 30 minutes or all day, just before cooking.

Brown tempeh in hot skillet on each side. Or better yet, place on a cookie sheet in a preheated oven (425) and bake 15 minutes on each side until slightly browned. In another skillet, saute veggies of your choice in order of how long they take to cook. Mix tempeh and veggies and serve with a side salad.

You can do the exact same thing with tofu.

*tofu: There’s a difference between soy that is fermented compared to unfermented. The fermentation process offers health benefits that are more than worth it. Importantly, the fermentation process “deactivates” many of the antinutrients in soy that act as toxins in your body. So if you want to eat soy, make sure it’s traditionally fermented. That includes products like miso, natto, traditionally made soy sauce and tempeh, but not tofu, because tofu is unfermented.

*good quality protein refers to grass fed beef, organic chicken, wild fish, organic eggs, legumes and tempeh.

*Edamame are immature soybeans in the pod, found in cuisines with origins in East Asia.  They are an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium. The research is controversial whether this soy product has negative effects.

*Onions, (yellow, red, green) are best kept in the fridge to prevent eyes from tearing by cutting them cold.