As some of you may recall, last fall and winter I took a hiatus from meat. In fact, my whole family did this with me. We did this for two reasons: first, we didn’t feel good about the ethics or sustainability of the meat we were buying, and second, we saw it as an opportunity to re-learn how to prioritize vegetables. We realized that we would plan a meal around what carb source and meat we wanted, and then the vegetables would be thrown on sometimes and other times left off completely. We became interested in more ethical and sustainable food sources in general, and this led us to our local farmers market and eventually to a close relationship with one or two local farms.
If you missed those early posts and want to go back to where I started, you can READ MY OLD POSTS HERE. You’ll find some of my first recipes and experiments with package-free eating.
Our break from meat forced us to look for other sources of protein (like lentils!), and our weekly trips to the farmers market forced us to get creative with vegetables we had never even heard of but which were in season. During this time we also gave up all packaged foods in attempt to understand why and how pre-packaged foods became so popular and necessasry. I learned to make tortillas, pasta, bread, sauces, and a number of other staples that I had always assumed must be bought in the store.
Since then we have identified the products we’d rather buy than make ourselves, and we have returned to eating meat, but the lessons learned during that time have forever changed how we approach food and make meal choices. It also brought us closer together as a family, and my daughter officially became our team member, willing to take on adventures with us. Buying foods like pasta and breads is a much different experience now that I know we aren’t dependent on someone else to make them. And there are still some foods, such as sauces, that I will probably never buy pre-packaged again.
Now that I am back to competing it is a whole new experience now that I have had time to re-prioritize the role that vegetables play in my diet. I am currently on a very low carb nutrition plan (I don’t recommend this normally, but I’m 5 weeks out of a competition) and not feeling anywhere near as hungry and miserable as I did in the past at this time. I now eat copious amounts of kale and ENJOY it, where before I would just choke down some spinach as an afterthought. Where before I’d eat 4 ounces of chicken and some veggies on the side, now I see my meal as a full plate of delicious kale with a little bit of chicken to go with it. Totally new outlook on the same macronutrients.
I have also benefited greatly from the green smoothies I learned to make from my CSA share. Each week I get a large basket full of more veggies than I know what to do with! A simple solution is to make either a sauce or a smoothie out of them. What does anyone do with two pounds of cucumbers, knowing that in a week they’ll get two more?! For me, kale and cucumber pair very well with some diet Sprite for a delicious and easy to make green drink that not only satisfies my taste buds, but also adds nutritional benefit to my life and takes advantage of the bountiful harvest from my local farm.
So now for some recipes and ideas!
I got this recipe from my mother-in-law, whose kale sautee tasted like candy to my low carb taste buds! I enjoyed hers so much more than my own that I asked her to walk me through EXACTLY how she made hers. Somehow just the smallest differences made a huge difference in taste!
2 bunches raw kale, chopped
1 whole onion, chopped
½ cup apple cider vinegar (ok, who am I kidding…just dump some in!)
1 cup of water
1 or two cloves of garlic, minced
1tbsp veggie boullion
3 tsp sweetener (I use stevia)
Add chopped onion to lightly greased pan; cook until onions are transluscent. Add kale, water, boullion, and cider. Cover just long enough to allow the kale to shrink up. Uncover and stir; add garlic and sweetener. Cook on medium heat with lid on until stems are soft. The amount of time this takes depends on your kale—some takes as little as 20 minutes, but I’ve gotten batches that took 40 minutes.
Green smoothie (makes two)
Honestly, you can just make this with whatever you have handy. You can’t mess it up, but it’s important to balance the bitterness of the greens with something sweet like carrots, cucumbers, apples, etc. Sometimes I leave out the apple when I can’t have the extra sugars, and it tastes just fine!
1 whole cucumber
2 whole carrots
1 whole apple
¼ lemon (with peel!)
1 or 2 cups of greens—any will do! Romaine lettuce, turnip greens, kale…whatever you have on hand
1 tsp stevia, sugar, honey, etc
water or diet soda such as sprite or fresca
Add all ingredients to blender; blend until smooth.People often ask me what kind of blender I use for these, and to be honest I use whatever cheap blender I bought on sale at Target two years ago! This blender has been through hell with me but continues to make good smoothies. I won’t tell you that sometimes I don’t have to chew the pulp a little, but since I don’t know how smooth a Vitamix or other expensive blender would get it, I’ll just continue to chew my pulp happily. J