Tuesday, January 21, 2020

How to Keep "Healthy" Food from Being Boring As F***

The idea for /this blog post has been floating around my head for a while but never made it to paper (errr....screen) as most of my blog posts do.  (or don't)

What made me finally get around to writing it was my coworker.  My 9-5 (more like 7-3:30) is for a school district and 2 of my friends who are registered dietitians were going to present for a series of culinary classes at the high schools.  The bulk of their presentation was focused on intuitive eating and trends but she asked  me if I there was anything I would have liked to have known when I was back in high school and taking the same class.  

This. This is what I wish I could have learned.  That "healthy" food doesn't have to be boring. (healthy is in quotes because we all have different definitions of it.  It's pretty arbitrary but this is all about what works for YOU)

How many of you have ever met a person whose sole idea of "health" is eating salads?  I don't know it irritates me so much but it does.  "Well, I've been eating salads everyday so I'm being a lot more healthy"...as I stand there biting my tongue so hard if I opened my mouth I think the tip of  of would fall to the ground.

Or all the peoples whose weekly meal prep photos they post consists of a sea of tupperware full of broccoli, dry ass chicken breast....and maybe a side of fruit or sweaty looking sweat potato cubes if they're lucky.

Here's the thing, by all means eat the salad or plain ass chicken and steamed broccoli.  If that's  your thing, do it.  I'm just here to give a few ideas for those of us who need a little more pizzazz and flavor.  Some simple tricks can help with variety and stave off  food boredom.

Utilize Cooking Techniques That Enhance Flavor

Boiling isn't doing a damn thing for most foods. Grilling and roasting for example impart MUCH more flavor than steaming and boiling.  

What's better: Steamed brussel sprouts or roasted?


Simple cooking technique swaps can make a HUGE difference.

Season, Season, Season!

Ok, so maybe not everyone is already like me and eats tomato slices as a side like I'm 85 but you might consider eating more things if you if you just added a little flavor.  Avocado,tomatoes, and even hard boiled eggs are delicious on their own topped with Everything But the Bagel Seasoning (which is good on pretty much everything)  Things like radishes, jicama, and cucumber are perfect for topping with Tajin or even just chili and garlic powders.  Brainstorm ways you can introduce more veggies and proteins into your day with a little sprinkle of somthin' somthin.

Herb is the Word

When you think of herbs what kind of dishes come to mind?  Maybe you think of basil in a caprese salad or cilantro in salsa.....but overall I tend to think that fresh herbs are underutilized.  There's so many other ways you can use them to really add a punch of flavor.  

Here's some ideas:
  • Add chopped rosemary to your popcorn
  •  Try adding fresh herbs to your salads.  We fill our salads with allll kinds of other greens but forget about herbs.  Cilantro is great and brightens up any boring salad.  Or how about a fun play on a Vietnamese spring roll...ever had one? The kind that are cold and have shrimp, (or other proteins) veggies, and herbs all rolled up in rice paper. You could mimic those flavors by adding basil and mint to your salad with carrots, cucumbers, and shrimp.

I'm sure you know this already, but marinating is the best!  That plain ass chicken would be waaaay better given a little time in a marinade first (then even better if you use one of the flavorful cooking techniques mentioned earlier) Sometimes I think people over complicate it in their head thinking they need to follow an exact recipe with a million ingredients, but just look around your pantry and fridge and I'm sure you'll have plenty of things you can pair together to whip up something tasty.  

Some of my favorite ingredients to use are:
  • Acids (citrus, vinegar)
  • Oil
  • Garlic
  • Seasonings
  • Herbs
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Salad dressings
  • Soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • Dijon mustard
Some other things to remember is that you don't always need to marinate for hours and hours. Even an hour will do you better than nothing.  And marinating isn't just for meats!Try marinating beans and veggies too.

When I Dip You Dip We Dip....and Sauce
Sauces and dips can make even the most boring foods more exciting to eat.  I'll eat ANYTHING if I can have it with aioli.  It's great as a dip for roasted veggies, slathering on burgers, chicken, and fishcakes....literally anything! 

But I guess there are some other things besides aioli that are pretty good too 😜..........
  • Salsas
  • Simple pan sauces
  • Aiolis (in case you hadn't picked up on that earlier
  • Hummus
  • Babaganoush 
  • Pesto
  • Romesco
  • Vinaigrettes  
  • Mustard
  • Chimichurri
....and so much more!

Drop Some Acid!

Adding a touch of acid can be soooo beneficial to food and in my opinion is forgotten the most. It brightens the flavors of food and can help cut through richness in creamy/fatty things.

  • A squeeze of lemon over salad greens with some olive oil makes for an easy dressing
  • Citrus (both the juice and zest) adds some freshness to cream sauces and aiolis (cuts the richness as mentioned earlier)
  • Acid can also be added in the form of pickled items (think pickled onion on a street taco) for an extra pop of flavor.
Texture with Crunch

Having a variety of textures in my food is important to me.  I can't do just a big plate of soft food....I need a little crunch for interest!  

  • Add roasted chickpeas to your salads in place of croutons.   You can season them a million different ways.
  • Add nuts and seeds to your salads.  I'm always adding sunflower seeds.  
  • Try adding toasted nuts to your rice (whether it be the actual grain rice, cauliflower, or broccoli the idea is the same)  My go to picks are toasted almonds and pine nuts.  That little added crunch makes all the difference.

.Well there you have it folks.  Hopefully this helps spark some ideas on how to keep your healthy food from being boring as f***.  What do you do to keep your food interesting?