July 26, 2013

Sauerkraut. Seriously.

Sauerkraut is a bit of a strange thing. I think the idea that most people have in their minds of sauerkraut doesn’t exactly match the food itself. From what I’ve seen, a lot of people think of it as a condiment. A topping for bratwurst. A thin layer on a reuben. But truthfully? Sauerkraut is an incredibly healthy food in it’s own right.

First, let’s call sauerkraut what it is: fermented cabbage. Okay, so the word sauerkraut probably sounds tastier. But let’s think for a moment. Cabbage is very high in vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. PLUS it’s an excellent source of fiber. But wait! There’s more! Sauerkraut is fermented. This means that it’s full of good-for-you bacteria which can improve digestion. There are a host of other claims you’ll hear about fermented foods, but not all of them are verified by rigorous scientific studies. So we’ll stick to the facts that there is ample evidence for.

The downside? Sauerkraut is salty! This is likely part of why most people stick to condiment uses of sauerkraut. Or, when planning to use large amount, some will drain and rinse it. The problem is that this drains away most of the nutritional benefits of sauerkraut! Not only are you washing away the good bacteria, you are washing away nutrients that soaked out of the cabbage. 

So, here’s my solution: when cooking a meal with lots of sauerkraut, combine it all into one dish, do NOT add a single grain of salt, and mix in other foods that are best well-salted (like potatoes).

The recipe below, like the recipe for rosti, is more of a guideline. So mix it up! Have fun with it! The first time I made this I used lean pork chops. The second time I decided to see how it would go with ground beef.

Sauerkraut with potatoes and pork/beef/chicken/tofu/more veggies
3 cups sauerkraut
1 ½ cups potatoes, diced and cooked (either roast or boil)
½ lb lean ground beef, cooked and drained
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
Black pepper, to taste

Heat a large, wide saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil, oregano, and potatoes.
Gently stir the potatoes until coated with oil and oregano.
Add the drained ground beef, stir to mix in with potatoes.
Add the sauerkraut, then toss to combine.
Heat until everything is hot, but avoid cooking for any longer than necessary.

What’s your favorite sauerkraut meal?

July 11, 2013

Squash Rosti

If you've ever lived near someone who grew squash in their garden, then you have probably had to deal with an over-abundance of squash to cook. There are a lot of squash recipes out there, but I have found most them to have one of two problems. One, they barely use any squash, or two, they are incredibly unhealthy. Both of these are a shame. Even if you are buying squash at the store it's pretty cheap this time of year. And it's a waste to take something as healthy as squash and turn it into something that you regret eating.

After coming home with pounds and pounds and pounds of squash, I got to work thinking of new ways to use it up. I wanted the recipe to use a lot of squash, I wanted it to be healthy, and I wanted to be able to freeze it. It's important to spread out squash consumption, otherwise we just get squashed-out.

This is not a traditional rosti, but then again following recipes exactly isn't exactly a strength of mine. This is very healthy, with lots of vegetables, some whole grain from the oats, and a bit of protein from eggs as a binder. Don't undo the health-benefits of this by drenching with sauce! Just season it more heavily if you want stronger flavors.

Consider this recipe a guideline and add whatever vegetables you want. I used coriander in addition to the salt and pepper, because I'm a little obsessed with it right now. Use whatever you have, some ideas I may try in the future are oregano and thyme. I topped ours with a spicy cream sauce, but any sauce or dip you like would be wonderful.

Squash Rosti
2 cups shredded squash
1 1/2 cups shredded potato
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
3/4 cup rolled oats (instant or old-fashion)
salt and pepper to taste
spice of choice (I used 1/2 tbsp coriander)
2-3 eggs

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees if you plan to eat these right away. 
  2. Mix together the shredded vegetables and oatmeal. 
  3. Add salt, pepper, and any other seasonings to taste. Since you haven't added the egg yet it's safe to test!
  4. Add 2 eggs and mix well. If the mixture will just hold together then stop there. If it's crumbly add the third egg. If it is too wet add additional oatmeal. Since the moisture content of vegetables varies there will be some flexibility here.
  5. Scoop ~1/2 cup of the mixture per rosti onto a parchment lined or greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. (If you want to freeze these for later use, freeze on the cookie sheet before baking, then transfer to a sealed container or bag for storage. To bake after freezing, just place them on a lined or greased cookie sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.)
  6. Serve with sauce of choice.

What's your favorite recipe to use up a lot of squash?

July 9, 2013

A Healthy Approach

Tomatoes from our garden

Contrary to all the dessert recipes I post, Chad and I actually eat rather healthy. We strongly disagree with the notion that eating healthy is expensive. In fact, we have found that eat healthy is often much cheaper! I don’t mean cheaper after taking health expenses into account. I mean flat out cheaper at the grocery store.

Lately I’ve redoubled my efforts to eat as healthy as is reasonable. More whole grains and less added sugar. Since we cook so much at home from whole food already, there actually isn't much else to change. After a couple years eating home-cooked meals, we find most desserts to be overly rich and sweet, and many restaurant meals to be overly greasy.

While I do often bake quite a bit, what I bake is brought into work with me and given away. But more and more lately, I’ve been working to feel like I can enjoy eating what I've baked, instead of just enjoying making it. Although, truth be told, my favorite part is the actual preparation. So this means that I’ve been baking a little less often the past few weeks, but also that I’ve been making healthier treats. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong advocate of the idea that a balanced diet includes treating myself occasionally. I just also believe that those treats shouldn’t undo all the hard work I put into being as strong and fast as possible, and eating as healthy as possible.

Right now we just got home from a weekend with Chad’s parents. They have a glorious vegetable garden, so we are currently basking in the bounty of their garden and ours. A lot of my upcoming posts are meals that we’re making to enjoy all the great produce, including sauerkraut, peppers, and squash. I think everyone in the south is always in need of more squash ideas this time of year!

So moving forward, I’m working on posting healthier recipes here, and talking a little more about fitness. Some garden updates. You'll notice the title says "A Healthy Approach" and not "The Healthy Approach." There is no one way, I'm just documenting our way. Nothing earth-shattering, just changing my approach to life, health, and fitness.

What does "healthy" mean to you?

June 11, 2013

Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies

As a major cookie lover, I couldn't resist National Peanut Butter Cookie Day (June 12!!!). Truthfully, I've always struggled with peanut butter cookies. I love peanut butter, and clearly I love cookies, but peanut butter cookies usually disappoint me. Either the peanut butter flavor isn't strong enough, or, more often, the cookie texture is too dry and sandy. Peanut butter isn't dry and sandy, why are peanut butter cookies dry and sandy?

When I say these are perfect, it's not just my opinion; these cookies were a collaborative effort. Mutliple recipes and tweaks were attempted and sampled by my neighbors (as well as Chad and I, of course), until we were all convinced that these were the BEST peanut butter cookies we had ever had. Ever.

These cookies are very peanut butter-y with a cookie texture similar to the best chocolate chip cookies. Just a little crisp on the outside, with a moist chewy cookie within. The key to this is in the flour. First, don't use too much flour, because it will dry out the cookies! Second, use bread flour! Unlike many baked desserts, here we are aiming for a more chewy texture. To accomplish this you want to use a flour with a high gluten content, and mix the cookies for a little bit longer. The butter and the peanut butter will prevent most of the gluten formation, but the little bit you get makes a huge difference. You can substitute all purpose flour, but you will lose a bit of the chewyness of the cookie.

Peanut Butter Cookies
1/2 stick butter, softened
130 g or 1/2 cup peanut butter
230 g or 1 cup sugar 1 tsp molasses
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
150 g or 1 1/4 cups bread flour 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream together the butter, peanut butter, sugar, molasses, salt, and baking powder. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. Scrape the bowl, then add the egg and beat until light and fluffy again. Scrape and beat one more time before adding the flour.
  4. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Scrape the bowl well, then mix for an additional minute.
  5. Place heaping tablespoonfuls of cookie dough on a prepared baking sheet spaced 2-3 inches apart.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring to rack to cool completely.