“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
― Michael Pollan
Food. It seems simple enough, right? We should eat to live. Yet, we have an intimate connection to the food that surrounds us. Food is comfort, culture, community, family, and a way to celebrate and nurture others. Food is smell, taste, and texture. It even has socio-economic implications. While there are many emotional associations with food, I try to remember that the bottom line is that food is sustenance and fuel.
As a Weight Watchers leader I try to be sensitive to all of my members food and lifestyle choices. The truth is that when I joined WW, I ate very differently than I eat now. Artificial sweeteners, processed snacks, and packaged frozen meals were tossed in my shopping cart as part of my WW meal plan. In short, I was eating “diet” food. Yes, I lost weight and made my goal weight, but was I nourishing my body to the fullest potential?
While vanity came into play and I wanted to feel attractive in my clothes again, my pride in my appearance did not push me through the WW doors. It was my health. At thirty-five I experienced a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot was lodged in each of my lungs). A couple of years later my husband Mike suffered a spontaneous brain hemorrhage.
After Mike’s health scare, I started a quest to investigate the healing powers of food deeper. I spent hours on the computer trying to learn more about brain injuries. I stocked our house with whole non-processed food. One of Mike’s doctors gave him a myriad of tests and declared him a walking-and-talking miracle after he showed no cognitive damage. I told her about the foods that I was feeding him and she told me to keep doing what I was doing. This transformation in our kitchen and lifestyle paved the way for this blog and my passion to share what I have learned with others.
What have I learned? Taste does not need to be compromised when you eat non-processed food. In fact, I have found that once I eliminated artificial sweeteners, cut down on refined sugar, stopped buying processed snacks, and started to eat cleaner, my food cravings changed.
Sometimes in my WW meetings or in social situations, people will wrinkle up their nose when I mention a recipe or food that I enjoy. I do acknowledge that I have learned to embrace food for more than just its flavor. Food provides nutrients and fuel for my body. Adding Spirulina to my green smoothies does alter the flavor and make it more “grassy” but the boost of nutrients that I get make it worthwhile. While I do not eat 100% clean at all times, my hunger attempts to put nutrition first. While it may be easier to open up a can of soup for lunch or dinner, to me there are not shortcuts to health. I am willing to spend time chopping vegetables and experimenting with new flavor combinations. When planning my menu it is important that I rotate the food that I eat so I do not experience boredom or get in a food rut and so that I am getting a wide-range of nutrients.
I have really been enjoying coming up with new salad and dressing recipes and last week the theme for my jarred salads were RED. Red fruit and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, such as lycopene and anthocyanins, and nutrients (folate, fiber, vitamin C and A) that help nourish our bodies. They help us fight heart disease and macular degeneration, help regulate blood pressure, and soak up damaging free radicals.
I really wanted to incorporate beets into my salads but wanted them raw instead of roasted so I took out my spiralizer and within minutes had vibrant red curls to add to my salad. They made a fresh addition and I loved the flavor they impart. I am not big fan of kitchen gadgets but I love my spiralizer/slicer to make quick work of making zucchini ribbons for “pasta” and for adding squash and other vegetables to salads, soup, and other dishes.
Beets are messy to work with but I promise you they are worth the effort.
- 1 cup of cherries (I used frozen but I cannot wait until summer to try fresh)
- 1/2 cup of vinegar (I used white balsamic but use your favorite. I recommend adding the vinegar a little at a time to achieve your desired tartness)
- 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (I left out the oil and instead added 2 teaspoons to each jar for portion control)
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 Tablespoon of onion
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (I added three peppers and it was VERY spicy. Next time I will add one and do a taste test before I add more. I froze the rest.)
Blend dressing well. This dressing made exactly enough for eight Mason jar salads but it would keep well in the refrigerator for over a month.
When making Mason Jar Salads put the dressing in first and keep it away from the greens. The acid in the dressing will make the greens slimy. If you close tight (I do not vacuum seal my jars) they will keep for over a week in the refrigerator. When you are ready to eat you can shake, and either pour the salad out on a plate or bowl, or eat straight out of the jar.
SCARLET SALADS IN A JAR A CHERRY CHIPOTLE VINAIGRETTE
I layered the following in this order into 8, one quart, Mason jars.
- 3-4 Tablespoons of Cherry Chipotle dressing
- Red bell pepper (two peppers)
- Cherry tomatoes (one pint)
- Raw beets (I used one bunch of four. Do not forget to save the beet tops to throw into soup or your green smoothies)
- Radishes (I used one bag because I could not find any bunches with the tops still on them. I love radish greens in smoothies)
- Red apples (I used two)
- 2 cups of kidney beans (1/4 cup per salad)
- Pomegranate (I had a 1/2 in the refrigerator)
- Red lettuce (I used one head)
Printable recipe: Scarlet Salads in a Jar with Cherry Chipotle Vinaigrette
Pin this recipe HERE.
Check out my other salads in a jar on my Salads Tab.
I really enjoyed this flavor combination and I still have a couple left in the refrigerator. One salad is a meal in itself and I find that it’s the perfect size for my husband and I to split as a side-salad for dinner. The taste of the raw beets is fresh and juicy combined with the smoky and spicy taste of the dressing. The peppery radishes combined with the sweet apples, the sweet tart taste of the pomegranates, and the crunch of peppers with the creamy beans was terrific. Plus, just look at that vibrant color! What is there not to love?
Today I challenge you to reflect on your relationship with food. Food may be a way to bridge our past to our future and helps us gain valuable insight about ourselves. I am thankful that I have made the steps that I have to eating whole, non-processed food and I always encourage my Weight Watchers members to do the same. However, I do understand that we all have different lifestyles and that we all must do what we feel is best for ourselves and our families. I continue to make baby steps on my journey to maximizing my health and productivity.
I have been sharing my recipes on this blog since January of 2013 and the support and feedback that I have received has made me commit to continue writing. I want to thank you for sharing this journey with me. Profoundly I believe that we are all teachers and students and we must continue to grapple and learn lessons along the way.
I end with a compelling quote that I found last week that continues to impact me as I reflect on my own relationship with food. Have a healthy and energy-filled week my friends! Please continue to share my posts and drop by my Produce with Amy Facebook page and say hello.
“We can, and must, develop dialogue and relatedness with our body because it’s talking to us all the time. And please remember, your body loves you. It does everything it can to keep you alive and functioning. You can feed it garbage, and it will take it and digest it for you. You can deprive it of sleep, but still it gets you up and running next morning. You can drink too much alcohol, and it will eliminate it from your system. It loves you unconditionally and does its best to allow you to live the life you came here for. The real issue in this relationship is not whether your body loves you, but whether you love your body. In any relationship, if one partner is loving, faithful and supportive, it’s easy for the other to take that person for granted. That’s what most of us do with our bodies. It is time for you to shift this, and working to understand your cravings is one of the best places to begin. Then you can build a mutually loving relationship with your own body.”
― Joshua Rosenthal, Integrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health and Happiness