A series of events have brought me to the conclusion that my diet is in need of altering. Once again, I am amazed at how much I have to learn. It's absolutely incredible how little I know. I'm not really that amazed.
By now, I'm pretty used to the fact that I have much to learn. Thank goodness for books, documentaries, and people who know much more than I. I am constantly on the hunt for new information about everything. I find it all so fascinating.
Last January, I thought I was doing pretty well. I turned 40 years old and felt good. I was resigned to the idea that I would never again fit into my pre-child bearing sized jeans. Whatever...I didn't really care (yes, I did).
Cous cous and sausage salad
I ate a diet of mostly lean meat and fish. I only occasionally ate red meat. I sometimes ate fast food out of convenience. Instead of eating a burger, I would order a small fries and eat those. Somehow, this made me feel better.
I'm not sure if this was actually better for me especially because I had to dip each fry into ranch dressing...not each fry, but each bite of fry. I triple dipped. I consumed lots of red wine; but, I never touched soda.
For special occasions, I ate extremely high fat dishes, like Eggs Benedict or meaty lasagna. I never ate candy and seldom tasted desserts.
Cous Cous Salad:
Time: 20 minutes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon Spike seasoning
4 sausages (vegetarian or your choice), cooked and sliced
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 cups cous cous
2 cups vegetable stock (you can use chicken stock or water)
6 cups arrugula
2 cups cherry tomatoes
juice of one lemon
pinch salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium high. Add the onion and saut for five minutes. Add the garlic and saut for five minutes more. Sprinkle on the Spike. Add in the cooked sausage. Pour in the tomatoes, cous cous, and stock. Cover and remove from heat for five minutes. Place the bed of lettuce in a bowl or plate. Pour in a large scoop of the cous cous mixture. Top with cherry tomatoes. Squeeze on lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
All of my meals contained many vegetables. I usually ate salads for lunch.
In addition to my dietary choices, I worked out three to five times a week for at least one hour. I wasn't fat, but I did have a muffin top that I could never shed. I felt I could do better; but, I wasn't depressed about it.
Then, Bernice Schmitz wrote a letter to the editor called, "Why not feature healthy dishes?"
In it, she criticized my articles for containing unhealthy dishes. What? Really? No way! I was confused. My instant reaction was defensive.
After going through this childlike response, I decided to think about it from her perspective.
Well, I do use a lot of butter and cream and red meat. I absolutely love sauces and most of them use butter.
Claud learned how to cook from a French chef. He taught me most of what I know about cooking. That's all I knew. Butter made things taste better. Jeez, Claud, thanks a lot (just kidding).
My focus was on taste not necessarily health.
I thought, if you were eating fish and vegetables, you could use butter and cream too. It all balances out, right?
Thanks to Bernice's advice, I started researching diet in more detail. I went to the Heart of New Ulm's free heart screening and had my blood levels checked out. I was reminded of my high cholesterol. A few weeks later, the eye doctor told me he could see cholesterol in my eyes. Was he serious? That's just freaky!
From there, I dove into books, websites, and documentaries about nutrition and health. I decided to learn more about the risks associated with this level of cholesterol.
At first, as I have written in previous articles, I thought a lot of it was extreme. I felt like people were taking all of the passion and pleasure out of food.
Turns out, this does not have to be the case. Out of all of my research, I highly recommend reading, The China Study: the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and the startling implications for diet, weight loss and long term health, by T. Collin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell.
Then, you must watch the documentary, "Forks over Knives." If these two pieces of valuable information don't change your perspective about food, I don't know what will. You will not believe the effects foods have on heart disease, cancer and diabetes. There is scientific evidence to prove the correlation.
Now, it is my quest to come up with recipes which are extremely nutritious while maintaining my passion for making and eating these dishes. I promise to keep my focus on flavor as well. I am not promising that each recipe will be of the highest nutritional standards (there might be a sauce or dessert slipped in from time to time). I am far from perfect and not an expert on nutrition. I do promise to be more aware of the health benefits and risks associated with the food I recommend preparing.
This week, Daphne and I made a delicious vegetarian dish with cous cous. It contains sausage. How is that vegetarian? Well, we used vegetarian sausage. You can use any kind of sausage you want. I was surprised at how delicious the vegetarian sausage tasted.
Cous cous is a grain food like rice or pasta. It is made from semolina wheat that is moistened and formed into tiny grain shapes. The glycemic load for each gram is 25 percent less than pasta.
It also has two times as much niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin B-6 as does pasta.
So, it is a good idea to use this as a pasta substitute sometimes. Furthermore, it tastes fantastic. It is light and fluffy and goes well with many different toppings: vegetables, sauces, and meats. You can use it as a side dish or as a main.
Here, we used it as a main by making it into a salad for dinner.