Sunday, March 25, 2012

Healthy (and Delicious) Eating Ideas

Those of you who know me personally understand that when it comes to food, I will sacrifice health for flavor any day. Now don't get me wrong, if it is possible to use healthier ingredients and still retain the flavor, I will do it, but I will always cook my Cajun food with pork lard and plenty of starch. That's just the way it's meant to be, and I can't argue with the results. Today though, when I was trying to decide what to make for dinner, my boyfriend rejected my gumbo idea and suggested that we have something light and plant strong. I was astonished, as I know he loves the food I normally cook, but I certainly understood the desire for something slightly healthier.

I have to admit it took me much longer than usual to come up with something to cook, knowing I had to keep it healthy, but after an afternoon of brainstorming with my baby, we came up with something sensible and delicious. He suggested that we make Texas caviar (which I will explain for those of you not from these parts), and I came up with a fresh and fantastically tasty dinner salad. It felt absolutely wonderful to design a meal that we knew was healthier than the things we usually ate, and for it to turn out to be so incredibly satisfying. 

Our feel-great meal began with the Texas caviar, a unique bean dip of sorts. I, of course, can't seem to manage to follow a recipe, but I loved how mine turned out regarldess. It is so simple to make, and with some trans fat free corn chips, it's a fairly healthy and undeniably fresh way to begin your meal. In a bowl, I simply combined black beans, black-eyed peas, fresh diced red onions, green bell peppers, jalapeños, sliced grape tomatoes, pressed garlic, orange juice, grapefruit juice, pineapple juice, a hint of lime juice, white wine vinegar, salt, fresh ground black pepper, and a couple of dashes of Tabasco. After allowing this mixture to chill in the refrigerator, I threw in some rough chopped cilantro and served it up. Enjoyed on the perfectly salted corn chips, the dip was ridiculously refreshing and texturally invigorating, but the best part was knowing that I wasn't eating something that would ultimately send me to my grave. It's nice to feel that way now and then, isn't it?

Look at those beautiful colors.

The main course of our delectable meal would be a surprisingly satisfying dinner salad with a home-made dressing. First, I got a few boneless chicken breasts marinating in the refrigerator so they'd have a chance to really take in all that flavor. The marinade I concocted contained orange, grapefruit and pineapple juices, brown sugar, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. While the chicken was soaking up all of those wonderful juices, I started work on an interesting new vinaigrette. I'd seen a recipe earlier today for a pear vinaigrette, but when I got to the grocery store, the pears were tiny and browning. I decided to go with granny smith apples instead and seek out a different flavor for the dressing. In a sauté pan I threw one diced granny smith apple, red onions, jalapeños, white wine vinegar, white sugar, salt, and black pepper. Once the apples had softened, I removed the mixture from the stovetop and poured it into my food processor, adding olive oil at a slow drizzle until the mixture was emulsified. After tasting, I decided to add some of the fruit juice mixture I'd used to marinate the chicken, as well as plenty more white sugar to balance the tartness. While my carefully balanced new vinaigrette chilled in the refrigerator, I sliced up cucumbers, red onions, green bell peppers, and jalapeños to add to the salad. The chicken was poached in its marinade, leaving the meat extremely tender and juicy. Once cooked, I chilled the chicken to be served cold on top of the salad. Next I added a little bit of bleu cheese, some dried cranberries, and a few garbanzo beans to the salad before serving it up to my hungry boyfriend. 

Sometimes the photos just can't do it justice. It's all about the taste.

His immediate reaction was so sincere and encouraging, and upon tasting this amazing salad, I couldn't agree with him more. It felt so wonderful to delve into something so uniquely scrumptious and know that it would also be doing my body well. I might have to try this healthy eating thing more often. Whole Foods would be proud.

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