Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wellness Festival Recipes

Today, I was invited to give a demonstration of some healthy recipes at the Community Wellness Festival. My talk/demo today hit the same three points that I made last year when I cooked at the festival: 1. Include more fresh/raw vegetables in your diet. 2. Make smart ingredient choices without sacrificing flavor and texture. 3. Get most of your protein from beans, legumes, and fish.

First up was a raw salad of fennel and oranges: healthy for you, tasty, and very crunchy. Second was a hash of sweet potatoes with dried cranberries and pecans, showcasing the carotenes and potassium of sweet potatoes, along with the goodness of fruit and nuts. Finally was a salsa, bright and tasty, that I incorporated into a bean salad with Sea Island red peas and that I put into a whole wheat wrap with pan-roasted catfish, for a tasty and healthy take on a fish taco.

Fennel Orange Salad. I figure a lot of people have seen fennel in the grocery store and have no clue what to do with it. I wanted to show how friendly and easy this vegetable is. This salad combines oranges, fennel, roasted olives, and a touch of feta cheese.

1 large fennel bulb, julienned
2 tablespoons fennel greens, finely sliced
zest of one orange
3 seedless oranges, sectioned
1/2 cup roasted olives (recipe follows)
1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste. I covered how to section citrus fruit some years ago. See this post if you are unfamiliar with how to do it.

Roasted Olives

1/2 cup mixed olives, pitted
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch red pepper flakes
4-5 fresh rosemary needles, minced
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 pinch black pepper

Toss all ingredients and place on a sheet tray. Heat in a hot oven (400F) until sizzling, about 10 minutes.

Bourbon Flambéed Sweet Potato Hash. This is a quick and fun take on hash. I often make this with slab bacon at the restaurant, but omitted the bacon given the health-oriented nature of today's presentation. Sweet potatoes are fairly nutrient dense and are a reasonable choice instead of standard potatoes, but they do have a fairly high glycemic index.

1 medium sweet potato, about a pound, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ounce bourbon
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted pecans
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a saute pan over high heat and add the sweet potatoes. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring to keep from sticking. Add the onions and cook until translucent 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the bourbon and let it burn off. Check a sweet potato for doneness. If it needs to cook a bit more, add a couple tablespoons of water to the pan to help the sweet potatoe steam. When the sweet potatoes are done, add the cranberries and pecans, mix well and season to taste.

Basic Grape Tomato Salsa. I introduced this because every seems to love salsa and despite it being simple to make, nobody seems to make it at home, relying instead on terrible store-bought salsa. I also wanted to highlight salsa as a great means of introducing flavor and texture to dishes, without adding calories.

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
3 green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
juice of one lime to taste
1 small hot pepper in fine dice to taste
salt to taste

Mix the tomatoes, onions, cilantro and garlic. Add lime juice, hot pepper and salt to taste.

For ideas of what to do with salsa, I cooked a small catfish filet and put it in a whole wheat wrap with lettuce, cilantro, and salsa for a quick and healthy take on a fish taco. And I mixed salsa with cooked beans, in this case, Sea Island red peas, a heritage pea from Georgia (see photo below). You can use any canned or cooked bean for a quick bean salad.

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