Springtime is here again! March is one of our prettiest months in Central Texas and with our unusually warm winter, the redbuds are in bloom and the bluebonnets should be by the end of the month. March is also National Nutrition Month. We wrote about some great nutrition tips last year, and this year, the secret to delicious nutritious meals is… Preparation.
Good health begins with good eating habits and preparing delicious, nutritious food for you and your family at home is easier than you may think. Your body will appreciate the fresh ingredients and your bank account will appreciate the value of home cooked meals.
BBQ – A Family Tradition
Combining our fine art of Central Texas barbecue with the goal of saving time and money makes healthy eating a lot easier. On a family day, gather your wood, your favorite meats, and also some slow-cook vegetables like potatoes, beans, and carrots… and have yourself a big healthy family barbecue.
Closed pits and smokers are wonderful for slow-cooking massive amounts of meat, like:
- chicken or turkey breasts
- pork tenderloins
- small meat loaves and batches of meatballs (made from the same meatloaf mix)
- ham (by putting one of those big shank or butt hams on the barbecue, the artificial added moisture goes out and the wood flavor goes in.)
- whatever else you want to feast on, fresh off the grill.
The object obviously isn’t to eat it all in one sitting. Quite the contrary. Your goal is to capture much of that freshly barbecued food in heavy foil and/or zip bags, labeling and freezing the packs for later.
Build Your Deli
At the same time, make a few salads like potato, macaroni, or carrot and raisin, which can last all week if properly stored. Put as much fresh fruit and vegetables in your salads as possible, like adding pineapple tidbits to a carrot and raisin salad or bell peppers, celery, sweet red peppers and red onions to potato and macaroni salads.
See what’s happening? You’re turning your refrigerator into a deli! A delicious, nutritious deli. Now it’s all there, and ready, for whoever wants a nutritious meal at any time. It’s also a great excuse to bring out some of those favorite recipes. Here are a few ideas for healthy dishes to keep around:
Waldorf salad is a typical treat that stores well and is easy to make. Simply chop up fresh green celery and apples (galas work well, leaving the skins on), mix with a bit of mayo, lemon juice and sweetener such as agave nectar, and throw in a handful of our delicious native pecans. Add a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon, and you have a healthy salad that can almost pass as a dessert.
A pot of good old fashioned “Irish Sticky Beans” is one of the best side dishes you could have on hand for all-round good health. Just slow cook your favorite beans with chopped bell peppers and onions, your favorite seasonings, and dark brown sugar mixed with a bit of barbecue sauce. Whether baked in the pit, smoker or oven, cook the beans slowly until they’re bubbling and… sticky! Toward the end, you can even add barbecued meat chunks for extra protein. These beans go well with cornbread or by themselves. An old Irish custom is to even have them for breakfast (hot in the winter, cold in the summer).
Our area is also noted for Breakfast Tacos. There’s nothing like the speed and ease of preparing great breakfast tacos if you have the right ingredients on hand. You can pre-make your “mix” that lasts for days.
A typical mix might include:
- Some of that delicious barbecued ground beef, finely diced pork tenderloin or chicken
- Diced previously barbecued/baked potatoes
- Chopped peppers and onions
Add freshly scrambled eggs and chopped spinach to the frying pan and wrap it all in a warm whole wheat tortilla with shredded cheese for a quick and healthy breakfast.
Planning For Health
The trick is in the pre-planning and buying of really good ingredients. A little planning can make home cooked meals the easiest (and healthiest) option. Cook what you can in bulk and it will make the rest of the week’s meals easy to throw together. When your refrigerator is stocked with prepared foods, like a deli, you’ll always be ready to serve yourself and any of your hungry customers.
There’s also some wonderful information on http://www.EatRight.org.