A few months before we got married, we were told by our doctors that we needed to shape up, basically... we had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high everything! Years of fast-food and store-bought packaged meals had definitely caught up. We absolutely loved going out and having a huge, over-portioned plate full of whatever-we-were-in-the-mood-for plus dessert, or, staying in for a movie and eating an entire extra-large pizza, by ourselves. But, we had to start eating healthy... And, where, might I ask, can you find inexpensive, healthy, ready-to-eat food? I'm talking good, hearty meals here, not carrot sticks. We had to learn to cook... and not only cook, but cook healthy.
Me, cook? I had plenty of creativity in other areas - I love poetry and music, I'm great at painting... but, cooking? I was definitely lacking on culinary creativeness. Daniel, on the other hand, loved cooking, he was good at it, but wasn't aware there was a difference between healthy cooking and, well, unhealthy cooking. 2 cups of oil you say? Sure, if it tastes good. Bacon you say? We'll make two packages, for breakfast, plus eggs with cheese, toast, and lots of butter.
This was going to be tough! But we had to. I'm not exactly healthy myself. I'm out of shape, for goodness sake I love to eat and you can tell! But we surprised ourselves with how much we've discovered regarding healthy cooking and we hardly even notice the difference.
One thing we've done is designate a fish-night... you'll probably see more on that later... We are still working out the kinks on that one (For one thing, I don't like much fish, and because of that, we have no idea how to cook and eat it).
We've also switched to nothing but olive oil... which most chefs will tell you to cook with anyways, but we stay away from bacon grease and even canola oil... because olive oil has more healthy bang-for-your-buck. (and the best flavor, in my opinion)
We have also, mostly with Daniel's help, learned to combine spices and herbs to make something taste good.... instead of using salt. This has been our best accomplishment so far. We were eating loads of salt before! When we do use salt, we use it sparingly... I've been meaning to invest in a good sea salt. It doesn't have as much sodium but you still get a nice salty kick.
Speaking of no salt, which was one of the only ways to make Daniel eat anything remotely healthy, I'm even finding ways of making Daniel eat his veggies! We've discovered that he likes balsamic vinegar (he's never liked any vinegar) and he discovered that he actually likes squash and zucchini. Why not combine them? I love roasted veggies, when I saw a recipe for braised balsamic veggies from Ilva at Lucullian Delights, it reminded me of balsamic roasted veggies. I jumped for joy and decided to try it myself. Her recipe included fresh sage, and combined tofu with the veggies... we were already having a protein that night and I think I will have to work on Daniel some more before I can get tofu past his mouth.
I used every color of veggie I could get my hands on... the first time I used a white onion, the second time we did it, I used a red. They say you should eat lots of different colored veggies/fruits because it's healthier... so I did my best... Just look at those pictures!
Balsamic Roasted Veggies
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1 small yellow squash
2 red and/or green bell peppers, seeded and cut into eighth (I used red for color)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
freshly cracked pepper
1 Fresh Herb of choice: sage, oregano, basil, parsley, or the like.
Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Now, chop up your veggies. Slice the zucchini and squash into 1/2 inch slices, then cut the slices in half. I sliced the carrot on a 1/4 inch bias. I sliced the carrots thinner than the squash because it takes the carrots a little longer to get soft if they are too thick. Now, seed/de-rib the pepper then cut the pepper, the tomato, and the onion into eighths.
Place all veggies in bowl, grind some pepper and drizzle with olive oil, mix with your hands (tongs or two wooden spoons works too - but your hands are you best tools). Rinse hands, of course.
Place sheet of foil in shallow roasting dish, spread veggies into pan. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle with chopped fresh herb of choice (I used sage, but my favorite is basil).
Place pan on top rack in oven for about 20-25 minutes... I checked on them after about 10 minutes to see how they were doing, but don't open the door too often or you'll let all that good heat out. If you want, you can turn the oven to broil for the last few minutes to get nice smoky edges on the vegetables.
Since it's just Daniel and me for dinner most of the time, I often have unused veggies or even veggies that I cut in half then stored for later use. I used tomatoes the second time, as you will see in some of the pictures... Really, most any veggie will do. It is a fantastic way to use up those extra or about-to-go-bad veggies, and I must say, they are fantastic cold, piled on wheat toast spread with a little hummus... Mmm!