I love to put my creativity to use in the kitchen and I also try to make a habit of developing recipes based on my body's specific nutritional needs. With these goals in mind, last year I decided to put myself through a two month veggie challenge.
I was thinking and I realized that most traditional American cooking doesn't really lend itself to learning what vegetables actually taste like. Think about Southern cooking--just about all vegetables are cooked in such a way that their natural flavor is overpowered by some form of meat or fat. We cook cabbage and collard greens with ham hock or some other form of smoked meat. We slather delicious, sweet corn with butter. With sweeter vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and butternut squash, we douse them in sugar, butter, cinnamon, and sometimes even marshmallows. If this is how we eat, that means many of us don't really know how vegetables actually taste on their own. I can speak for myself and say that I could definitely stand a lesson in How to Eat Your Veggies and Love Them 101.
After I thought about all of this, I set out on a mission to learn how veggies really taste and to capitalize upon their natural deliciousness in my kitchen. For two months, all of my meals had veggies as their primary focus. This does not mean that I became a complete vegetarian. No offense to those who are vegetarians for moral reasons, but that is not what motivated me to start my challenge. Animals eat animals, I eat animals, and I'm completely alright with that. What motivated me was learning how to take better care of myself and, most of all, learning how to make veggies as delectable as everything else in my kitchen so that, in the future, my children and husband would enjoy eating well and understand the science behind our diet and its impact on our overall well-being.
Let me tell you, guys, during my challenge I came up with some seriously delicious recipes! My fridge was always overflowing with yummy veggies of all kinds and I even learned how to play with some things I didn't normally buy. As I mentioned, I didn't go fully vegetarian. My philosophy for this challenge was to use meats as minimally as possible and primarily as flavoring agents, not as my principal source of food. I often used beef bones to make stalk as a source of both flavor and calcium. I even used other bony meats such as chicken necks, which I had never used before, as well.
Within the next month or so, I will share some of the deliciously healthy recipes that I came up with during my challenge. Go ahead and put my recipes to the test. Even the biggest carnivores are sure to love them! The first recipe in my veggie series is a simple, fresh, and delicious garlic herb chickpea salad. This recipe is light, fresh, and bursting with flavor, not to mention being incredibly easy to make. I learned many different ways to play with chickpeas because they are very versatile and are a good source of protein at about 11 or 12 grams per cup. Chickpeas are also a great source of fiber as well as minerals such as folate, B6, vitamin C and zinc.
For those who are interested in learning more about the properties of different veggies, here are some great places to start:
Handful of fresh cilantro (leaves only)
Few sprigs of parley (leaves only)
Handful of black peppercorns (abt 15)
Juice of two limes (choose the ones that feel heaviest since they have the most juice--persian recommended)
1 fresh garlic clove, sliced
1 tsp salt
1 TB olive oil (cold pressed extra virgin--the better the quality, the better the flavor)
1 mortar and pestle
Mash garlic, peppercorns, and salt in a mortar and pestle. If you do not have one, use a food processor or smash the garlic and salt with the back of a knife before mincing it. Add in freshly-ground or coarse-ground black pepper for a similar effect in terms of spiciness.
Once you've created a smooth paste, add herbs and mash until they reach a chopped-like state. You want to be sure that you still have some identifiable pieces, not all mush.
Mix lime juice and olive oil into occlusion. Add mixture to herb mixture. Blend.
Pour the herb-garlic oil blend over two cans chickpeas or the equivalent of freshly-cooked chickpeas and combine.
Cover and let marinate in fridge at least ½ hr so that the flavors have a chance to meld.
*This salad would also be good with cooked, chilled long grain rice mixed in as well