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10 Super Bowl Snacks That Aren’t All Bad

by | Jan 21, 2009

As much as I wish it weren’t true I know several people that consider the Super Bowl to be the biggest, most important holiday of the year. For most of us though, the Big Game is just another excuse to party.

The only problem is that at most Super Bowl parties, junk food runs the field.

If you have been following this blog you probably noticed that I am not the biggest fan of diets. But one thing I loathe even more than a regimented diet is diet food.

I mean, low-calorie egg rolls? What’s the point?

So I am not going to tell you to buy baked potato chips, unless of course you actually prefer them to the other kind. I am personally fond of Kettle Chips, but I eat them so rarely that if they are around and I feel like having a few I don’t worry about it. You shouldn’t stress out too much about things you enjoy.

On the other hand, you should clearly avoid putting down several bags of Kettle Chips (or anything else) on Super Bowl Sunday. But there are still a ton of delicious snacks you can enjoy during the game without doing too much damage to your health or physique.

Buy what you like, but try to choose most of your snacks from this healthy list:

  1. Tortilla chips – Despite my previous endorsement of fine potato chips, tortilla chips are probably a better option. They have slightly fewer calories, a little more fiber and, most importantly, have a better fat profile (more polyunsaturated and less saturated fats). These days you don’t have to worry as much about trans fat (hydrogenated oils) as you used to because it has been banned in several states, but it is worth checking the back of the bag to be sure.
  2. Salsa – As far as health goes, salsa is almost a perfect food. Tomatoes, onions, cilantro, limes and chilies are all great for you. Salsa is low in calories, has little to no fat or carbs and makes almost everything taste better. One way to improve store bought salsa is to use it as a base and add your own fresh tomatoes, onions and cilantro. It really makes a big difference.
  3. Guacamole – Although it is high in calories, this avocado-based dip is filled with monounsaturated fats that are both healthy and filling. Make your own to avoid all the extra weird ingredients added to the store bought kind. Just mash up some avocados, squeeze in some lime and season with sea salt and pepper. My secret is to add half a cup or so of the salsa I made—this is a tastier way to enhance the flavor than those mysterious powder mixes. If you finish making it and it is still bland, add more lime and/or salt. A small minced garlic clove can be a nice addition too.
  4. Cut vegetables – I am grossed out by those slimly little bullet-shaped carrots that come in a bag, but real fresh carrot sticks are fantastic. If you can, get your vegetables from the farmers market the day before. This time of year you can find carrots, celery, bell pepper, radishes and daikon. The flavors of market fresh veggies will astound you and elevate this otherwise boring snack food into something divine. What a difference a real vegetable makes!
  5. Nuts – Nuts are one of the easiest, healthiest snack foods out there. It doesn’t even really matter what kind you get, they all have their own benefits. As usual, I recommend going with premium quality if you are going to serve them solo. I am particularly impressed with the value of nuts from Trader Joe’s. They are about half the price of nuts everywhere else and taste even better.
  6. Tacos – If you are serving a meal to your guests then tacos are a great, healthy option. Grilled meats (or veggies) are pretty harmless in taco-sized quantities. Use the small little corn tortillas (keep them warm and soft by wrapping them in a clean towel and leaving them in a low temperature oven) and serve cut up tomatoes, onions, cilantro (pico di gallo) and hot sauce. Authentic Mexican tacos do not have cheese on them, so just skip it. Your friends will love you I promise.
  7. Fruit – Everyone loves a platter of fresh cut fruit. This time of year we have all kinds of citrus and apples to choose from. Kiwis are in season too if you are looking for something more exotic.
  8. Steamed artichoke – Artichokes are bursting with antioxidants, and serving them whole makes for a beautiful snack that a room full of people can enjoy. Cut off the top third of the leaves, trim the remaining pointy leaves with scissors, remove the stem and steam it upside down in a covered pot. After 20 minutes turn it with tongs so the leaves are pointing up. Drizzle with olive oil, Meyer lemon juice, chopped Italian parsley and sea salt, and steam for another 20 minutes or until the leaves are easy to remove. With this much flavor you don’t even need a dip.
  9. Hummus – This Middle Eastern dip is delicious and much healthier for you than your standard Super Bowl party fare. Serve it next to those cut up vegetables. My recipe is here.
  10. Cucumber water – Even if your guests are spending most of the day by the kegerator, it is in everyone’s best interest to stay hydrated. Slice up some cucumbers and add them to a pitcher of water for a simple and impressive refresher.

What are your favorite healthy Super Bowl snack foods?

UPDATE: This article is also available at Synapse.

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Healthy Lunch: Chicken Chard Soup

by | Jan 21, 2009

Since summer ended I have been searching for the perfect winter lunch to bring to work. I want something healthy, delicious and, given the season, warm.

Roasted vegetables are a pretty good choice, but I learned the hard way that they don’t quite have the long-term appeal of summer salads (i.e., I got sick of them really fast).

My latest experiment is soup.

Soup appeals to me for many reasons:

  1. It stores and transports easily and can be heated up in a minute or two in the microwave. This makes it a perfect food for the office.
  2. Almost any recipe can be turned into a soup, so you can enjoy cuisines from all cultures–you could eat soup every day for the rest of your life and never eat the same one twice.
  3. Soups are easy to modify, and hard to mess up.
  4. As many of you know, I have a lot of experience making soup.

I accepted the challenge.

The first place I turned was my faithful Splendid Soups, by James Peterson. I can’t imagine there is a better soup recipe book on the planet. Not only have I used it to make dozens of spectacular soups, but it has made me a better overall cook as well. This book is truly a treasure.*

I had several goals for my first soup:

First, I wanted it to be healthy and light, meaning it should have something green (e.g. chard) in it and be broth based rather than cream based.

Second, I wanted to use the whole chicken I bought at the farmers market. I don’t normally eat meat for lunch, but I had been wanting to experiment with whole chicken and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

I ended up modifying one of the vegetable recipes in the book to include chicken. Peterson gives detailed instructions on how to use chicken in any soup, so I simply followed his technique.

My soup turned out divine, but preparing it took longer than I had hoped.

Word of advice: Ask the butcher to quarter the chicken for you (unless you are planning on roasting it). This was only the second time I had quartered a chicken, and though it wasn’t very difficult it definitely cost me 20-30 minutes because of my inexperience. Oops.

Chicken Chard Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium chicken, quartered
  • 1 large bunch of Swiss chard, trimmed
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium sweet onions, diced
  • 2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 28-0z can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 4 cups (1 box) chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 0.5 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil

Heat some olive oil in a pan just large enough for the chicken to cover the bottom. Add the chicken skin-side down and cook on medium heat for about 8 minutes. Turn with tongs and cook for another 5 minutes, remove from heat and set aside. If at any point the chicken begins to burn, lower the heat.

Shred the chard by cutting out the stems (I like to leave a few in, but I cut them in half), stacking and rolling the leaves, then cutting them in thin, 0.25 inch strips. This is the same chiffonade technique we use on basil, sage and mint leaves.

In a 4-quart pot, cook onions, garlic and chilies in olive oil on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Allow the onions to become translucent, but not brown. Add thyme and cook 2 more minutes.

Add broth, water, tomatoes and chicken and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 15 minutes or until the chicken feels firm to the touch. Remove chicken and set it aside to cool. Add chard to the soup and simmer 10 more minutes.

Remove chicken skins and cut chicken into bite-sized chunks. Return chicken meat to the soup, add parsley and simmer 2 more minutes. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and serve with crusty bread.

This soup will keep up to 5 days in a cold refrigerator.

*Note: If you decide to buy Splendid Soups (or any other item from Amazon), please consider using one of the links from this site and help support my blog. My favorite books and kitchen equipment are listed in the Shop.
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Green Up Your Pasta Puttanesca With Kale

by | Jan 11, 2009

I was never sure if I liked pasta puttanesca. In fact I am not even sure how many times I had eaten it before last week. That’s why I was so surprised when I found myself suddenly craving this distinctly Mediterranean medley of flavors.

Who knew?

I admit that anchovies, capers and olives scare me a little (okay, a lot) with their pungency. For that reason–once I decided I had to make it–I was careful to get high-quality ingredients (the antidote to every scary food you think you don’t like). The last thing I wanted was overly fishy pasta for dinner.

I got my anchovies from Whole Foods, and the kalamata olives and capers from Trader Joe’s. I got my canned tomatoes from TJ’s as well.

The only other ingredients required were olive oil, garlic, chili flakes and parsley.

The recipe I used was a super easy one from Cook’s Illustrated (you have to pay for a subscription to see their recipes) that claimed you could make the entire sauce while your pasta is boiling. I have the utmost faith in Cook’s to guide me through a flawless meal, so I made very few changes to their original recipe.

My main concern was that as a single, busy person in the city I wanted a more balanced meal than just pasta and sauce, and I would rather not go to the trouble of making a side dish. I solved this problem by adding some steamed dinosaur kale to the puttanesca, which turned out to be a perfect, crispy complement to the robust sauce and chewy pasta. The dish ended up truly fabulous.

You can use whatever kind of pasta you like, but this time I went with rigatoni.

———-

Pasta Puttanesca With Kale

(modified from Cook’s Illustrated)

Ingredients:

  • 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 8 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 0.5 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbsp capers, rinsed
  • 0.5 bunch dinosaur kale, cut into 1 inch squares
  • 0.25 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • rigatoni or pasta of choice

Place a steam basket into pot of shallow water and boil. Add kale and cover. Steam 10 minutes.

Bring several quarts of water to a rolling boil (prepare sauce in the meantime). When water is boiling add 1 tsp salt and pasta. I prefer to make only enough pasta for one meal (~0.5 cup dry), since it does not keep particularly well once cooked. The sauce makes 4 servings and stores up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Press or finely mince garlic and soak it in 1 tbsp of water in a small cup or bowl. Open your can of tomatoes and drain them, reserving 0.5 cup of liquid. Prepare all other ingredients before adding pasta to the water.

Immediately after starting your pasta boiling, heat a pan on medium heat and add 2 tbsp olive oil. When the olive oil swirls easily in the pan add anchovies, garlic mixture and chili flakes. Stir continuously until garlic just begins to brown, about 2 minutes, then add tomatoes and simmer.

When pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Moisten pasta with some reserved tomato liquid and toss.

After sauce has simmered about 8 minutes toss in capers, olives, kale and parsley. Mix to combine. I tossed in some excellent Stonehouse olive oil at this point to brighten it up. (Don’t bother with this if you only have cheap olive oil.)

Add an appropriate volume of sauce to your pasta, toss and serve immediately.

If you enjoy this recipe, please come back and tell us what you think!

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Quick Fix: Baby Bok Choy and Tofu

by | Dec 15, 2008

Bok choy with tofu is one of my favorite quick meals of the winter, and few seasoning combinations pack as powerful a punch as soy sauce and garlic.

Bok choy is also known as Chinese cabbage. This succulent cruciferous vegetable thrives during the winter months and is cheap and readily available at almost any market. I like the baby variety because it is easier to adjust the serving size and is simple to cook. If you can’t find baby bok choy you can subsitute regular bok choy and cut it up accordingly.

If you think you do not like tofu, my guess is that you just haven’t had it cooked like it is supposed to be and I urge you to give it another try. Most perceived taste aversions can be overcome with a little effort.

Tofu is not just for vegetarians. I have grown to like it so much that sometimes I get cravings for it. Strange, I know.

One of the wonders of tofu is that it absorbs flavors beautifully, particularly garlic. Moreover, adding garlic to soy sauce is one of the easiest ways to get everyone in the house out of their rooms sniffing the air and asking what heavenly dish you are creating. It smells amazing and tastes even better.

Baby Bok Choy and Tofu

Ingredients:

  • 2-4 stalks baby bok choy
  • tofu
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Dark soy sauce to taste

Carefully rinse baby bok choy and cut into quarters, longwise. Once it is cut check between the leaves to be sure no remaining dirt is hiding in the stem. If there is rinse again.

Cut tofu into bite-sized cubes. Heat olive oil in a pan and add bok choy cut sides down. Cook for several minutes, then make room for tofu on the bottom of the pan and add tofu. Cook 2 minutes then stir, making sure to cook both faces of the bok choy and tofu.

Once bok choy begins to wilt and become a little translucent, add garlic to the pan in a single layer. Leave for about 30 seconds, then splash soy sauce liberally into the pan. I like to use a good quality dark tamari soy sauce for this dish. Stir and continue to cook.

Allow soy sauce to reduce until it begins to form a glaze on the bok choy and tofu. Turn ingredients once or twice so all sides get coated. Add more soy sauce if necessary.

Remove from heat when bok choy reaches desired tenderness, about 8-10 minutes. Serve on a bed of brown rice.

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Stinging Nettle and Israeli Couscous With Lemon, Parsley and Capers

by | Dec 9, 2008

Saturday at the farmers market I was talked into buying some stinging nettle and I must admit, I was pretty skeptical. Who wants to put something in their mouth that has stinging in the name?

But despite my reluctance, I could not deny that the nettle (to avoid negative connotations I am going to ditch the “stinging” part) was beautiful, fluffy and green, things that I generally associate with delicious. Besides, I pride myself on not being afraid of trying and cooking new foods.

I accepted the challenge. Now what to do with these weird things?

Eating the nettle alone did not sound particularly appealing. If I really love it I could always go back and get some more, right? I had heard that nettle has an earthy, green flavor, so I thought it might pair well with pasta, garlic and lemon.

I do not usually keep pasta in the house (I prefer fresh pasta if I am going to bother eating it), but I did recently purchase some Israeli couscous from Trader Joe’s. Israeli couscous, also called ptitim, is basically just giant couscous. It is made out of semolina wheat, the same kind of flour Italian pasta is made from. (No, couscous is not a whole grain).

I was starting to form a mental image of my meal: Mediterranean style Israeli couscous with greens and garlic. Oh! And I just bought a beautiful Meyer lemon at the farmers market. It’s juice and zest would be a perfect complement to brighten the dish. And since we are going Mediterranean, Italian parsley and capers would be lovely accents.

On a whim I decided to roast an acorn squash as well and use the nettle dish as a stuffing. It was good, but I do not think it was the best pairing and I do not recommend it. I looked nice, but the flavor profiles were a little off.

The nettle and couscous dish on its own was spectacular though. I wish I would have paired it with my Romanesco broccoli instead.

I should also confess that my lips are stinging a bit, but in the good way.

Stinging Nettle and Israeli Couscous With Lemon, Parsley and Capers
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 bag of stinging nettle
  • 1/2 cup dry Israeli couscous
  • 1/3 bouillon cube
  • 1/2 shallot
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 Meyer lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 tbsp capers

Start some water boiling. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a sauce pan on medium heat and add couscous. Toast couscous in olive oil, stirring frequently until light brown, about 5 minutes (just following the instructions on the box here). Slowly add 1/2 cup of boiling water to couscous, add bouillon cube and return to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until tender, about 12 minutes.

In the mean time dice your shallot, garlic and parsley. Rinse your nettle in a strainer (you can touch it a little, but I would keep your hands off as much as possible). Heat a little olive oil in a pan and add the chopped shallot. Cook shallot for 2 minutes then add garlic. After 30-60 seconds add nettle and salt, then stir and cover. After one minute, uncover the nettle, stir again and add parsley.

If the couscous is ready, add it to the pan. If not, turn off the heat until couscous is ready to add. Stir couscous into the greens until well mixed. Squeeze lemon juice into the pan and add grate lemon zest directly on top of the dish. Add capers, salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately. This is probably enough for 2 people as a side dish. Yum!

Anyone else have any nettle ideas?

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Are You Bean Careful?

by | Dec 3, 2008

Yesterday I mentioned that if you are going to use dried beans for cooking you should pick them over for pebbles before using them. Today I want to show you that I’m not kidding.

For my apartment’s last Soup Night I decided to make a recipe I found in the New York Times. The recipe was for Andean Bean Stew With Winter Squash and Quinoa, and it called for a pound of dried pinto beans. Since I was cooking for 20 people I doubled the recipe and bought a full 2 lbs of dried beans.

That’s a lot of beans, folks.

Because of the huge volume I had to be extra careful when looking for pebbles. To pick through beans I like to lay them out on a large cookie sheet, as shown. You can sort through a smaller amount of beans on a solid-colored plate or even in a clear bag on the counter.

As you can see from the top picture, 2 lbs of beans from the bulk bin at Whole Foods yielded 4 not-so-small pebbles.

Finding these little guys didn’t take more than a minute or two, and I guarantee you my guests appreciated the extra effort.

Let this be your warning. I do not wish to send you into shark-filled waters if you happened to be inclined to go buy dried beans this weekend. The last thing I need is a bunch of angry emails from your dentists!

Lentils are known to harbor pebbles as well, so searching for small rocks is a good habit to cultivate with all dried legumes.

The Soup
On the food front, the recipe turned out absolutely amazing! Since doubling the recipe required two whole winter squash anyway, I chose one large butternut squash and one kabocha squash. Both were delicious, but I was particularly fond of the kabocha (just look at that color!). It was denser, but the texture was creamier and the flavor more sweet and nutty than the butternut.

Peeling the kabocha was no easy task, however. I always just use a vegetable peeler for butternut, but on the kabocha the skin was so tough this was not an option. Instead I boiled it whole for 3 minutes on each side (it floats) and took the skin off with a pairing knife. Alright, I admit I had a boy do the peeling.

Does anyone have an easier way to peel a kabocha?

The Andean stew was very hearty, but our guests were not shy about finishing every last drop. I highly recommend it, particularly for a cold winter weekend.

This picture was taken after the quinoa was added but before it finished cooking.

Don’t forget to bean careful!

UPDATE: I have since learned that a kabocha does not need peeling. If it is cooked through the skin is soft and edible. My new favorite trick is to cut one in half, scoop out the seeds and roast it face down for 40 minutes. Mmmm.

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Lunch Vol. 3: Roasted Root Vegetables

by | Nov 21, 2008

You may remember that last week I switched my work lunch ritual from salads to roasted vegetables. They take a while to cook, but I prepare them in large batches on Sunday night and eat them for the entire week.

After my first experiment, I had a few complaints. First, the cauliflower took too long to finish cooking, so I wished I had steamed it first. Second, ultimately there was not enough food to get me through the week so Wednesday night I made a quinoa dish to supplement my calories. That was a fantastic move!

This week I wanted to make a lot more vegetables, and I wanted them all to cook for roughly the same amount of time. To this end, I bought a zillion different kinds of root vegetables and threw them in the roasting pan.

The root vegetables I used: parsnips, carrots, fingerling potatoes, candy striped beets, and red and white Tokyo turnips. I seasoned them with sea salt, pepper and rosemary.

One thing that instantly struck me is that it was not nearly as much food as I thought it was. All those leafy green tops can be deceiving (though the beet greens were delicious!). After everything was cleaned and chopped, it was only one large roasting pan filled with vegetables.

The worst part is that after roasting, it all fit into one medium-sized tupper.

To be fair, I realized when I got home that people do not really cook radishes, so those were not included. Instead I thinly sliced my beautiful black and watermelon radishes and tossed them with rice vinegar. I let them marinate in the fridge for at least half an hour and ate a few that first night, but I ended up taking them to work and using them as a supplement to my roasted vegetables.

The good news is that I did not run out of food as expected. Also, the root vegetables were surprisingly filling and did not upset my stomach.

But I do not think I will make this exact dish again. For one thing, I was not particularly pleased with the way the turnips turned out. I used Tokyo turnips, both red and white. They were delicious raw, but after roasting they gave off a funny smell and also became a bit soggy.

The best thing in the dish, by far, was the beets. Something about roasted beets just wins my heart every time. I was also impressed with the way the parsnips and carrots turned out. I am still having trouble telling the difference between these two vegetables, however. Maybe the parsnips cooked a little better, but in my opinion they taste almost exactly the same. Thoughts?

Also, while the potatoes were good I think I prefer them roasted on their own. Roasted fingerlings with rosemary is one of my very favorite winter dishes, but they lost their luster when combined with all the other veggies. They were a little chewy, so I wonder if the juices that seeped out of the other vegetables caused them to lose their crispness.

I do still have half a bag of potatoes left, so I will be able to enjoy them roasted correctly this weekend. Yay!

In the future (next week I will be out of town for Thanksgiving) I think I will roast more beets (probably combining different kinds), and bring back the Brussels sprouts. I may continue to buy parsnips/carrots too.

I am also still taking suggestions on favorite winter vegetables for roasting. Thank you for all your suggestions so far!

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Oven Roasted Vegetables, At Work!

by | Nov 11, 2008

As I mentioned, salad season is pretty much over and I have embarked on a new era of work lunches. This week I am experimenting with roasted vegetables because they can be cooked in large batches and store very well in the refrigerator. They also reheat nicely in the microwave.

It cracks me up to say this, but my vegetable choices this week were cauliflower, golden beets and Brussels sprouts. If you would have told 8-year old me that this is what I would be having for lunch every day this week I probably would have vomited in horror. By some strange evolution that can probably be blamed on San Francisco elitism, last Saturday this unthinkable combination of vegetables just sounded brilliant.
Luckily for me, it actually worked. To make sure the Brussels sprouts were not gross, I first halved and par boiled them as usual. In retrospect, I wish I would have also steamed the cauliflower for a few minutes too; it ended up taking longer to cook than everything else.

The vegetables were delicious immediately after cooking and even when reheated at work. My only complaint is that Brussels sprouts got a little too soft because of the extra time it took the cauliflower to cook. But the texture was not too bad and the flavor was fantastic.

Oven Roasted Vegetables

  • 1 whole cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts (3/4 lb or so)
  • 3-4 medium golden beets
  • fresh herbs (I finished off my oregano)

Preheat oven to 400 (I sometimes do 375). Bring 1 qt water to boil with a few pinches of salt. Set up steamer for cauliflower. Halve the Brussels sprouts and boil exactly 5 minutes. Cut up cauliflower into florets and steam 3-5 minutes. Peel beets and chop into bite-sized 1/2″ cubes.

Spread equal portions of vegetables into two large baking pans. Alternatively you can add all vegetables into one large bowl to make seasoning easier, then distribute them into pans. Coat vegetables liberally with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Finely chop herbs and sprinkle into mixture, about 2-3 tbsp final volume.

Place vegetables in oven and roast for 40-50 minutes, or until they reach desired tenderness. Be sure to stir them every 10 minutes or so, and monitor them to avoid burning. When they are finished cooking, allow them to cool 10 minutes and then immediately transfer to tupper and place in the refrigerator.

To reheat, microwave on high for 2 minutes, stirring half way through.

This recipe works for almost any durable vegetable. Simply adjust cooking time to reach appropriate tenderness. Serve with brown or wild rice.

What are your favorite roasting vegetables? I will be trying different combinations each week and would love to hear your suggestions.

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Hate Brussels Sprouts? So Did I

by | Oct 27, 2008

Kids and adults alike are often united in their hatred of Brussels sprouts. When I was young, Brussels sprouts were at the very top of my gross foods list, just barely inching out slimy spinach and chalky lima beans. Yuck!

It was not until I got to college that I learned spinach is not really slimy. Turns out it is actually a leaf and surprisingly delicious! I didn’t realize I had been eating frozen spinach my entire life. What a relief!

Over time I learned that many foods I never liked were not as bad as I thought. I grew to appreciate fennel, avocado, cilantro and even beets, but I never could develop a taste for Brussels sprouts.

A few years ago when I started getting serious about vegetables and health, I made a decision to conquer my last few food aversions. Eggplant was something I always struggled with, but I learned that a few kitchen tricks could turn it into a delicious meal. This past summer I was finally able to embrace cucumbers.

After all this, overcoming my aversion to Brussels sprouts is my proudest accomplishment.

I have found that for most foods I do not enjoy, ordering them at an expensive San Francisco restaurant is a great place to start. These people can seriously cook. And if anyone can make something taste good, it is the brilliant chefs of San Francisco.

Absinthe Brasserie was where I first tried Brussels sprouts that I didn’t just like, I loved. So warm, savory and delicious, I finally knew what Brussels sprouts could be.

It was this experience that convinced me it was possible to find a way to cook Brussels sprouts so that I like them. I spent all last winter trying different cooking techniques until I finally got it right.

The secrets?

  1. Bacon – Is there anything bacon doesn’t make better?
  2. Nuts – Walnuts or hazelnuts add a crunchy texture and earthy flavor.
  3. Butter – I don’t cook with butter often, but sometimes it is just worth it.
  4. Blanching – Cutting the sprouts in half and boiling them for 5 minutes removes their bitter flavor.
  5. Fresh herbs – I prefer oregano or marjoram on this dish.
  6. Red wine vinegar – Acid is a great counter to bitterness; it serves Brussels sprouts well.

These tricks and variations of them have convinced me and nearly all of my friends that Brussels sprouts are truly an autumn delicacy.

For those of you questioning the health value of bacon and butter, my answer is this: get over it.

Small amounts of saturated fat will not kill you or even make you fat. Besides, if it gets you to eat your Brussels sprouts it is worth it. I feel confident in saying this dish is infinitely more healthy than anything you can get at Subway.

Don’t be scared, give it a try!

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Do you hate Brussels sprouts? Why?

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