Feelin' Chalky

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Roses Are Red...

As promised I am going to start a series of blog posts that I am lovingly naming, "The Skittles Series."  Hehe.  It will be an homage to one of my new favorite cookbooks, "Color Me Vegan," by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau which encourages us to eat more fruits and veggies in an array of colors.  Basically I will be pushing my readers (and myself) to "taste the rainbow' - hence the name. ;-)

This week is all about the color RED!  We are going to amp up our red-food power this week!  Red is such sexy color!  So to start things off, let's name some common red foods.  Pick a few items from this list to incorporate into your weekly menu:

Fruits: strawberries, cherries, red pears, red grapes, grapefruit, red apples, cranberries, raspberries, pomegranates, watermelon, and tomatoes are technically also a fruit...

Veggies: I'll add tomatoes here too b/c most of us eat them like a veggie, red potatoes, beets, red beans, red lentils, red cabbage, red onion, red peppers (bell and hot)...

Some other less common but delicious "reds" are red quinoa, elderberry, rhubarb, red miso, guava, papaya, and red okra (which I haven't seen around here).

So what is the deal with red foods?  Why are they red and why should we eat them?  First of all, let's start off with this: all plants contain substances called phytochemicals/phytonutrients (which is the basis behind this book).  Phytochemicals are created inside the plant to protect them from the elements and from animals and insects.  These "protective substances" are transferred to us when we consume them!  Would you believe that there are over 100 different phytochemicals in just ONE serving of vegetables?  Wow!

You've probably heard of antioxidants, right?  Most of us have.  They are ALSO present in large amounts in plants.  There are a lot of similarities between phytochemicals and antioxidants.  For the purpose of this blog, let's just say that we need them both because they help protect our bodies from the inside out.  They help build our defenses against diseases and even slow the aging process!

So what is unique about red foods?  There are several dominant phytochemicals in red foods that are worth looking at.  We will focus on two.  The first, and probably most commonly known phytochemical is lycopene.  Lycopene is responsible for making tomatoes red and watermelon, grapefruit, guava, and papaya pink.  Lycopene concentrates itself in certain organs of the body - mostly in the lungs and prostate gland (pay attention and tell your hubby!).  Its super-power is the ability to treat and prevent prostate cancer, heart disease, breast cancer, and various eye ailments (like cataracts).  Let's all cheer for lycopene!  Tip: to unleash lycopene's full potential - cook lycopene-rich foods before eating them...let's all eat some spaghetti (with whole wheat noodles of course) to celebrate! (p.s. ketchup doesn't count...unless you make your own OR buy organic ketchup sans HFCS!)

Another phytochemical found in red foods are betacyanins.  Betacyanins are found in foods like beets, red carrots (who knew!), red grape skins, red chard, elderberry, and red cabbage.  They, like lycopene, boast protective powers in the area of cancer-prevention and treatment!

To give you a couple of ideas to try this week and up your red ante...I chose two recipes from the red chapter (which was very tough because they all look SO good)!

Harvard Beets

3 pounds (about 5 medium) fresh beets, scrubbed
1/2 c. fresh orange juice
1/2 c. sugar
4 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
2 T. non-dairy butter (like Earth Balance)
Salt, to taste
1 T minced, fresh parsley

She gives several ideas for preparing the beets, but here is the method I am going to use: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Trim the greens from the beets leaving at least 1 inch of the stems attached so that the pigment won't run out during the cooking process.  Place the unpeeled, whole beets in a large casserole dish, adding some water to the bottom of the dish and drizzle with olive oil.  Cover the dish with foil and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the beets are fork-tender.  When they are cool enough to handle, slip the skins off, cut the stem off, and slice into bite-size chunks.

While your beets are cooking, in a medium-sized pot over medium heat, whisk together the orange juice, sugar, cornstarch, and vinegar.  Make sure the cornstarch dissolves completely.  Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, whisking constantly.  Once it's thickened a bit, remove from heat and stir in the butter until melted.

Stir the cooked, diced beets into the sauce.  Serve either hot or at room temperature.  Salt to taste and garnish with fresh parsley.

And for a yummy dessert?  I've gotcha covered!

Watermelon Granita

1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. water
4 cups seedless watermelon chunks
Juice of 1 lime
Mint leaves, for garnish (optional)

Make a simple syrup by heating the sugar and water in a pan over high heat and stirring until all the sugar is dissolved.  Set aside and cool.  Add the cooled syrup, lime juice, and watermelon chunks to a blender.  Puree until smooth.  Pour into a shallow, wide pan and freeze for one hour.  Rake with a fork and freeze for another hour.  The whole process takes three hours total - you get the idea. Rake again before serving.  It can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 days (but who wants to wait?).  Serve in margarita glasses or large wine goblets and garnish with mint and watermelon rind.  Easy, peasy.  :-)  It looks like a slushy or Italian ice when finished.  I wish I could get a good picture to show you...I guess you'll just have to buy the book...hehe.  Actually if you click on the link above and then click, "look inside this book" you can see for yourself!  Purty!

This week I lost another 1.4 pounds!  That brings my total loss to 97.6 pounds!  Is it just me or is this 100 thing taking FOR-EV-ER??  Haha.

Have a SUPER-sexy RED kind of week!  Muah!

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