7/7/09

Bored with pasta, meat and veggies?

I always hear that athletes get bored with the same meals. Athlete or not, it is easy to get bored with pasta. Some people say they can never get bored of pasta but having the same "go-to" meal every night can become tiresome. If anything, you want to look forward to a meal..especially when it has new flavors from new ingredients. However, as simple as it is to prepare and totally affordable for any size family and/or budget, you can only eat so much pasta.
On Sun night Karel and I went over to Katrine's house for dinner. Not sure why it is but all of my close triathlon friends want to re-pay Karel for his bike tech work, with food. I guess that isn't a bad thing. He occasionally brings home beer or wine from his regular customers (what a lucky guy!) but other times, good work = good food. I know I'm not the only one who keeps the Trek store in business but I love sending my tri-friends to Karel for all of their bike needs....and desires :)
In May, Libby (who placed 7th in the 25-29 age group at IMCDA!) cooked Karel and me a super yummy and healthy Lasagna. Who knew healthy and Lasagna could be in the same sentence??? It was sooooo good with spinach and feta cheese.
Katrine made Karel an almond and herb crusted salmon. She also made couscous with pine nuts, goat cheese, red and green peppers and onions. There was also a nice strawberry and greens salad to go with the meal. Once again....it was sooo good.
My other good friend Laura (the RD who made me her version of a "healthy" carrot cake for me b-day) is next on the list and I know she will knock my socks off with some crazy-good, healthy meal.
I just love it that my friends want to cook for us rather than taking us out to eat. A free meal is always nice but it is most thoughtful when the meal is prepared at home.

I was inspired by Katrine's couscous so I made some last night. As Karel and I were eating (while watch TdF) we couldn't stop talking about how much we love couscous. We don't eat it that often but it is so easy to prepare and you can really dress it up when you buy the plain version. It is such a different texture compared to other grains yet you still feel satisfied by eating a little of it. Most of all, you don't miss out on the carbs when you combine couscous with other ingredients.
As I was preparing our meal last night, I started thinking about ways I could dress up our meal.
Here's the breakdown for a typical Sumbal dinner.
20% whole grains
40% protein
5% healthy fats
30% greens and veggies
5% seasonings

The percentages mean nothing. Just an estimate of the breakdown of how I pick food when I trying to create a recipe. My main focus for dinner is protein and then my second focus is veggies. We usually have bread or some type of carb (grain) with the meal and with cooking the meal I add in the healthy fats (olive oil, nuts, cheese) and seasonings (salsa, spices). Hope this helps everyone out for planning meals and when finding replacements for your meals to make them not-so-boring.

So, take your boring meal and try to break it down into whole grains, veggies, greens, healthy fats, seasonings and protein. For each of those components, switch out something that you always use for something new. For example, if you always season your salad with salad dressing, use salsa. If you season your omelet with salt and pepper use garlic. If you always eat chicken, choose vegetarian meat. If you always defrost/microwave your protein choice, oven-cook fresh meat or opt for deli meat.
If you use olive oil for dressing, replace the oil for nuts in a salad.
If you typically eat bread with your meal, have slices of baked potato or a sweet potato. If you usually steam veggies, make a salad. If you top your salad with cheddar cheese, use feta cheese. If you use butter on your bread, use hummus. If you usually eat a salad, add fruit to the salad. If you usually eat chopped raw veggies, cook your veggies in the oven or on a skillet. Just a few examples, hopefully you get the point of making subtle changes to make a big difference.

Here's the meal I made last night. For a typical Marni meal of cooked veggies, eggs (my go-to protein), a salad and bread I made tofu with cayenne pepper, cooked a veggie burger, cooked corn, onions, garlic and tomatoes with a little olive oil, made couscous w/ fresh garlic and cut romaine lettuce for the bottom of my salad.
I get inspired by others meals so if you have some ingredients that you'd like me to use in a future creation or are in need of a recipe make-over...let me know in the comment section!!

1. Couscous - 1/2 cup couscous in 1/2 cup boiling water. Turn off heat when you add couscous, cover and fluff with fork after 5-8 minutes. Add whatever seasonings you want. I suggest pepper and chopped garlic and a little Parmesan cheese.

2. Veggies - chop whatever veggies you choose. I used frozen corn, onions, garlic and tomatoes. Always cook veggies in a little olive oil (1/2-1 tbsp) to absorb non-fat soluble vitamins.

3. Veggie burger - pick your own protein. You can use lean meat such as chicken or turkey and you can even use fish. Or, you can use chickpeas or top it all with cottage cheese.

4. Tofu - Try it...you may learn to appreciate it. Cut tofu into strips and cook on a non-stick skillet w/ non stick spray or a little olive oil (1/2 tbsp). Use seasonings such as italian seasonings, cayenne pepper or paprika.

5. Greens - pick your choice of greens for the bottom part of the meal. The darker the green, the better.

6. Layer it! Make your meal look nice. Top your meal with nuts such as sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, peanuts or soynuts. Add a little shredded cheese, feta or goat cheese. If you make presentation count, you will take more pride in your meal, eat it slower and feel good about what you are eating (and what you prepared). Use a few squirts of salad dressing spray, top with salsa or use your favorite salad topping.