Every New Year starts with the same resolutions for me - "Lose weight, Exercise more". The lose weight bit I've always found challenging, because I simply love food. Cooking, eating, sharing, or just thinking about food...It's hard for it not to be a major part of my life. So this year, I've decided to change my resolution to "Eating Healthier". I'm trading in bread, pasta and sugary foods for healthy alternatives and I'm thoroughly enjoying experimenting with new ingredients and recipes. I want to find food that gives me license to eat quantity without guilt. For example, cauliflower rice. I can eat a fairly large, filling portion of this without it being bad all. This is the kind of healthy eating I can get on board with!
This week, I tried a recipe which honestly did not feel like a compromise at all. Our Friday night meal was a Mexican Salad Share bowl, and it felt like a treat, but literally contained ZERO fat!
Bowls are all the rage at the moment. You simply assemble ingredients that make up a salad when mixed together, but the choice of ingredients is key in giving you a filling satisfying meal that is still healthy. You can choose a cuisine as your theme.
1. Select your Grain - this could be Brown Rice, Quinoa or Farro. Try to avoid pasta or white rice.
2. Select your Protein component - Beans, Tofu, Seitan, Cheese, Chicken, Fish
3. Select your Salad leaf - Romaine, Mixed Leaves, Spinach, Kale
4. Select Healthy vegetables - Avocado, Zucchini, Tomatoes, Broccoli
5. Select a Dressing - Vinaigrette, Yogurt & herb, Vegan Green Goddess dressing. Try to choose something low-fat avoiding mayonnaise or sour cream.
6. Select something with Crunch - Sunflower seeds, Chia Seeds, Flaked almonds.
You need to select a bowl large enough to display all the elements of your delicious salad, because the look is as important as the taste. We eat with our eyes, and this is especially true when dieting. The variety of colors and textures fools us into believing we are eating a treat.
My Mexican bowl is pictured here; firstly with all the elements arranged separately, secondly with dressing, and thirdly all mixed together.
Present your bowl unmixed at the table for maximum visual effect. The photos don't do this bowl justice, it was truly delicious and simple to make.
My elements were as follows:
Mexican Salad Share Bowl
1. Grain - Tricolor Quinoa. I love the nutty taste of this quinoa, and also, it's prettier than white quinoa!
2. Protein - Black Beans. They are the highest protein bean you can eat, and I think the most delicious. I prepared them simply by frying 1 onion in 1 tbsp. canola oil. I added a crushed clove of garlic and then 2 cans of black beans, with their juice. I added 1 tsp of cumin powder, and 2 tsp of hot smoked paprika and salt to taste. After simmering for 10 minutes, I turn off the heat and add the juice of half a lime.
I also added Fat-Free Feta cheese to the bowl, which is a new supermarket find. I personally could not taste the difference between this and full-fat feta, and the saltiness worked so well with the other salad ingredients.
3. Salad Leaf - Mixed greens
4. Vegetables - I added canned sweetcorn to keep in the Mexican theme, along with sliced Avocado spritzed with lime juice. I also made a quick Pico De Gallo by combining 2 diced tomatoes with 1 diced onion, 2 tbsp. chopped cilantro, 1 deseeded jalapeno & lime juice.
5. Dressing - I made a quick yogurt/herb dressing by combining in a blender: 5 tbsps. fat free natural yogurt, 0.5 cup cilantro, 0.25 cup mint, half a jalapeno pepper (with seeds, if you dare!), juice of half a lime, salt & pepper. Check the consistency and add water as required. I recommend making this dressing a little spicy. It lifts up all the other flavors in the bowl.
6. Crunch - I took a flour tortilla and sliced it into strips. Pre-heat an oven to 375F. Place the strips onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle over with hot smoked paprika and salt. Spread the strips out evenly on the baking sheet, and bake in the oven until brown and crispy (5-10 minutes). Allow to cool for a few minutes before breaking up and adding to your salad.
By only using 1 flour tortilla in a salad for 4 people, you are massively cutting down on carbohydrates, but if you wanted to be even healthier, you could add roasted unsalted sunflower seeds which would have also been delicious.
You could buy some of the elements of this recipe pre-made to make it even faster to get this on the table - for example, buy instead of make a healthy dressing and pico de gallo.
Experiment with different cuisines: such as an Indian themed bowl featuring Paneer, Roasted vegetables & Yogurt raita, or a Mediterranean themed bowl with Falafel, Farro and Tahini dressing.
And finally, don't do what I did, and replace all these saved calories with Friday night alcohol calories....
Whoops! Perhaps I need to add "Drink Less Alcohol" to the list of New Year resolutions. Nah! Maybe not ;-)