Food for the Long Haul: Melissa@Market

| May 3, 2011

Like most Americans, I was once a sprinter. I like things done fast for an immediate result. I mean this both literally and metaphorically. As I’ve matured, I’ve found that I’ve evolved in both domains. Running-wise, once a short sprinter in my youth, this weekend I completed my ninth half-marathon. Quick and immediate have been traded for slow and steady. For a significant part of my life, I avoided longer distances, unsure of my body and what it could endure. A not unsubstantial part of me was a little afraid I didn’t have a longer distance in me.

The rest of my life isn’t that different- what I ate being a good case in point. Like many Americans, I went by a number on the scale or a size on my pants and as long as I didn’t start to pop buttons on my clothes, I thought little of what I was actually consuming beyond calories. I didn’t *want* to know what I was eating. Platitudes such as, “Well, something will kill you,” or “There are chemicals in everything, you can’t avoid them,” were two of my common excuses in avoiding thinking more deeply about what I ate. I remained a sprinter (only concerned about the “now” of ‘will it make me fat?’), not yet prepared to metamorphosize into someone ready to go the distance with food.

And then, things changed. I read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and it occurred to me that although I wouldn’t go on even one date with a guy who treated me badly, I consumed foods EVERY DAY that, quite possibly, treated me worse. What was I afraid of finding out?! Suddenly, I felt like a wimp. I’d taken on many long road races, but I cowered when it came to learning about where my food came from and of what it was composed?! Why? I think it was because I imagined eliminating processed/convenience foods was impossible. And learning about how everything I consumed was produced…well, that seemed insane.

Then, I paused. I thought about running. I didn’t go from the track to the marathon course in a day, or a month, or even a year. I started with a 5k, then got comfortable with the 10K, and so on. I learned what worked for me training-wise; what was too much; what was too little. Why couldn’t I do the same thing with food?

And so, I began training my diet. Not for a quick, short term, immediate results fix. Not to be a certain size or meet an aesthetic result. I began training for the long haul. To empower myself with the knowledge that I understood what I was consuming and why and to know that it was all completely in my control, not that of some unknown corporation or factory farm. Just like with love (or short distance sprinting), I reminded myself I did not have to settle. I deserved the best fuel for my body I could provide. (And I deserved a little pleasure, too.)

I’m still on this journey. I’m training to be a stronger and smarter eater every day. Want to train with me? After all, you’ll never know what you’re capable of, if you don’t even enter the race.

Strawberry Vinaigrette

Here are a few easy ways to start:

  • Pick a heavily processed food each week to cut out of your diet. (I started with candy, snack crackers/cookies and deli meats.)
  • Try to eat meals you make at home at least 4-5 days of the week.
  • Eat vegetable/fruit/whole grain-based meals (as close to vegan as you can get) at breakfast/lunch most of the week. (You’ll be surprised-it’s not as hard as you think.)
  • Eat only whole wheat grain products (look for the word “whole” before the grain on labels to make sure this is what you’re getting), not white.
  • Stop buying anything that has an ingredient you can’t pronounce or define.
  • If you can’t envision how you would make it from scratch at home, don’t buy it. (Could you make your own Froot Loops™?!? Me either.)

And, of course…Frequent your local Farmer’s Market and learn how to use new fruits and vegetables!

Watercress with Strawberry Vinaigrette and Cheddar Croutons

Watercress with Strawberry Vinaigrette and Cheddar Croutons
adapted from a recipe in Simply Organic
Makes 2 entree salads or 4 small side salads

I’ll admit I used to judge watercress. It seemed both snotty (as in watercress sandwiches of “ladies who lunch” fame) and unruly (tangled like my waist-long, 3rd grade hairstyle). Then, I tried this salad.

Forgive me, watercress?

Vinaigrette Ingredients
1 – 1 1/2 pints strawberries, washed and hulled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (depends on how tangy you prefer dressing)
1 garlic clove
Salt/pepper

1. Place all but about 4 of the strawberries in blender or food processor. (Save the extras to slice and garnish the salad with.) Blend until liquid. Add garlic and pulse again.
2. Add olive oil and 1 tablespoon vinegar along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Pulse again. Taste and adjust as needed.

Cheddar Crouton Ingredients
4-6 ounces cheddar cheese or other sharp/smoked cheese (I used a white cheddar from a FM vender), shredded (use the largest holes)
1/4 cup unbleached flour
Red pepper, salt

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or rub with a little olive oil.
3. Toss shredded cheese with flour and a sprinkle of red pepper and salt in a bowl.
4. Place a thin, cookie-size pile of cheese in 8-12 clumps on the sheet.
5. Bake for about 10-15 minutes (check every 5 minutes), until cheese has melted and browned to form a cracker-like substance. (Don’t worry if they crack…you can break them up on the salad.)

Salad
4 cups watercress (run a knife through it once or twice, just to make it a bit tamer)
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and cut into slices
1 green onion, chopped
Remaining strawberries

1. Drizzle watercress with dressing and toss. (Save extra dressing in the refrigerator for another use.)
2. Arrange remaining ingredients and croutons and serve.

Check us out on Tasty Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, and Potluck Friday!

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Category: Health & Nutrition, Main Dish - Vegetarian, Melissa@Market, Recipe Vault

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Comments (10)

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  1. Peggy says:

    What helpful tips! It’s definitely empowering to take control of one’s diet – and this is a great way to start!

    And this salad sounds amazing! I’ll be getting strawberries in my CSA this week, and they’ll definitely be put to good use! =)

  2. Lyndsey says:

    I have been trying to start making my own things that we would usually buy pre-made just so I know what goes in it and can control that (like english muffins). I have been making meals at home just because my daughter was so picky, she never liked the typical fast foods that kids like. Now we both are discovering new foods at the farmers market.

    I like your tips and the recipe sounds wonderful. Next we want to try to grow some food of our own.

  3. sweetlife says:

    great tips, love the starwberry vinaigrette..

    sweetlife

  4. Terrific tips, the watercress salad sounds amazing with strawberry vinaigrette!

  5. Sommer says:

    Mmmm, love the idea of strawberries with cheese croutons!

  6. Barbara says:

    Kudos to you, not only for the running (I am so impressed), but making changes in your diet.
    I do try to eat healthy too. But not vegan. I like my protein mixed in with salads and veggies.

  7. Juliana says:

    Oh! I haven’t had watercress for ages…and I am so happy so see it so fresh in the market…the strawberry vinaigrette is just perfect with it. Beautifully done! Have a great weekend 🙂

  8. Barton says:

    learning to eat seasonally is hard, get tips to start, I still struggle with seasons as I suffer from down under syndrome… strawberry vinaigrette sound so well sexy

  9. Sounds a lot like my philosophy – making changes little by little – and I love your dating analogy. I want to try that strawberry vinaigrette now!

  10. Cakewhiz says:

    I have been hearing such great reviews of that book and considering i have a degree in botany, i think i would really enjoy it. Anything related to plants and environment… I enjoy thoroughly 🙂

    Your salad looks beautiful. I really like the sound of that vinaigrette.