My name is Allison Fishman, and I’m a contributing editor for Cooking Light. I'll be coaching twelve people (one per month) toward a Healthy Habit goal. We talk on the phone every week, set up a plan and move forward toward the goal. Our twelve coachees are not shy, so please ask questions, give them an “attaboy,” and become part of the conversation as they pursue their Healthy Habit in 2011.
For the month of January, I’ll be working with Mary Lynn, a Baltimore-based working mother of two. Our Healthy Habits goal: Add three servings of fruits and vegetables to her diet each day.
When I get Mary Lynn on the phone, she jumps through the line. She laughs a lot, and I get the sense that she has a good time doing just about everything.
She has kept a food log for the week prior to our call. Mary Lynn consistently eats two servings of fruit per day, but the vegetables she eats are along the lines of candied yams and sweet potato fries. She’s averaging 1½ servings of vegetables per day. We can easily increase that to five; that will be our goal.
Unfortunately, Mary Lynn bored with her cooking. She has a repertoire of twenty recipes, and is in a food rut. This is out of synch with the rest of her life, because Mary Lynn's home is filled with creativity. Her husband is an artist, and she loves to decorate (the house is still vibrant from the holidays).
What if Mary Lynn could turn her fun, upbeat creative energy toward the kitchen this month?
I ask her this: If I were to come to your house and cook anything you want as long as it’s a vegetable, what would you have me make? The floodgates open. She wants Thai, Mexican, Moroccan, French…she is having a hard time thinking of vegetables that don’t appeal to her. She is willing to try just about anything – if I’m making it.
I ask Mary Lynn if she can commit to making 5 new vegetable recipes per week for the month. She agrees. We divvy up those recipes so that two are one-pot dinners, one is a breakfast vegetable, another is a roasted vegetable, and the last is a wildcard: soup or salad (she loves big dinner salads).
Now think about it: if I asked you to try 20 new recipes this month, it might seem overwhelming. But five per week, split up by type, seems a lot easier -- we can put the fun and creativity back into it.
Soon we start brainstorming recipes, and before our hour is done, we've got three ideas for Mary Lynn this week:
1. One Pot Meal: Make Beef Tagine with Butternut Squash (shown here). Mary Lynn’s family does not eat beef or pork, so she’s swapping chicken thighs for the beef in this recipe. Mary watched me prepare this recipe on The Today Show with Al Roker this morning and she wanted to know if it was as good as it looked. You bet it was; Al, Anne, Natalie and the crew finished the entire platter before I left the building. This recipe is a treat; it’s easy to make, and exotic without being intimidating.
2. Add A Vegetable at Breakfast: No need for a recipe here; this can be a sliced cucumber sprinkled with salt, or radishes with butter (a popular breakfast item in France). Maybe a couple of tomato slices on top of your toast, spinach in your omelet; leftovers from the night before. As long as Mary Lynn is having at least 1 serving of vegetables (½ cup) at breakfast every day this week, I’m happy.
3. Roast Vegetables. Mary Lynn loves roasted vegetables, so she’s excited to roast vegetables she hasn’t tried before. I suggested make roasted cauliflower steaks, a simple 3-ingredient recipe. Take cauliflower, stand it on its root, and slice it ¾-inch thick through the core. Brush these slices (or “steaks”) with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast in a 425°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden. She’ll have gorgeous, golden slices of nutty roasted cauliflower; she’ll eat at least 2 servings of vegetable without even thinking about it.
4. Homework: Find another vegetable-centric one-pot meal, and a soup or salad recipe you’d like to try. Mary Lynn promised to have her selections by Wednesday.
Mary Lynn will be keeping track of her vegetable servings this week, aiming for 5 per day. That’s 2½ cups of cooked vegetables, or 5 cups of salad greens. I have absolute confidence that she will meet, if not exceed this goal.