So I’m equally disappointed and pleased with myself this evening. Disappointed for being tempted to violate my Journey to 30 goals and the newly-assumed objective of eating less processed food this month.
It’s day 3 of the October Unprocessed Challenge and the first work day of said challenge. Both the hubs and I had sub-optimal days at work and we wanted a pizza. Something hot, cheesy, bready and delicious delivered to our door by a horribly underpaid college student with a thunderous-sounding mid-1990s sedan.
However, that would have been a violation of our commitment to the challenge and our objectives of trying to be a bit more mindful of our spending and what we are putting into our bodies. We decided against it. I said farewell to my craving for green olives and melty dairy goodness in favor of a healthier, homemade option. It was a triumph of the human spirit.
I turned my attention instead to the goods in the kitchen. Due to my busy days and short evenings, I have been trying to do a great deal of meal preparation during the weekends so as to take the time excuse out of the equation when trying to eat well during the week. On Saturday I made black bean and barley soup (with vegetable stock I made myself, dried beans and barley from the bulk food aisle and veggies from the garden and CSA!) so that was a logical choice, but it didn’t seem like enough. So I dug into the crisper and came up with a few late-season cucumbers and a pint of heirloom cherry tomatoes. Pizza night became soup and salad night in a snap!
Some people think that a salad is only lettuce + veg/cheese/meat flotsam + bottled dressing. I am not one of those people. In fact, my go-to salad is a take on a Russian delight I eat a lot of whenever I am in my Slavic home away from home. The formula is simple: cucumbers, tomatoes, vinegar, dill, oil, salt and pepper. Sometimes onion. That’s it.
I got to work washing and slicing while the soup was warming on the stove top. Large cucumbers that come later in the growing season tend to have tough skin and large, slimy seeds. I am not keen on the seeds, so I cut the cucumbers lengthwise and scrape the seeds out with a spoon as one would when cleaning a melon. It’s a formidable method and it also helps the cut cucumber keep longer, for some reason.
Here is the little recipe for my simple salad:
Quick Salatik a la Rossiya
What you’ll need:
2 medium-large cucumbers, cleaned and diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes halved or quartered (depending on the size)
1 Tbs dried dill
2 Tbs White Vinegar
1 tsp oil (Olive, Sunflower, Canola, your call)
Salt and pepper to taste
What to do:
It’s pretty simple, just chop your veggies and toss into a bowl, in a separate bowl whisk together the vinegar, dill, oil and salt and pepper. Fold into veggies, let sit for a few minutes and then plate and serve.
This is not only easy and quick, it’s versatile. You have an onion you want to use? Go for it. Chop it up and toss it in. You want to add a splash of sour cream, yogurt or kefir? Great! Creamy salads are also delicious. Chop up some parsley, chives or mint and toss it in with the whole shebang? Do it up. Those flavors would all adhere nicely.
It seems almost too simple, but I think it’s the perfect complement to most meals. Our soup was a little spicy and the sweet-sour-crispness of this little salad was just right. It’s also quite filling, low calorie and within the parameters of the unprocessed challenge. WIN!
This should not be as shocking to me as it is, but having all of the “right” things available during times of weakness really does make a difference. I think I have found my way to make it work, but everyone needs to do what works for them. I make 4-5 full meals or meal components on the weekend and we eat it through the week. There is less temptation and justification to make poor choices if home-prepared meals are right behind the refrigerator door. All I made tonight was the salad and the entire prep time for the meal was less than it would have taken for a pizza to arrive. The dinner we ended up eating was less expensive, more nutritious, less caloric and arguably more satisfying than anything that would have arrived in 30 minutes or less.
Food can be used for many things, but on a Monday night after a long day when there are lots of other things to do, food is just something one has to shove down their gullet to meet the basic human need for nourishment. This evening was a lesson in not using food as a source of comfort or a long day as an excuse to eat poorly.