If I could be any food, it would be something from the squash family: sweet potatoes, butternut, kabocha, acorn, etc. I’m not sure if technically sweet potatoes are related to kabocha at all, but in terms of creamy, carby, filling, versatile wonderfulness they are all in the same boat. Or rather my stomach. Here in Japan they sell yaki imo (やきいも）and I am addicted to these little gems of PURPLE roasted sweet potatoes. Roasting squash brings out its’ natural sugars, which is why I prefer roasting all vegetables rather than boiling them and then adding sugar. My favorite type of “mashed potato” is roasted sweet potatoes mashed with coconut milk and hazelnuts ~ perfect for any holiday spread or post-skiing dinner. Actually any dinner, or breakfast, or snack. You get the idea.
BUT as much as I love squash, I don’t really count it as a vegetable. It is a starch in my book. Granted, a very good starch, one lower in calories and higher in nutrients than pasta, rice, potatoes or corn. And, I have to set the record straight – potatoes and corn are NOT vegetables. Potatoes are starchy to the max, and corn is a grain. I’ll be discussing this a bit more in future posts, but I’ve already gone on enough of a tangent.
Vegan, Paleo, Celiac, SCD, ACD, “I-hate-turnips”, WHATEVER category you fall into – we all need to eat more vegetables, specifically green vegetables. People in Japan, upon finding out about my diet, ask me what I usually eat. When I reply, “vegetables” or “salad”, they laugh. But I’d say well over half of my diet is vegetable-based, and I am healthy and satisfied after every meal. I think people forget the endless variety of vegetable dishes: soups, stews, curries, stir-frys, stuffed, roasted, broiled, steamed with vinaigrettes, raw with dips, and a multitude of salads. I admit, when I had my major sugar/carb sweet-tooth in high school, I just plowed through salads because I knew they were “good for me”. But I kept tasting and trying new vegetables or new ways to prepare familiar vegetables, and now I crave salad rather than sweets! Sometimes I eat salad twice a day, and if I miss one day of eating greens I feel “off”. Another delicious way to get your veg is in a green smoothie ~ which also seems pretty kid-friendly to me.
Why eat vegetables? Do I even have to say this? Better for you, better for the environment, better for our seafood supply, and just…delicious. I think many people shy away from vegetables because all they have been taught to do is boil the heck out of them or pop open a can of salty, limp green beans *shudder*. I wouldn’t like a soggy, flavorless Brussels sprout either! But Brussels sprouts roasted with olive oil, maybe sauteed with bacon, or even raw, sliced thinly with tarragon vinegar? I’d eat the whole bowl.
Mark Bittman “was a vegan til 6pm”, then ate the right kinds of meat and lost a ton of weight. This is a really simple guide to why you should think of meat more as a side dish than a main course ~ if you click on any link please make it this one! Heads up vegetarians: cheese has the third-highest greenhouse gas emissions (behind lamb and beef)! Mr. Bittman also has some great cookbooks, from How to Cook Everything to How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and Food Matters, the “less-meatarian” cookbook. I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from his straightforward approach to food.
Get out of the rut! with a Veggie Venture. 13 awesome tips to veg-up your life.
Still not doing it for you? Cranky Fitness has some sneaky ways to incorporate more veggies into your diet.
I like to categorize myself as a food-lover, but if we have to get technical I’d say I identify most with the “less-meatarian” group. I eat meat, mostly small amounts of lean protein, but I am careful about how it is sourced and I treat it as a side dish or flavoring rather than plopping a giant 22 ounce god-knows-what at the center of my plate. This recipe uses 200g (7 oz) of ground chicken but makes four generous servings – economical and scrumptious. “It’s so tasty, too.” Unlike Vitavegamin ~ I mean it!
Roasted Stuffed Kabocha Squash
I haven’t tested this yet, but I think you could make this dish vegan by swapping out sauteed mushrooms for the ground chicken or mixing in some cashews or other mix of nuts after sauteing the other vegetables. I’ve also heard adding sage to nut stuffings gives them a “meaty” quality.
1 medium size kabocha squash, seeded and cut into quarters
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet onion
1 broccoli stalk or 1 small zucchini
1/2 golden or yellow apple
200g ground chicken (7 ounces)
1 1/2 T balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Brush the insides of the squash quarters with melted coconut oil and roast for 20 minutes or until the squash is tender but still holds it’s shape. Set aside.
While the squash is roasting, dice the onion and broccoli and saute in olive oil over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes. Dice the apple. Turn the heat to medium high and add the chicken and apple, browning all the ingredients for about 2 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar, turn the heat down to medium, and cook until the chicken is no longer pink.
Divide the mixture equally and stuff into each of the squash boats. Heat for 10 minutes at 375 to 400 degrees F. (I have convection oven here in Japan, so when I convert recipes back for a conventional oven it is not an exact science. All you want to do is get the stuffed squash piping hot without getting the stuffing too brown.) This is a great make-ahead dish as you can prepare the boats earlier in the day and simply reheat as needed in the oven. I don’t recommend using a microwave (ever) because it will toughen up the squash and dry out the filling. Also, if you have any leftover filling, it makes a great breakfash hash topped with a fried egg!