Thursday, April 12, 2012

Single Girl Succotash

If you've read my blog at all, you have probably surmised that I hate planning and pre-packing.  Be it what I'm going to wear to work or what I'm going to eat that day or what I should pack in my bike panniers beside three different shades of lipstick (like maybe my proximity card). 

The adage "we don't plan to fail but we may fail to plan" pretty much sums it up for me.  I love packing for trips though and moving days are my favorite days of the year.  I’m an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in a tamale.   

Anyway, Single Girl Succotash helps combat one of the thorniest disadvantages of being human: having to eat 3 to 6 times a day.  Seriously, can I just be solar-powered already?  In lieu of altering my body's chemistry to allow me to photosynthesize, I've come up with a few life hacks to combat this caloric intake requirement. 

What is Single Girl's Succotash, you ask?  It is just a variation on the traditional succotash that I make.  It is probably more proper to call it a “vegetable medley” but “Single Girl Vegetable Medley” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.  It is also similar to ratatouille and calabacitas. 

You don’t have to be single to enjoy this or even a girl.  If I ever get married, I may call it Melissa’s Married [Vegetable] Medley.  Single Guy’s Succotash works too.  Comment on this post and tell me what you’re calling it.  The winner, determined solely by me, will win a can of tamales.  Bet you didn’t think they came in cans, but they do.

The main benefits of SGS is that it is an efficient way to use up vegetables, get a blend of  vegetables, goes with anything (as I will demonstrate) and, can be cooked in 4 minutes in a microwave, even the crappy one they probably have at your office.  Below is a list of possible vegetables and spices/sauces to use in SGS. 

Traditional succotash has lima beans and corn in it.  Feel free to put those in your SGS, I don’t because it is not the Great Depression anymore.  You can also try this with kale or Brussels sprouts, or White Onions, or other types of squash. I usually like to keep it simple and work with vegetables that don’t overpower the rest of the meal.

Possible vegetables and spices/sauces to use in SGS
Green Veg
Green Beans
Green Bell Pepper

Orange Bell Pepper

Yellow/ White
Yellow Squash
Yellow Onion
Purple Onion
Red Bell Pepper

Vodka Cream
Soy Sauce
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Lemon Pepper
Greek Seasoning
Tony Chachere's

I recommend a minimum of three colors and four vegetables.  The combo I tend to make most is zucchini, squash, carrots, and [insert other green vegetable].

So, how do we make this stuff? I recommend starting with a food processor. You’re making your veggie side for the week so it’s worth getting out the processor and the reason this can be made in the microwave is because we’re slicing everything real thin. It you do it by hand, it may take longer to cook and will definitely take you longer to cut up.

1. Wash everything.
2. Slice the zucchini and squash lengthwise then in half with a knife. I have two slicing blades on my processor, the thin side and the thick side. Use the thicker slicer for the veggies that will cook faster.  Use the thick side to slice these.
3. Carrots, cut of tops and bottoms with a knife. Use the thin food processor slicing blade. Slice about and equal proportion to the amount of other ingredients.
4. Green beans, cut off tops and bottoms, use and equal proportion to other ingredients, slice on the thinner blade. I wish these would come out more julienned with my machine but they tend to come out more like green bean coins, which is fine, just not as pretty.

Alright, so we’re got our raw materials ready, here comes the fun part.

Before going to business school, I wanted to be a nutritionist. My favorite author in this field is Dr. Andrew Weil, with whom I agree about 90% of the time. His book Eating Well For Optimum health is my main reference on this subject and he basically encourages us to eat in healthy proportions: carbohydrates 50 to 60 percent, fats 30 percent and proteins 10 to 20 percent.  The Zone advises you to divide your plate into thirds: 2/3 complex carbohydrates and 1/3 lean protein (chicken, turkey, or fish) and then “add a dash of heart healthy monounsaturated fat like olive oil.”

So you can totally Zone out with this if you want, I don’t do that but I do go for thirds. For lunch, I use two cups of SGS as my side. I put this into portable BPA plastic ware or those glass to-go containers. Then I have 1 cup of "other," ideally something more protein heavy, but often for me it is simple carb heavy (rice, pasta, etc). It’s my world and I’m already eating 2 cups of veggies at lunch so whatever.

Okay so here are some meal ideas:

Leftover Chinese and SGS
Say you have some leftover moo-shu pork, or sweet and sour chicken, or combination fried rice. Whatever it is, take a cup of this and 2 cups of your SGS in separate containers.

To the SGS, add a dash of Tamari* or regular soy or whatever variation you like, you could even use Hoisin sauce if you’re feeling real fancy. Throw in some Rooster Sauce if you like it spicy. That’s it. You could church it up and add other Asian-style spices but we’re trying to keep this simple and you’re going to mix the veggies with your leftovers, so they will get some of that seasoning anyway.

*Tamari side note: This is the brand I like: San-J Organic Reduced Sodium. I can usually find it at the store, or I guess I could order it off Amazon. If you’re never tried tamari, you should give it a try, it definitely has a less salty, harsh taste than regular soy sauce and is generally gluten-free (regular soy contains wheat).

When you are ready to eat, open your SGS container a crack, and microwave on high for 3.5 - 4 minutes. Take out, close the lid, give it a shake, viola! Microwave the leftovers about two minutes and there you have a perfectly acceptable lunch: easy, way cheaper than eating out, and pretty darn healthy, even with the inclusion of the Chinese leftovers.

Pasta and SGS
I am a pasta junkie. Actually I am a Pastafarian. Whatever you want to call me, just don’t call me late for pasta. Alright, this dish is super easy.

Two cups of SGS, top with about half a cup of chunky marinara. That’s it. Church it up if you like, but totally not necessary. Microwave 3 .5 to 4 minutes. Take out, close the lid, give it a shake, viola!

One cup of some kind of pasta. For this, I definitely like to use the fancy ravioli that you can buy at the store. Nuovo is my favorite, I can get it at the natural food store near my house. In a few years, you’ll be able to download right off Amazon. If you’re using just plain pasta, you’ll probably want to add 4 oz of protein. I’ve done this with angel hair and grilled chicken before. Totes delish.

For the pasta, I usually cook up a batch the night before, give it a little butter or olive oil, lots of parmesan, and a little fresh ground pepper. Do what you like, it’s your world. Microwave pasta about two minutes, eat with SGS, feel happy and contended by the pasta-y / veggie goodness.

Tacos and SGS
You guessed it. Have a couple leftover tacos in the fridge, cause, like, who doesn’t? Bring them along to work and have them with your SGS. But seriously, you may have some leftover protein something that you could add some Mexican type spices to and put in a tortilla. Often I have leftover rotisserie chicken that is perfect for this, or leftover pulled pork is really good too. Or just season the leftover meat and have it with the SGS, sans tortilla.

Tamales and SGS

Sandwiches and SGS
Make your favorite sandwich. Cut it diagonal. For this one, you can probably not microwave the sandwich, just the veggies in whatever complimentary seasoning or sauce goes with your sandwich. This combo would work well if you pre-cooked the veggies and had them cold out of the fidge, so it is the same temperature as the sandwich.

Hunk o Protein and SGS
By now you know the drill.

For this one though, you’ll probably want to go 4 - 6oz protein and up your veggies or other side by about half a cup.

Let’s say you like poached white fish with lemon and black pepper, make that the night before (or cook that in the microwave too. I haven’t tried but here is a recipe for it). Season your SGS with black pepper and lemon, microwave with lid cracked 3.5 – 4 minutes, close, shake, viola!

Let’s say your vegetarian or someone who enjoys tofu, make up some tofu the night before. Season the SGS with a little peanut sauce, or tamari, or huosin; crack, cook, close, shake.

Chicken, a little piece of sirloin or other type of steak, pork loin, other types of fish, or other vegetarian or vegan sources of protein would work too. Find your protein and its seasoning and season the SGS accordingly.

That's all I got for now.

Happy hacking! And if anyone figures out the photosynthesis thing, let me know.

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