When the new US Department of Health Dietary Guidelines were released last week, I started to think about how I eat. Although I think of myself as a healthy eater, in reality my diet had shifted over the months, to become less-vegetable focused, and high on sweets and refined carbohydrates.
Part of this is because I love to bake, and when the baked goods are around, I’m more likely to eat them. Also, now that my schedule is jam-packed, I might buy an unhealthy, and expensive lunch, instead of making my food ahead, which saves me money, and tends to be much healthier. Lastly, the winter weather has made me less likely to go to the greenmarket on Saturday mornings, and I have been buying less produce.
Though I wasn’t ready to make resolutions in January, reading the dietary guidelines has led me to make a few February goals: drink less, eat less, and what I eat and drink should be healthier. Now, I’m swapping tea for wine in the evening, and trying to get back on track with vegetables, fruit, and whole grains.
The dietary guidelines suggest reducing portions, making half your plate fruits and vegetables, and pairing those with nutrient-dense foods like whole-grains, low-fat dairy products, eggs, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.
Swap white bread for whole-grain bread. Exchange your steak for beans, soda for water, and so on. This also means no refined white rice. Choose brown rice, quinoa, farro, freekeh, amaranth, or my personal favorite, Red Wehani Rice. In fact, there are actually a lot of options, it shouldn’t be difficult to adopt this new way of eating.
This week’s five-ingredient recipe takes its cues from the dietary guidelines: it’s half vegetables, half whole-grains and gets a punch of savory flavor from a crumble of spicy blue cheese. The cheese is the place to pay a few extra dollars, since it is a garnish. Before cooking the quinoa, you saute chopped onions in the saucepan, building a layer of flavor that infuses in the grains while they cook.
Beets are low-calorie, but their gorgeous magenta flesh contains vitamins B1, B2, and C; as well as fiber and antioxidants. Paired with low-calorie, high-protein quinoa, this dish is perfect for my new goal. As usual, I don’t count salt in the ingredients. And since lowering sodium-intake is in the dietary guidelines, use sparingly.
Five-Ingredient Beets and Quinoa Dish Recipe
- 3 large beets
- 2 cups quinoa
- 1 medium red or yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 2 or 3 oz blue cheese, crumbled. (I used Blue d'Auvergne.)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Fill a large saucepan or stock pot with water and bring to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, while the water comes to a boil, prep the beets. Rinse under cool water, then rub the skin with a towel to remove excess dirt. Cut off the ends, about 1/2-inch from the root, and discard. Peel the beets, and discard the trimmings. Cut the beets into 1/2-inch pieces. When the water has come to a boil, add the beets with a hefty pinch of salt. Cook until fork-tender, about 20 minutes. When the beets are cooked, drain them and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, put the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water for 1 minute. Transfer to a medium bowl and add water to cover. Let soak for 15 minutes while you are sauteing the onions.
4. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the canola oil and heat through, then add the onions. Saute until translucent, about 7-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add 4 cups water and bring to a boil.
5. Drain the quinoa and add it to the pot with a hefty pinch of salt. Return the liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes, or until all the liquid has absorbed. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and set aside.
6. Serve the beets atop the quinoa with a few crumbles of blue cheese.