Everyone knows it can be difficult to follow a New Year’s resolution. We start out with good intentions, but by Mardi Gras that resolution has been long forgotten.
The key is often finding a simple resolution that won’t seem daunting when putting it into practice. This year, our plan is to simply be mindful of what we are consuming. It’s a good way to clean up your diet without totally going overboard with restrictions.
A good rule when it comes to food labels is the fewer ingredients listed, the better. If there are too many words that are hard to pronounce, we say skip it. Often, it’s better for you to make it from scratch at home so you control the ingredients.
It’s all about developing a much healthier diet in the long run, and helping you successfully stick to your healthy New Year’s resolution.
FRESH GRAPE JAM
There are so many wonderful gourmet preserves and jams on the market, one might think there isn’t much need to go through the trouble of making your own. But it’s a whole lot easier than you may think, and the outcome is worth the effort. This recipe doesn’t require sanitizing jars, because it’s a quick jam and is stored in the refrigerator. It requires a minimal amount of sugar in the end to help it thicken. The flavors are very fresh and bright and not the sickeningly sweet grape jam you had as a kid—although kids of all ages will enjoy this jam, too. Spread over fresh baked bread.
Servings: Yields 1 pint
8 cups (2½ pounds) purple seedless grapes
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup apple juice
¼ cup sugar
1. Rinse the grapes and remove the stems. Place the grapes in a large pot.
2. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and apple juice. Bring to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer the grapes for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove the lid and continue simmering for another 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Turn off the stove, and allow the grape mixture to cool.
5. Use a slotted spoon to remove the grapes and place them into a food processor. Leave the remaining liquid in the pot.
6. Puree the grapes until they are smooth.
7. Strain the grape mixture through a mesh strainer, scraping the puree off and discarding the pulp that is left over. Place the grape puree back into the pot with the remaining liquid.
8. Add the ¼ cup of sugar. Bring the grape puree back up to a boil.
9. Boil the grape puree 5 to 7 minutes or until it begins to thicken and coat the back of a spoon. Allow the jam to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container. The fresh grape jam will last in the refrigerator for up to a month.
QUICK CLASSIC FRENCH BOULE
While too many carbs can be unhealthy, research also shows balanced diets should include the right amount of whole grains. And there is nothing like hot bread fresh out the oven. This from-scratch French boule contains only a few ingredients and is low in fat and sodium. It can be made with whole-wheat flour or a combination of whole-wheat and unbleached flours. If you have a gluten allergy or intolerance, substitute rice flour or other gluten-free flours, adjusting the amount of water depending on the flour’s coarseness.
This bread doesn’t require kneading, and baking it inside a Dutch oven helps it steam—meaning you don’t have to spray water into the oven like with more difficult-to-make French-style breads. The bread bakes in about 30 minutes.
Servings: Yields 1 medium round loaf
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (or half whole-wheat and half unbleached flour)
1¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1½ to 1¾ cups hot water
1. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, and sprinkle in the yeast, salt and sugar.
2. Use a whisk or a fork to stir the dry ingredients until incorporated.
3. Heat the water to between 120 and 130 degrees, using a kitchen thermometer to test the temperature (higher heat may kill the yeast). Use a rubber spatula to gently stir the hot water into the flour mixture.
4. Stir until the mixture is just coming together and takes on the form of shaggy dough. Do not overmix the dough.
5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set the bowl on the counter, and allow the dough to rise for 3 to 4 hours.
6. Place a large Dutch oven with an oven-safe lid into the oven. Turn the heat to 450 degrees.
7. Sprinkle your work surface with 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour.
8. Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl and use a pastry scraper to gently release the dough out onto the floured work surface. Add a little more flour to the top of the dough to keep it from sticking to your hands as you work.
9. Use a pastry scraper to gently fold the dough over 4 to 5 times to form a ball.
10. Line a separate mixing bowl with parchment paper and place the dough onto the parchment. Set this aside until the oven has reached 450 degrees.
11. Carefully remove the Dutch oven and take off the lid. Gently lift the parchment with the dough out of the mixing bowl and transfer them to the Dutch oven. Place the lid back on the Dutch oven and return it to the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
12. Remove the lid from the Dutch oven. Continue to bake the boule for an additional 8 to 10 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden and very crunchy.
13. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven, take the boule out and place it on a baking rack to cool for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve warm with butter and homemade grape preserves.
HEARTY ROASTED WINTER VEGETABLE SOUP
Soups are a healthy way to sneak a lot of vegetables into your diet, and we love having a big pot on the stove in the winter. This hearty roasted vegetable soup is delicious, satisfying and totally vegetarian. You can change up the assortment of vegetables with things like potatoes, turnips or yams. It is also a great soup to make in the warmer months using zucchini, eggplant, summer squash and tomatoes. The key to making it so flavorful is roasting the vegetables so they caramelize a bit and bring out the natural sugars. It imparts another level of flavor to this quick, healthy and delicious soup.
3 cups butternut squash, roughly chopped
2 cups chayote squash (also known as mirliton), roughly chopped
2 cups parsnips, roughly chopped
2 cups baby Bella mushrooms
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup diced carrots
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced onion
½ teaspoon dried herbes de Provence
½ cup dry white wine
8 cups vegetable broth
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the butternut squash, chayote squash, mushrooms and parsnips in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and half the salt and pepper.
2. Place the vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. While the vegetables are roasting, heat the remaining olive oil in a large pot and sauté the diced carrots, celery and onions along with the remaining salt, pepper and the
herbes de Provence until they are very soft and golden in color.
4. Deglaze the pot with the wine. Continue cooking for 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Add the roasted vegetables, and pour in the vegetable broth. Bring the soup up to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Test the soup to adjust the seasonings, and serve.
Tracey Koch is a chef, cooking instructor and food columnist, and the author of Georges: The Goose From Toulouse Who Only Ate Couscous. Stephanie Riegel, Tracey’s sister, is the editor of Business Report and host of “Out to Lunch” on WRKF.
This article was originally published in the January 2018 issue of 225 Magazine.