We are blessed in Southern Arizona with a very mild climate, which is giving me guilt nowadays as I track the awful weather that is hammering the northern part of the United States this month. But even up there, and all across the nation, we have enough of an import-export food industry that we can get many foods all year long.
So if you would like to build health and lose weight, it's time to mosey over to Sprouts or Trader Joe's and pick up some of the tried-and-true health builders which are surely available there. Much of the produce in these stores is plainly labeled organic, as is produce in Walmart, Fry's and Safeway as I see them in Tucson's markets. I also note that both Safeway and Basha's supermarkets have prominent displays of organic products.
Among the produce you can select grapefruit, which I recommend either sectioned in Italian grapefruit salad, or simply juiced. If the tartness of grapefruit juice puts you off--it can be very tart indeed--try some honey in it. There is a dry honey powder being sold nowadays called Nektar (not Nectresse) and as soon as I find it I will put that info in this column.
Vegetables that are recommended for health and weight loss are beets, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Cruciferous vegetables in general (including colored cauliflowers and Brussels sprouts varieties) have long been considered near-miraculous in health building, especially when lightly cooked. That sulfurous odor that sometimes fills your kitchen is the result of overcooking cabbage, Brussels sprouts, etc.
Healthy as they are, I still don't recommend raw beets in salads. The easiest way to handle them is to buy smallish ones (yellow or red) and boil them whole. When they are cooked you can slip the skins off easily and slice or cube them. See below for a classic beet recipe.
For your salads, try to get into the habit of keeping avocadoes on hand and slicing them in. Avocadoes are getting more respect for their healthy oil, which you can also buy in bottled form. I know from experience that avocado oil is divine for salad dressing.
In the protein department, look at eggs and yogurt in the dairy department, as well as turkey. For one or two people, a single good-sized turkey thigh will make a pretty dinner. And a turkey breast is a lovely, unexpected dinner treat--try making it the same way as a classic Duck a l'Orange and see how good turkey can be.
Sprouts in Tucson always has its clean, affordable meat section, which frequently includes good lamb, and that isn't always easy to find.
Now I must inform my readers of an unfortunate situation. When I did an article on mayonnaise some time ago, I featured Duke's Mayonnaise, a Southern secret with a powerhouse reputation. Wanting to go the distance on my recommendations, I found an online store that purports to sell such Southern specialties.
Unfortunately the performance of the Mill River Store in Mount Airy, North Carolina left me much to be desired. Until today they have not answered a series of emails that I sent them asking about the status of my order, and I cannot in good conscience recommend their services. Any store that cannot answer an email following up on money spent is seriously lacking in professionalism.
Nothing would make me happier than to receive either their update, or my Duke's Mayo, or whatever. But so far it has been absolute silence. So if you want to try Duke's Mayonnaise, by all means do it--it's famous--but don't order from the Mill River Store. I am sorry.
3 pounds fresh beets
2/3 cup sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt, to taste
Simmer the beets, covered in salted water, until tender, about 40 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the liquid.
When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins and cut the beets into a 1/4-inch dice. You should have about 6 cups of diced beets. Set aside.
In a medium-sized pot, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, and reserved beet liquid. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Whisking constantly, cook for 30 seconds or until thickened. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until melted.
Stir in the diced beets and cook to heat through. Season with salt. Serve warm or hot.
By the way, the name of this recipe refers to the rich royal red color of the beets, which resembled the famous "Harvard Red" that our famous school includes in its colors.