Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Meatless Monday

In attempt to save money, as well as expand our culinary horizons and focus on really healthy meals, I've been implementing "Meatless Monday." It's not always on Monday, but I have been trying to make one meal a week that uses beans or quinoa or some other protein instead of meat. It's been surprisingly successful so far. I've found that as long as it is packed with flavor and has plenty of hearty substance to it, the meat isn't really missed that much. Last night we had these Butternut Squash and Bean Enchiladas. 

I can take absolutely no credit for them. The concept would never have even crossed my mind. They were unbelievably delicious. I was a bit nervous about the nutmeg, but I went for it, and I was so glad I did. I did use basil instead of sage (I have this weird prejudice against sage, and I honestly haven't given it a fair chance...that's something I need to do, but I never have it on hand, so I haven't yet), and a mixture of mozzarella, parmesan, white cheddar, and cream cheese instead of fontina. I think the fontina would have been great, but it's not really a cheese I keep on hand. And it kind of defeats the purpose of a cheaper, meatless meal if you go buy a more expensive cheese for the occasion. :) The filling was scrumptious- hearty, sweet, savory, creamy but not mushy. Perfect. The cheese sauce was to die for. So flavorful, gooey, decadent, creamy and tasty. It all melded together perfectly. I will definitely be adding this to our regular rotation of meals! I used chickpeas for this, but I think cannelloni or great northern beans would be better. Check out the recipe at the How Sweet It Is blog! I tell you, that lady is a culinary genius.

Hearty and Healthy:

Beans (legumes)- a fantastic source of protein, the saponins and soluble fiber in beans also may help with the reduction of bad cholesterol. They also contain folate, which lowers homocysteine, helping to reduce the risk of heart disease. Lignans, also found in beans, are thought to be cardioprotective.

Cheese- While dairy isn't specifically targeted as a heart healthy food, poor dental health is thought to be linked to heart disease. The high calcium and phosphorus contents of dairy foods are helpful in the forming of strong bones and teeth. Dairy also has numerous other health benefits, which may have some bearing on heart health. Potassium may help lower blood pressure and stroke risk, riboflavin maintains healthy red blood cells, and vitamin B12  is important for red blood cell production. Probiotics, specifically found in yogurts (although only those with "live and active cultures") are especially beneficial for the immune system.

Winter Squash- The bright orange color of these squash is a dead giveaway of its biggest nutrient- beta carotene. One cup of cooked squash alone provides 107% of the recommended daily intake. Beta carotene is thought to help prevent cancer, as well as maintaining eye health. The great amount of soluble fiber is helpful in lowering bad cholesterol, and the magnesium helps with heart health and preventing high blood pressure. They also contain vitamin B6, linked to a reduction in heart disease risk, and vitamin C, an antioxidant. 

Source: Fight Back with Food: Use Nutrition to Heal What Ails You,  The Reader's Digest Association

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