Saturday, December 12, 2009

REAL Food, REAL Fast: Cole Slaw Mix

I've been looking at common roadblocks when it comes to cooking healthy dinners at home.  In my informal surveys, one common thread, regardless of demographic, that keeps coming up is that of TIME.  Most people feel that they don't have TIME to cook healthy dinners (or any dinner, for that matter).  Whether it's a mother of pre-schoolers or a "soccer mom" of teens, or a working woman with no kids; a woman in their 20's or 50's; a single person or one that's part of a family of 8; many people simply feel that they do not have the TIME to cook a healthy meal at the end of the day.

In response to this, I have come up with an occasional entry entitled, "REAL Food, REAL Fast", highlighting foods that are whole, REAL foods that can serve as shortcuts to getting across that "dinner" finish line at the end of the day without feeling like you've just completed a frustrating marathon or snuck out and taken a 15 mile detour in the back of a limo.  It is important to see that you CAN do this!  Cooking healthy does not have to be complicated or time-consuming.  Cooking healthy can be simple, and even enjoyable.  

The first entry in this category is cole slaw mix - the kind that is simply a bag of shredded cabbage and possibly some carrots, but NOT any kind of dressing/sauce/topping!  In the produce section of my grocery store, the cole slaw mix is shelved with the pre-washed bagged baby spinach and salad greens, and several brands are available.  Depending on the size of your family, pick up a bag or two the next time you are at the store.  You will have clean, fresh vegetables that will enable you to make a host of dishes, and because it IS perishable, you will HAVE to use it within a few days to a week, depending on the shelf date.

BENEFITS:  Cabbage is a great source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K a fair source of dietary fiber, and contains a compound that is believed to help prevent colon cancer.  You can get all of these benefits from the shredded stuff in that cellophane bag of cole slaw mix!

USES:  With this bag of cole slaw mix, you can make a slew of different dishes -
  • saute some onion and garlic, add the cole slaw mix and saute for just a minute or two more, toss with some Asian rice noodles (or spaghetti noodles) and soy sauce (or the Asian noodle dressing on my website) for an Asian-style main dish (you could also add some left over chicken, chopped hard boiled eggs or tofu for protein) - and to look REALLY fancy, sprinkle on some sesame seeds 
  • add to prepared vegetable soup for nutrient boost
  • make a simple cabbage soup by sauteing some onion, adding a can of crushed tomatoes, salt & pepper, bring to boil.  Add cole slaw mix and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
  • make non-rolled cabbage rolls:  brown some lean ground beef (drain off any fat), add a can of crushed tomatoes, season with dried minced onion, a pinch of cinnamon, some salt & pepper, bring to boil, add cole slaw mix, reduce heat & simmer for about 20 minutes.  Serve over rice.
  • use as the base for a nutritious salad by adding some chopped onion, halved grape tomatoes and chopped red & green peppers.  Toss with a little olive oil and vinegar, salt & pepper (or for a "southwestern" version, toss with olive oil, lime juice and cilantro).
  • using the "southwestern" version above, use as a base in tacos with black beans, fish or chicken.
(A little extra tip:  add dried parsley to salads and soups for an extra "gourmet" look.  It really does not really affect taste, but just gives the appearance of a more extravagant recipe!)

Pick up some prepared cole slaw mix the next time you are at the grocery store and give one of these suggestions a try.  You will be surprised how easy it is to come up with a REAL food meal without resorting to take-out or instant mixes!

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