Thursday, March 4, 2010

Planning a Good, Healthy Meal to Savor

The meal that I have chosen to plan is a very simple and easy meal that is also healthy. This meal is pasta with a red sauce, steamed green beans, and chicken breast. The first step is to go shopping for all the ingredients. First, we are going to need pasta. Any kind of pasta will do really, but lets say thin spaghetti for this meal. A half pound should be enough for two people. Choose your favorite red sauce to go on the pasta. The next thing is the side dish. For this we simply need fresh green beans. And finally, we will need fresh boneless, skinless chicken breast.

The preparation for this meal begins with marinading the chicken breast. Again, this is preference. I personally prefer a garlic herb marinade. The first thing you need to do is take your chicken breast and stab it with a fork on both sides, this helps tenderize the meat. Then you simply put the chicken breast(s) in a gallon ziplock bag and pour in the desired amount of marinade, enough to cover the chicken should be used. Shake the bag so that the chicken is covered all over. This should be done a minimum of one hour before cooking, the longer the better. Be sure to wash your hands after dealing with raw chicken.

After the chicken has marinated it is time to start the whole meal. Begin by boiling some water for the pasta. Put a little olive oil in the water to prevent the noodles from sticking. Once the water begins to boil, break the noodles in half and put the desired amount into the pot. Stir occasionally. Try a noodle when you think they may be finished to see if they are soft enough. Once they are to your liking, strain the water out and let sit for a couple minutes.

For the sauce, unless you are making it from scratch, all we need to do is put it in a pot and heat is up.

Meanwhile, while the water is waiting to boil, we need to clean the green beans. Rinse them with water and crack off the stems at the top (optional). Place the green beans in a pot and add some water, olive oil, minced garlic, and whatever spices you prefer. Turn to medium and cover. The only way to know when they are done is to taste one and see.

If you are cooking your chicken on the grill, the only real way to cook a fresh piece of meat, then you will need to heat up the grill. Once the grill is hot, place the marinaded chicken on the grill. Wash your hands if you touched the chicken. Chicken does not take too long to cook so be careful not to over cook it or it will become dry and rubbery. After about 5-6 minutes flip the chicken breasts. Return to the grill and cut open one chicken breast to see if it is done. The middle should be white, but still juicy. If there is any pink in the middle it needs to cook longer. Be sure to cook all the way through because bacteria from raw chicken will make you sick. Once they are finished remove and turn the grill off.

The meal is now finished and ready to eat. Each one of these steps is done simultaneously for the most part. This is the hardest part of cooking. It is important the get the timing right on all aspects or you may be waiting on one thing to finish and the food can get cold. Enjoy they meal!

After eating comes the worst part of cooking: doing the dishes and cleaning up. Wash all pots, pans, plates, and utensils used during cooking and eating. Be sure to sanitize all areas the chicken came in contact with.

After eating this meal I feel content. This is a well rounded meal that fills you up, but does not make you feel like you over-ate. It reminds me of Sunday dinners growing up. The smells and the fresh food that came from our kitchen when my mom used to cook are always refreshing.

In the book In Defense of Food, Michael Pollen argues that American eating has become scientific. He says that Americans always want to eat and run, instead of dine and savor. I agree with his claims. I know in my own experience that I am always on the go and have a million things going on in my life. This makes it very easy to want to get a quick meal and get on with life. However, that is not always the healthiest. Eating on the go usually leads to unhealthy processed foods that have been stripped of their nutrients and other nutritional value. But, it is very hard to find time every day/night to make a fresh meal like previously described. However, Pollen is right. We need to find time to eat "real"food. This meal that I previously described proves this. I felt much better, both mentally and physically, after cooking this meal for myself than when I get fast-food or make something from the freezer.

Sandy Szwarc agrees with Pollen. She says that processed foods are bad for us and need to be removed from school cafeterias. Szwarc is right on when she says that they are fake foods that are made in factories. This article relates to Pollen's arguments about eating on the go because that usually means resorting to some form of processed food. I agree with both Pollen and Szwarc that we need to find an alternative to eating processed foods when we are rushed for a good, quick meal.

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