Just a month in and this is usually when well intentioned resolutions start to fade. Fact is, mine are just starting to pick up. Tired of the “lose weight/get in shape/work out more” pledges of years past (which never worked anyway) I decided this year to comprise my workouts of things I actually enjoy. And I do not enjoy the treadmill. Instead, I want things that make me laugh; that are fun and challenging. So two weeks ago, my friend Hilary and I started tap classes. Yes I, a 40+ woman of questionable dexterity and attention span, decided it was high time to learn how to tap dance. I’ve dabbled a little in the past and despite a childhood, adolescence and early adulthood full of dance and ballet training, it’s official. I suck at tap dancing. It’s hysterical. My “flaps” sound exactly like my “shuffles”, my turns are frightful and I have some moves that are strangely silent, which is really hard to do when you have metal plates on your shoes. I just tell myself I’m special and leave class with a big smile, sore feet and a fantastic mood.
The flip side to this new workout regime is an attempt to eat better. I haven’t been as successful on this front but I did stick to my fast food ban 100% this month. Over the last six months, it became all too easy to zip through a drive thru while rushing from one job to the next. A hazard of juggling several gigs a day and no time to cook for myself but not only was it unhealthy, I felt like a hypocrite preaching local organic humanely raised food while I’m driving down I-94 with a chalupa in my hand. I flat out decided to cut that stuff out. Ugh. Besides, now there’s word that stuff is only 35% meat anyway. Good lord.
I’ve been working on eating more whole grains, experimenting with finds from the local organic market. I’d recently picked up some wheat berries and they’d been sitting on the counter until I figured out what to do with them. Today, I thought about a really delicious roasted sweet potato salad I made in a class not long ago and how it might be rather wonderful and more substantial with those berries. I was right. It’s actually better than the original, which is hard achieve given that the original had bacon in it, and I didn’t even miss it. I know, weird. Today, on this dreary gray day, the bright vivid colors were a welcome addition.
Wheat berries are little wonders but they take forever to cook – a good hour. An unattended hour but still, you need to think ahead. Once cooked, they’re nutty, chewy with great texture and flavor. I’ve used them in breads, salads, pilafs and I’m thinking they might make a lovely risotto type dish like farrotto. They’re like farro’s cheaper domestic white trash cousin. The organic berries I used today, didn’t “pop” quite like the ones I’ve purchased in the past but they are still rather tasty. I was pretty pleased with how this salad came out – everything works together beautifully. Good to know what makes sense in my head actually works sometimes.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: WELL…. I wouldn’t say that this one really fits well into my wacky rating scale. It doesn’t really have much of a “bake and release” aspect to it but don’t get me wrong … it’s delicious. It’s rather good for you too – lot of fiber from the wheat berries, all those antioxidants from the sweet potatoes plus beta carotene and vitamins A & C, a good healthy crunch from the red peppers. Share this and folks will scarf it up without realizing it’s one of those “healthy foods”.
ROASTED SWEET POTATO & WHEAT BERRY SALAD
This salad is a great tasty source of fiber and full of antioxidants. Note: in my pictures, you may notice there are no green onions. Fact is, they looked sad at the grocery store so I decided to skip ’em this time. In fact, this salad is rather adaptable. Add or delete whatever you like keeping the proportions the same.
For the salad:
1 cup wheat berries
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 large sweet potato (16 ounces), peeled and cut in ½” dice (3 cups)
½ red onion, peeled and cut in 1” dice (1 cup)
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 clove garlic, minced
4½ Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus additional as needed
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus additional as needed
2 whole green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
½ red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced ½-inch (½ cup)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
for the dressing:
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
pinch of cayenne powder
kosher salt and pepper
¼ cup olive oil
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- For the wheat berries: Place the wheat berries and ½ teaspoon salt in a 2 quart pot and cover by 2″ with water.
- Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 1 hour until tender, adding more water if needed. If they need additional time, cook until tender.
- Turn off burner and let sit, covered, for 5 more minutes then drain and let cool completely.
- For the sweet potatoes: Combine the sweet potato, red onion, corn kernels, 1½ Tablespoons of the olive oil, ½ teaspoon of the salt and ½ teaspoon of the pepper on a foil lined sheet pan large enough to accommodate the vegetables in a single layer.
- Toss to mix thoroughly, distributing the oil and seasoning evenly.
- Roast until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and stir in the chopped garlic; let sit for a few minutes.
- For the dressing: a small bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, cayenne and a pinch each of salt and pepper.
- Slowly whisk in the ¼ cup of olive oil until creamy and emulsified. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- Assemble the salad: Transfer the warm vegetables to a bowl and combine with the wheat berries.
- Add the green onions, bell pepper and parsley and stir to gently combine.
- Add just enough vinaigrette to moisten the salad, and toss gently to coat and mix evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.