How to make healthy choices every day

Meatless Mondays with Martha Stewart! Spaghetti with Sweet Potatoes & Garlicky Kale

It sure has been tough keeping this one a secret, but I’ve been asked to write the inaugural article for Martha Stewart’s Whole Living online magazine’s new Meatless Mondays blog! Whew! Did you follow that? Translation: awesome. We’re talking about me (me!?) contributing to a domestic empire that undoubtedly shaped my young life. How else can you explain my obsession for herb gardening, or pickling, or hand-crocheting my own lace doilies? It’s all Martha’s fault for sure. And now I’m officially joining the club.

First, let give you the low down on Meatless Mondays, because it really is a rad idea. In 2003 Meatless Monday was created as public health awareness program to help Americans reduce their risk of preventable disease by cutting back saturated fat. Now, it’s touted as a way not only to better one’s health, but also better the health of the planet. According to the Bloomberg Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, if all Americans skipped their daily 8 ounces of meat just one day per week, we could save more emissions over the course of a year than if we gave up traveling by cars, trains, planes, and ships combined. Imagine that! Even though you’ll never catch me preaching about vegetarianism, I will say that by cutting back on meat consumption, even once a week, you are making a huge difference inside your bod and outside in the world.
You can read more about the history of Meatless Mondays here.

So, back to me. Heh. Not only do I have the esteemed privilege of writing the debut article for Meatless Mondays, I will be contributing a monthly piece with original recipes, helpful and healthful information, and everyone’s favorite…food porn. Yay! I’ll make a note of it here on My New Roots so you don’t miss a single Meatless Monday, but you should check out Whole Living Magazine online in the interim. It is so crazy-packed with solid health info, recipe ideas, fitness plans, stress reduction tips and detox advice…the list is endless! I guess I wouldn’t be bragging so much if it weren’t something very special indeed.

Wow! Meatless Mondays, here we come! I must say that it is a huge honor to be a part of the new Meatless Monday blog here at Whole Living, let alone kick things off. I’ve been playing in the kitchen to come up with fast, delicious vegetarian delights for all (and getting to devour the results is not so bad!). Cutting back on meat consumption is not only a smart idea for our health, but also the health of the planet. It’s exciting to join this movement and I hope you’ll jump on the bandwagon!

To start things off, I whipped up a quick pasta dish that is packed with flavor and nutrition. It combines the velvety textures of sweet potatoes and tomatoes with garlicky kale—true comfort food that you can feel good about eating.

A word on pasta… Healthier pastas are everywhere now. You can probably find several varieties made with all sorts of different grains at your local grocery store. Beyond whole wheat, look for spelt, multigrain, or gluten-free varieties made with quinoa or brown rice.

I was skeptical myself when making the switch from regular pasta, but surprisingly, I really love the fuller taste and texture that comes from the higher fiber content. And as a bonus, any type of pasta you choose that is not made from refined flour alone will satisfy you sooner (translation: you’ll eat less!) and provide you with more of the phytonutrients, vitamins, and trace minerals you need to maintain good health.

Kale: Packs more nutritional punch per calorie than almost any other food on the planet. Seriously. It is crazy-loaded with vitamin K, an essential vitamin for preventing bone fractures, postmenopausal bone loss, calcification of your arteries, and it has even been shown to protect against liver and prostate cancer.

Sweet potatoes: An excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and a very good source of vitamin C, two powerful antioxidants that eliminate free radicals in the body. Sweet indeed.

Tomatoes: Contain high concentrations of lycopene, an antioxidant that has been touted for its ability to prevent heart disease and cancer. Consume tomatoes and tomato products with healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocado, or nuts in order for your body to absorb the phytonutrient. We’ve got two out of three in this recipe!

Garlic: Has very powerful anti-bacterial and anti-microbial compounds that annihilate just about any nasty bug that’s decided to set up camp in your body. Also a very good source of immunity-boosting vitamin C (perfect for this time of year when we could all use a little help fighting off colds and flu).

Spaghetti with Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes, and Garlicky Kale
Serves 4

Sea salt
1 small bunch kale, stems removed and chopped (about 8 to 10 stalks)
1 large sweet potato, cubed (about 3 cups, skin on)
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
6 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz fiber-rich spaghetti, such as whole wheat, spelt, quinoa, or brown rice pasta
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
Juice of ½ lemon
Red pepper flakes, to taste

1. Put a pot of well-salted water on to boil.

2. Prepare all veggies for cooking.

3. Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot.

4. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, add oil, a few pinches of sea salt and sweet potatoes. Cook, uncovered, without stirring, 5 minutes. Toss potatoes once, cover skillet with lid, and cook 5 minutes more .

5. Add garlic, kale, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes. Crush a few tomatoes on the bottom of the skillet so that their juices are released (this will help steam the kale). Cook just until the kale has wilted and turns bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. (Do not overcook!) Remove from heat. Squeeze lemon juice over the vegetables. (Bonus: Lemon juice’s vitamin C helps your body absorb the iron from the kale.)

6. Toss cooked pasta with olive oil. Add sautéed vegetables and pine nuts and toss. Season with sea salt to taste. Serve immediately.

I hope that you all love this pasta dish as much as I do; even my carnivorous father came back for seconds! I couldn’t believe it. I am really looking forward to all the Meatless Monday recipes that are coming our way!

Let’s keep spreading the word about all these healthy initiatives. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, even people you don’t like very much because, well, we all deserve to be healthier, don’t we? Meatless Mondays. Let’s do it.

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