Sunday, May 19, 2013

True Fast Food

As a kid growing up on the edge of a tiny town in rural Iowa (population 423, if everyone was home), fast food had a much different connotation than it does for most people. The essence of fast food, grabbing something while you’re on the go, isn’t a bad idea. In fact, from the time school let out for the summer until it started up again in the fall, we kids lived on fast food. It just happened to be true food as well.

We snapped off earthy asparagus spears growing in roadside ditches as we sped down the highway on bicycles. We chewed sour rhubarb stems and fanned ourselves with the thick, broad leaves. And for dessert, we sucked the sweetness out of wild honeysuckle. Fast food, indeed. True food, too.

Even if you no longer spend your summer on bicycle adventures as magical as your imagination, you can still enjoy true fast food. Most vegetables and fruits don’t need any preparation beyond washing, and possibly peeling, before they’re eaten. How much faster can you get? Instead of filling your cupboards with bags of chips and cans of soda, fill your fridge (and that pretty bowl on your kitchen table) with carrots, broccoli, apples, pears, cherries, seedless grapes, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and whatever else you find in your neighborhood farmers’ market.

In the Midwest, asparagus is at its prime in May and June. If you’re not ready to just snap off spears of ditch asparagus and eat them raw, you have several quick, easy ways to prepare this vegetable, which is said to be abundant in phytonutrients and prebiotics that are particularly helpful in decreasing inflammation and aiding the digestive tract.

  • Flash boil – Bring a saucepan of cold water to a rolling boil; add asparagus; cook uncovered for 3 minutes; remove asparagus with a slotted spoon. (Freeze the cooking water for a future vegetable broth base.)
  • Steam – Place asparagus in a steamer basket that you’ve put into a saucepan, or place in a microwave safe bowl; add about ¼ cup water; cover and bring to boil; remove from heat; let sit, covered, for 3 minutes or so. (Again, freeze the cooking liquid for a future vegetable broth.)
  • Roast/Grill – Set oven to 350 degrees, or start your grill; Drizzle about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large bowl; Toss asparagus in oil until evenly coated; Place asparagus on cookie sheet or grill basket; Roast or grill for about 10 minutes, turning every 3 minutes or so.
  • Top – If plain veggies are a little too plain for you, grace your asparagus with one more of these tasty toppings: herb salt; lemon pepper, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, crushed lemon balm leaves, or 1 Tablespoon plain yogurt mixed with 1 Tablespoon mayonnaise and 1 teaspoon grated horseradish. Yum!
G-Tube Tip – You may find it easier to blend asparagus into your g-tube meals if the vegetable is boiled or steamed just a bit longer. For a quick g-tube meal (about 250 calories), blend about ½ cup cooked asparagus, ½ cup almond milk (more or less as needed to blend), ½ cup chopped cooked chicken or a scrambled egg, 4 medium button mushrooms, chopped, and 2 Tablespoons ripe avocado. Strain, and enjoy!