Red is Best
by Kathy Humphrey
I love red, and I know that I’m not alone.
When my daughter was relatively tiny she had a tiny book that summed up the sentiment in its title: Red is Best. The protagonist met with challenges in the form of those who doubted her (mainly her mother: deal with it, Freudians), but soldiered on in the name of what she knew to be right. Red helped her to jump higher, step farther, and sleep more happily.
In ancient Egypt, red was the colour of life, signifying victory and strength. Thai tradition gives each day a colour, and everybody has the colour corresponding to their birth day as “theirs.” Red is Sunday’s colour. Maybe my Sunday birthday partially explains my affinity for the colour, but let’s just assume that it’s happier than purple and less typical than blue, and stop there.
Red means vigour, life, and, in February particularly, the rich bright hue means hearts. A healthy heart loves and is loved, and throbs away in its lacy Valentine glory all the same, whether under decorous shirt fronts and sweaters or slightly finger-painted T-shirts.
Heart health, in less fable-esque terms, rather prosaically means eating less of what is sweet and salty and creamy, and more of what is most basic. Eat more vegetables, with much less on them, than you think possible. Eat fruit, whole or cut into pieces instead of drinking a pre-made smoothie or eating canned fruit. Spice up your food with chilies and pepper instead of salting it or spreading it with butter. Buy and prepare whole grain pastas and brown rice, and share whole grain breads and cereals with your family. Cook on non-stick surfaces, to lessen the need for oil and butter. Your family will heart you for it!
Spicy Veg & Noodles
225 grams egg noodles
1 Tbsp sesame oil
3 Tbsp peanut oil (can substitute vegetable oil)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1" piece of fresh ginger root, finely chopped
2 fresh red chilies, seeded and sliced
1 cup chopped fresh broccoli
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
3 green onions, chopped
1 baby bok choy, shredded (can substitute red or green cabbage, shredded)
1 cup bean sprouts
1 - 2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
Cook egg noodles; drain and set aside. Heat oil in a wok or large skillet and stir-fry garlic and ginger for 1 minute. Add chilies and broccoli and stir-fry another 2 minutes. Add green onion, bok choy and bean sprouts. Stir-fry another 2 minutes, then toss in noodles, soy sauce and pepper. Cook over high heat 2 - 3 minutes or until all is well mixed and taste is suitable.
Mediterranean Lentil Salad
1 cup brown or green lentils
4 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 tsp fresh thyme (1/2 tsp dried)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced red or yellow bell pepper
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 rounded tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the lentils. In medium saucepan, bring lentils, water, bay leaves, thyme and garlic to boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 20 minutes, or till tender, stirring occasionally. While lentils simmer, cover sun-dried tomatoes with boiling water in heat-proof bowl and set aside. Combine celery, peppers, onions and parsley in large bowl. In separate bowl, whisk dressing ingredients till smooth. When sun-dried tomatoes have softened, drain and mince them, then add to vegetables. Drain lentils, discard bay leaves. Remove garlic, mash it, then mix back into the lentils. Toss lentils with vegetables and dressing and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve when needed.
Tomato Spinach Chickpea Simmer
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp each dried chili peppers and salt
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (19 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp paprika
1 bag spinach (about 6 cups; can substitute frozen cubes if necessary, according to package instructions)
In large saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, garlic, oregano, dried chili peppers and salt until onion is softened (about 4 minutes). Add tomato paste and fry for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, chickpeas and paprika. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened (about 25 minutes). Meanwhile in skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Sauté spinach until wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir into chickpea mixture.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
2 Tbsp dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch ground coriander seeds
1 cup hot milk
Stir all ingredients to combine. Makes one cup.
Kathy Humphrey lives in Victoria with her husband and two children. She tries to see cooking for a family not as a chore but as a creative outlet.