It’s the New Year and just about everyone I know is on some sort of healthy eating regime. Among food bloggers, the “4 Weeks to Your Best Self” plan from Whole Living seems to be pretty popular. So does the Food Lover’s Cleanse from Bon Appetit.

So I am curious.
Are you trying to eat healthy this week? This month? This year? And what exactly does that mean to you?

I am not on any particular healthy eating plan right now. I’m not doing anything new (aside from cutting way back on sweets: I ate far more sugar than I normally do throughout the entire holiday season). I’m not doing anything different because I am happy with how I eat. I feel that I eat healthy. I’ve been eating the way I eat for years…it works for me and I have no complaints about my weight or my health. So there’s really no reason for me to do anything different in terms of the way I eat or the recipes I share just because it’s January.

But maybe how I eat (and the recipes I feature on this blog) don’t mesh with your ideas of healthy.

Sure I advocate eating tons of vegetables, but I’m also big on butter. Maybe you don’t think butter is healthy?

I don’t count calories. Ever. I refuse to post the calorie count for my recipes. Maybe you think you have to count calories to eat healthy?

I eat meat. Not alot, and always grass-fed, but I eat it. Maybe you don’t think eating meat is healthy?

Again, I’d like to know what eating healthy means to you. I have no intention of saying anything negative about your comment if we don’t feel the same way about something. And I ask the same of you…please be respectful. We don’t have to agree on everything.

My blog has the word “healthy” in the title, and while I know what the word means to me, I really want to know what it means to you. Does it mean avoiding processed foods? Refined sugar? Wheat? Dairy? Fat? Does it mean eating everything, but making sure to do so in moderation?

After I get some feedback on this question, maybe I’ll publish a healthy eating FAQ of sorts. The guidelines I follow, and why I follow them. And I’d love to have an ongoing dialogue about healthy eating, because my main goal with this blog has always been to inspire others to eat in a way that benefits their health.

So help me out here: what are your thoughts on healthy eating? What does healthy eating mean to you?

Last January, my main resolution was to eat breakfast each and every day. I am happy to report that I’ve been able to stick to said plan. :)

I posted this ochazuke recipe when I announced the resolution early in 2010; ochazuke with egg is something I still enjoy quite frequently, especially in the winter.

ochazuke

I love this recipe because it’s both nutritious and tasty. Another plus is that if you’ve got leftover brown rice in the refrigerator, you can prepare it in a couple of minutes. Wakame seaweed is something you may not have in your pantry, but believe me: you should. Seaweeds are chock full of minerals and excellent for helping to detoxify the body. If you don’t have the seaweed, though, you could use some shredded kale (or another dark leafy green) and cook it with the shallots.

If the fiber and B-vitamins from the rice and the superfoods profile of the seaweed aren’t enough to talk you into this dish, you’ve also got the anti-oxidant rich green tea, the protein from the egg(s) and all the beneficial compounds in the shallots. Do I need to go on?

While this recipe does make a great savory breakfast, it can, of course, be enjoyed any time of the day. If you don’t eat eggs, you could try this with cooked tempeh or fish (salmon would be great).

ochazuke photo

Feel free to sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds over the ochazuke before serving, as well.

Recipe for Ochazuke with Caramelized Shallots and Fried Egg

Serves 2

Ingredients:

* 1- 1 1/2 cups cooked short-grain brown rice (you could use white rice instead, but it's not as good for you)
* 2 tablespoons dried wakame seaweed rehydrated for a few minutes in 1 cup of very hot green tea (sencha, hojicha or genmaicha are best; matcha is not generally used for ochazuke, but I've used it when I don't have the others)

* 1-2 tablespoons organic coconut oil or olive oil
* 2 shallots, peeled and chopped
* 2-4 eggs, preferably organic and free-range (I use eggs from my backyard chickens)

* coarse sea salt (black lava salt is nice, if you can find it)

Directions:

1. Divide the brown rice into two bowls. Pour the green tea (along with the rehydrated wakame) over the brown rice. Allow to steep while you prepare the shallots and the eggs.

2. Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet. Add the shallots and saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until very soft and brown. Move the shallots over to the edge of the pan. Add a little more oil to the pan if it seems too dry.

3. Crack the eggs into the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the whites are solid. For over-easy eggs, flip and cook for another minute or two on the other side.

4. Top the rice/green tea/seaweed with the cooked eggs and the shallots. Sprinkle with a little sea salt before serving.

More Ochazuke Recipes:

Classic Ochazuke from Eat a Duck I Must
Ochazuke from Roti n Rice
Salmon Ochazuke from Food52

This is a sponsored post written by me for Kitchen Play on behalf of Discover Endive. I received a complimentary box of California endive and I am being compensated for my efforts to promote California Endive; all opinions are 100% mine.

When Casey from Kitchen Play asked me if I’d like to participate in the January 2011 Progressive Party featuring endive, I was thrilled.

Endive is extremely nutritious: it is low in calories, yet high in fiber, B vitamins, vitamin C, copper, potassium, and selenium. Endive’s bitter taste also makes it excellent for digestion: bitter foods stimulate the digestive organs to secrete hydrochloric acid (note that many people who suffer from frequent heartburn and assume they have too much acid actually have a hydrochloric acid deficiency). Bitter foods are particularly useful in aiding the body to digest fats.

I could rave about its health promoting qualities all day, but in all honesty, endive is not something I’ve previously used a great deal in my kitchen. So I was excited to do some research on this vegetable in addition to developing an original recipe with endive as the star.

braised endive

Before we get to the recipe, let’s have a quick lesson on endive (because there seems to be a bit of confusion about the name). Endive is a member of the chicory family. There is a curly lettuce you may know as radicchio or escarole, but it is also sometimes called red or curly endive. It’s a bitter green that’s fairly easy to grow, and is often featured in salads. That’s not the endive we’re focusing on here. The endive that is the subject of this month’s Progressive Party is Belgian endive (aka French endive).

Belgian endive is a slightly unusual plant in that it’s “double grown”: chicory seeds develop into roots, which are harvested and then “forced” under special conditions (no sun/light) indoors until the re-sprouting heads appear. These are cone-shaped and are usually white (although there is also a reddish variety, as well). Belgian endive is not something that is grown in the home garden, and in the United States, it’s only grown commercially by one company: California Vegetable Specialties (the sponsor of this month’s Progressive Party).

Rodger Helwig, a representative for the company, is really passionate about their product. He was sweet enough to speak with me on the phone about Belgian endive a couple of times. Turns out he interviewed for a job at my parents’ restaurant years ago…it is a small world.

braised endive with gremolata

Since most Americans are accustomed to eating Belgian endive raw, Rodger encouraged me to do a cooked preparation. I decided on a braise accomplished with a simple combination of garlic, stock, and wine, and I topped the cooked endive with a garlicky preserved lemon gremolata to give it a salty burst of herbal deliciousness. This braised endive is an easy dish to make: one that’s perfect for your post-holiday efforts to eat healthier, but which does not ask you to compromise one bit when it comes to flavor.

Braised Endive with Preserved Lemon Gremolata

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

For the endive:

5-6 heads California endive, bottoms trimmed off, then sliced in half
coarse sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup stock (vegetable, chicken, or turkey), preferably homemade
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

For the gremolata:

1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1 teaspoon preserved lemon rind, minced (or use freshly grated lemon zest)

Directions:

1. Sprinkle endives with salt and pepper, then arrange cut side down in a suitable baking dish (I used a round dish: you want the endives to fit perfectly in the dish so the braising liquid comes up an inch or so around the endives).
2. In a small bowl, mix together the wine and stock. Pour over the endives. Add the garlic pieces to the baking dish.
3. Cover tightly with foil and bake in a preheated 425 degree F. oven for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat, carefully flip the endives over, and bake for another 30 minutes, uncovered. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
5. Make the gremolata by mixing the minced garlic with the parsley and the preserved lemon rind.
6. Plate the endive and garnish with the gremolata.

oven braised endive

Want to play around with Belgian endive in order to get to know this healthy vegetable better? And want to win some cash? Kitchen Play is holding a contest for anyone who wants to cook this recipe (it’s fine to come up with your own variation, too) or any of the others on this month’s Progressive Party menu. The winner for each course will receive $100, so check out Kitchen Play for the full details, how to enter, and a look at the other recipes for inspiration. You can try one or all of the courses in the January menu, and the contest will run through January 31, 2010.