Balance: It’s Not Just a Clever Name for Margarine

October 21, 2010 at 5:37 pm Leave a comment

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An aesthetically pleasing integration of elements.”  That’s Merriam Webster’s Definition Number Six-A for the term “balance.”  Number Five-B reads, “Equipoise between contrasting, opposing, or interacting elements.”  As I take my midday walk, I ponder how God’s nature offers up stunning examples of both definitions:  the nip of the chill autumn air against my cheek vs. the rich warmth of the seasonal colors enveloping me;  the bright pumpkin orange that pops up in farm fields, on doorsteps, and in countless harvest-time displays, countering the beige blandness of spent garden foliage. 

And then there is the more practical definition Number Three, “A counterbalancing force or influence,” as in the invigorating effect of fall crispness that causes us to step livelier, to really throw ourselves into those raking and bagging chores, but which also blesses us with the perfect conditions for a good, sound sleep at the end of our day’s efforts. 

This thought trail leads me to the deduction that good health is one of the natural world’s most profound examples of physical equilibrium, and that maintaining it presents some special challenges as the air turns cold and allergens like ragweed, mold, and dust mites join forces with flu and cold germs to begin their annual assault on our immune systems. 

Apples, oranges, pears; fiber-rich oatmeal, barley, and beans; yogurt, tea, pumpkin seeds; beef, selenium-rich pork, sweet potatoes; a 45-minute walk, a positive outlook, and that good night’s sleep.  These are all helpful wellness-promoting weapons to stow in your personal immunity-boosting arsenal.

As far as diet goes, a little research brought up some enticing cool-weather combinations to make stoking the immune system’s engine seem more like comfort than cure.  Some people tweet, I tweak – recipes, that is, to suit my goals of low-fat, high fiber, nutritionally dense fare, which I now offer to you.  May you find each to be “an aesthetically pleasing integration of elements.” 

For starters, Sweet Potato Soup With Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and a warm loaf of Date-Studded Honey Oat Quick Bread.   For the main course, Ginger and Orange Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Warm Apple and Lentil Salad.  And with so many naturally sweet ingredients worked into the menu, no dessert required.  Just a cup of steaming hot green tea to lock up that immune-defense storehouse of yours. 

For the Sweet Potato Soup

2 tsp olive oil                      ¼ C minced shallot                             1/2 tsp cumin

½ tsp coriander                2 C peeled, cubed sweet potato      2 C chicken broth

¼ C evap skim milk          ¼ C plain yogurt                                   toasted pumpkin seeds

Heat oil over medium-low and add chopped shallot along with spices.  Cook for about ten minutes, stirring.  Add sweet potato and chicken broth, bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes to fully cook potato to pureeing consistency.  Stir in milk and yogurt.  Cool mixture and then place in a blender to puree well until silky smooth.  If you have an immersion mixer, you can proceed immediately and work right in the soup pot.  Chop the pumpkin seeds coarsely and sprinkle a few pinches on each bowl before serving.

The Honey Oat Quick Bread is adapted from Eating Well magazine, and calls for: 

2 TB plus 1 C old-fashioned rolled oats                 1-1/3 C whole-wheat flour

1 C all-purpose flour                                                      2-1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda                                                        1-1/4 tsp salt

8 ounces plain yogurt                                                    1 large egg

1/4 C canola oil                                                                 1/4 C honey

3/4 C nonfat milk                                                              3/4 C finely chopped dates

Crush the 2 TB of oats in your palm and sprinkle them onto bottom and sides of a 9”x5” loaf pan, well-coated with canola oil spray.  Preheat oven to 375°. 

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In separate bowl beat the yogurt, egg, oil, and honey until well blended and then beat in the milk.   Toss the chopped dates with the remaining 1 cup of oatmeal and gently stir the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture alternately with the oatmeal/date mixture just until thoroughly combined

Spread batter evenly into pan, dust top with a sprinkling of raw oats, if desired, and bake 40–50 minutes or until it tests done with a toothpick.  The top will be cracked and browned.  Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, remove loaf from pan and cool another 30 minutes.  Slice and serve while still slightly warm. 

The Pork Tenderloin recipe is an amalgam of my own and other approaches, with some orange juice worked in for the vitamin C benefit.  You could use the same recipe for bone-in pork chops, if – like my husband – you prefer them: 

1-1/2 # pork tenderloin                                              salt and pepper to taste

3 cloves minced garlic                                                3 tsp minced ginger root

¼ C chicken broth                                                        ¼ C orange juice

¼ C red wine (Merlot, perhaps)                              ¼ C white wine (Chablis, perhaps)

3 TB soy sauce                                                                1 large, seedless orange, peeled 

Pat the tenderloin dry with paper towels and rub salt and pepper into the surface.  Whisk next 7 ingredients together (use a half-cup of sherry in place of the wines if you prefer) in a sealable container and add tenderloin, rolling to coat.  Refrigerate for up to 24 hours, turning meat often.  Let pork come to room temperature, place in a roasting pan, pour marinade over all, and add orange sections to surrounding liquid.  Roast at 450° for 40 minutes, or until meat thermometer registers 160°.  (I did the pork chop version 30 minutes at 350 and 30 minutes at 250.)  Ladle sauce over meat after carving. 

And based on a lovely recipe I found at, the hearty, satisfying Warm Apple and Lentil Salad: 

3 shallots, coarse-chopped                                         ½ tsp rosemary

¼ tsp garlic powder                                                       salt and pepper to taste

1-1/2 C cooked lentils                                                   1 large, firm apple, coarse-chopped

2 large stalks celery, coarse-chopped                    ¾ C chicken broth

1 TB red wine vinegar                                                     1 tsp dry mustard 

Spray a nonstick skillet generously with canola oil spray and then heat over medium-low heat.  Add shallots, rosemary, garlic powder, salt, pepper, apple, and celery, stirring frequently, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until apple and shallots have softened.  Stir in lentils, broth, vinegar, and mustard, and bring to a simmer.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes.  Serve warm. 

Now, as a final dose of preventative medicine, research suggests that we should lighten up, make time for friends, avoid second-hand smoke and overuse of antibiotics, and be sure to carry our own pens to avoid germ-transfer in banks and stores.  At least I got the pen thing mastered; “lightening up” and “making time” may have to be designated as major winter projects.  And that could bring us right back to the concept of balance, as in how to introduce some into our hectic lives.

Entry filed under: Musings of a Midwestern Foodie. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Momisms and Popisms: Stuff Other People’s Parents Told Them On Viewing Life in Technicolor: You learn something every day, it is said. Sometimes it’s a bit of trivia; sometimes it’s a philosophy-altering revelation.

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

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