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Grains & Greens Lunch: Meal Plan

Whole grains* are a staple for many dancers: the complex carbs, fiber and protein combine to give you long-lasting energy. They’re also versatile and can be mixed with all kinds of veggies, greens and beans for a healthy meal.

Today, we’ll combine grains with leafy greens, which is the number one missing food in the American diet. This meal travels well in a Tupperware and is good hot or cold, so I’m putting it in the “lunch” category. Of course, it would also make a yummy dinner…

Recipe: Grains

  • Add a cup (or 2) of rice to a pot of boiling water.
  • Wait for water to boil again, then turn it down to a steady simmer on medium heat and cook until grains are tender.
  • Then strain them in a strainer. (Most grains have cooking directions on the bag/box; if they don’t just google it to double check.)

Recipe: Greens

While the grains are cooking, prepare the greens.

  • Wash and chop the greens (or rip with your hands)
  • For kale and collard greens, add them to a large frying pan that has about 2 cups of boiling water in it. Cover and let cook down for 5 minutes. When greens are still bright green, but reduced, remove from heat and strain.
  • For spinach, add to an inch of boiling water or a bit of olive oil; let wilt. Remove and strain.

**Some suggestions for leafy greens:fresh spinach, kale, collard greens, and Swiss chard. These four are full of calcium, fiber, vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Recipe: Mix

Now you are ready to mix the grains and greens. Keep your proportions 1 part grains to 2 parts greens. Depending on oils and spices, you can make the dish taste any way you like. You’ll not need much oil- just a drizzle. Here are some suggestions:

  • Mediterranean: olive oil, pine nuts (optional), salt and pepper
  • Middle-eastern: sesame oil, sesame seeds (optional), salt and pepper
  • Asian: peanut oil, bit of soy sauce or tamari

And voila! A healthy, hearty meal that will sate your appetite and give back in the form of energy and nutrients. If you prefer more complex tastes, stay tuned for ways to jazz up these simple dishes. However you serve it, this is going to make your body a lot happier than that rice cake you usually eat. I promise.

* Whole grains are grains in their original, unaltered form, like brown rice, farro, or quinoa. Not like white rice or “quick cook” anything.

Tomato and Green Bean Salad

This simple salad is a delicious summer treat, when tomatoes and green beans are fresh and aplenty. Also, when it comes to salads, many of us are stuck on lettuce, which, despite all of its wonderful qualities, can get boring after awhile.

It’s also light and travels well, which is good for in between rehearsals and classes.

In this recipe, quickly blanched green beans take the place of lettuce, and are paired with sweet red tomatoes (cherry, grape, beefsteak or heirloom all work).

Recipe

  • To blanch the beans, drop them into a pot with two inches of boiling water. Leave them until they just turn bright green. Remove from water and drain. Beans should be cooked but still snappy and bright.
  • Chop tomatoes. Use a variety that you like.
  • Toss green beans with finely chopped shallot, fresh basil, olive oil, and lemon juice to taste. (Note: lemon juice will discolor the green beans when stored, so only use as much as you are going to eat. Or, substitute vinegar for the lemon juice.)
  • Grind black pepper over the top and salt to taste.

This salad is even better the second day when it’s had a chance to marinate.

Variations

Once you’ve got this recipe down, you can try some variations on the produce just to make it more interesting. Farmers have been cultivating older varieties of both tomatoes and string beans of late, so you can now find them in interesting colors that can really enliven the look of your meal. Give them a try!

  • Cherry, yellow, orange, or heirloom tomatoes
  • Yellow or purple string beans
  • Shaved parmigiano cheese, small mozzarella balls, or crumbled feta cheese

And of course, it’s good for you! Tomatoes (a fruit) and green beans (a vegetable) are whole foods- unaltered and natural- full of vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Devour with joy!