Friday, August 10, 2012

Healthy Green Couscous


After signing up for the classic childbirth preparedness classes at NYU medical center, they offered a free "Healthy Pregnancy" class. I decided to go, despite knowing it would be mostly obvious information. I figured I'm just not a good book-reader, and I may as well have the facts presented to me in power-point rather than in text. Honestly, the real reason I dragged myself there in the heat wave was to check out everyone else's baby bump and pregnant bodies, so I could compare myself to them covertly. I shamelessly admit it. We're in New York - we're all voyeurs at heart.

As I said, we all knew the information already from our doctors, books and google search. And I decided that despite my minimal weight gain, I looked pretty much like all those other girls around the 5-6 month mark. They gave us some stretches to do, which looked like about 1/20th of what I would do in a session of Rajashree's pregnancy yoga, which I aspire to do frequently. But, once again shamelessly, I admit I've done it about 4 times. And I'm about as likely to do the 5 easy stretches because I'd rather take a nap. Or google stuff on my laptop.

One place I try to minimize shameless indulgence is food. It's been a battle, since the boy in my belly wants chocolate and cookies instead of my usual pickles and popcorn. So I've tried to offset the indulgence with very healthy meals.

One thing I did take from the Healthy Pregnancy class was a question to ask yourself at each meal: "What can I add to this?". It means if you are having a grilled cheese, the answer is "tomatoes". If you are having a spinach salad, the answer might be "avocado or nuts". If you're slicing apples, the answer is "peanut butter". This question is the answer to one of my burning pregnancy-diet questions - how the heck do you manage to eat all those servings from each food group every day? It seems like SO MUCH FOOD! I can't physically eat that much.

And this is the answer: "what can I add to this?" - a little at a time. You want to add fiber, protein, calcium and other vitamins wherever possible, whenever possible. And you can do it a little at a time without much pain. So if you keep a few things on hand with these qualities (nuts, vegetables, cheeses, yogurts, canned beans, berries, nut butters), you can toss them into everything.

When I went to make couscous as a side dish, I asked myself "what can I add to this?". I started with whole-wheat couscous (because anything white is basically empty junk food that will take up space needed for the good stuff). I used vegetable stock instead of water, to add flavor. I added pine nuts for protein and good fat. I added spinach for nutrients, and cooked it in olive oil for more good fat needed for digestion. Besides, the spinach gives the couscous a hint of green, and I think colorful food tastes better!

Healthy Green Couscous
4 servings

2-1/2 C fresh spinach
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper
1 C vegetable stock
1 C whole wheat couscous
1/4 C toasted pine nuts

1. In a deep skillet, sauté spinach in olive oil until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

2. In a blender, purée spinach with vegetable stock. Pour into a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.

3. Add couscous to stock, stir, cover, and reduce heat to simmer for 2 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from heat and set at least 5 minutes. 

5. Fluff with a fork and add pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


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