My mother tends to chuckle when I speak about my rookie vegetable garden like I’m traveling down a path unexplored by those before me. Truth is, people have been gardening and growing their own food since the beginning of time. I can still remember being a child and the taste of my mom’s lettuce fresh from her garden. The distinct flavour and crispness of it in my sandwich, and the unique feeling of harvesting and then eating something from my own backyard was and still is very rewarding.
However, if you’re like me, then busy days managing a busy family and job, along with long commutes often makes the convenience of prepared food – whether it’s from a restaurant, fast food outlet or a prepackaged product – is very tempting. My biggest motivator when I started my garden was to gain control of the nutritional value that my children were consuming. I acknowledged that just because I was feeding them, this didn’t necessarily mean I was nourishing them with enough knowledge of, and appreciation for food and healthy eating.
I recently had the chance to read Michelle Obama’s American Grown. The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America. The book is both beautiful and inspiring. While the First Lady’s ambitions for her garden are much grander than yours and mine (she hopes to inspire a healthy nation – I hope to feed my family better), she discusses why she was inspired to introduce her family to a healthier lifestyle. She says:
“I thought my husband and I were doing everything we could do to give our daughters every opportunity in their lives. We read to them and made sure they did their homework. We signed them up for sports, music lessons, and dance classes. But after talking to their doctor, I realized that we weren’t giving them one of the most fundamental advantages they could have; a truly healthy lifestyle”.
Who knew that the First Lady and I could have so much in common! I kid, however what she says does highlight that just like sports and music – nutrition is learned, and we can greatly influence the health of our family by what we decide to grow and cook together. Obama’s book tells the story of the White House Kitchen Garden, and the nationwide initiatives that have come from it. It gives practical gardening advice on a seasonal basis, and for those of you interested in community gardening initiatives, the book travels through the United States highlighting urban and rural gardening programs across the country.
I must confess that as a Chatelaine Kitchen girl, the first thing I did was flip to the back of the book to browse through the recipes. It’s not everyday I get to try a recipe developed by a White House chef! Since green beans are on my list of things to get my children to eat more of, I decided to try Chef Cris’s green beans with almonds. I prepared the dish, and told my family we were eating like the President of the United States that night…so it was obviously a hit! There are many delicious recipes that I am going to try, but in the meantime, here is a great salad recipe for you:
Chef Cris’s green beans with almonds
11/2 lbs fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
1 cup slivered almonds
1 tsp melted butter
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 shallots, minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the green beans for about 5 minutes. Drain and place the beans in a large bowl of ice water to cool quickly. Drain again and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350F . On a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil, toss the almonds with the melted butter and paprika.Spread in a single layer and bake for 7 minutes, or just until fragrant. Do not let the almonds burn. Remove from the oven and set aide.
3. In a medium pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and butter. Add the shallots and saute for 2 to 3 min. Add the green beans and saute until warmed through. Remove from heat and add the parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Place the beans in a serving dish and garnish with the toasted almonds. Serve immediately.
Originally published June 30, 2012.
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