One of the easiest and most satisfying ways to eat well and save time and money is the magical "one pot wonder."
This week we move on from soups and stews to other one pot wonders, starting with hash.
Hash is made traditionally of diced or chopped meat, potatoes, and spices that are mixed together and then cooked either alone or with other ingredients such as onions.
Many cultures the world round have some traditional dish that is a variation on this theme, which is not surprising as it is a quintessential "stick-to-your-ribs" comfort food.
Today, we'll make a healthful turkey hash, and a vegetarian version, as part of our celebration of healthful one pot meals.
You can get a copy of all 5 Week Night One Pot recipes free, here.
The foundation of these hash recipes is the humble potato, with added color, flavor, and nutritional goodness from carrots, nutrient-packed kale, and a splash of balsamic vinegar for a rich, unique flavor (and mushrooms and beans for the vegetarian version).
This is an easy meal to make with leftover bits and bobs you may have that need to be used up— so feel free to experiment and try adding other grains (barley?), vegetables (sweet peppers?), beans, leftover chicken, etc. to this adaptable dish.
Use a large, heavy-bottomed fry pan or cook pot to promote even cooking and prevent sticking and burning— avoid the let down of a burnt sticky mess and use a good heavy pan. I use a large cast iron fry pan which works perfectly, but you could use a large non-stick electric skillet, an enameled cast iron 6-quart cook pot, or a heavy-bottomed stainless steel cook pot.
Pay attention to the cooking time of different vegetables and ingredients. For example, carrots are a sturdy vegetable that require a longer cooking time to soften than potatoes. So add the carrots in early on, followed by potatoes later. Also, onions, herbs, and mushrooms are good to start with to develop flavors that will infuse the rest of the dish. Save kale and cooked beans for last, as they are either already tender and cooked (in the case of the beans— you’re just warming them up), or cook very fast (in the case of kale) and you don’t want to over cook them into limp, lifeless, tasteless mush. Steam them at the very end of cooking this recipe just til they are warmed through and the kale is light green and no longer crunchy.
Add the balsamic vinegar right at the end with the kale and/or beans, to flavor the dish. You can also add a bit more directly to each serving to taste, if desired.
Experiment with other vegetables and ingredients: use what you have on hand and what you like, use leftover tidbits, and try new combinations. Use a recipe as a jumping off point and make it your own!
In defense of the humble potato:
Potatoes have stirred up some controversy— with claims that they are unhealthy, dangerous carbs that will skyrocket blood sugar and make us fat and sick.
While potatoes are considered a "starchy" vegetable with the potential to elevate blood sugar compared to less starchy vegetables (such as greens), I think we need to take a step back and take a broader view.
Potatoes have been nourishing humans since the Incas in Peru first cultivated spuds around 8,000 BC to 5,000 B.C.
Spuds are high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, manganese, and resistant starch— which may improve blood sugar control, digestive health, nutrient absorption and satiety (feeling full).
Resistant starch is a type of starch that is not digested and instead can feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Resistant starch has been connected with a number of health benefits, including blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity, reducing food intake (satiety), increasing nutrient absorption, and improving digestive health.
Potatoes are a good source of resistant starch, and those that have been cooked and then chilled contain the highest amounts of it (hello potato salad!).
Potatoes also have antioxidants which can prevent certain types of chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer— with colorful potatoes (purple, red, etc.) having the greatest amounts of antioxidants.
Spuds boast amino acid content that contribute to our sense of well being and calmness— hence their traditional comfort food status.
And these nutritious tubers can help us feel full sooner, thus eating less because we feel satisfied, thanks to their fiber content.
Potatoes' nutrient content can vary depending on the type of potato and cooking method.
A few points to keep in mind:
Smaller potatoes have a greater surface area and more skin, which houses a large portion of a potatoes' nutritious benefits. Eat your potatoes with the skins on, and try to get smaller potato varieties (rather than giant Russets) when possible.
Colorful potatoes (purple, red, yellow) have even more nutrients and antioxidants than modern russets (which are the starchiest of most potatoes). Eat a rainbow of potatoes when you can. These can be found in some grocery stores, as well as farmers markets, and in your own or a neighbor's potato patch. Potatoes are easy to grow- you might want to try your hand at it!
Potatoes, like any other food, that are ultra-processed into junk food (fries, chips, etc.) obviously have health concerns compared to baked, boiled, or otherwise whole and/or home-cooked versions. Healthful potatoes are not french fries, potato chips, or slathered in salt and fat. We're talking here about recognizable whole potatoes, preferably with their skins still on, as this is where much of the valuable nutrients are (and because they're delicious!).
Common sense and research suggest that different people respond differently to a food's glycemic index (a 2016 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that different individuals respond to a food’s glycemic index value in substantially different ways.). Pay attention to how what you eat affects you. Do you feel good when you eat potatoes? Does your blood sugar level spike when you eat them (if you are diabetic and monitoring this)? Do what makes sense for you, but for many of us, enjoying potatoes in moderation is FINE.
So it's important to take into account what kind of potato you eat, eating them in reasonable amounts (as with anything we eat), and how you prepare them. And perhaps we should be more concerned and focused on the ultra-processed foods and chemicals in our diets before stressing over moderate consumption of potatoes.
Eating whole, real foods more of the time is more important than focusing on specific nutrients, individual foods, and combinations.
Not that it's not interesting, fun, or even useful to explore these things sometimes, but overall we need to eat real food, eat more plants, and be reasonable about how much we eat.
Bonus points for cooking and/or eating together, for slowing down when we can and mindfully enjoying our food.
Let's not let nutritionism's focus on individual foods and nutrients distract us from the real issue and goal: to eat in a wholesome way that makes us generally feel good, healthy, and satisfied, and that most eating patterns that involve adding in more plants and whole, real foods rather than ultra processed junk food is more likely to achieve that.
Give one or both of these comforting, satisfying, nourishing meals a try and let me know how it goes! What might you add to make it your own? Enjoy!
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