Wow, Broccoli…Again

Hi, Apples! Sara here. Mark asked me to write this week’s Smart Fuel column as he is buried in the latest batch of science and medical journals. So, I am here to tell you about the wonderful uses of the mandolin slicer in your steadfast pursuit of healthy meals. Right about now you may be thinking, “Mandolin slicer? That’s not Smart Fuel!” but stick with me. (I follow directions very well, as you can clearly see. This is a habit I have taken great pains to cultivate since childhood. It takes real tenacity to flunk first grade, but I am here to tell you, it can be done.) Thank goodness the Big Apple (Sisson) actually encourages breaking all the rules, or I’d never be able to tell you about the joys of a mandolin slicer!

I personally love cooking and look forward to it (my mother tells me to give it a few years). However, I know that when it comes to meals, convenience and speed are not only preferable for a lot of us, these things are downright necessary. There’s a reason restaurants, fast food joints and the frozen food aisles flourish – we’re busy! So, these meals aren’t doing us any healthy favors, but who has time to wash, peel, pit and slice a bunch of vegetables for some casserole that will take longer to bake than the maturation time of your average Barolo?

Enter the mandolin slicer.

Mark is always extolling the virtues of making vegetables the basis of your diet, and it really is easier than you might think: bagged lettuce, frozen veggies, ready-to-go stir fry mixes. But no family (or boyfriend), no matter how tolerant, is going to put up with three days straight of broccoli florets for dinner when Domino’s is just a phone call away. This is why I love the mandolin slicer. It solves all the usual problems getting in the way of your health and your lean physique: time constraints, boredom, and empty carbs.

Problem 1: Time

The mandolin slicer makes awfully short work of everything from yams to cucumbers to organic chicken sausages. Beets, parsnips, carrots, brussels sprouts and cabbages don’t stand a chance around this simple, old utensil we all have lurking in a drawer somewhere (usually the same one that houses the gravy syringe…ew…and the egg slicer). Here’s what to do: buy a big batch of fresh veggies of all types, wash them up, and slice away. Toss them individually or in various combinations into 1 or 2 quart plastic storage containers and put them in the fridge. You’ve just prepped a week’s worth of tasty meals in about 45 minutes. You can aim for 30, but your pinky fingertip’s curvature may never look the same. Just a warning.

Problem 2: Boredom

Frozen veggies can get a little boring, simply because there’s often not much to choose from (broccoli, spinach, peas, carrots, corn…broccoli, spinach, peas, carrots, corn…sigh). There are often stir-fry blends to be found, and there’s always the old carrot-cauli-broc threesome, but I’ve noticed that oils, sugars and artificial flavorings are frequently added in by the food manufacturers. Keep the mandolin slicer in plain view, and shake up your recipe routines. You can say goodbye to those limp carrots, celery and cucumbers taking up residence in the back of the fridge, because you’ll actually be inspired to use them now.

Problem 3: Empty Carbs

Mandolinated (that’s not really working, is it?) yams make a flavorful, sweet, low-glycemic alternative to potatoes au gratin. What I love about the M-slicer is that it allows you to use vegetables in place of potatoes, bread and other starches. Granted, you won’t be using cucumber slices in place of tortilla chips anytime soon, but yams are satisfying and substantial in all sorts of baked dishes. And long, thin strips of carrots and parsnips work great in place of pasta. I’m not about to eat carrot alfredo, either, but if you can reduce the pasta by half and work in said carrot strips, you’ve got a healthy and reasonably low-carb meal on your hands. Unfortunately, the mandolin slicer is simply no match for pizza, but it can go a long way towards working more vegetables into your diet.

Just watch your pinky.

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