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One of spring’s plentiful veggies is broccoli and, in my opinion, next to the potato it is the most versatile vegetable available.  Raw or cooked, in casseroles, soups or salads, this veggie is always delicious.  And, broccoli isn’t short on the nutrition.  It’s high in Vitamin C and folate, a good source of dietary fiber and potassium–all great reasons to feel good about making it a regular part of your diet.

 

Need more convincing about just how versatile broccoli is?  Here are just a few easy, yet flavorful ways to enjoy this veggie:

  • In a stir fry
  • As a topping for your baked potato
  • Eaten raw with a low-fat dip
  • Shredded as part of a slaw
  • Added to your pasta with some oil and garlic–top with a little parmesan cheese
  • As a healthy pizza topping
  • Added to your morning omelet
  • Kid friendly–add a little melted cheese and watch your little ones devour it!

 

Broccoli is its own star as well.  I’ve got a few recipes for dishes, which feature this vegetable that are simple to prepare and healthy.  The first is Garlic Parmesan Roasted Broccoli.  Broccoli, garlic, olive oil and parmesan are all you need to make this dish.  Roasting the broccoli at high temps does the trick and you’re done!  This is a great recipe for busy weeknights.

garlic parmesan broccoli
Photo courtesy of Damn Delicious

 

Next, we have a Broccoli Quinoa CasseroleBroccoli is perfect for adding to casseroles since it holds up well when baking.  The quinoa in this recipe is a different twist and adds extra fiber and protein.  I also like that this version uses fresh spinach leaves and pesto, giving it a great Italian flavor.

broccoli quinoa casserole
Photo courtesy of Eat Good 4 Life

 

Finally, broccoli is a great addition to salads.  There are a lot of variations, but I really liked this Asian Broccoli Salad with Peanut Sauce.  Along with the broccoli, it has cooked edamame, green onions, peanuts and sesame seeds.  The sauce is made from peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, honey and sesame oil.

broccoli salad
Photo courtesy of Gimme Some Oven

 

Enjoy these recipes and I’ll be back next week with some healthy dishes for your Passover table.

 

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Every so often there seems to be a new “super food” that is all the rage.  For a while it was kale (one of my personal favorites) and recently it’s been quinoa.  With all this “super food” talk, I decided to create my own super food list.  My criteria?  The foods had to be packed with nutrition, versatile in recipes and, most of all, taste good!  In no order, here are my “super foods:”

 

Cruciferous Vegetables
This category covers a group of veggies that include some of my personal favorites including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage.  Most of these veggies are good sources of fiber, Vitamin C, while being low in calories and fat-free.  They are also very easily worked into recipes (think adding them to a stir fry or using them in a casserole).  Broccoli and cauliflower are also great for snacking raw with a low-fat dip.

broccoli brussels sprouts

 

Citrus Fruits
Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, clementines, tangerines and the Ugli fruit are included in this group.  Citrus fruit is another good source of dietary fiber and is high in Vitamin C.  These fruits can be enjoyed as a snack, thrown in a fruit salad, in a green salad or added to a recipe for a sweet and savory flavor.  Squeeze the fruit to make fresh juice and use lemon and lime juice in your recipes in place of salt for flavor.

clementine grapefruit

 

Green, Leafy Vegetables
This category includes spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, watercress, arugula and lettuces among others.  These veggies are a nutrition powerhouse.  They are packed with fiber, a good source of Vitamins A and C and they provide calcium–something that not many other fruit and veggies do.  Like most other fruit and veggies, they are low in calories, low in sodium and fat-free.  Enjoy these greens shredded in a salad, sautéed with some olive oil and garlic or added to your favorite soup or casserole.

collard_greens kale

 

Berries
Come the summer months, fresh berries are plentiful in my house.  These include strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.  All berries are good sources of fiber and Vitamin C.  They are a great addition to your morning cereal or oatmeal and perfect for snacking.  Try adding them to a salad for a different twist.

blackberries blueberries

 

Beans
While beans are not a fruit or veggie, they are an important part of my diet.  They provide meatless, low-fat meals packed with protein that are both economical and delicious.  Garbanzo beans (chick peas), kidney beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, lima beans, pinto beans and navy beans are a few of the more popular bean varieties.  Beans are fat-free, high in dietary fiber and a good source of folate.  Some varieties are also a good source of potassium.  I substitute beans for meat all the time.  Use them in tacos or enchiladas.  Try them in place of ground beef in your chili.  Try even cutting down on the meat you do use by adding beans to the recipe.  Add beans to a salad or soup (think Minestrone!) …the possibilities are endless.

garbanzo beans kidney beans

 

If you want more nutrition information about any of the fruit or veggies listed in my “super foods” groups, visit the Fruits & Veggies–More Matters Nutrition Database.  There you’ll also find storage and handling info on a wide variety of fruit and veggies, along with helpful video clips that contain prep tips and recipes.

 

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This week, we all have a little luck of the Irish, whether we’re actually of Irish heritage or not.  Since St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow, many of us will be donning our green and preparing traditional Irish fare to celebrate the popular holiday.  Unfortunately, a number of the typical dishes associated with the holiday can use a nutrition makeover.  If you’re watching your diet, I do have good news–there are some very “Irish” meals that are quite healthy and ones you should feel really good about eating, not only on St. Paddy’s Day, but all year round.

 

Cabbage is an Irish food staple (corned beef and cabbage, cabbage rolls, etc.) and this veggie is a wonderful addition to your diet.  It’s fat free, cholesterol free, low in sodium, low in calories and packed with Vitamin C (something many folks don’t know!).  Oh yes, and it’s green (if you’re going with that whole St. Paddy’s Day green theme).  So, the key here is preparation–how you prepare this healthy veggie so it’s delicious without adding unnecessary calories and fat.

 

Let’s start with Easy Caramelized Cabbage and Onions.  A simple side dish that uses onion, olive oil and cabbage.  The key is tossing the cabbage and onions often while they cook to make sure they brown (and not burn).  Season with a little salt and pepper.

Caramelized-Cabbage-and-Onions
Photo courtesy of Sweet C’s Designs

 

Colcannon is a traditional Irish side dish.  Think Irish “comfort food.”  It also includes another Irish food staple–the potato, which is very nutritious.  This recipe calls for adding a bunch of spring onions to the mix, which will add some extra flavor.

colcannon
Photo courtesy of Donal Skehan

 

Cabbage is a versatile veggie–you can add it to soups and stews or shred it into a salad.  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has their Top 10 Ways to enjoy cabbage (check out their recipe for Cabbage Roll Casserole!).

 

Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day and I’ll be back next week with some talk about “super foods.”

 

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If you buy your lunch each day, you know while it’s convenient, it can also become costly.  On average, buying lunch between $5-$7 per day and that’s if you are ordering something to take back to your desk.  Dine at a restaurant and you’re likely to spend somewhere in the range of $15-$18, with tip easily.  Aside from the financial burden buying lunch each day can bring, many times deli-bought sandwiches and salads can have hidden fats and calories you won’t have if you were making the same dish at home.  I’m not saying that every now and then you shouldn’t treat yourself to a lunch out, but why not save some money and eat healthier on a daily basis by bringing your own lunch most days?  I can certainly think of better things to do with all that extra $$ (like a new shoes!).

 

I know most of you are probably envisioning a boring sandwich and bag of pretzels or apple as your go-to lunch.  However, with a little planning your lunch can be something you’ll really look forward to each day and one that will rival anything your local sandwich/salad shop can produce.

 

Do you like Mexican?  Then try this Healthy Burrito.  Just start with a whole wheat tortilla and choose your fillings.  This one uses vegetarian options like kidney beans, cabbage slaw, Greek yogurt, tomatillo salsa and shredded cheddar.  Get creative–maybe you like black beans and rice or maybe you like to spice it up with a few jalapenos.

 

healthy burrito
Photo courtesy of Michelle Buffardi for Food Network

 

Bento boxes have become popular ways to pack lunches.  This Spring Pasta Salad is ideal for the upcoming season with its array of fresh veggies and flavorful feta cheese.  Arrange the salad on a bed of butter lettuce and pack some fruit like the seasonal strawberries shown and you’ve got a satisfying, healthy lunch.

 

Spring Pasta Salad
Photo courtesy of Redbook

 

Ramen noodles …how many times have we been short on time and forced to microwave a container of the sodium-filled cup of those noodles?  And, let’s be honest–at one point in our lives, most of us enjoyed them to some degree even though they have little to no nutrition value.  Here’s some good news–you can actually create your own quick noodle soup that is healthy, without all that sodium.  I’m talking versions that contain REAL ingredients!  How do flavors like Chicken and Dill Instant Noodles or Coconut Curry with Shrimp Instant Noodles sound?  All it takes is a little advance prep and you’ll have an instant soup your co-workers will be craving.

 

Noodle soups
Photo courtesy of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt for Serious Eats

 

Rethink your usual Chicken Salad recipe with this version from Fruits & Veggies–More Matters.  It uses non-fat Greek yogurt as a base and adds in apples, celery and raisins for crunch and sweetness.  Try serving this on a bed of butter lettuce.

 

apple_chicken_salad_500

 

I hope I’ve given you some ideas for brown bag lunches this week.  I find it’s always easier for me to control my portion size and eat healthier when I’ve brought my own lunch from home instead of ordering out when I’m already hungry.  I’ll be back next week with some green menu ideas for your St. Patrick’s day celebration.

 

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March is here and it’s National Celery Month, a reason to cheer!  Many folks think of celery as a veggie that you add to soups, stews or salads–kind of like a supporting role.  However, celery is a star in its own right.  Each serving is low in calories, fat and cholesterol free, a good source of Vitamins A and C, and provides you with dietary fiber.

 

Think about that tasty crunch you get when you add celery to your favorite tuna or chicken salad recipe.  How about sautéing it with some onion as a base for your bread stuffing?  It’s also delicious when added to a stir fry.  Of course an old favorite are celery sticks for snacking.  This low calorie option can be enjoyed alone or with a reduced fat dip.

 

For a snack “upgrade” I’m sharing this recipe from Fruits & Veggies–More Matters for Celery Stuffed with Apricot Blue Cheese Spread.  You’ve probably seen celery stuffed with various spreads (cream cheese, peanut butter, etc.).  This version uses fat-free cream cheese, fat-free yogurt, a bit of blue cheese, dried apricots, dried figs and chopped pecans for its spread.  The end result is a snack that is packed with flavor and only 140 calories per serving!

 

stuffed celery

 

Here is a unique side dish featuring celery that is simple to prepare.  Pan-Cooked Celery with Tomatoes and Parsley uses only five ingredients to create a delicious dish that can be enjoyed alone or served over pasta.  If you love Italian flavors, you’ll love this blend of garlic, olive oil, diced tomatoes and parsley blended together with the steamed celery.

 

celery with tomatoes
Photo courtesy of Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

 

Need more ideas for using celery?  Let Michael Marks, Your Produce Man, show you what you can do in this short video–you might be surprised how versatile this veggie can be!  I’ll be back next week with some ideas for brown bag lunches that will save you money, keep you healthy and taste so good you’ll never want to buy lunch again.

 

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If you’ve enjoyed Belgian endive, it’s probably been in a salad or as part of a vegetable tray.  This pale green, almost white, leafy veggie has a mild flavor and is surprisingly versatile and interesting.  Unlike growing many other greens, the process of growing Belgian endive is quite labor intensive and involves a number of stages.

 

belgian_endive
Belgian endive courtesy of Fruits & Veggies–More Matters

 

The process begins when chicory seeds are sown and allowed to take root.  After the roots are well established, the leaves are harvested and the roots are carefully pulled from the ground.  The endive is then grown in darkness from the cut roots.  The endive must be kept beneath the soil in order to preserve its whiteness (this prevents it from turning bitter).  Only the extreme tips are allowed to emerge and gain the green appearance.

 

As I mentioned, this veggie is versatile in that it’s equally delicious both cooked and raw.  I’ve collected three different ways to prepare Belgian endive and I encourage you to try each one as they will allow you to experience the veggie in very different ways.  To begin, a more common way is this recipe for Quinoa Salad in Endive Cups.  The endive is used as a “scoop” for this healthy salad made of quinoa, asparagus, radishes, pear, poppy seeds, and plenty of herbs and spices.  Think the healthiest “chip and dip” out there and this is the recipe for you.

 

quinoa salad in endive cups
Courtesy of Munchin with Munchkin

 

You may not think of using your oven when preparing Belgian endive, but that’s exactly what you’ll do with this recipe for Honey-Roasted Belgian Endive and Parsnips.  This is a wonderful pairing, with the sweetness of the parsnips and the flavor of the honey-thyme mixture.

 

honey roasted endive and parsnips
Photo courtesy of Martin Brigdale

 

Third, we have a recipe for Pan-Seared Belgian Endive with White Wine Orange Reduction.  This is an elegant dish, perfect for company.  A few crushed pistachios top the dish perfectly.

 

pan seared endive
Photo courtesy of The Fit Kitchen

 

For even more ways to use Belgian endive, Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has their Top 10 Ways (don’t forget the grill!).  I’ll be back next week with some new ways to incorporate celery into your meals.

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