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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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Recently, Today’s Dietitian magazine conducted a survey of more than 500 dietitians and found that seeds and nuts are rated as one of 2015′s top “superfoods.”  It’s not surprising when you consider their nutrition value and versatility.  Nuts contain protein, fiber and heart-healthy fats.  They also contain several vitamins and minerals like Vitamin E, Vitamin B1 (thiamin), manganese, magnesium, copper and phosphorous, among others.

 

There are several different popular varieties of nuts to try, each with their own distinct flavor and each has nutrition benefits.  It might surprise you to learn that one of the most popular nuts isn’t a nut at all–the peanut is actually a legume, more closely related to beans and lentils.  Other popular nut varieties include:

  • Almonds
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Cashews
  • Chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts (Filberts)
  • Macadamias
  • Pecans
  • Pine Nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Sunflower Kernels
  • Walnuts

pistachio nuts
Pistachios courtesy of Fruits & Veggies–More Matters

 

Nuts are great for snacking and wonderful for adding to baked goods, but don’t stop there!  Remember that these pack a powerful nutrition “punch,” so add them to other recipes as well.  A few ideas to consider:

  • Add chopped nuts to cold or hot cereal.
  • Sprinkle nuts as a topping to your salad in place of another topping like croutons or bacon bits.
  • Add a little crunch to your applesauce.
  • Mix some chopped nuts into your bread crumbs the next time you are making a chicken or fish cutlet dish that calls for a bread crumb topping.
  •  Yogurt + nuts and fruit are a delicious combo.
  • Try adding some chopped nuts to roasted veggies like Brussels sprouts.
 

Here are two healthy recipes I’ve included you’ll definitely want to try.  The first is Kale Salad with Warm Cranberry Vinaigrette.  This salad is chock full of goodness and so simple to make!  Shallots and garlic are sautéed in a bit of olive oil until tender before adding cranberries, red wine vinegar, honey and lemon juice.  In the meantime, fresh kale leaves are massaged with a bit more olive oil and a pinch of salt until tender before topped with the sautéed fruit and veggie mixture.  Mix the salad to coat and top with slivered almonds.

 

kale salad with cranberries and almonds
Photo courtesy of Gimme Some Oven

 

I mentioned adding nuts to side veggie dishes and this recipe for Honey Roasted Cauliflower with Pine Nuts and Crispy Sage is a perfect example.  This delicious dish is easy to prepare.  Separate the cauliflower into florets and place into a bowl with a quarter cup of fresh, whole sage leaves and a quarter cup of pine nuts.  In another container make a dressing of olive oil, honey, garlic and salt.  You’ll bake this dish at 400 degrees for about 30-35 minutes, stirring once.

 

roasted cauliflower with pine nuts
Photo courtesy of Food For My Family

 

Visit the Fruits & Veggies–More Matters Nut Nutrition Database for detailed information on each nut variety, how to select and store nuts and even more ways to enjoy them.  I’ll be back next week with a closer look at Belgian endive–its nutrition benefits and some ways to add it to your diet.

 

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