The power of green! And white…
A Greens Glossary
A wide variety of winter greens are at their best in the cold weather season, when chilly temps produce slightly sweeter leaves. Now is the time to dish them up:
Spinach is the sweetest of the dark green leafy vegetables, and easy to add to your diet, simply because it is available almost anywhere. Use spinach on sandwiches and in wraps, instead of lettuce, to increase the phytonutrients and iron in your meals. Add spinach to the bottom of a bowl until it’s half full, then pour steaming hot soup over it. The hot soup will cool, wilting the leaves and making the spinach truly delicious without making it overcooked.
The tender, glossy leaves of chard make it my go-to green for a side dish of braised greens, lightly cooked in olive oil with onion, garlic, salt and pepper. I used to put a bit of sugar in my greens, but you’ll have to see; the cooking will decrease the green’s bitterness and let the sweetness come through. Braised greens are especially refreshing and restorative on a slow Sunday morning, with a slice of whole grain toast. I keep the tough stems for my grandson to use for teething, or for use with cooking like celery in a soup.
Russian red kale is the most tender and mild, while curly kale’s frilly ends make is so pretty in salads, or at least as a garnish on salad bars. Dinosaur kale (also known as Heirloom Tuscan Kale) is the dark green kale most commonly found in the grocery store. I love to lightly braise kale to top brown rice. Then I add hummus, lemon juice and pink pepper, and serve it in my favorite Polish pottery bowls. It’s a perfectly flavor-balanced delicious twist on my standard go-to dinner of rice and beans.
Collards are in the cabbage family, but they don’t form a head. Their tough, strong leaves are excellent for use in wraps or in a smart, updated flavor for your mom’s cabbage rolls. You may need to cut out the tough stem, or preferentially use the tops of the leaves.
I find chicories like Belgian endive, raddichio, Chioggia or Treviso a bit too bitter for my taste, but they sweeten up nicely with roasting. Add them to your roasting pan with a gorgeous squash or a batch of beets to soften the flavor and add a new zingy twist to your roasted veggies.
Cauliflower is one of several vegetables in the species Brassica oleracea, in the family Brassicaceae. It is an annual plant that reproduces by seed. Typically, only the head is eaten, leaving behind the fibrous stems and leaves. Cauliflower heads resemble those in broccoli, which differs by having flower buds, and of course, the characteristic white coloring.
Farmers in my town have been having fun planting some really pretty heirloom varieties of this great cruciferous veggie. While white is the most common color of caluiflower, orange cauliflower (originally from Canada) has 25% more Vitamin A than the white variety. Green cauliflower is sometimes called broccoflower. Available in normal curd shape and also as a variant spiky curd, it’s only been available in the US since the early 1990’s. Purple cauliflower is rich with the antioxidant group anthocyanins, also found in red wine and other purple/blue foods.
When my daughter is cooking cauliflower, she heats up a large frypan, cuts the cauliflower into big steaks, and cooks them in the frying pan. They look really cool this way on a plate alone, and can also be the base for a rice or bean dish that you ladle on top!
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FUN ZUCCHINI FACTS:
The world’s largest zucchini on record was 69 1/2 inches long, and weighed 65 lbs, grown by Bernard Lavery of Plymouth Devon, UK.
The word zucchini comes from ‘zucca’ the Italian word for squash.
I’ll bet you do! In the summer, if you’re lucky enough to live near anyone with a vegetable garden, you’re getting bags of zucchini tucked inside your mailbox or sitting on your porch. It’s also cheap and easy to find at the farmer’s market.
Zucchini is easy to grow, even for even the most challenged vegetable gardener. When I started eating healthier many years ago, I found a recipe for zucchini chocolate chip cookies in Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and successfully hid some there. Here’s my collection of places to put all that inexpensive, versatile zucchini.
Don’t think you have to apologize to your family for sharing the abundance with them. Using your spiralizer or cutting the zucchini into ribbons for “rustic” pasta makes it an excellent replacement for pasta noodles, cutting calories drastically and adding fiber and nutrients.
One cup of zucchini contains only 20 calories, compared to 220 for a cup of spaghetti. One cup of zucchini contains 35% of your daily supply of Vitamin C and a gram of fiber. It’s also a good source of potassium manganese, riboflavin and vitamin B6. Trace fats are balanced well, with more flexible omega-3 fats and less inflammatory omega-6 fats.
Squash and zucchinis have anti-oxidant value (Oxygen radical absorbance capacity- ORAC) of 180 Trolex Equivalents (TE) per 100g, the value which is far below to some of the berries, and vegetables, but much higher than the processed starches they displace in recipes. Nonetheless, the pods are one of the common vegetables included in weight reduction and cholesterol control programs by dieticians.
It’s important to look for dietary sources of vitamin C to continuously replenish this important antioxidant. Here’s why:
Vitamin C is a powerful co-factor in at least eight enzymatic reactions, including several collagen synthesis reactions that are especially important in wound-healing and in preventing bleeding from capillaries. It is also a powerful reducing agent capable of rapidly scavenging a number of reactive oxygen species. Ascorbate may also act as an antioxidant against oxidative stress.
Plants and many animals are able to synthesize vitamin C, through a sequence of enzyme-driven steps, which convert sugars to vitamin C. In reptiles and birds, this process is performed in the kidneys. Humans have lost their ability to make Vitamin C due to a lack the L-gulonolactone oxidase (GULO) enzyme, which is required in the last step of vitamin C synthesis.
Although the body’s maximal store of vitamin C is largely determined by the kidney’s ability to excrete the vitamin, there are many tissues that maintain vitamin C concentrations far higher than in blood. Organs that accumulate over 100 times the level in blood plasma of vitamin C are the adrenal glands, pituitary glands, thymus and retina.
Those with 10 to 50 times the concentration present in blood plasma include the brain, spleen, lung, testicle, lymph nodes, liver, thyroid, small intestinal lining, infection fighting cells, pancreas, kidney, and salivary glands. Concentrations of the antioxidant in these tissues presumably helps protect against aging and breakdown of these metabolically active tissues.
Since the body is exposed to oxidative stress all day long it’s important to provide fresh antioxidants to the system at every meal, to reduce the oxidative stress of routine daily tasks such as breathing, walking, and digesting.
Moderately higher blood levels of vitamin C measured in healthy persons have been found to be prospectively correlated with decreased risk of heart disease and an increase life expectancy. The same study found an inverse relationship between blood vitamin C levels and cancer risk in men, but not in women. An increase in blood level of 20 micromol/L of vitamin C (about 0.35 mg/dL, and representing a theoretical additional one cup of fruit and vegetables per day) was found epidemiologically to reduce the all-cause risk of mortality, four years after measuring it, by about 20%
Here are some great places to put that zucchini!
‘Hidden’ Zucchini Spaghetti
Grate, spiralize or ribbon cut 2 medium zucchini and squeeze out moisture; stir into your favorite healthy store-bought spaghetti sauce as it’s heating. Toss sauce with whole-wheat spaghetti.
Zucchini Pasta Salad
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil; add 1 cup whole-wheat orzo. Cook according to package directions. With 5 minutes remaining, add 1 diced zucchini, 1 cup frozen shelled edamame and 1 cup fresh green beans (cut in 1-inch pieces). Continue cooking, then drain pasta and vegetables. Toss with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.
Zucchini Oven Fries
Slice zucchini into 3-inch-by-1/2-inch sticks. Dip into plain almond milk, then into seasoned breadcrumbs. Place on a baking sheet, spritz with cooking spray and bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, turning zucchini fries after 15 minutes
Zucchini with Pearl Pasta
Sauté diced zucchini (3 medium) in olive oil; toss with cooked pearl pasta (Israeli couscous) or whole-wheat orzo. Add freshly grated Parma cheese (find it at http://www.eatparma.com/) and a small handful of toasted pine nuts (optional).
Zucchini Ribbon Salad
Use a vegetable peeler to shave long, thin strips of zucchini (stop when you reach the seedy inner core). Toss with lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper for a bright-tasting, no-cook salad.
Cheesy Zucchini Rice
Mix shredded zucchini (2 medium) and 1 cup of lowfat nondairy cheese into just-cooked brown rice; the residual heat will steam the squash and melt the cheese, creating a healthy and tasty side dish.
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Posted on by Mary Clifton, MD