Monday, January 16, 2012

#7 of 12 Foods to Eat More of in 2012

7. Cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts

Cruciferous vegetables were named for their flowering petals (I think they're lovely). And I have one word for these veggies: YUM. In fact, if I had to name a favorite non-starchy vegetable, kale would be at the top of the list. Cruciferous vegetables are nutrition powerhouses because they're packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants and fiber. Even better--they're in season during the cold winter months! That means they're some of the cheapest vegetables to buy at the supermarket and at their peak in taste and freshness.

You can incorporate cruciferous veggies into your diet in a variety of easy ways. Here are some examples:

Broccoli: Rinse and trim up the stalks ahead of time and store in the fridge or take a shortcut and buy it in a bag already prepared. Eat it raw dipped in hummus with lunch or for a snack. For dinners, steam it as an easy side dish or toss it in pasta dishes or a stir fry.

Kale: I eat this often saut√©ed as a side dish (see recipe below), but it's also wonderful mixed in smashed potatoes or tossed in soup. Did you know that kale is only 99 cents per bunch at the grocery? Thrifty!

Brussels sprouts: What's better than a dish you can just throw in the oven on a weeknight and ignore? Mix up your family's dinner one night and try roasted Brussels sprouts. Line a cookie sheet with foil. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, toss trimmed and halved sprouts with olive oil and seasonings (my "house" blend is Kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper, garlic and crushed red pepper). Spread in an even layer on the cookie sheet and roast at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes or until tender. Turn once mid-way through cooking time.

Here's my favorite way to prepare kale as a side dish (this method will also work for any of the above):
  • Rinse one stalk of kale leaves and cut the tough "vein" out of the middle. Cut the kale into pieces, approximately 2 to 4-inches or so. (For Brussels sprouts, cut the ends off and cut each sprout in half). Chop up some fresh garlic (you may use garlic powder if you prefer).
  • Pour 1/2 cup water in the bottom of a high-sided skillet, add the veggies, put the lid on and steam on medium heat for 5-10 minutes. Turn every so often so the leaves begin to soften and don't burn. The water should begin to evaporate. 
  • Just when the water is almost gone, remove the lid and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Toss veggies in oil so they're coated. Allow to cook on one side, then flip them around every couple of minutes. 
  • Add garlic, crushed red pepper and a tiny dash of Kosher salt.
  • The veggies are done when some portions are beginning to brown and they have reached desired tenderness.
  • Serves 4.

You'll find out how easy this is once you try it. I cook a ton of my veggies this way (including spinach and green beans too, which is a family favorite)! It's quick for weeknights, makes a lovely side dish for a party and tastes delicious no matter what the occasion. 

Trying to get the kids (or the husband) to warm up to this one a little? Add a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese or shredded Parmesan. Please don't smother in cheese sauce :)