Maybe it’s the wand-like shape of a celery stalk which suggests it is imbued with magical, “negative calorie” powers. Let’s just get this out of the way up front: it’s a myth that you burn more calories digesting celery than are actually in the celery itself. And nutritionally, it’s not really a big standout – there’s a reasonable amount of water and vitamin K in each stalk, but mostly it’s just a fiber delivery system.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy this relative of carrots and parsley for its other merits, like the crunchy texture and clean, distinctive flavor. Those firm green ribs stand up great to all sorts of dips and schmears, making celery a perennial favorite on the veggie-and-dip tray at parties. But there are several other ways to enjoy it, especially in crunchy salads with fruit or other veggies.
The recipe that got this all started for me was a vegan creamy celery soup in the recent issue of Vegetarian Times. But that recipe isn’t yet posted on their site, and I’m not a big fan of copyright infringement, so I can’t share it with you here. I did manage to find a very similar recipe from Pamela Goes Primal, however, linked in the recipe list at the end of this post.
In the month when we celebrate love, Recipe Redux is aiming straight for your heart with chocolate.
Chocolate has a taste that has launched a thousand obsessions. But the cocoa bean – and darker, less processed chocolates – also contains flavanoids that may act as antioxidants, help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow throughout the body, and prevent abnormal blood clotting. It’s no wonder that the culinary dietitians of Recipe Redux would focus on this heart-healthy, tastebud-friendly food for February (which is National Heart Month in the U.S.).
For my contribution, I figured one superfood is great, and two would be even better. So I combined heart-healthy chocolate from local Taza with the spicy-sweet anti-inflammatory root, ginger.
The result: a rich, zesty start to your morning with double chocolate ginger scones:
Fresh off our holiday trip to Texas, I was charged with devising a “fresh start” breakfast recipe for January’s Recipe Redux. Hopelessly Tex-Mex obsessed at that point, and looking for any excuse to douse things in salsa, I trained my sight on eggs Benedict. This was a perfect candidate for a healthifying Redux, what with the sticks of butter involved in the traditional sauce and noticeable absence of anything recently derived from a plant.
But simply omitting the hollandaise and adding salsa doesn’t maintain the creamy, sloppy texture that is a good part of what makes eggs Benedict awesome. Enter the magic ingredient: avocado.
By mixing up these mean, green nutrient machines with some lime and hot sauce, I got a spicy sweet sauce with that desired creamy texture, minus all the saturated fat. Combining the sauce with salsa over poached eggs and corn biscuits, I ended up with Eggs BeneMex, a great Tex-Mex take on the traditional breakfast dish.
Have you heard me extol vegetables’ virtues previously – colon-friendly fiber, blood-pressure-loving potassium – but haven’t yet felt compelled to consistently eat your daily recommended servings? Maybe you’re suffering from Vegetable Nutrition News Fatigue (symptoms include rolling eyes and sighing after repeated exposure to vegetable-related health-benefit messages). If that’s the case, then I clearly need to resort to the heavy artillery: chocolate.
What’s that, you say? Chocolate.
Do I have your attention now? Good, because something else yanked my attention back to the topic of produce-heavy diets: a British study found not eating enough fruits and vegetables is the 2nd greatest modifiable risk for developing cancer in men, and the 5th greatest modifiable risk in women (approximately 40% of overall cancer risk is due to modifiable/lifestyle factors). This news isn’t entirely new, since research has previously linked a lack of dietary produce with risk of many cancers. But the fact that it is second only to tobacco among modifiable risk factors in men startled me, and I realized it was time to step up the vegetable evangelism.
What food blogger – especially one with Obsessive Pun Disorder – wouldn’t love the chance to say they bit off more than they can chew? Thanks (I think?) to Recipe Redux, I had the opportunity to do just that. For November, we Reduxers were charged with using a new whole grain. So I dove right in and tried to modify a recipe I’ve never made before (pan-seared oatmeal) with a grain I’ve never eaten, much less prepared – spelt.
The idea was to modify the sweet breakfast recipe into a savory version that would highlight the richer, mushroom-y flavor of spelt. The result? Well, let’s call it Accidental Spelt Salad, because there were some… structural issues that required a salvage job and a bowl.
I mixed cooked spelt with egg and Dijon mustard and layered it with some Gruyere cheese in the middle. This chilled for about an hour; I then inverted it and cut it into neat little triangles. Alas, here’s where things went south.
We now know that mushrooms are tasty little buggers, adding earthy flavor and filling texture to all kinds of recipes. Nutritional science has also revealed that they are decent sources of B vitamins, copper, and selenium, and a few varieties even boast surprisingly large amounts of vitamin D. But I sometimes wonder, before all that, who first saw a bulbous fuzzy growth atop a pile of decomposing matter and thought, “That belongs in my mouth?”
Maybe we shouldn’t think about that too much, actually; my job of extolling their dietary virtues would become more difficult if we’re fixating on terms like “gilled fungi” or “spore-bearing fruiting body” (thanks, Wikipedia). Instead, let’s focus on melty risotto, savory pancakes, and the recipe that saved my relationship with veggie burgers: pecan mushroom burgers with gorgonzola sauce.
Jacksons Michael and Janet, Gloria Estefan, Public Enemy, and many more that will really date me – there are a lot of musical references that could lead into this week’s theme. But after a week of exams and a new volunteering gig, I’ve got decision fatigue like you wouldn’t believe. Since I couldn’t pick just one, humor me and hum the “beats” related song of your choice while gazing on these:
Are beets musical? No. Good source of vitamins A and C, folate, potassium, and beneficial pigmented phytochemicals betalains and anthocyanins? Yes. Tasty when roasted, boiled, or even grated raw, and especially well-paired with earthy soft cheeses like brie or goat cheese? Oh, heck yes.
Here in the American northeast, it’s that time again – the trees have hints of red and orange peeking out, the mornings are cool enough to warrant a sweater (and gloves, if you’ve got Raynaud’s cadaver hands like me), and many of us are faced with the dilemma of what to do with a big bag of these:
Apples lend themselves to all sorts of sweet fall-season treats, and that’s a popular way to work through the bounty. But there are only so many slices of apple pie, dollops of apple butter, and candied apples people can eat before getting completely. sugared. out.
And the other downside to the dessert-y apple recipes is they typically leave out the phytochemical-rich peels. The entire apple contains a good amount of vitamin C and fiber, but those peels are especially interesting because they contain flavanoids that have potent anti-proliferative and anti-inflammatory properties. While it’s not yet clear if it’s the peel, the interior, or the entire apple that confers these benefits, research has shown that higher apple consumption is associated with decreased risk of some cancers and improved cardiovascular health markers.
So what to do? Try some of the peel-saving, meal-making recipes I’ve listed for this week, including apple pizza with spinach, blue cheese and mustard sauce.
It probably won’t be found on the red carpet anytime soon, but green leafy kale certainly is a food superstar.
And we’re not talking one-hit wonder, either. Kale – a relative of cabbage – boasts a huge amount of vitamin K to help build bones and promote normal blood coagulation. It also contains good amounts of vitamins A, C, iron, and calcium. Carotenoids found in kale are essential for visual function, and some may protect against vision loss associated with aging. It provides fiber and a reasonable amount of protein, and several compounds in kale may be protective against several types of cancer.
The outermost bands of Tropical Storm Bite Me, East Coast (aka Irene) just rolled into our town, bringing a soft, steady rain that portends much worse to come. Although I’m still not 100% sure where our flashlights are (actually, do we even own more than one?), I hope we’ve prepared enough to face the onslaught. My mettle was already tested earlier this week, as I stared down the threat posed by… THIS:
Polenta with beans and goat cheese
I know, you’re thinking the sudden drop in barometric pressure has addled my brain; I’m certainly not suggesting that bowl is anything comparable to Irene. But my point is that this week’s theme ingredient – polenta – does have a reputation for malice. In almost any recipe, you’ll see lots of warnings about bubbling, spurting polenta leaping out of the pot in an attempt to singe your skin. It’s nailed me a couple times when I wasn’t using an adequately long-handled spoon.
But overall, we’ve otherwise maintained a wary but uneventful kitchen relationship. If you need help easing your fears of polenta, the folks at America’s Test Kitchen have a great how-to video. Many recipes call for the pre-cooked polenta you simply cut into slices, anyway, and that’s never tried to maim me. So I feel safe in recommending this week’s worth of corny recipes (which you’ll find after the jump).