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.
For me, things like kale, sweet potatoes, Greek yogurt, spinach, nut butters, beans, and carrots are always top of mind. They get scribbled onto our grocery list week in and week out, and their absence in the fridge or pantry is immediately noticed. But on the other end of the spectrum is a food that rarely emerges from the recesses of my edible memory, one that when I stumble upon a recipe using it, I honestly think, “Oh, right, people eat that.”
Cauliflower doesn’t really deserve the wallflower treatment – inside those nubbly white florets are the nutrients common to the cruciferous vegetable family to which it belongs. Plants in this family are rich in sulphoraphanes (or in cauliflower’s case, precursor glucosinolates), which are associated with a lower risk of many cancers. But what finally snapped my neck in cauliflower’s direction was not the nutrition nerdery, but a simple roasted cauliflower soup:
Thick, earthy, and crunchy with the hazelnut topping, this soup from Sprouted Kitchen was all that. The mushroom-y flavor makes no sense (because there are none in there), but it is fantastic. The leftovers were nearly turned into a 10:00 am lunch, I was so eager to dive back in.
There’s some sort of sporting thing going on this weekend, right? Big national cricket competition, or a curling match or something? If you’re reading the Internet Foodosphere, you can easily be excused for forgetting what the actual game is; here, the food rules the track and field. Potato skins, wings, chili, HUT! So let’s all don our lacrosse helmets and join the fray, with a week’s worth of salsa recipes with a twist.
Sweet potato salsa from Running to the Kitchen
Why not conventional salsa? It’s not for a lack of appreciation – I personally go through at least one 16-oz jar of salsa every week. I put it on quesadillas and eat it with chips, sure, but I also put it on salads, in sandwiches, and in my mouth directly from the jar (Tim still looks incredulous when he sees me do this). It’s mostly about taste, but my inner nutrition nerd also loves this stuff: salsa is an easy way to add to your veggie (and often fruit) intake for the day, with relatively few calories and a good hit of flavor.
Cucumber avocado salsa from Weelicious
But you don’t need me to give you recipes for that – it’s easy to grab some really tasty typical salsa from the store. Anything farther afield, however, is rarely in the ready-made aisle. So we’re going to have to sharpen our knives and roll up our sleeves to try some variations on the salsa theme. I don’t have any recipes of my own to share, despite my unabashed love of salsa paired with anything else edible. Thankfully, there are plenty of novel salsa recipes from other folks on Teh Internets, so here’s your week’s worth of the super scoopable stuff:
- Feta salsa from Smitten Kitchen (here)
- Black bean salsa with heirloom tomatoes and pear from Tonya Staab (here)
- Mango strawberry salsa from Allrecipes (here)
- Grilled peppery mushroom salsa from Epicurious (here)
- Apple walnut salsa from Allrecipes (here)
- Cucumber avocado salsa with mint from Weelicious (here)
- Sweet potato blackberry salsa from Running to the Kitchen (here)
And let’s go team!
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.
Thanks to a recent biochemistry exam, I am way too familiar with hemoglobin’s pH-dependent binding of oxygen, proteolytic cleavage as a regulatory mechanism for chymotrypsin, and a bunch of hooha about glycosidic linkages in polysaccharides. So as a break for the ol’ brain, let’s veer over to some unfamiliar territory with another installment of Hello, Stranger.
To the first and second lists of foods I’ve never eaten and/or prepared myself, we’re going to add just three: fresh figs, fish sauce, and chayote squash. “That’s not a week’s worth of strange foods,” one says, to which I reply: BIOCHEMISTRY EXAM, remember?! To make up for it, I’ve found a week’s worth of recipes that use these three ingredients, so there are multiple ways to try out something new.
In October, pumpkins seem to have just two (and very different) jobs: scaring passersby with gaping, candle-light sneers and cajoling us with their sweetness inside a pie crust. But since we apparently produce an astounding 1.5 billion pounds of these big orange squash every year in the United States, one has to wonder if there aren’t a few more things we can do with them.
The foodie dietitians of Recipe Redux have certainly answered that question, with over 30 recipes for fresh pumpkin. This month’s Redux recipes include so many inventive uses for pumpkin – muffins, soups, risotto, stuffing, sliders, pizza, smoothies – that you could be well into November before trying my contribution, pumpkin yogurt dip for waffle sticks:
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.
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.