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.
Teh internets, how I love them. This vast series of tubes and trolls allows one to idly hunt around and find things like deer head costumes, vegetarian zombie shirts, and fascinating details about the food we eat. Today, for example, I discovered that there are wild species of pistachio plants whose nuts have a soft shell and what is described as “a strong flavor of turpentine.”
Thankfully, those are not the plants from which the sweet, semi-crunchy pistachios we buy at the store originate.
These green guys come from pistachia vera trees, and if you’ve got long, hot, dry summers and short, mild winters in your area, you could even grown your own. But if you lack a green thumb (or desert climate) and still want a decent shot of potassium, fiber, antioxidants and healthier unsaturated fats, pick up some pistachios and give this week’s recipe collection a whirl (after the jump).
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.
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.
Who would have thought that a bulbous shape clad in shiny purple skin represents the cutting edge in radar-evading design?
Most weeks, I’ve told Tim (Mr Eating The Week) what theme I’m cooking up (get it?) for an upcoming blog post. But somewhere in the middle of coordinating babysitters, visiting friends for dinner, and our increasingly complicated workout schedules, I forgot to mention that eggplant (aka aubergine) would make repeated appearances on this week’s menu.
There’s no ulterior motive, like trying to fool Tim into eating something he doesn’t like. I promise he’s a fan of the purple beauties – after all, he planted the ones that recently ripened in our vegetable garden.
It may have all started with this weekend’s episode of This American Life. See, I caught that episode – centered on stories of infidelity, cheating, being unfaithful – while running errands on Saturday and barely 6 hours later, found myself in a similar quagmire. Now, I had every intention of staying true to my avocado vows for this week, extolling their virtues as healthy-fat-packed fruits. When I said, “For Vitamin K, folate and fiber richer,” I meant it.
I certainly planned to talk up my recipe for a quick, fresh, avocado and kiwi sandwich:
And this breakfast salad – which pairs avocado, tomatoes, basil and prosciutto, then tops them off with a fried egg – from Seasoned to Taste is so good, I could have devoted a whole post to it:
But those couldn’t hold a candle to a brand new infatuation. I’ve gone wildly off track, abandoning my responsibilities and caving in to seduction. How did it happen? Well, this walked into my kitchen:
If that title made you worry that I’m going to bore you to death with more off-topic running/marathon nonsense, relax. This week’s speed isn’t happening at the track but in the kitchen, with a trial of seven recipes from Cooking Light’s Superfast collection.
I tried this before and found it was a fun way to explore new dishes and learn some quick-prep tips. So when Cooking Light (via Facebook and Twitter) put out the call for Superfast fans to potentially be featured in the magazine, I grabbed my pretend stopwatch (iPhone app) and got cooking.
In the spirit of Superfast, no rambling musing over each dish this week – just seven quick reports on time spent, changes made, and tastiness achieved.
The trees in our area are still naked sticks, but I’m thinking leaves this week. A while back, I read what Michael Pollan had to say about the nutritional effects of our shift from eating mostly leaves to eating mostly seeds. I can’t remember which of his books this was in – either Omnivore’s Dilemma or In Defense of Food – but you can read it here (scroll down to “From Leaves to Seeds”). Pollan talks about how compared with leafy foods, seeds (grains) supply much more omega-6 fatty acids and far less omega-3s. The same goes for meats from animals who eat grain-based feed instead of grass-based.
We need both types, but as with most things, it comes down to balance. These frenemy fats compete for the same enzymes in our body: too much of one (omega-6) can mean it is harder to convert shorter versions of the other (omega-3s like ALA) into the longer types (omega-3s DHA and EPA) our body likes to use. Researchers postulate that the low omega-3 content of the modern diet is one contributor to increased risk of several chronic diseases, and that we’d benefit from moving back to a diet with an omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio more like 3:1 or 2:1. (See Healthy Kids Healthy Families for more detail).
Chard with pine nuts and raisins (alongside a good source of omega-3s, salmon)
Although the Battle of the Fats also relates to what our meat eats, I’d like to focus on the many reasons to get more leaves directly into your diet. They’re full of nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals. Leafy foods are generally low on calories, so they add lots of volume to your food without adding it to your waistline at the same time. And there are so many options and preparations from which to chose, you can easily get the mild or robust, bitter or sweet, crunchy or smooth, main or side that you’re looking for. For example, look at the variety in this leafy early-spring bounty from my parents’ garden:
The whole seasonal eating thing is fairly new to me, so this week’s wintry theme had me floundering at first. Not that I don’t understand the benefits of eating seasonally – especially how local, fresh-from-the-farm food generally boasts a higher nutrient content than food that has spent time in shipment from different climes half a world away. But I live in New England and come February, it seems like a bowl of snow covered in chocolate sauce is the best we can do for “winter seasonal.”
I’ve read about people in climates like ours gardening vegetables well into the early winter, but haven’t tried that yet myself. And I’m not lucky enough to live – like some Texans I know – in a climate where new vegetable crops are ready in January:
My parents' garden in Austin... in January
In need of some inspiration and guidance, I headed to Somerville’s winter farmers market at the Armory (Saturdays 10am-2pm through March 26; on Facebook). And hoo boy, did that place deliver: tons of produce from multiple farms; fresh-baked goods from local bakeries; fresh seafood; meat from Stillman’s Farm (aka our meat CSA farm); wines and plenty of other things. I started small and brought home a handful of things:
I picked up a parsnip and watermelon turnip from Winter Moon Farm in Hadley, MA (I couldn’t find a direct link for the farm, but did find this). The arugula & greens mix, celeriac and rutabaga were from Enterprise Farm – some from their own Whately, MA fields and some from their partner Sister Moon Farm in Florida. And I got a ½ peck of apples (mixed varieties) from Apex Orchards in Shelburne, MA. (There are pictures of the farms’ market stands on flickr.)