This is my set up for breakfast (when kids sleep late, so yeah, not that often.) You could always get the ingredients ready beforehand and have them available. Either way,  just chop it all up and heat up a pan and you are ready to go.

Here are my ingredients:

Garlic

Onions

Chives

Fresh thyme, basil

Peppers

Shiitake mushrooms

Asparagus

2 eggs

Cooking spray

Hot sauce (optional)

  
Just sauté the veggies, mushrooms last. From here you can set aside and make an omelette or frittata or a scramble.

I opted to just do a little “Egyptian egg” (or whatever you guys call it) action.

If you cook the egg just right, it’s soooo creamy, you won’t miss the butter and cream cheese.

  
 

The shiitake mushrooms I recently purchased at Fairway market inspired me to dust off my wok tonight. The mushrooms always look so eager to become part of a stir-fry or some such recipe, I can’t resist them.

I also happened to have the holy trinity of peppers (red, yellow and orange) on hand and this happy event obliged me to make a colorful, tasty dish.

Using the mandoline helped make quick work of slicing the vegetables (the thinnest setting makes the peppers almost noodle-like in their shape.) I was so excited about this combination that I just sat down and ate the whole bowl you see here. It may be hot outside, but, breaking a sweat was worth it for this meal.

Tons of vitamin C and potassium in this heart healthy dish

If you use about a cup of soba noodles, this dish clocks in about 400 calories and provides a ton of vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium.

If you want to give it a try, here’s what I used (you will have leftover noodles that can be used later for a different dish):

Ingredients:

1 package Soba Noodles (cooked according to package directions)

1 half package Trader Joes Sprouted Tofu (drained and cubed)

1 cup shiitake mushrooms

1/2 cup each of yellow, orange and red peppers

2 small carrots

1/2 yellow onion

4 cloves of garlic

Soy sauce and/or Hoisin Sauce

Ponzu Sauce

Rice Vinegar

Dark Sesame oil

Peanut oil (for Stir-frying)

Fresh herbs (chives, thyme, lemon balm, savory, sage)

Vegetable broth (1/2 cup)

Lime & sriracha (optional)

Directions

Prep all vegetables while noodles are cooking. Prepare wok by bringing to a very high heat. Once the wok is very hot, add a turn of peanut oil. Add onions, garlic, peppers to the wok, moving them around continuously until they become translucent. Add mushrooms, splash of soy sauce, ponzu, rice vinegar and sesame oil. Remove vegetables from the wok and put aside.

Add a small amount of peanut oil to the wok and cook tofu so that it’s browned on most sides (3 minutes or so). Add the vegetables back to the wok, combining all ingredients together. Add the soba noodles to the wok. If you want more of a noodle soup, you can add the vegetable broth in at the end, allowing it to heat through for a minute or so.

Salt and pepper to taste. I always add sriracha and lime juice to these types of dishes, but, they are entirely optional.

Enjoy!

As the temperature rises, I find myself craving fresh chilled soups more than ever. Soups are a great way to get a ton of vegetables into one serving of food. If you a a raw food fan, this recipe is definitely for you, though it is appealing to everyone’s palate.

The recipe that follows is adapted from the book, “100-Calorie Snack Cookbook” by Sally Sampson.

100 calories per serving!

100 calories per serving!

Ingredients (Serves 5, about 2 cups per serving)

2 small English cucumbers, diced

2 beefsteak or other large tomatoes, cored and diced

1 small read onion, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and finely chopped

1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar

3 1/2 cups low sodium tomato or v8 juice

1 cup water

1/3 cup chopped fresh dill, cilantro or basil

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Method

  1. Place cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers in a bowl and toss to combine.
  2. Remove half the mixture and place in bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse 2 to 3 times until chopped and combined. Return to bowl
  3. Add the vinegar, tomato juice and water and stir to combine
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Serve garnished with herbs (optional) and feta.

Nutrition Information (per serving)

Calories: 103

Fat: 2.1 g

Cholesterol: 7mg

Sodium; 110 mg

Carbohydrates: 19.4 g

Fiber: 3.4 g

Protein: 4.5 g

Besides all of those good statistics, you will most definitely get more than a days supply of vitamin C, a big boost of potassium, lots of beta carotene and lycopene, and many other nutrients. This soup will also quench your thirst on account of all the additional water in the vegetables.

Diet Tip:

Having a bowl of soup prior to a meal actually causes you to eat less on account of your stomach being full of all tha fluid and triggering satiety signals to the brain.

Veggies!

Veggies!

I needed to clean out the refrigerator and had a random assortment of vegetables, so instead of making a soup, I decided on a stir fry.

The nice thing about a stir fry is that you can use very little oil and the vegetables stay nice and crisp, and the whole process doesn’t take more than 20 minutes or so including prep time.

So here’s what I had on hand:

Ingredients

1/2 yellow onion

1 clove of garlice

1 bunch of broccoli

1/2 orange pepper

1/2 red pepper

2/3 of a 6 ounce package of portobello mushrooms (not traditionally part of a stir fry, but, you could use any mushroom)

1 teaspoon peanut oil

1 teaspoon soy sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Slice all of the vegetables into somewhat unifrom slices
  2. Heat the peanut oil on medium high heat, the wok (or pan) is ready when you flick some water in and it sizzles
  3. Add the onion and garlic to the wok and stir often, for 2 minutes or so
  4. Add broccoli and peppers and stir these often as well for another 2 minutes or so
  5. Add the mushrooms and toss all of the vegetables together for 2 minutes or so
  6. Taste the broccoli, if it’s crisp or at the texture you desire add in the soy sauce and toss over vegatables to coat. If you prefer your vegetables more well done, cook for a few minutes longer and then add the soy sauce when you feel it’s ready.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.
The finished product

The finished product

Some other vegetables I would like to have added, but did not have are carrots, celery, snow peas and asparagus. You can also add a protein like chicken or tofu to the stir fry to make it even more filling.

The stiry fry is also a great way to get several servings of vegetables into one dish, and it is guaranteed to be low calorie if you monitor how much oil you use. This dish alone had more than a days supply of vitamin C, beta carotene, lots of potassium and fiber.

They are great as an entree or a side dish, versatile enough to go over rice or noodles, or as a stand alone.

TIP: Don’t discard the broccoli stalks! If you cut off the tough outer “bark” there is a very tasty inner flesh that tastes similar to a water chestnut. It’s my favorite part of the broccoli, and it tastes great raw or cooked.

This just may be the case if we look to a tiny Greek island with some impressive longevity statistics for guidance. A recent article on NPR detailed a tiny Greek island called Icaria where about 1 out of every 3 people live to the age of 90. They also seem to have  much lower rates of cancer, heart disease and dementia.

Herbal tea may be the key to longevity in the newly identified blue zone, Icaria, Greece

Herbal tea may be the key to longevity in the newly identified blue zone, Icaria, Greece

It appears the people of Icaria are far from sedentary, walking daily to and from church or friends’ houses. Their diet seems to be more or less typical of the Mediterranean diet, in that they have high intakes of olive oil, fruits and vegetables. It also includes high amount of specific foods such as potatoes, goat milk, honey, and beans. They do not have as high a fish consumption as is usually found in the Mediterranean diet. But, they do have access to over 150 varieties of greens local to Greece and the authors state that these greens have ten times the antioxidants that red wine does.

What set this longevity hot spot apart from other areas of the world was their habit of drinking herbal tea at every meal. Apparently the teas that they drink are composed of diuretics. Diuretics work by flushing excess water and sodium from the body, thus lowering blood pressure. The authors felt this might be the mechanism behind the lower rates of heart disease.

If you want to find out more about these longevity hot spots, check out this site.

You may remember spinach being at the center of a major recall back in September 2006 on account of E Coli contamination, well, unfortunately, poor spinach is once again getting a bad rap.

This time on account of a possible Salmonella contamination in prepackaged spinach from a company called Kleen Pak, located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Here’s the pertinent information from the FDA’s website:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — April 30, 2009 — KLEEN-PAK FOODS of Milwaukee Wisconsin is recalling its 10 ounce and 1 pound packages of fresh spinach because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

The recalled spinach was distributed locally in retail stores and food wholesalers in Wisconsin, the Chicago area, and Minnesota.
The product comes in 10 ounce and 1 pound packages  marked with a use by date of 4/29, 4/30, and 5/01

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

The potential for contamination was noted after routine testing by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection revealed the presence of Salmonella in some 1 pound packages of spinach

The FDA and KLEEN-PAK continue their investigation as to the source of the problem.

Consumers who have purchased 10 ounce packages of curly leaf spinach are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1 414-481-4878.

No illnesses have been reported so far, and the recall seems to be limited to Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota.

Stay tuned for more details.

A sunny frittata for a rainy morning.

A sunny frittata for a rainy morning.

Lately I have been making frittatas instead of the traditional french omelettes, mostly because I am pressed for time and/or too lazy to use more than one pan, so, the frittata solves the problem.

I can cook all of my vegetables and then pour the eggs over them, throw it in the oven, and serve it right onto a plate. I’ve had them at some restaurants where they actually serve the frittata right out of the pan, now that makes for very little dish washing!

The frittata I made this morning is very golden in color on account of it’s orange pepper, yellow squash, yellow onion and of course eggs. It’s also super diet friendly (less than 300 calories), but will keep you full on account of a good amount of protein (32g).

You can substitute your favorite vegetables for the ones I used, they pretty much always come out great. It’s a very good way to get a lot of servings of vegetables into one meal, and definitely low calorie as well. If you like a little more carbohydrate you can serve it on top of a whole wheat tortilla. For more protein, add more egg whites, they’ll  make it thicker and fluffier, and at less than 20 calories a pop, you can’t really go wrong:

Ingredients:

Nonstick cooking spray

1/2 yellow onion (diced)

1/2 orange pepper (diced)

1/2 yellow squash (diced)

1 whole egg

4 egg whites

1 oz reduced fat shredded cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Salsa (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat over to 375 degrees.
  2. While the over is heating up, spray an omelette size pan with nonstick cooking spray and heat that on medium high until hot enough that when you throw a piece of onion on the pan it sizzles.
  3. Start sauteing the onion, moving it around with a wooden spoon or spatula every so often to prevent burning.
  4. Add the yellow pepper to the onion, and keep sauteing
  5. Cook the onion and pepper for about 5 minutes, until they start to carmelize, and shrink to about a 1/2 of their original size.
  6. Add the yellow squash and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. While the vegetables are cooking, beat the egg and egg whites together until frothy.
  8. Once the vegetables are relatively done, pour the egg mixture over all of the vegetables, move the pan around to make sure all edges are covered.
  9. Bring the heat down to low, and allow the sides to set.
  10. Once the sides are set, take the pan and put it in the preheated over for 8 minutes (or until the top of the eggs are set). With 1-2 minutes of baking time left, cover the top of the frittata with the cheese and put back in the oven.
  11. Add salt and pepper to taste, and add salsa on top if you want it a little spicy.

Nutrition Data (in the entire recipe):

286 Calories

9 grams of fat

19 grams of carbohydrates

32 g protein

This dish also has more than a days worth of vitamin C, lots of carotenoids, choline and folate, to name a few.

Cooking tip:

If you are using a nonstick pan, like I have, it may have a plastic handle. Cover the handle in tinfoil before putting it in the oven, that will prvent it from melting during cooking.

Nature's Multivitamin

Nature's Multivitamin

Last night on “House,” Wilson appeared to be starting a healthy eating regimen. Unfortunately this all turned out to be a ruse to fool House, but, I was appalled when Dr. House snubbed Wilson’s brown bag lunch consisting of kale!

While I am a big fan of “House,” I couldn’t help but think what doctor in their right mind would not think kale was a great vegetable? Now that I think about it, Dr. House is not actually in his right mind, and therefore, cannot be taken seriously in his assault on kale.

In 1 cup of cooked, chopped kale you get the following:

Calories: 36

Low calorie and nutrient dense…

Calcium: 94 mg

The kind you can absorb from vegetables!

Potassium: 296 mg

Potassium is responsible for maintaining the electrochemical gradients across our cells (along with sodium) and thus, it is an essential nutrient for proper nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and proper heart functioning. The current recommendation for healthy adults over the age of 14 is 4700mg/day.

Vitamin C: 53 mg

Almost an entire day’s worth

Vitamin A: 17707 IU

If this looks like a lot, it is. The average adult >19 years needs 2,333 IU, but, its mostly in the form of beta carotene, which is not toxic to the body (though you might turn a little orange if you eat a lot of beta carotene on a regular basis)

Lutein & Zeaxanthin: 23,720 mcg

There is no RDA for these specific carotenoids (yet), studies have shown that those people with higher consumption of these nutrients (about 6,716 micrograms per day) had an 18 % lower chance of developing cataracts. This amount is about 3 1/2 times that amount!

Vitamin K: 1062 mcg

There is no RDA for vitamin K either, but rather an “Adequate Intake” (AI) on account of the questionable contribution that the bacteria in our guts make to our overall vitamin K pool. The AI is set at 120 mcg for adult males, and 90 mcg for adult females. Vitamin K is necessary for the proper functioning of several proteins involved in blood clotting.

The other great thing about kale is that it contains those sulforaphanes that I mentioned in my post on broccoli. 1 cup chopped has about 67 mg of glucosinates, and some of these are thought to have anti-cancer properties..

So, how can you incorporate this super vegetable into your diet?

Lately, I have been using it in soups, but, I am also a big fan of sauteing it. Last month, the New York Times featured several kale recipes. The recipe below by Martha Rose Schulman came out great, though I did change a few ingredients to what I had on hand.

(Original Recipe appeared on NYTimes.com on March 5, 2009)

Barley Soup With Mushrooms and Kale
By MARTHA ROSE SHULMAN

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

2 cups boiling water

1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, as needed

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced thick

2 large garlic cloves, minced

Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste

3/4 cup whole or pearl barley

1 1/2 quarts chicken stock or water

A bouquet garni made with a few sprigs each thyme and parsley, and a bay leaf and a Parmesan rind

8 to 10 ounces kale (regular or cavolo nero), stemmed and washed thoroughly

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl or a Pyrex measuring cup, and pour on two cups boiling water. Let sit for 30 minutes. Set a strainer over a bowl, and line it with cheesecloth. Lift the mushrooms from the water and squeeze over the strainer, then rinse in several changes of water. Squeeze out the water and set aside. Strain the soaking water through the cheesecloth-lined strainer. Add water as necessary to make two cups. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until just about tender, about five minutes, and add the sliced fresh mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are beginning to soften, about three minutes, and add the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Continue to cook for about five minutes, until the mixture is juicy and fragrant. Add the reconstituted dried mushrooms, the barley, the mushroom soaking liquid, and the stock or water. Salt to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Meanwhile, stack the kale leaves in bunches and cut crosswise into slivers. Simmer the bouquet garni during the 45 minute simmering, then pull it out when the soup is done.

3. Add the kale to the simmering soup, and continue to simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes. The barley should be tender and the broth aromatic. The kale should be very tender. Remove the bouquet garni, taste and adjust salt, add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and serve.

Yield: 6 – 8 servings


Broccoli, like most vegetables, is very low in calories. One cup chopped broccoli has about 31 calories. Not only that, but, this same amount will give you about a days worth of vitamins C and K, as well as a good amount of vitamin A and the other carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as a decent amount of folate and potassium.

Apart from broccoli’s basic nutrition goodness, much research has focused on some of the other health promoting phytochemicals in this vegetable. A study published in the April 2009 issue of Cancer Prevention Research suggest that daily intakes of at least 2 1/2 ounces of broccoli sprouts may confer protection against the Heliobacter pylori bacteria that wreaks havoc on some people’s gastric lining.

The study was done on 48 Japanese men and women diagnosed with H.pylori. One group was assigned to eat the 2 1/2 ounces of broccoli sprouts per day, and the control group was given and equal amount of alfalfa sprouts every day over the course of two months. Baseline severity of H.pylori was measured via breath, blood, and stool tests at the beginning of the study, at the four week point and at the study end. Levels of H.pylori were found to be significantly lower at the study end in those patients that had consumed the broccoli sprouts as compared to the alfalfa control group.

The active compounds thought to offer this protection are known as sulforaphanes. Sulforaphanes are present in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage. In this particular study, subjects were fed 3-day old broccoli sprouts, which are thought to have a much more concentrated amount of glucoraphanin (the precursor to the sulforaphanes), than mature broccoli plants.

There is a caveat to all of the sulforaphane potential benefit though, cooking method is very important in retaining the active compounds. This is from the Linus Pauling Institute:

Boiling cruciferous vegetables from 9-15 minutes resulted in 18-59% decreases in the total glucosinolate content of cruciferous vegetables. Cooking methods that use less water, such as steaming or microwaving, may reduce glucosinolate losses. However, some cooking practices, including boiling, steaming, and microwaving at high power (750-900 watts), may inactivate myrosinase, the enzyme that catalyzes glucosinolate hydrolysis. Even in the absence of plant myrosinase activity, the myrosinase activity of human intestinal bacteria results in some glucosinolate hydrolysis. However, several studies in humans have found that inactivation of myrosinase in cruciferous vegetables substantially decreases the bioavailability of isothiocyanates

Sulforaphanes have also been linked to improvements in vascular function in diabetics, prevention of certain genetic cancers, and protection against asthma (see the references for more detailed articles).

Bottom Line:

  • Cruciferous vegetables, especially the broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cabbage, may offer powerful protection against several health issues, though further research on humans needs to be done
  • Maximum sulforaphane benefits seem to be derived from the vegetables in their less cooked states
  • Broccoli in its sprout form may have the most powerful amounts of the sulforaphanes

It may be relatively easy to consume raw broccoli and cabbage, but, I’d be hard pressed to eat a raw brussel sprout. The cooked versions of these vegetables still offer plenty of nutrition on their own, and consuming them in any manner is really the most important thing for your health.

References:

http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/2/4/353

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/isothio/

http://www.vitasearch.com/get-clp-summary/37659

Hu R, Khor TO, et al. Cancer chemoprevention of intestinal polyposis in ApcMin/+ mice by sulforaphane, a natural product derived from cruciferous vegetable. Carcinogenesis, 2006 Oct;27(10):2038-46

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-03/uoc–bmh030209.php

They are now in season.
  1. Asparagus are now in season, that means there should be good deals on them at the supermarket
  2. 1 cup has a very diet friendly 27 calories
  3. They are great steamed, grilled, broiled, boiled, you name it, you can’t go wrong
  4. If you like to dip things, they make great dippers
  5. They are very high in Vitamin K and Folate, and also a good source of Lutein & Zeaxanthin (951 mcg/1 cup)
  6. It’s a cool vegetable because it has an amino acid named after it, Asparagine
  7. How many vegetables can you store upright in the refrigerator like fresh flowers?

Choosing asparagus:

Look for firm, bright, smooth spears with full, tightly formed heads. When you snap them,they should seem crisp and moist

Storing Asparagus

I try to keep them similar to fresh cut flowers, upright in a container with a small amount of cold water in the refrigerator. Others use a paper towel, or a clean damp kitchen towel, and store them in a plastic bag in the crisper section of their refrigerator for up to 4 – 5 days.

My favorite way to prepare them is to use a vegetable peeler to take off the outside skin, exposing the very light green underside, boil them for 2-3 minutes and then throw them in an ice bath. They come out so crisp and tasty, and are good warm or cold.

If you want more information on asparagus, this link has some great information.

What’s your favorite way to eat asparagus?