Tag Archives: cruciferous

Fennel

ImageThe edible herb called fennel belongs to the Apiaceae family, which also includes carrots and parsley. It is native to Europe and related to certain herbs that have fragrant flowers widely referred to as seeds, such as anise, cumin and dill. Although some people use fennel for its scent or claimed medicinal properties, the plant is a well-known ingredient in cooking and food products, too. Edible fennel is available in bulb, leaf, seed and stalk form, and cooks use it as a flavouring agent, garnish, herb or vegetable in dishes. You can consume the different parts of the plant in various ways, explains the Herb Society of America, such as by cooking the stalk to use as a vegetable, eating the stalk uncooked, adding the raw leaves to salads or preparing tea from fennel leaves or seeds. The actual nutritional properties of fennel may vary based on such factors as added ingredients, cooking method and the variety used.

Fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C. It is also a very good of dietary fiber, potassium, molybdenum, manganese, copper, phosphorus, and folate. In addition, fennel is a good source of calcium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, iron, and niacin.

Like many of its fellow spices, fennel contains its own unique combination of phytonutrients—including the flavonoids rutin, quercitin, and various kaempferol glycosides—that give it strong antioxidant activity. The phytonutrients in fennel extracts compare favorably in research studies to BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), a potentially toxic antioxidant commonly added to processed foods.

The most fascinating phytonutrient compound in fennel, however, may be anethole—the primary component of its volatile oil. In animal studies, the anethole in fennel has repeatedly been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer. Researchers have also proposed a biological mechanism that may explain these anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. The volatile oil has also been shown to be able to protect the liver of experimental animals from toxic chemical injury.

In addition to its unusual phytonutrients, fennel bulb is an excellent source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is the body’s primary water-soluble antioxidant, able to neutralize free radicals in all aqueous environments of the body. If left unchecked, these free radicals cause cellular damage that results in the pain and joint deterioration that occurs in conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The vitamin C found in fennel bulb is directly antimicrobial and is also needed for the proper function of the immune system.

As a very good source of fiber, fennel bulb may help to reduce elevated cholesterol levels. And since fiber also removes potentially carcinogenic toxins from the colon, fennel bulb may also be useful in preventing colon cancer. In addition to its fiber, fennel is a very good source of folate, a B vitamin that is necessary for the conversion of a dangerous molecule called homocysteine into other, benign molecules. At high levels, homocysteine, which can directly damage blood vessel walls, is considered a significant risk factor for heart attack or stroke. Fennel is also a very good source of potassium, a mineral that helps lower high blood pressure, another risk factor for stroke and heart attack.

Just a super food!

Miso Mustard Cabbage and Fennel Salad

Had a couple of ½ heads of cabbage and a fennel bulb to use in my fridge so I put this cole slaw like salad together tonight, it’s quite tasty now, looking forward to having some fully marinated for lunch tomorrow.  The fennel in this salad is key, fennel is crunchy, slightly sweet and refreshing and, it is a powerful antioxidant, has anti inflammatory properties and aids in digestion.  Fennel is also an excellent source of Vitamin C, Folate,  Potassium and high in fiber too.

Large bowl
1     tablespoon Miso Paste
2     tablespoons Grainy Dijon Mustard
1     tablespoon Honey
2        tablespoons Rice Vinegar
3        tablespoons Sunflower Oil
2        teaspoons Sesame Oil
1/2    teaspoon Crushed Red Chilies
1/2    teaspoon Sea Salt
6        cups Red and Green Cabbage, thinly sliced
1         small Fennel Bulb, thinly sliced
3        Carrots, grated
4        Green Onions, sliced
1/3    cup Toasted Sunflower Seeds
1/4   cup Sesame Seeds
Pepper to taste

Whisk sauce ingredients in a large bowl then add cabbage, fennel, carrot, green onion and toss to coat. Sprinkle with seeds, toss again then season with pepper to taste. Allow to marinade for at least a couple hours before serving.

Kale and Quinoa Salad with Apple Lime Dressing

This salad is a combination of so many of my favourite foods right now: kale, quinoa, carrots, fresh in-season fuji apple and lime….so delicious and, it is perfect served immediately or can be stored in the fridge for a day or two; it also makes a great potluck or party dish. I always make it with Lacinato or Dinosaur Kale but it would work with curly kale or any other variety too. I suppose you could use a different variety of apple as well but the Fuji apple has a nice balanced sweet and tart with a hint of floral flavour and, bonus, they are local and in season (here) right now. This recipe serves 4.

Apple Lime Dressing
1/2    large Fuji Apple, chopped
1         Lime, zested
1         Lime, juiced
1         teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2    cup Rice Vinegar
2         teaspoons Sesame Oil
1/4    cup Sunflower Oil
2         tablespoons Honey or Agave Syrup

Toss all ingredients in a food processor or blender and set aside.

Kale Quinoa Salad
1        large bunch Lacinato Kale, stems removed, coarsely chopped into about 1 inch strips then hand torn*
3/4   cup Quinoa, rinsed well then cooked in one cup fresh water
2-3    large Carrots, shredded
1/2    large Fuji Apple, chopped
1/2    cup raw or toasted Almonds

Hand tear the chopped kale into a large bowl. *Hand tearing bruises the raw kale making it softer and ready to eat without cooking, if you are planning on storing the salad in the fridge to serve later you could skip the hand tearing as marinating in the dressing will also soften the kale.

Add warm cooked quinoa, shredded carrot and the vinaigrette, toss until coated.

Add chopped apple and almonds, toss to combine again and add fresh ground pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Organic Chorizo Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup

First time I made this soup I did it without the white beans and saffron but I felt in need something, my boyfriend suggested the beans – perfect, and I added Saffron; I think it’s about right now.  This soup would be great to get lots of super healthy kale into a loved one who might prefer lots of sausage =). The sausage I used is McLean’s Organic Chorizo Pork Sausage. If I need a processed meat that I can’t get from my butcher I like to use Mclean Organic Foods. Their deli line is made from meat that was produced without growth hormones, antibiotics, and from farms that meet an animal welfare criteria. Their products are free of common allergens, food additives and are organic too!

Large heavy bottomed soup pot
Large skillet
Potato masher
Paper towel
3           tablespoons Sunflower Oil
1           large Onion, finely chopped
3           cloves Garlic, pressed
2           lbs Yukon Potatoes, thinly sliced
10         cups Broth
1           can, White Beans
1           lb Chorizo Pork Sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1           tablespoon Paprika
Pinch Saffron Threads
1-2        bunches Lacinato/Dinosaur Kale, center ribs discarded and leaves cut crosswise into thin slices
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
Cook onion with oil in heavy bottom pot over moderate heat until translucent and just golden.

Add garlic and sliced potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally for 4 minutes.

Add broth and sea salt to taste and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté chorizo in skillet over moderately high heat until browned. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Coarsely mash potatoes in soup with a potato masher. Stir in white beans, chorizo, paprika, saffron and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in kale and simmer until just tender.

Adjust seasoning to taste.

Green Broccoli Soup

You’ll love the very bright green colour of this soup and the flavour, equally as uplifting!  The extra health kick and green goodness in this recipe comes from a pound of fresh spinach quietly blended in.   If you prefer a creamy soup* simply add 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk.  Personally, I really love this one just as is!

Large heavy bottomed soup pot.
Small pot and vegetable steamer.
2              tablespoon Olive Oil
1             medium Yellow Onion, diced
6              Garlic Cloves, diced
6              medium New Potatoes, diced
1              tablespoon fresh Thyme, minced
1/4         teaspoon Red Chile Flakes
Pinch Sea Salt
4              Broccoli Stalks, peeled and sliced
6              cups Vegetable Stock
1/2         pound fresh Spinach
2              cups Broccoli Florets, chopped (reserve for later)
1/2         teaspoon fresh Ground Pepper
Garnish with grated Manchego

Heat oil on medium/high heat and sauté onions with garlic until tender.  Add potatoes and cook for another few minutes.

Add thyme, sea salt, red chili flakes, broccoli stalks and broth and bring to boil.  Reduce and simmer until broccoli stems are soft.

Add spinach to pot, no need to stir just cover for a couple of minutes till its lightly cooked.

Steam broccoli florets in small pot or steamer until crisp but slightly tender, only a minute or so.   Rinse under cold water to end cooking and set aside.

Blend soup in a full sized blender until smooth.  Soup should just all fit!  Transfer back to Pot and season with sea salt and ground pepper to taste.

Add lightly steamed broccoli florets right before serving.

Garnish with grated manchego.

*If you are making a creamy version add the milk before blending.

Collard Green

The cholesterol-lowering ability of collard greens may be the greatest of all commonly eaten cruciferous vegetables. In a recent study, steamed collard greens outshined steamed kale, mustard greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage in terms of its ability to bind bile acids in the digestive tract. When this bile acid binding takes place, it is easier for the bile acids to be excreted from the body. Since bile acids are made from cholesterol, the net impact of this bile acid binding is a lowering of the body’s cholesterol level.

It’s worth noting that steamed collards show much greater bile acid binding ability than raw collards.

Unlike broccoli and kale and cabbage, you won’t find many research studies devoted to the specific health benefits of collard greens. However, collard greens are sometimes included in a longer list of cruciferous vegetables that are lumped together and examined for the health benefits they provide. Based on a very small number of studies looking specifically at collard greens, and a larger number of studies looking at cruciferous vegetables as a group (and including collard greens on the list of vegetables studied), cancer prevention appears to be a standout area for collard greens with respect to their health benefits.

This connection between collard greens and cancer prevention should not be surprising since collard greens provide special nutrient support for three body systems that are closely connected with cancer development as well as cancer prevention. These three systems are (1) the body’s detox system, (2) its antioxidant system, and (3) its inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system. Chronic imbalances in any of these three systems can increase risk of cancer, and when imbalances in all three systems occur simultaneously, the risk of cancer increases significantly. Among all types of cancer, prevention of the following cancer types is most closely associated with intake of collard greens: bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer.

If you want to include collard greens and other cruciferous vegetables you eat on a regular basis to receive the fantastic health benefits provided then, at a minimum, have 2-3 servings per week, and make the serving size at least 1-1/2 cups.  Try using collard greens in place of spinach, like in egg scrambles, soups, stir frys even as wraps!  They stay much firmer and don’t have a very strong taste.

Cooking:
It is very important not to overcook collard greens. Like other cruciferous vegetables overcooked collard greens will begin to emit the unpleasant sulfur smell associated with overcooking. To help collard greens to cook more quickly, evenly slice the leaves into ½-inch slices and the stems into 1/4-inch pieces. Let them sit for at least 5 minutes to bring out the health-promoting qualities and steam for 5 minutes.