ABC SUPERFOODS: Z is for Zucchini

Zucchini

Benefits
One cup of zucchini contains 43% of the RDA of lutein, which promotes healthy eyesight. One cup also contains 10% of the RDA of dietary fiber, aiding digestion, maintaining low blood sugar, and curbing overeating. The fiber content as well as the folate, Vitamins C and A content also help to prevent cancer. Zucchini is also instrumental in preventing hyper-inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. The Vitamin C present in zucchini aids in nerve cell communication and keeps your tissues strong.

At the Market
-Zucchini is a popular staple at farmer’s markets through the summer and fall months.
-Find zucchini squash that feels heavy for its size. (The best size is about 2 inches in diameter and 6-8 inches long).
-Choose small to medium-sized zucchini that feature shiny, bright green skin.
-Avoid zucchinis that are too large or overly mature.
-Note: Soft and wrinkled ends indicates squash that is moistureless.
-Minor scratches or mild bruising is common, but avoid heavily bruised or large gashed squash.

In the Kitchen
-Store zucchini in a plastic bag inside the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.
-You don’t need to peel the skin of zucchini before eating or cooking.
-Add zucchini to soups, casseroles, muffins, and stir-fry.

Recipe

Zucchini Pizza Crust

8 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2/3 cup flour (sub almond flour)
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
3 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp basil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp salt

Homemade Pizza Sauce
4 large tomatoes, quartered
2 tbls olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 tbls fresh oregano (sub 1 tsp dried)
1 tbls fresh tyme (sub 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp salt

zucchini_crust1

Preheat oven to 550F with a pizza stone pre baking in it.
In a large bowl, toss the zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 15 minutes. Squeeze the excess moisture out of the squash by wrapping it up in a clean tea towel or piece of cheese cloth and wringing it out, discarding the water.
Once all of the excess moisture has been wrung out and discarded, place the shredded zucchini back into the bowl and add the cheddar cheese, flour, garlic, oregano, basil, eggs, and salt.
With your hands, incorporate all of the ingredients together.
Place the zucchini mixture onto a piece of parchment paper at least 15” in diameter, set on something solid that will make it easy to transfer into the oven.
Using your fingers, spread the zucchini crust mixture to form a circle about 14” in diameter, 1/2″ thick. Pinch the edges up so that it forms a nice crust.
Once the pizza crust has been shaped, transfer the crust on the parchment paper onto the heated pizza stone in the oven. Bake for 8 minutes or until the crust starts to brown.
Once the zucchini crust has baked for 8 minutes, transfer the pizza on the parchment paper out of the oven, onto the solid surface you used before.
Top the pizza with sauce and any additional toppings that you’d like.
Once the toppings are on, transfer the pizza on the parchment paper back onto the heated pizza stone in the oven and bake for an additional 4 minutes.
zucchini_crustmain
In a large heavy bottomed sauce pan, add the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, oregano, thyme, and salt.
Bring to a boil, breaking up the tomato. Lower the heat, then simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Once simmered, puree all of the ingredients in a blender.

Recipe taken from My Humble Kitchen.

ABC SUPERFOODS: Y is for Yellow Squash

Yellow Squash

Benefits
Did you know that the manganese in yellow squash can help to alleviate PMS symptoms?! In one clinical study, women who consumed greater amounts of the mineral manganese reported fewer cramps and mood swings during their monthly cycle! Yellow squash has zero cholesterol and is low in carbohydrates and calories. This alone makes it a heart healthy choice for those worried about heart disease. Do you need to increase your intake of any of the following: fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, copper, magnesium, folate, or phosphorus? If so, yellow squash is rich in all 7 of these vitamins and minerals. These essential nutrients prevent the onset of cataracts, osteoporosis, and strokes. The high beta-carotene content of this vegetable also helps to prevent cancer.

At the Market
-In the summer months yellow squash is available in any grocery store, at farmer’s markets, and at roadside vegetable stands at very reasonable prices.
-Avoid any squash that have gashes, soft spots, or mold.
-Find squash with a hard rind.
-Good squash should feel heavy for its size.

In the Kitchen
-Store squash in a dry, cool place with decent circulation.
-Add yellow squash to soups, salads, and casseroles, or stir-fry for a nutritional boost.
-Substitute yellow squash for carrots the next time you make carrot cake.
-Marinate and cook yellow squash on the grill.

Recipe

Pan Grilled Summer Squash

1 1/2 tsp olive oil
2 medium yellow squash, cut in 1 inch diagonal slices
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1 pinch black pepper
1 Tbsp chopped onions
1 tsp fresh basil, chopped
2 medium zucchini, cut in 1 inch diagonal slices

yellow squash
In a 12″ non-stick skillet over medium-heat, warm the oil until hot. Add the squash, zucchini, onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the slices are nicely browned. Stir in the salt and pepper.

Recipe taken from Full Circle.

ABC SUPERFOODS: X is for Xigua

Xigua

I will give $5 to the person who can guess what a xigua is! Just kidding. But seriously, I had to do a little research to find out what they were myself! A Xigua is another word for “watermelon.” Can you guess the record weight for the largest watermelon grown? It was grown in 1990 in Tennessee and weighed 262 pounds!

Benefits
Did you know that the lightly-colored flesh of the watermelon (closer to the rind) is just as nutrient-rich as the juicy-red flesh in the center of the melon. No matter how you slice it, watermelon is an all-around great superfood! It is an excellent source of Vitamins C and A and contains more lycopene than any other fruit or vegetable! Lycopene is important because it neutralizes free radicals which cause damage to our bodies. Do you workout often? If so, you should definitely eat watermelon as it replenishes the electrolytes, sodium and potassium that we lose through perspiration. It also has a special cooling effect on our bodies and provides us with needed energy through its Vitamin B content. This delicious fruit has been known for reducing the risk for rheumatoid arthritis, some cancers, asthma, and heart disease.

At the Market
-The fresher, the better. Buy local if possible!
-Find a melon that is free from obvious blemishes or bruises.
-Look for a melon that is symmetrical in shape (not lopsided or narrower on one end than the other).
-Remember, the darker the melon, the more ripe it will be.
-A good juicy watermelon should be heavy for its size (92% of the melon is made up of water).
-Take a look at the bottom of the melon for the “ground spot” where it sat growing in the sun. This spot should be creamy yellow, not white. If it is, this may be a sign it was picked too soon.

In the Kitchen
-Did you know every part of a watermelon is edible?!
-Refrigerate your watermelon only after it has been cut and wrapped in plastic (but note that refrigeration decreases the melon’s texture and flavor).
-Store whole melons slightly cooler than room temperature.
-Use the shell of a hollowed out watermelon to hold a “bowl” of fruit salad!
-Place popsicle sticks on the end of thick wedges of the fruit and freeze for popsicles!

Recipe

Easy Xigua Salad

1/2 small watermelon, cut into bite-sized chunks
4 oz feta cheese
1/2 cup salted sunflower kernals

watermelon

Combine the ingredients in a large bowl; toss. Serve immediately.

Recipe taken from Allrecipes.com

ABC SUPERFOODS: W is for Water Chestnuts

Benefits
Did you know water chestnuts quench your thirst? They act as a coolant for the body, so it’s a perfect summer food. Despite its name, the water chestnut is an aquatic vegetable, not a nut. If you or someone you love has jaundice, eat water chestnuts! Due to their detoxifying properties, they are an excellent tonic for this malady. Do you have a urinary tract infection? If so, you too would benefit from eating this vegetable. Problems with nausea or indigestion are also cured by ingesting water chestnuts. Pregnant women benefit from this vegetable in many ways: this vegetable improves fetal development, helps to treat hypertension during pregnancy, and promotes mammary gland secretion of milk. It also boasts of decreasing fatigue and inflammation. In addition to all of this, 100 grams of water chestnuts have 468 mg of potassium, which is vital for proper muscle and neural functioning.

At the Market
-Water chestnuts are seasonal, but are available canned or frozen year-round. The fresh varieties, however, have double the benefits.
-Choose fresh chestnuts that are firm, without signs of shriveling.

In the Kitchen
-This vegetable can be boiled, eaten raw, or used as a filler in various dishes. Note: water chestnuts maintain their crunchy texture whether cooked or canned.
-Peel and rinse fresh water chestnuts well.
-Keep fresh chestnuts wrapped tightly in plastic for up to a week in the refrigerator.
-This vegetable is most commonly used in stir-fry dishes, but can be added to soups or salads.

Recipe
Cashew Chicken Stir-fry

2 tablespoons cornstarch
⅔ cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon fresh or ground ginger
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2-3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed
½ cut chopped carrots
1 cup broccoli spears
1 (8 ounce) can sliced water chestnuts,drained
⅔ cup cashews
2 cups cooked rice

chestnuts
Dissolve the cornstarch in the chicken broth, and stir in the soy sauce and ginger; set aside. Heat half of the oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Stir in the chicken; cook and stir until the chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken from the wok, and set aside.
Pour the remaining tablespoon of oil into the wok, and stir in the carrots, broccoli, and water chestnuts. Cook and stir until the chestnuts are hot, about 5 minutes more. Stir up the sauce to redistribute the cornstarch, then pour into the wok, and bring to a boil. Add the reserved chicken, and stir until the sauce thickens, and the chicken is hot. Sprinkle with cashews to serve.
Serve over rice.

Recipe taken from Kristen Duke Photography

What is your favorite recipe using water chestnuts?

ABC SUPERFOODS: V is for Vegetables

This week I’m doing something a little different. Instead of focusing on one vegetable in particular, I am going to give you a comparison of the best nutrient-rich vegetables you should be regularly eating.

Highest Vitamin C Content: Green & Red Peppers
Highest Vitamin A Content: Sweet Potatoes, cooked

spinach

Most Manganese: Spinach
Highest Magnesium Content: Spinach
Highest Vitamin E Content: Spinach
Most Iron: Spinach
Highest Vitamin B12 Content: Spinach
Highest Potassium Content: Sun-Dried Tomatoes

kale

Highest Vitamin K Content: Kale
Most Copper: Kale
Most Folate/Folic Acid: Dried Seaweed
Most Protein: Broccoli

cabbage

Most Fiber: Cabbage
Most Zinc: Cabbage
Most Phosphorous: Pumpkin

mushroom

Most Selenium: Mushrooms
Most Niacin (Vitamin B3): Mushrooms
Most Riboflavin(Vitamin B2): Mushrooms
Highest Vitamin D Content: Mushrooms

So which Vitamins and minerals do you personally need more of? Try the foods mentioned above and you’ll be sure to meet your nutritional needs.

ABC SUPERFOODS: U is for Ugli Fruit

Benefits
This fruit was accidentally discovered in Jamaica and is mainly grown there, too. Don’t let their wrinkly, uneven colored, “ugly” peel fool you. Inside, this citrus fruit tastes sweet. It is a cross between a grapefruit, orange and a tangerine. A single serving (1/2 the fruit) of Ugli provides 70% of the DV of Vitamin C. It helps promote healthy gums and boosts immunity. This fruit lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and improves gastrointestinal health. Other benefits include lowering blood pressure and preventing kidney stones.

ugli

At the Market
-This fruit is available only for a short time, from November to April.
-Select fruit that is heavy for its size.
-Smaller fruit is likely to have a better taste than larger.

In the Kitchen
-If stored at room temperature, it will keep for up to 5 days.
-If stored in the refrigerator, it will keep for 2 weeks.
-Peel like an orange, or cut in half like a grapefruit and eat the flesh with a spoon.
-Use as a substitute in any recipe requiring citrus fruit.

Recipe

Ugli Fruit Smoothie

1 Ugli Fruit, Peeled and Quartered
1 banana
1/4 c. pure pineapple juice
1/4 c. milk
2 Tbs. white sugar (you can totally use honey or agave nectar)
8 ice cubes

ugli-fruit-smoothie2
Peel and cut up the ugli fruit – try to only keep the fleshy juicy part and not the skin around each segment – it just tastes better that way.
Peel and slice the banana.
Put the ugli fruit, banana, pineapple juice, milk and sugar into your blender and process until smooth. (or as smooth as you like – we left some random pieces of fruit in there).
Add the ice and blend again.
Pour into cups and serve immediately.

Recipe taken from Daily Dish Recipes.

How do you plan to use the Ugli fruit?

ABC SUPERFOODS: T is for Tomato

Benefits
Tomatoes… Fruit or vegetable? That’s a debate I won’t get into. But more importantly, a study done at Harvard Medical School over a period of five years found that individuals who ate either tomatoes or strawberries every week had the lowest risk of dying of cancer. Tomatoes are naturally rich in Vitamins A (one medium contains 15% DV) and C (one medium contains 40% DV) and contains a pigment called lycopene. The latter may be twice as effective the cancer-fighting properties than beta-carotene. Lycopene may also help the elderly to remain active longer.

At the Market
-Look for tomatoes that are fragrant and smooth.
-Depending on the type, the color of a ripe tomato can range from pink to robust red to yellow.
-Opt for canned tomatoes in the winter, since fresh are at their worst during this time of year and tomatoes retain their nutritive value even through processing.

In the Kitchen
-Keep tomatoes at room temperature for the best flavor.
-To ripen, place tomatoes in a paper bag with a piece of ripe fruit. Avoid sunlight because it will cause them to lose flavor.
-To freeze, blanch fresh tomatoes in boiling water for 2 minutes, place into ice cold water and then drain. Chop if you would like, then place into freezer bags. Store in the freezer for up to a year.
-To release more lycopene and to allow your body to absorb it better, cook fresh tomatoes in a bit of oil.

Recipe

My Tomato Sauce Recipe

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp minced garlic (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp Stevia

tomato

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes. When heated through and thoroughly stirred, serve with pasta, pizza, etc.

What is your favorite way to use tomatoes?

ABC SUPERFOODS: S is for Spinach

Benefits

Many studies have shown an inverse relationship between the consumption of spinach and various types of cancer. This alone is a compelling enough reason to eat spinach like Popeye! He was on to something, by the way, since a recent study found that eating spinach may improve muscle efficiency. Of all vegetables, none boasts more in protein than spinach. One cup contains 12% of the DV of protein! It is also a great source of Vitamin A and K (second only to cauliflower in its content of the latter). If you are pregnant, nursing, or are anemic, eat spinach! This green leafy vegetable is pack full of iron, folic acid, Vitamin C, and magnesium. Spinach is also an anti-inflammatory, helps fight cancer, prevents diabetes and heart disease, and protects against age-related memory and eye-sight loss. Need I go on?

At the Market
-Choose spinach that is not wilted, but has crisp green leaves.
-Avoid spinach with brown or yellow leaves, that has started to become slimy.
-Be sure to consume the spinach 3-5 days after purchasing.

In the Kitchen
-Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, away from ethylene-producing fruit (apples and bananas) or else it will spoil prematurely.
-Do not wash until ready to use.
-To freeze: wash thoroughly, blanch (boil) for 2 minutes, plunge into ice cold water quickly, get rid of excess water, place into freezer bags. Store in freezer for 10-12 months.
-Should you eat it cooked or raw? Both. Cooking it releases beta-carotene and lutein (these play an vital role in our bodies defending against cancer) and kills off potential contaminants. But eating it raw allows you to maintain the benefits of Vitamin C and folate (which are very heat-sensitive).
-If you choose to cook, do so lightly and boil quickly for only one to two minutes to maintain its nutritive value.
-If you choose to eat raw, wash thoroughly beforehand.
-Use in soups, smoothies, salads, and more!

Recipe

Spinach, Avocado, and Orange Salad

8 cups fresh baby spinach
2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
1 cup fresh raspberries or quartered strawberries
2 avocados, halved, seeded, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp granulated sugar or honey (I use stevia)

spinach salad

1. Place spinach on a large serving platter or divide among individual salad plates. Cut orange sections into bite-size pieces. Arrange raspberries, orange, and avocado on spinach.
2. For dressing, in a screw-top jar combine vinegar, oil, Dijon mustard, and sugar. Cover and shake well. Pour over the spinach mixture. If desired, sprinkle with ground black pepper.

Recipe taken from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.

ABC SUPERFOODS: R is for Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Benefits
Do you have high cholesterol? How about low or compromised immunity? Do you struggle with constipation? If so, you should be eating rhubarb! This tart fruit soaks up the cholesterol in your body and flushes it from your body, eliminating the opportunity for your arteries to be clogged. In addition to this, the fiber in rhubarb lowers triglycerides- potentially hazardous fats in the bloodstream. The vitamin C contained in rhubarb boosts the immune system, protecting against colds and infections. If you need help with keeping your bowels moving on a consistent basis, rhubarb is your friend. It has more than 2 grams of dietary fiber in a mere half-cup of rhubarb.

At the Market
-As a general rule, the redder the stalk, the sweeter the rhubarb will taste.
-Avoid stalks that are tender to the touch rather than firm, as well as any stalks that have begun to brown (especially on the ends).

In the Kitchen
-If you don’t plan on eating/using the rhubarb right away, store uncut, whole stalks in the humidity-controlled drawer in your refrigerator.
-Store chopped rhubarb in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
-Eat ONLY the rhubarb stalks: the leaves are poisonous.
-Try stewing rhubarb chunks in water or juice to lessen the fruit’s tartness (so you don’t need to douse it in sugar when baking with it, later). To do so, add a half cup liquid for every 3-4 cups of chopped rhubarb and cook for about 15 minutes until the fruit is tender.
-Spices like cinnamon, ginger, or rosewater may also do the trick to decrease the tartness.
-To freeze, wash the stalks and dry them before chopping into 1-inch thick pieces. Transfer the rhubarb into tightly sealed freezer bags and store in the freezer for up to a year. (Thaw before baking with the rhubarb).

Recipe

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
4 cups thinly sliced & diced rhubarb

Topping:

1 cup good gluten-free flour (I used Jules)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup salted butter
3/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a glass or ceramic 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray or coat lightly with butter.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch.
Add the lemon zest, sliced strawberries and rhubarb and stir together with a spatula until fruit is all coated with sugar mixture.
Spread the fruit mixture into the 9×13 baking dish.
Measure the flour, brown sugar, butter and oats into a medium sized bowl. Use a pastry blender to mix together until butter pieces are pea-sized. (You can also do this step in a food processor: pulse together the flour, brown sugar and butter until butter is in pea-sized pieces, then add the oats and pulse until just mixed.)
Crumble oat mixture on top of the fruit mixture.
Bake 45 minutes in a 375° oven, or until lightly browned and crisp.

Recipe and photo taken from My Gluten Free Kitchen.

ABC SUPERFOODS: Q is for Quinoa

Quinoa

Benefits
Did you know “quinoa” means “mother grain”? The Incas ate it and gave it this particular name because they found it to be so important. Of all the grains, quinoa contains the most protein. Not only that, but the protein found in quinoa is complete: it has all nine amino acids that our bodies receive from food. A half cup of cooked quinoa contains 27% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of iron for women (40% for men). If you were to eat a similar amount of brown rice, it’d only provide you with less than 7% of the RDA. A half cup of quinoa also provides 22% of the Daily Value (DV) of magnesium

At the Market
-Most supermarkets should carry quinoa, but if not, you’ll find it at any health food store.
-Don’t get too discouraged about the cost of one bag of qunioa. A little goes a long way with this grain: during cooking it plumps up to 4 times its original volume, so it will last you longer than rice or any other grain.
-Purchase in smaller amounts as it does tend to spoil quickly.

In the Kitchen
-Rinse quinoa before cooking to wash away the saponin, a protective layer which gives it a bitter taste.
-For the proper consistency, bring 2 cups of water to a boil and then add 1 cup of quinoa, reducing the heat to low. Then cook, covered, for about 10-15 minutes until all the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender.
-Substitute rice for quinoa in nearly any dish!
-Store quinoa in an airtight container in the refrigerator or other cool, dark place.

My Go-To Recipe

Quinoa Patties

2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
4 large eggs, beaten (or flax eggs)
1/2 tsp Pure Himalayan Salt
2/3 cup fresh chives, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped fine
1/3 cup fresh Parmesan, grated (or 1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast and 2 tablespoons vegan cheese)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or Chipotle Chili Powder (optional)
1 cup whole grain breadcrumbs (or gluten free bread crumbs)
1 T extra virgin olive oil

quinoa

In a medium bowl combine quinoa, eggs, and salt. Stir in garlic, chives, onion, cheese and cayenne pepper. Add breadcrumbs and allow to sit for a couple of minutes.
Form into 1 inch patties. The mixture should be very moist. You may need to add water or extra breadcrumbs to moisten or make the mixture dryer.
Place a large skillet over medium low heat. Heat olive oil. Add as many patties as your skillet can handle, being careful not to overload it so that you have trouble flipping the quinoa patties.
Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. If after 10 minutes your patties aren’t brown turn the heat up and cook (carefully to avoid burning) until they brown. Flip and cook for 7 more minutes on the other side.
Allow to cool on a wire rack, keeping your spatula handy to fend off family members who try to steal them.

Recipe and picture taken from Cooking Quinoa.

What is your favorite quinoa recipe?