Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Picking Healthy Vegetables...Part 2

  Yesterday I gave some tips on picking the best fruit possible we'll talk about vegetables, not all of which are part of summer's bounty but nevertheless are a great side for barbecue, in a salad or as a main course...yes, think vegetarian! I'll give you optimal times for each vegetable if I can and the best ways to cook them. 

   Lets start with
steaming.... its a well
 documented fact that vegetables are healthiest when you steam. Steamed vegetables lose only 10% of their flavonoids which are levels of anti-oxidant substances found in vegetables like broccoli. Flavonoids are important because they absorb harmful chemicals called fr
ee radicals which can damage your DNA and cause cancer. Steamer pots or utensils are available in most stores and range in prince from $10. to $50. Definitely worth the investment of you don't already have one. Steaming is fast, preserves nutrients, and it works best for fresh and frozen vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, spinach and roots like beets, parsnips, peas and beans.  

Microwaving vegetables is the least healthy way of cooking vegetables. Vegetables lose almost all their healthy antioxidants because microwaves produce hotspots inside the food which cause the antioxidants to break down. 

Boiled vegetables were not much better, losing 80% of their flavonoids by the time they were cooked, with most of the healthy antioxidants draining out into the water. 

Oven roasting is quick, simple, and is an excellent way for cooking vegetables as it preserves the vitamins, flavors and minerals. 

Stir-frying is a good flavor and color preserving cooking method. Sliced vegetables are put in frying pan covered at bottom with any liquid for cooking such as chicken broth or a broth made from stir-fry seasonings. Constantly stir the vegetables until they are crispy and glossy

But since it is summer lets talk about grilling your vegetables. Fresh asparagus, corn, carrots, onions, peppers, mushrooms are perfect for grilling
because they have low water content. Coat vegetables lightly with olive oil before putting directly on the grill or place in a grilling pan. Cook until tender but with a 
snap to them. 

Asparagus should have straight, bright-green stalks with stiff tips. For optimal nutritional value and flavor, steam asparagus instead of boiling  but are also great on the grill. SEASON: March to June. 

Select beets that are  firm and attached to red stems and fresh green tops, those without tops beets without their tops are usually older. SEASON: mid-June to mid-October.

String beans should look bright and 
be firm, not wrinkly, should have a good snap when broken in two. SEASON: Available year-round.

When choosing broccoli look for tightly budded heads that are dark green in color. SEASON: from July to October.

Look for firm carrots with mostly smooth skin. Thick carrots often have tough centers. If you buy fresh bunched carrots with green tops, remove the tops before storing, because they can steal moisture and nutrients away from the roots. SEASON: Year-round, but are best from July to September.

Cucumbers should be firm, unblemished, and dark green in color. SEASON: from June to September.

Choose eggplants that are heavy for their size and have smooth skin. SEASON: from August to September.

Mushrooms should be free of bruises and other blemishes, not wrinkled or slimy. SEASON: from October to November.

Potatoes should be firm and free of bruises and cracks. SEASON: from September to January.

Look for peppers with thick, smooth skin. SEASON: from about May to September.

Choose spinach that is dark green with no signs of yellowing, sliminess, or wilting. SEASON: June to October.

Squash should have hard, smooth skin. SEASON: Acorn and butternut squash are in season from September to December. 

Look for yams that do not have any cracks or soft spots. Steaming is the best cooking method to preserve the nutritional value of yams. SEASON: from October to about March.
Zucchini should have firm, dark green skin. Old zucchini are soft and wrinkly. SEASON: July to September.

Easy Red Potato Recipe
1 bag small red potatoes
olive oil
prepared pesto (I like Costco's) or homemade version
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
kosher salt
fresh pepper

  • Slice potatoes in half and place in baking pan. Mix 1/2 c pesto, garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  • Mix with potatoes and sprinkle with olive oil.
  • Bake at 350 degrees until potatoes are roasted and tender. 
  • Sprinkle with parmesan cheese before serving.

Note: The potatoes pictured here were paired with grilled shell steaks. The next day, the leftovers were added to a salad. 






  •  Some of the tips in this article are from a Canadian publication called Glow.


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