This post was originally printed in the Lebanon Local and New Era Newspaper on April 12, 2018.
There is something special about the unfolding of Spring. Weather-wise, it promises more sunshine and warmth. Food-wise it is the herald of Summers’ abundance.
Spring’s produce is characteristically tender, rich in varying shades of green, red and blue. Now is the time to take advantage of all the tenderness and colors of the produce available during this season.
So let’s take a look at some of the top players in Spring produce—the “ABC’s “of Spring fare.
A is for Artichoke. These slightly prickly beauties are part of the thistle family. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one medium artichoke contains 60 calories, 4gm Protein, 0gm fat, and 6gm fiber. Yet , there is more to the eye than just the mere calories. Artichokes also contain vitamin C, A and K and folate, nutrients important for immune health, blood clotting, bone health and fertility. A compound called Silymarin make these prickly veggies superstars worth including into your regular fare. Silymarin is known for it’s role in liver health. Specially, It has been shown in studies to be a powerful antioxidant and to promote the regeneration of liver tissue. Studies have tested this compounds usage in liver cirrhosis and mushroom poisoning with good success.
While delicious, the long cook -time required and meager amounts of flesh make artichokes a more high maintenance food. They definitely appear to be one of those foods that seems easier to buy than to prepare yourself!
This is where the right tools can make all the difference. For those of you who have a pressure cooker, you will find that cooking 2 or more artichokes only requires 5- 15 minutes of cook time depending on the size. See recipe below for details.
B is for Broccoli. We all seem to know that broccoli is good for us for us yet we no idea why! Not only is broccoli rich in vitamin K, vitamin C (when raw) and calcium (when cooked), it turns out that that characteristic sulfur smell that makes it oh, so memorable, is what makes it so healthy! Sulfur is essential for a portion of your liver’s detoxification process, especially the process that clears out dangerous estrogens (menopausal women, take note!). Another powerful compound called Sulforaphane induces and suppresses enzymes that affect cancer growth and death, making it a powerful anticancer food. Broccoli sprouts are particularly loaded with this compound. In fact, one sprout contains as much of the anti-cancer compounds as 1 whole head of broccoli!
C is for Cherries. Bright and beautiful, tart or sweet, these Spring fruits are incredibly nutritious. Their red color comes from a compound called anythocyanin, a powerful antioxidant. Cherries also contain, potassium, vitamin C and E , melatonin and some fiber. Despite their sugar content (22 grams/1 cup serving), cherries appear to exert a beneficial influence on the blood sugar responses of diabetics (not non diabetics). Some studies conducted on athletes also showed improved recovery from muscle soreness after exercises induced stress (thanks to their anti-inflammatory effect!). Due to the affect their sugar content can have on the bowels, be mindful of the serving size and stick to 1 cup or less at a time.
It is always surprising to me how potently healthful even the most “common” of produce can be! This Spring,try adding in these “ABCs” of Springs’ bounty and know you are supporting your health and longevity!
Salted Dark Chocolate and Cherry Almond Clusters
Recipe by Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD
Also can be found on the FoodAnd Nutiriton Magazine website: https://foodandnutrition.org/
¼ cup (38 grams) fresh cherries, washed, pitted and chopped
¼ cup (30 grams) raw whole almonds, roughly chopped
½ cup (88 grams) semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
¼ teaspoon (2 grams) fine sea salt
1. In a small bowl, combine the chopped cherries and chopped almonds.
2. Place the chocolate chips in a separate microwave safe bowl.
3. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, then stir with a rubber spatula. Repeat 2 to 3 more times until the chips are thoroughly melted.
4. Pour the melted chocolate into the cherry and almond mixture.
5. Stir with the rubber spatula until the almonds and cherries are coated with chocolate.
6. Using a tablespoon, scoop out about 2 tablespoons to make 2-inch x 2-inch chocolate clusters and place on a wax paper-lined baking sheet.
7. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Cathryn's Note: For those watching their sugar, try substituting the ½ cup chocolate chips with equal or lesser amounts of coconut oil and 2 Tbsp Cocoa powder. Warm the coconut oil before adding the cocoa powder and mix well. This will make the clusters soft at room temp so always keep them refrigerated.
Instant Pot Artichokes
Author: Laura Pazzaglia, from www.hippressure cooking.
2 medium artichokes
1 lemon, sliced in half
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 pinch paprika
Wash well and remove the damaged outer leaves. If the artichokes are spiny, cut off the top edge and, using kitchen shears, trim the spines off the surrounding leaves.
Wipe any cut edges with a lemon half - this will keep them from oxidizing.
If you artichoke came with a stem (lucky you) just slice it off to make a flat bottom for the artichoke. Then, peel and slice the stem and boil it in the steaming liquid below the artichoke.
Add one cup of water to the pressure cooker base (along with any trimmed stemmed pieces) and lower the steamer basket inside.
Place artichokes facing up-wards and then spritz any remaining lemon on top of each.
Close the lid and set the valve to pressure cooking position.
Electric pressure cookers and stove top pressure cookers: Cook for 10 minutes at high pressure. (NOTE:) Cook time will vary depending on size: 5 min for Small, 10 min for medium, 15 min for Large.
When time is up, open the pressure cooker with the Natural release method - move the cooker off the burner and wait for the pressure to come down on its own (about 10 minutes). For electric pressure cookers, when cooking time is up count 10 minutes of natural open time. Then, release the rest of the pressure slowly using the valve.
Check for doneness by removing one of the outer leaves and tasting. Checking to see if the leaf readily yields the artichoke's meat from the wider edge of the leaf. If not, pressure cook for a few minutes more and open with Normal release method.
Mix mayonnaise with mustard and place in small dipping container, then sprinkle with paprika.
Author: Laura Pazzaglia, from www.hippressure cooking.com