February 20, 2006

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Low Carb For Life Reprint: Broccoli!

Do you love broccoli? You have a lot of company. Do you hate broccoli? You have a lot of company. This Italian cousin of cabbage has grown in popularity over the past few decades, to become one of the most enjoyed vegetables in the US.

This is very good news, because broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse, and it's seriously low carb, too. A whole cup of cooked broccoli - a generous serving - has 8 grams of carbohydrate, with 5 grams of fiber, for a teeny carb count of 3 grams - and just 44 calories. Yet you'll get far more vitamin C than you would in a 4-ounce glass of orange juice, a whopping 194% of your daily requirement. You'll also get 43% of your vitamin A, 20% of your folacin, 13% of your potassium, 11% of your B6, 7% of both your calcium and iron, 4% each of your thiamin, niacin, and zinc. Surprisingly enough, you'll even get 5 grams of protein! Clearly, broccoli is your very good friend, nutritionally speaking.

Broccoli is also a great source of sulforaphane, a very powerful antioxidant that is being studied as a cancer preventative, and that may help the body detoxify itself. Hard to beat that. (It's good to know that broccoli sprouts are far higher in sulforaphane than the mature vegetable. If you can get them locally, throw 'em into your salads for a big nutritional boost.)

Yet many people loathe broccoli - we've even had a president declare his antipathy to the vegetable. I suspect that many of those folks have only ever had broccoli that was horribly overcooked. The old "boil vegetables until dead" school of cooking is particularly hard on broccoli; it goes from brilliant emerald, sweet and tender-crisp to gray, mushy, and sulfurous all too quickly. Better to steam or microwave it lightly, or stir-fry it, stopping far short of mushiness.

It's up to you whether you want to cook with fresh or frozen broccoli; the frozen stuff is certainly easier, while fresh is a bit tastier. Should you choose fresh, do yourself a favor - instead of lopping off and discarding the stems, use your vegetable peeler to remove the tough skin, and cook them along with the florets. They're wonderful. If you choose frozen broccoli, it's interesting to know that chopped broccoli is a tad higher in calcium than broccoli spears or florets, because the calcium-rich leaves are included.

Here are a few ideas for upping your broccoli consumption:

* Most grocery stores sell bags of broccoli and cauliflower florets. With bottled ranch dip, these make a great snack to put out while you're cooking dinner, and if you hide the chips it will probably get some veggies into your kids.

* Many groceries also carry "broccoslaw" - shredded stems leftover from those florets we just mentioned. Use in place of or along with cabbage in your favorite slaw recipe for a big nutritional boost. You could also add a handful to a tossed salad - it'll mix in more easily than florets would.

* Steamed or microwaved broccoli is fine with butter, but it's also easy to dress it up. Try a squeeze of lemon juice, or a little soy sauce and ginger, with a scatter of toasted sesame seeds.

* Readers submitted several variations of broccoli salad for 500 More Low-Carb Recipes with grated cheddar cheese, a little onion, and crumbled bacon, plus a dressing made with mayonnaise, vinegar, and just a touch of sweetness. Filling!

* Thawed frozen broccoli marinated in bottled vinaigrette dressing is as easy a salad as you'll ever find, and mighty tasty, too.

* Don't forget about broccoli in stir-fry. I think thawed frozen broccoli "cuts" - bigger chunks than chopped broccoli, but smaller than florets - are ideal for this.

* Broccoli soup is a perennial favorite. Here's a great version out of 500 More Low-Carb Recipes, sent in by reader Amy Dungan, who says it's her decarbed version of the soup her aunt used to make. My recipe tester Julie McIntosh called it "great in all aspects" - including that her kids liked it!

Broccoli Ham & Cheese Soup

3 cups of steamed broccoli (chopped into bite size pieces)
4 ounces of cream cheese (softened)
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups water
1 chicken bouillon cube, or 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules or concentrate
pepper to taste
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup of chopped, cooked ham
4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

First, of course, you'll steam your broccoli - you can steam a whole head and chop it up, or you can buy frozen broccoli "cuts," and use 3 cups of them.

Combine 1 cup of the broccoli, the cream cheese, heavy cream, and 1/4 cup water in your food processor, with the S-blade in place. Process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a large saucepan. Add bouillon, pepper, the rest of the broccoli, the mushrooms, the ham and the rest of water. Simmer over medium heat until the mushrooms are soft. Add cheddar and stir until melted, then serve.

Makes 6 servings, each with: 279 Calories; 25g Fat; 10g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 3g usable carbs.

Posted by HoldTheToast at February 20, 2006 09:51 PM