(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
When spring swings along, lots of eager eaters fill shopping baskets with loads of fresh vegetables to enjoy raw and crunchy. It might be a steamer basket that would be more in order, according to studies about how to lower your cholesterol.
Researchers from the USDA and elsewhere have shown that, when lightly steamed, in vitro bile acid binding is significantly improved. This means that the liver needs to exhaust more LDL (often referred to as the "bad" type of cholesterol) in order to produce bile. That, in turn, usually equals less of this substance circulating in your bloodstream.
Vegetables that have been proven best in various studies: cauliflower, carrots, green beans, asparagus, eggplant, broccoli, green bell pepper, cabbage and mustard and collard greens.
The problem is cooks sometimes look at steaming as a one-way route to boring, bland --- and sometimes mushy --- results. The following ideas highlight that that doesn't have to be your own culinary "research" results.
- The most interesting and delicious steamed vegetable dishes don't just involve you throwing everything willy-nilly into a steamer basket. The vegetables can be layered for the most effective resulting textures and flavors.
Steam carrots layered with fennel, which is naturally anise flavored, and then a layer of quartered red potatoes.
When steaming cauliflower, layer with small amounts of fresh ginger, and cubes of squash.
- Timing also matters. "Tough" customers like cauliflower steam for a long period, whereas thinner fare, like the snow peas, could be steamed following that for only a few minutes.
- Boring also comes into play when cooks serve only steamed vegetables. As easy specialties can highlight, though, a mix-and-match of vegetables and/or legumes becomes a spring extravaganza.
Chickpeas, for instance, that are roasted along with coriander seeds and sesame oil create an innovative taste treat along with steamed cauliflower, snow peas and cubes of squash.
- When serving, easy accompaniments can make a big difference, like:
- Store-bought pestos (the Italian condiment, usually prepared from crushed basil, garlic and pine nuts)
- Spice blends, like Italian, Mexican, Indian or Cajun
- A variety of mustards, from mild to hot, plain to honey-flavored or Dijon
Fun fare like this also shows innovative food and beverage preparation can be easy, nutritious, economical, entertaining - and fast. They take just 10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare
. The combinations are delicious evidence that everyone has time for tasty "home cooking" and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You - and your kidlet helpers - effortlessly become gourmets, since there are no right or wrong amounts
. These are virtually-can't-go-wrong mixtures, so whatever you choose to use can't help but draw "wows."
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: Even if you have the desire, sometimes it's daunting to give up beef hamburgers altogether for legume burgers, which have no saturated fat. Going half and half can be a delicious solution, which also adds fiber. Use only half the lean ground beef you usually would and mix in an equal amount of mashed garbanzo, pinto, black or other beans as well as the seasonings you usually would. Some picky eaters at your dining table may not even notice the difference.
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet (Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.