Friday, July 19, 2013

Radishes are Rad!

OK, the titles of my vegetable-inspired posts are getting a little ....erm..corny. Oh my. Did it again!

So until a few weeks ago I had no love for radishes, whatsoever, but then I had the great fortune of winning a place at the Culinary Institute's  Thrills on the Grill bootcamp.  Along with 9 other foodies/chef wannabes, I got to spend a full day at the Culinary Institute receiving instruction from Chef Ilona on how to prepare a number of dishes.  Many of them had tantalizing titles like Grilled Naan Bread, Beer Can Chicken and Mussels Steamed in Curry Maple Sauce, but there was one I was certain I'd not enjoy - Quick Radish and Cucumber Pickles. I have a great dislike for pickles, so I couldn't imagine actually enjoying this dish. Still, I like to be adventurous when it comes to food, so I decided to give it a chance.  So glad I did, because it was delicious and now I want to eat ALL the radishes!

Here is the recipe (I hope Chef Ilona doesn't mind!)

2 bunches of radishes
An English cucumber  (I've never actually included the cucumber when making this recipe)
4 TBSP sugar
4 TBSP vinegar
4 TBSP of salt*

* After receiving a number of questions regarding the salt content, I asked Chef Ilona if the ratio was correct. This was her response:  Yes, it is (the correct ratio). The reason being, I save the liquid (for up to 4 future uses) once I soak radishes for the allotted time. This brine also works well with cucumber, carrots or cauliflower(in italian it is called enslata renforzo). If people prefer to reduce the salt, feel free to take away a tbsp or two if desired, but brine must be discarded after, as bacteria/mold can grow in it.

Thinly slice the radishes and cucumber, place in bowl. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and refrigerate for at least 15 mins (or overnight).

Delicious and, as discussed below, radishes are super healthy!

What's So Rad About Radishes?

Breathe Easier

Radishes are thought to be a natural decongestant, so if you have respiratory problems such as asthma or chronic bronchitis, or just have a stuffed up nose, try taking some radish.

Cleanse Yourself

Radishes act as a natural cleanser for the digestive system by stimulating bile production, which keeps the liver and gallbladder operating efficiently. The liver, of course, is the body's detoxification centre. The importance of efficient detoxification to one's overall health cannot be overemphasized.

So you have a hangover eh? Why not chow down on a bowl of radishes and give your liver a lil 'thank-you' for putting up with your ingestion of alcohol?

Radishes may also help reduce bloating and indigestion.

Help Your Heart and Manage Blood Sugar

The nutrient content in radishes makes them very good for your heart and blood sugar management. They’ve been shown to lower cholesterol, manage diabetes and regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Support Your Kidneys, Prevent UTI

Radishes are cited as one of the most effective foods for preventing Urinary Tract Infections. For those with a UTI, drinking juice that contains radish may help relieve the burning sensation and reduce the duration of the infection.
 No Worries About Your Weight

Radishes are high in nutrients, low in calories, and contain water and fibre, which makes them pretty filling. By these measurements they are a great food for those concerned about their weight.

Those are only some of the many reasons that radishes are rad. Now stop reading this, go to your kitchen and make some delicious radish pickles!

Friday, July 12, 2013


Week 3 of Jen & Derek's CSA brought with it oodles of green-ness. I was admonished by Jen because I only brought one (big) reusable bag for the haul and it was clearly not enough to handle all that she had harvested for us lucky members.  Amongst the jewels that were in this week's share was a big head of something Jen called napa cabbage. When she saw the blank look on my face, she said 'It's Chinese cabbage'.  Oh. I nodded , as if the clarification had helped immensely, even though I still had no idea what to do with this big head of ruffly, pale leaves.

Cabbage has never been tops on my list of favorite veggies, but this particular variety has little resemblance to the big, heavy, round purple heads that most of us are more familiar with.  I figured a wee bit of research into its nutritional benefits might convince me of its merits.  Turns out, napa cabbage is yet another member of the rather large Brassica family (they might even have more family members than the Duggars!).  From my nutrition studies, I already knew that being part of the Brassica family automatically gave this vegetable automatic star status, but I dug a little deeper to find out just what its nutritional claims to fame are.


It's Baby-friendly!

Ladies, if you're planning to get pregnant or are pregnant, this head o' cabbage is for you.  Most moms-to-be know the importance of taking folic acid supplements during pregnancy to help protect against neurological damage to the baby growing inside, but how about enjoying some of that folate goodness from nature as well?   Napa cabbage, it turns out, is an awesome source of folate. So, if you're in pre-pregnancy planning mode or already carrying a little one, make sure you eat lots of cabbage leaves.

It just occurred to me that the napa cabbage leaves could make a pretty decent substitution for a tortilla wrap sandwich. Just bundle veggies and meat in a leaf or two and squeeze on some homemade dressing/sauce. Save the ice cream and pickles for those really hot days ;)

Photo Credit: Two Eat Philly, 2012

It's Not Orange, But It's Got a Lotta Vit. C!

Whenever someone gets sick, inevitably someone lectures them about 'getting their Vitamin C' (confession: I may have been said-lecturer on occasion).  It's good advice, if a little late for the sick person.  This vitamin supercharges your immune system and helps keep you strong and vibrant.  When most of us think of Vitamin C, we immediately think of citrus fruits like oranges, but there are plenty of foods rich in Vitamin C, including our friend, napa cabbage. 100 g of it provides 45% of your RDA. 

So eat your cabbage to help keep your immune system in check.

Eat Cabbage, Stay Strong!

Napa cabbage contains a decent amount of Vitamin K, which may play a role in keeping your bones strong and healthy.  In a nutshell, eating foods with Vitamin K may help delay or prevent osteoporosis and bone injuries.

Combat Cancer and Keep the Heart Healthy with Cabbage!

I have a feeling this is going to be a repetitive refrain throughout the summer, since pretty much every vegetable contains an amazing array of anti-oxidants that can help prevent cancer and also reduce  the risk of heart disease (often by reducing 'bad' cholestrol levels).  Depsite the prevalence of antioxidants in our lovely, organic vegetables, I think it's worth being reminded regularly of just how much what we eat (or don't eat) can help keep us in good health for the long term.  Vegetables are delicious and that should be reason enough to chomp on them every day, but the whole cancer and heart disease-fighting elements are a pretty amazing perk.

Cabbage Consumption Helps You Have Good Poos!
Yep, I bring up poop in a post about vegetables again. Can't be helped, since they're all so full of fiber and we know from those All-Bran ads that fibre keeps you regular (and not in the boring way, but the healthy bowel way!), and staying regular is the key to keeping toxins from sticking around in your body too long. 


As noted at the top of this post, napa cabbage is part of the Brassica family of vegetables, so the same cautions that apply to kale should be taken into consideration with the napa cabbage. That is, anyone with iodine-deficiency hypothyroidism should limit the amount of RAW napa cabbage they eat due to its goitrogenic potential (may block iodine uptake). Again, any sort of steaming or sauteeing will release these goitrogens and eliminate any issues that the food may pose for a person with hypothyroidism.

So, there you go folks, that's the lowdown on napa cabbage.  Enjoy it in abundance and revel in the fact that you are doing all the systems in your body a great service by providing them with foods that are full of valuable nutrients!

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Kudos to Kale

Kale, kale and more kale.  It's an inside joke amongst CSA folk that incites knowing laughter, regardless of who they get their veggie box from.   Sometimes, whilst waiting for the first signs of red and orange in our boxes, we can get a little overwhelmed with all the green goodness. Kale, with its curly green or purple leaves tends to stand out as the mystery vegetable - the one that no one seems quite sure what to do with. For some, the weeks of kale can be a bit daunting (I will note that we are in our second CSA week and kale was in the grab box only, so I may be exaggerating a bit here in terms of the abundance of kale in our boxes),  but isn't that the beauty of a CSA too? An opportunity to flex your kitchen skills and try all sorts of new dishes. This is what seasonal eating is all about!

For all the mystery that shrouds kale (let's face it, no one's Mom was making sandwiches with kale back in the day and Popeye was eating canned spinach, not kale chips), the one thing that everyone seems to know is that kale is a super food. In a classroom full of greens that would get straight As for nutrient content, kale would get A+s.   It's really in a class of its own!

OK, but what makes it a super food? What amazing powers will be bestowed upon my body if I treat it to kale on a regular basis?  Why should I bother with it?

I think of vegetables in the same way some people think about stocks and bonds - they are worth investing in, but you want to do your research first and get to know what it is you're 'investing' in. While I'd have to say that ANY organic vegetable is a wise investment for your current and future health, not to mention your taste buds, I'm the kind of person that wants to know exactly why I should be investing in kale.  I am also the kind of person that wants the nutshell version, not a long explanation that includes citations and reference to various vitamins, minerals and other abstract words. So, for those that are like me, here's  the low down on kale.

Photo Credit:

  • Helps Prevent Cancer - Kale has the broadest range of antioxidants amongst the Brassica family of vegetables, which are generally known for their cancer-fighting abilities. A diet rich in antioxidants is key to reducing the damage done to cells by free radicals.  
  • Guards Against Heart Disease - Kale has been shown to help lower cholestrol and is rich in vitamin K, which is generally recognized as a heart-healthy nutrient.
  • Full of Fiber - Regular poos help with detoxification of your body, which means fewer toxins get to stick around inside you wreaking havoc. 
  • May Help Protect Against Estrogen-Dominant diseases -  Kale contains a nutrient that may affect the way estrogen is metabolized by the body. This is especially important for those concerned about developing diseases such as breast cancer, fibroids, and endometriosis.
  • People with Underactive Thyroid/Hypothryoid Should Eat with Caution -  Raw Brassica family vegetables, including kale, broccoli, bok choy and Brussels sprouts, contain goitrogens which may interfere with your thyroid's ability to use iodine, thus suppressing its ability to regulate your body's metabolism and perform other important body functions.  The good news is that the goitrogens are released when kale is steamed or cooked, so you can still get a lot of the good stuff from kale, while avoiding the potential negative impacts.  Those with a normal functioning thyroid should not be concerned about eating Brassica vegetable in reasonable quantities, although it is probably wise not to overdo consumption of raw kale.
  • Too much raw kale can be rough on the digestion - Unless you're juicing it every day, you're probably not going to eat too much raw kale, but if you are eating it a lot and notice that you are experiencing bloating, gas or other digestive issues you might want to take a break from the raw kale to see if your symptoms subside.   Cooked kale is just fine, eat as much as you desire!

So there you have it folks. Multiple reasons to get creative with kale and show it mucho love for the gift of health it offers with every bite!

For ideas on how to prepare kale, check out the following recipes:

Kale Smoothies (careful not to have too many!)

Superfood Burger with Sweet Potato, Walnuts and Kale

Kale Chips

Kale Strawberry Avocado Salad