Monday Medical: Get back to spring favorites

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Today is St. Patrick’s Day, which means spring is just around the corner. Spring is the perfect time for new beginnings, so if you have hit a slump in your New Year’s resolutions, this is your chance to change things up. March also is National Nutrition Month. It’s the perfect time to focus on green (healthy) eating.

Monday Medical

Monday Medical columns publish weekly in the Steamboat Today's Yampa Valley Health section. Read more columns here.

The color green conjures up thoughts of health, grass, spring and a plethora of spring veggies. In the Yampa Valley, thoughts of spring might start at the sight of a few shoots of grass poking through the snow, warmer days and the desire to shed the layers of winter. At the grocery stores, fresh spring produce will start to arrive, either from local greenhouses or warmer climates.

Let’s explore a few spring favorites.

Asparagus is a spring classic and best eaten when it’s at its nutrient height. Recent studies have shown that some of the nutrients and phytochemicals in asparagus are more perishable than other veggies, so eat this spring beauty as fresh as can be. Asparagus is full of phytonutrients called saponins that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

You can keep asparagus fresher longer in your fridge by wrapping the ends with a damp towel. It is wonderful chopped and served in frittatas as well as roasted and pureed in soups. Asparagus is packed with vitamin K, folate and inulin, a non-digestible carbohydrate that is a great natural prebiotic. Prebiotics are food for the beneficial bacteria in our gut.

Artichokes are another spring classic. Yet, most people do not know what to do with a fresh, whole artichoke. Try stuffing fresh artichokes by sauteing lemon, basil, oregano, sea salt, pepper, olive oil, almond meal and a dash of grated parmesan and stuffing the mixture between the leaves. Steam for 25 minutes, scoop out the inedible parts in between the stem and heart, and enjoy!

Artichokes are packed with fiber and contain niacin, magnesium and vitamin C.

Fennel is a spring powerhouse that is unique in that the entire plant is edible, including the stalk, bulb, seeds and leaves. In addition, the volatile oil made from this plant has been shown to have multiple health benefits, including anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects on the body. It is a great source of the antioxidants rutin, quercitin and the phytochemical anethole.

Fennel is common in Mediterranean cooking and is wonderful sauteed and roasted. Try it in a raw salad prepared with avocados and oranges.

Mustard greens are the sometimes-forgotten member of the cruciferous vegetable family. These greens are packed with vitamins K and C in addition to containing almost 100 percent of your daily needs of vitamin A in just a 1-cup serving.

These greens, along with their brethren from the cruciferous food family, have been studied for their anti-cancer and cholesterol-lowering capabilities. They are a great source of carotenoids and other phytonutrients.

Mustard greens also are a good source of calcium, as are many other greens. If your GI tract is healthy and you properly chew your food, the oxalate content, a natural component of many vegetables that often is blamed for blocking calcium absorption, should be negligible. Serve mustard greens sauteed in your favorite oil or broth, and let them sit for five minutes after chopping to allow phytonutrients to become enhanced before cooking.

Let’s enjoy spring and go green.

Cauliflower-green mash

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

4 cloves garlic

1 head kale or mustard greens, tough stems removed, leaves chopped

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup coconut milk

Optional: 1/4 cup cheese of your choice or even add 1 tbsp. brewer’s yeast for a nutty flavor

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the cauliflower with some olive oil, salt and pepper and spread it out in a single layer on a cookie sheet or in a roasting pan. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes until tender and beginning to brown. Preheat a saute pan at medium-high then add more olive oil, kale, garlic, salt and pepper. Saute for a few more minutes, until the kale is tender. When the cauliflower is done roasting, mash it with the milk and optional cheese. You can use a hand masher or a mixer. Once mashed, stir in the kale and serve as a great alternative to mashed potatoes.

Asparagus-avocado salad

5 large asparagus stalks

1 avocado

1 orange

1/2 lime

2 tbsp. olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Fresh mint to taste

Shave asparagus into long strips and combine with cubed avocado and orange sections. Whisk lime, sea salt, olive oil and mint and pour over salad to taste. This salad also can be made by substituting asparagus for fennel.

St. Pat’s tempeh or chicken in a mushroom lager sauce

(Adapted from a recipe by "Vegetarian Times")

7-ounce package or organic tempeh or chicken cut into cubes

4 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. tamari

10 ounces crimini mushrooms, or button if you need to substitute

2 tbsp. potato flour

2 1/2 cups lager or gluten free beer

2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 green onions

1 1/2 cups chopped fresh spinach

Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a skillet over medium high heat, cook tempeh or chicken for 7 to 10 minutes until browned on all sides, stirring frequently as to not burn. Add tamari, and cook for 2 more minutes. Transfer tempeh or chicken to a paper towel lined plate. Add remaining oil and mushrooms to the pan with a pinch of sea salt and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium low and stir in flour, cook for 1 to 2 minutes until flour begins to brown, stirring constantly. Increase heat to medium high and add beer and mustard and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until sauce thickens. Add back in chicken or tempeh, and add spinach and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with a sprinkle of green onions.

Cara Marrs is a registered dietician at YVMC’s Integrated Health. She can be reached at cara.marrs@yvmc.org.

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