Busting nutrition misinformation. The sky will not fall–

if your kids don’t eat their broccoli.

Broccoli

Broccoli

It all begins with the senses– in particular our inter-related senses of taste and smell.

The tongue can taste sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savory or what we now call umami.

We also have receptors for fat, briny- as in alkaline – metallic and water. Yes, even a non-taste like water rates receptors.

There are good evolutionary reasons to taste bitter – Poisonous plants tend to be bitter. Makes sense that we would therefore be sensitive to bitter.

Children, in particular, are sensitive to bitter. As we age we can override our aversion to bitterness and even come to enjoy the taste – arugula is a great example of a bitter herb we adults enjoy, along with other bitter greens, cruciferous vegetables, radishes, even horseradish. Many of us appreciate a bitter IPA. Not me, but many of us…

The same chemicals that make broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables stink and taste like sulfur are the same chemicals that may (I say may because some of these same compounds, indoles in particular, are also known carcinogens.) contain anti cancer and anti aging properties. But the smell and taste can be off-putting for kids. For me as well. While I love brussels sprouts, cabbage, and some bitter greens, I can barely stomach broccoli. According to my taste buds, the bitterness- the sulphoraphane – predominates.

Of course cooked broccoli smells worse than raw broccoli. Cooking, especially over-cooking, not only releases the sulfur compounds, it may destroy some or most of the health benefits.

However, broccoli contains oligosaccharides, which makes the plant difficult to digest since our body lacks the enzyme to digest oligosaccharides. Thus broccoli can cause cramping, gas and bloating. Broccoli actually tops a few of the lists – Foods that are difficult for children to digest. In addition broccoli contains a class of natural toxins called goitrogens which suppress the function of the thyroid gland.

Years ago I read a book, maybe it was an article, regardless I can’t find it anywhere. It was entitled: Why Kids Won’t Eat Broccoli. It made perfect sense to me.

I never stressed about feeding my young kids broccoli. I included it whenever I served a vegetable tray and they could eat it or not. It’s a reasonable addition to macaroni and cheese. It’s pretty good roasted, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and a little bit of plain old white sugar (counteracts some of the bitterness). It’s terrific covered with cheese sauce. But it’s not the perfect food. No one food is.

My kids actually prefer the following alternatives:

Broccolini

Broccolini

Broccolini– Broccolini is not baby broccoli although it is in the same family. It has smaller heads and long thin stalks- all edible, even the yellow flowers. It has a much milder flavor– sweeter. It is high in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K (be aware if you are on blood thinners), calcium, iron and folate.

Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli Rabe or Rapini (I like to think this is what Rapunzel’s mother craved)– Broccoli Rabe is actually in the mustard/turnip family. When cooked it’s less bitter than broccoli and gives off no sulfur smell. It’s a little nutty and a lot versatile. It’s high in fiber, pantothenic acid, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K (again, be aware if you are on blood thinners), B vitamins, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc.

I make a great broccoli rabe mustard pasta.

Julia’s Super Simple Ziti with Mustard and Broccoli Rabe

1 box Ziti – cook according to directions. I prefer my Ziti al dente.

1 big bunch broccoli rabe, washed and coarsely chopped

3 Tbs. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 heaping Tbs. whole grain mustard

1 lb. chicken or turkey sausage

salt and pepper to taste

1-2 tsp. red chili flakes

1/4 – 1/2 cup chicken broth as needed

1/4 – 1/2 cup heavy cream as needed

Grated Parmesan cheese to taste

Saute the sausage and garlic in olive oil. Cook until sausage is nearly done. Turn off heat but leave the pan on the burner. The sausage will finish cooking. Cook pasta. While pasta is cooking, clean and chop broccoli rabe. Two minutes before the pasta is done, add the broccoli rabe to the simmering water. When the pasta is tender, drain. Turn on burner. Add pasta and broccoli rabe to the sausage. Add the whole grain mustard, salt and pepper, and add a little chicken broth, enough to allow you to stir the mustard through. Add the chili flakes and additional chicken broth and cream as needed. Cook down a bit. The pasta dish should not be watery. Turn off heat. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

So no worries if your kids don’t like broccoli. They’ll still grow up and chances are one day they’ll appreciate bitter greens.

 

I could get used to this!

Oscar is away for two weeks. It’s amazing how much free time I have. What an incredible discovery!

I’ve only done laundry once. Dishes twice- in the dishwasher and that was just because there were some specific dishes I needed and I didn’t feel like washing them by hand.

I’ve barely cooked a meal. I’m eating salads and grilled cheese to my heart’s content. Working my way through a couple bottles of wine. Yeah, savoring the Pinot.

Baked a chocolate cake for Mother’s Day, ate one piece and froze the rest. I did hear from all my kids. Miss them terribly but two of the three are out of town. My son lives maybe 90 minutes away but he’s been working so much he didn’t feel like driving in and I didn’t feel like guilting him into doing so.

It’s just… Wow! And a little weird. Jake and I are pretty boring if left to our own devices so Oscar better get home soon!

Oh! So here’s the garden news. I harvested all the lettuce except for some leaf lettuce growing in planters. It was taking up too much space and I’d been supplying the entire block for a month. The lettuce, or mixed greens, are now blanched and in the freezer. I cut back the arugula, cooked it up with some prosciutto and chilies. Saving that for Oscar. He gets back on Wednesday.

I harvested the last of the radishes before they could bolt. They’re all bagged up in the fridge for the hubster.

I used the space to plant more eggplant – Black Satin and Japanese, and Thai chilies because my daughter in Montana demands Thai chilies. I already have eggplants, jalapenos, Fresno chilies, poblano chilies and mole chilies growing. I need extra eggplants because I’ll be shipping the fruit to Montana weekly– along with chilies.

some of the eggplants and chilies

some of the eggplants and chilies

Did you know potatoes, eggplants, chilies/peppers, tomatoes and tomatillos are all members of the deadly nightshade family? Along with cape gooseberries and goji berries– also known as superfoods. 

Once again my volunteer potatoes are taking over the world- Damn those French fingerlings! Delicious little suckers. My purple beans look great. The squash is minding its own business. Still getting some asparagus. The white turnips are huge. I gave in and planted one tomato plant. I tend to resist tomatoes because like potatoes one tomato plant can conquer the world. Oh, almost forgot the beets- hope they do well this year, the peas, the parsley and the cilantro.

All in all an exceptional year for gardening.

Garden 2014

Garden 2014

My New Love Affair- The Slow Cooker.

Or when in desperate straits do what the desperate, i.e., pragmatic, do– use a slow cooker. Slow cooking is very new to me. I bought myself a slow cooker after Christmas– having been terrified of them since I was young when our neighbor’s kitchen caught on fire from a short in a slow cooker.

However, thanks to my son and his love for slow cooking, I’ve since learned how safe and practical and versatile a slow cooker really is.

Using a slow cooker is pretty much all I can do these days anyway since I can’t stand at the stove long enough to cook a complicated meal.

Tonight I’m making my own version of salmon pineapple stir fry- using unsweetened canned pineapple, and the juice, without apologies. Oh, and I was able to harvest enough of our own asparagus for two servings! Yeah, baby!

Slow Cooker Pineapple Salmon.

Slow Cooker Pineapple Salmon with homegrown asparagus.

The other night I made slow cooked sweet and sour beef short ribs and I used… shock and awe… frozen veggies. Do you know how much time one spends sliced and chopping all the types of vegetables one uses? The short ribs were amazing- rich, tender, savory-sweet. I made enough of the basic sauce to use in the salmon recipe– with a few additions– and I had extra veggies all ready to go.

I even made our favorite addictive chocolate cake. No, not in the slow cooker, but I took Tom Stronach’s advise and prepped my wet and dry ingredients the night before (I have to sort of ration my standing time) so all I had to do the next day was mix the two and stir. The cake turned out better than ever, moist and scrumptious. I plan to use this method from now on.

Gramma Jennie's Chocolate Sheet Cake.

Gramma Jennie’s Chocolate Sheet Cake.

Want the recipes? If so I’ll stick them on my recipe page. Just let me know.

Laters! Julia

Today’s Harvest!

Thai chilies, beets, potatoes, Japanese eggplant, black satin eggplant, Costa Rican sweet pepper.

Thai chilies, beets, potatoes, Japanese eggplant, black satin eggplant, Costa Rican sweet pepper.

The beets got mixed with some previously frozen mustard greens– from this spring’s garden.  The potatoes and the Costa Rican sweet pepper were made into scalloped potatoes with fresh rosemary and sage from my herb bed.  Served with grilled boneless beef shortribs.  Yummolicious!

Supper Time!

So yesterday Roberta asked me to post a pic of what I made with what I harvested.  Here ya go!

From left to right - apple butter, pickled beets, eggplant with olive oil and white wine vinegar, broccoli rabe (frozen when I harvested my spring veggies) with roasted hot chilies, sesame oil and mirin, a selection of cave-aged cheeses - Challerhocker, Farmstead Cheddar and Etivaz. Oh, sliced heirloom tomatoes with a roasted Costa Rican sweet pepper. What you can't see - grilled bread with olive oil and garlic.

From left to right – apple butter, pickled beets, roasted eggplant with olive oil and white wine vinegar, broccoli rabe (frozen when I harvested my spring veggies) with roasted hot chilies, sesame oil and mirin, a selection of cave-aged cheeses – Challerhocker, Farmstead Cheddar and Etivaz. Oh, sliced heirloom tomatoes with a roasted Costa Rican sweet pepper. What you can’t see – grilled bread with olive oil and garlic.

Recipes?  I make ‘em up as I go along.  But I do love cheese!  And I’ve always liked barbecued bread.  Enjoy!  (Rice wine vinegar is best for pickling beets.)