Monday, November 26, 2012

Brussels Sprouts: Sinful Little Devils!

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Ah... Brussel sprouts. They just seem to conjure up bad associations for most people - one of those veggies that your mother made you sit at the dinner table until you finished - and honestly, that is just a shame! They are not horrible at all, nor should they be used as punishment! C'mon, mothers! If you cook them correctly, they can actually taste a little sinful.

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Yes, I said sinful.

They really, really are.

Brussels sprouts originated near (you guessed it!) Brussels. They have always been popular in Europe, but didn't land on the American dinner table until World War I. They're a cold weather crop, growing best in light frost condition, so now is the best time to go sprout hunting at your local grocery store! They look like mini cabbages and are considered a cruciferous vegetable. If you read my recent post on immunity, you'll recall that cruciferous vegetables are some of the most nutritious things you can feed your body.

So what makes this little vegetable such a hit? 

CANCER PROTECTION - Brussels sprouts contain compounds called isothiocyanates, which promote the elimination of carcinogens from the body. These tiny veggies can also help reduce DNA damage. When DNA is damaged, abnormal cells can start to develop - cells that could eventually turn into cancer. Brussels sprouts seem to have special protective qualities when it comes to breast, colon and prostate cancer.

HEALTHY DIGESTION - There are approximately 4 grams of fiber per cup of sprouts. Fiber is important in keeping your digestive system functioning properly and in keeping your blood sugar and cholesterol levels in check.

IMMUNE SUPPORT - You've heard it before but I'll say it again - vitamin C is essential for a strong immune system. Just 1 cup of raw sprouts equals approximately 124% of your Daily Value. It doesn't get better than that! The most nutrients will be maintained by steaming them, but don't worry, you'll still benefit from nutrients no matter how you cook them.

INFLAMMATION REDUCTION - Chronic inflammation is a huge risk factor for many types of illness and cancers. Just 1 cup of raw sprouts contains almost double your Daily Value of vitamin K, which directly regulates your body's inflammatory responses. In addition to this huge job, vitamin K also aids in blood clotting and ensures bone strength.

CELL GROWTH & REGENERATION - Most of us are deficient in folate, a vitamin found naturally in green leafy vegetables. While you can supplement with folic acid, this synthetic version of folate may come with it's own set of concerns. It's important that you focus on meeting adequate folate levels through food, and Brussels sprouts are a great way to do this! Just 1 cup of boiled sprouts meets 25% of your Daily Value. Folate is essential for everyone, but especially crucial during periods of rapid cell division and growth (think 'pregnancy' or 'infancy'). Folate also plays a major role in preventing changes in cells that lead to cancer.

I love vegetables, and the more, the merrier. So today, I'd like to share my recipe for roasted vegetables. This dish is a no-brainer... meaning if you can turn on the oven and chop, you're all set! Even picky eaters will love it!

Grab your ingredients (feel free to improvise here...any veggies will do). I chose Brussels sprouts, asparagus,
cauliflower, mushrooms, a yellow onion and garlic. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spray 2 baking pans with a non-stick cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
Finely chop 3-4 cloves of garlic.
Cut the whole yellow onion into large chunks.
Wash and cut your mushrooms into chunks. 
Wash and cut your asparagus into thirds (always cut off and discard of the white or purple end of the stalk. It is too
tough to enjoy!).
Wash your Brussels sprouts, then chop them in half. I make a tiny slit with my knife into the 'tree trunk' end
of the sprout to help it cook more evenly. 
Wash and break your cauliflower into small pieces (this can be done by need for fancy cutting skills).
Find a big bowl and throw all your ingredients inside.
Now drizzle the mixture with just enough extra virgin olive oil to give the veggies a light coat (probably 3 Tbs. or so
depending on how much you're making). Toss it like you would a salad.
Now grab your army of spices. I use sea salt, black pepper, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes (because
I'm a spice fanatic).
Give the veggies a healthy sprinkle of the spices. Don't get all crazy with the salt... remember, you can always salt later
if you need more! Now spread your mixture onto the baking pans, making sure that
all the veggies have room to breath. No big pile-ups!
And now... the secret ingredient... (drumroll please)... BLACK TRUFFLE OIL! In case you haven't heard, truffle oil
makes everything better! But you don't have to use a lot. Drizzle only about 1/2 tsp. per pan. It may seem inconsequential, but it will do the job!
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the tops are slightly browned and the veggies (especially the cauliflower)
are cooked through.
This makes a great side or even a snack! It's best eaten right out of the oven!

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