With the unveiling of MyPlate
, the USDA's replacement for the food pyramid, fruits are suddenly in the spotlight. Fruits are allocated almost a quarter of the MyPlate graphic of an ideal plate, and the key recommendation of the whole program is to make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
Population studies have found that fruit consumption is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. Some fruits may also be protective against certain types of cancer. But surely most Americans are already eating plenty of fruits, right? Vegetables can sometimes get a bad rap, from children turning up their noses as Brussels sprouts to the first President Bush refusing to eat broccoli. Most people like most fruits, however, so how can there be a shortfall?
Nonetheless, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans warn that more than half of Americans fall short of recommended fruit intake. According to the USDA's Economic Research Service, Americans consumed only 0.84 cups of fruit per day in 2008.
Moreover, adults under age 30 consume more than half of their fruits as juice. As the Guidelines note: Although 100% fruit juice can be part of a healthful diet, it lacks dietary fiber and when consumed in excess can contribute extra calories. Consider orange juice, America's most popular morning fruit choice: One cup contains just a half-gram of fiber, while a cup of orange slices delivers 4.3 grams of dietary fiber. In the bargain, the whole fruit contains only about two-thirds the calories.
So the Guidelines advise: The majority of the fruit recommended should come from whole fruits, including fresh, canned, frozen, and dried forms. To limit intake of added sugars, look for fruit canned in 100% fruit juice.
Fiber is also a reason to really consume the whole fruit, including the peel, when eating apples, pears, and other fruits with edible peels. Two-thirds of the fiber in an apple is found in the peel, for instance, along with many of the antioxidants.
Fiber can help improve cholesterol levels and improve digestion. While all fruits are sources of fiber, some are particular standouts, contributing more than 20% of the Daily Value(DV, 25 grams) in a single serving. These fiber-rich fruits include:
But fiber is just one of the nutrients that fruits bring to the table. Like fiber, many of the nutrients found in fruit are under-consumed by Americans in general or by specific at-risk groups. These include folate, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A (carotenoids), C and K. Fruits are probably best known as a source of vitamin C, which is important for growth and repair of all body tissues, helps heal cuts and wounds, and keeps teeth and gums healthy. Again, all fruits contain vitamin C, but some deliver more than 20% of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) in a single serving. Among the fruits highest in vitamin C:
But don't overlook fruit as a source of potassium, which helps maintain healthy blood pressure. Recent research has suggested that potassium may do even more to promote vascular health, including reducing artery stiffness and protecting against the damage from excess sodium intake. Good fruit sources of potassium include:
prunes and prune juice
Fruits are also among your best sources of polyphenol compounds (antioxidants) such as flavonoids, whose varied health benefits are the subject of ongoing scientific research. Berries, especially rich in these compounds, may even be good for your brain. In animal studies conducted by Tufts University researchers, antioxidants found in berries have been shown to reverse age-related declines in the brain's ability to process information, as well as cognitive and motor deficits.
In a USDA analysis of antioxidant levels in more than 100 foods, fruits represented 13 of the top 20 ranked by total antioxidant capacity per serving size. But Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD, director of Tufts' HNRCA Antioxidants Research Laboratory, cautions against reading too much into these numbers: These values are not a measure relevant to potential health benefits or recommended nutrient intakes.
Eating a variety of fruits, rather than chasing after antioxidant superfruits, is your best shopping strategy. That way you'll enjoy the full menu of nutrients in fruits, and can save money by picking fruits that are in season. Don't overlook frozen fruits, which are usually picked and frozen at their nutritional peak; frozen fruits also let you use only what you need, avoiding the problem of spoilage.
While the dollar cost of fruit can be high, says Blumberg, their nutritional value is higher. According to a new USDA report on the cost of healthy food, as of 2006 whole fruit was actually less expensive per 100 grams than commercially prepared packaged sweets or savory snacks.
A Free Lunch?
Unlike packaged sweets or snacks, fruits are also nutritional standouts for what they don't contain. All fruits are cholesterol-free, and most are naturally very low in fat and sodium. One medium apple, for example, has only 0.05 grams of saturated fats and 2 milligrams of sodium.
The nutrients in fruit come at a relatively bargain price in calories, too. And because many fresh fruits are about 85% water, they fill you up and reduce the temptation to indulge in less-healthy choices. Last year, in fact, Weight Watchers changed its popular point system so fruits are free, counting as zero points toward members' totals. But that doesn't mean fruits are actually zero-calorie: You should add fruits to your diet in place of other, less-nutritious, higher-calorie foods. Simply eating an extra banana every day, even though bananas are packed with important nutrients, would add up in a year to more than 38,000 additional calories - enough to put on almost 11 pounds. On the other hand, eating a banana instead of the same amount of potato chips, by weight, would slice 535 calories per day off your intake - nearly 200,000 calories a year!
If you're not getting enough fruits in your diet, here are some tips from the USDA for giving your food a nutritious, fruity boost:
At breakfast, top your cereal with bananas or peaches; add blueberries to pancakes; drink 100% fruit juice; mix fruit with plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt.
At lunch, pack a tangerine, banana or grapes to eat, or choose fruits from a salad bar.
At dinner, add crushed pineapple to coleslaw, or include orange sections or grapes in a tossed salad
Try meat dishes that incorporate fruit, such as chicken with apricots or mangoes. (You can even use fruits to keep meats like extra-lean turkey burger tasting juicy.)
Add fruit like pineapple or peaches to kabobs as part of a barbeque meal.
for fresh fruit salads, mix apples, bananas, or pears with acidic fruits like oranges, pineapple, or lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.
For dessert, have baked apples, pears, or a fruit salad.
For a snack, spread peanut butter on apple slices or top plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt with berries or slices of kiwi fruit.
Frozen juice bars (100% juice) make healthy alternatives to high-fat snacks.
Many fruits taste great with a dip or dressing. Try fat-free or low-fat yogurt as a dip for fruits like strawberries or melons.
Make a fruit smoothie by blending fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit. Try bananas, peaches, strawberries or other berries.
Try unsweetened applesauce as a lower-calorie substitute for some of the oil when baking cakes.
Whatever fruits you pick, you'll enjoy one of Mother Nature's great nutritional bargains.
As one of the world's most versatile fruits, you'll find this slice of heaven in almost everything—from tart to sweet to savory dishes. It's pressed into cider and poured into sippy cups. Dipped in caramel, the apple is a staple in our fall celebrations. We pack it in lunches and garnish our salads. Our moms make it into classic pies, tarts and cobblers. A stop at your local bakery yields muffins, breads, Danishes and fritters—all made from this unassuming, yet perfect, fruit—the Apple.
A Bit of Apple History
There are more than 10,000 different varieties of apples grown in the world today. With this fruit's long history, it's no wonder that so many varieties have been cultivated over the centuries.
Apples go way back. In fact, carbonized remains of apples have been found in prehistoric lake dwellings in Switzerland, and there's also evidence that apples were not only eaten, but preserved, during the Stone Age.
The earliest known writings that include references to apples come from first-century Chinese and Egyptian records. They refer to the art of budding and grafting apple trees…more than 20 centuries ago.
Fast forward to the apple's place in early American history. When the colonists first arrived from England, they found only crab apples growing naturally. For a culture that grew up on baked apples and hot apple cider, it was a tough time.
More Apple Legends and Lore
Adam & Eve...and the Forbidden Fruit
According to the Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve lived a pretty lush life in the Garden of Eden. They were allowed to eat fruit from any tree—except for one, The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
As we all know, they nibbled—and were expelled from paradise. But how did the apple get the bad rap as the fruit of the forbidden tree? It's not mentioned in the original text. In fact, historians say that other fruits had been suggested before the apple, including grapes, figs and citrons (a lemon-like fruit).
Some speculate that early Christian scholars' translations used the word apple instead of fruit. Even Greek mythology incorporates apples as a metaphor for good and evil.
Our early artisans also seemed to prefer the apples as a representation of the forbidden fruit. Carved depictions of Adam and Eve with apples have been found in early Christian catacombs. In 12th century French and German art, this historic scene is always depicted with an apple. Only the Byzantine and Italian artists opted for the less popular fig.
Cue Johnny Appleseed…
This legendary figure was born John Chapman in Leominster, MA. He was considered eccentric, and was often spotted walking with ragged clothes and a pot on his head.
In the early 1800s, he began wandering the frontier, planting apple seeds as he went. He soon became known as Johnny Appleseed. His mission was to make the wilderness a home for the pioneers heading west. Chapman would ultimately plant over a thousand acres of apple orchards in western Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. Some of those trees still survive today.
You're the Apple of My Eye
Fortunately, the Adam and Eve connotations didn't quell our love for this beloved fruit. In fact, the Bible itself uses a variation of this phrase several times in its text.
In literature, The apple of my eye phrase first appeared in an 885 A.D. English work, Gregory's Pastoral Care, referring to someone cherished above all others. Shakespeare used the phrase in A Midsummer Night's Dream when referring to Cupid's arrow.
What's the Best Apple for the Job…
Getting to the Core of the Matter.
Although the history, myths, songs and stories about apples are intriguing, what has made the apple one of America's favorite foods is its taste—and versatility.
Buying tips: Select apples that are firm, deeply colored and an average size. Reject those that have soft spots or broken skins. Though apples are now available throughout the year, be sure to take advantage of fall's apple harvest when you'll find better quality, more options and lower prices.
Ali's Not-so-Famous Apple Pie
In searching for the best apple pie recipe, we found local home baker Ali McKenzie. She may not have the notoriety of a Paula Deen or Martha Stewart—but she makes one of the best darn pies we've ever eaten. (And we've eaten plenty!) Enjoy.
Pie filling ingredients:
Tip: Prepare your pie crust before making filling. (See recipe below.)
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter
• 1 tbsp. corn starch
• 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
• 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1 tbsp. vanilla
• 6 average-size Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored & sliced)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350°. Melt butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour and cornstarch to form a paste. Add water, both sugars, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer until mixture thickens a bit. Mix apples into syrup.
Pour apple mixture into pie crust. (Save some of the syrup to brush on top of the crust.) Cover your pie with either a full or lattice crust. Bake for 1 hour or until apples are soft
Ali's oolproof pie crust ingredients:
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. baking powder
• 1 tsp. brown sugar
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter (chilled)
• 1/2 cup shortening (frozen or chilled)
• 1/4 cup ice water
• 1/2 tsp. lemon juice or vinegar
Directions: Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. With a pastry hand blender (an important tool for pie crust—they're inexpensive and easy to find), cut in the shortening and butter until mixture is crumbly. Mix lemon and ice water together. Drizzle a few tablespoons at a time over flour, tossing mixture until dough comes together. Gather dough together into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill for about an hour before rolling. Roll out dough and place in pie plate. Fill with desired filling and bake.
Other Yummy Stuff to Make with Apples
Caramel apples. Simply melt a bag of your favorite caramels with a bit of milk. Dip washed and dried apples in mixture. Roll in nuts, sprinkles or candies.
Apple Pancakes. Sauté apple slices in butter with a pinch of cinnamon. Pour slices over warm pancakes.
Freeze 'em! Savor the taste of local apples all winter long. Just core, peel and slice them. Sprinkle with lemon juice (to prevent browning). Pack in freezer bags and place in freezer. These are perfect for apple butter, applesauce, pies and cakes.
Applesauce popsicles. Fill a Popsicle mold with applesauce and freeze. It's that easy!
Salads. Add chopped apples, goat cheese and walnuts to a green salad. Also try blue cheese and pine nuts.
Snack time. Sliced apples are delicious with cold wedges of cheddar cheese. Try dipping them in caramel sauce, peanut butter or chocolate syrup.
How to Make MyPlate Your Plate
Goodbye food pyramid, hello plate—with a side order of science-based dietary advice.
After nearly two decades, the familiar if sometimes confusing food pyramid has gone the way of the pharaohs, replaced by a new official icon to remind Americans how to eat right: MyPlate. In unveiling the symbol along with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and US Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, First Lady Michelle Obama said, When it comes to eating, what’s more simple than a plate? If an American's actual plate of food mirrors the produce-heavy icon, she added, then we're good, it's as simple as that.
The stylized plate graphic is divided into four wedges, representing fruits and vegetables (which take up half of the plate), grains and protein (meaning sources such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, nuts and seeds). In a dramatic shift from how most Americans plan their meals, the protein wedge represents a little less than a quarter of the plate. A circle adjoining the plate icon adds a place for dairy, such as a glass of skim or reduced-fat milk or yogurt.
The Agriculture Department spent about $2 million developing MyPlate and its accompanying website at
, whose healthy-eating tips build on the messages of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released in January (see our May Special Supplement). Focus groups totaling some 4,500 Americans, including children, helped refine the design and educational materials. The unveiling of MyPlate will kick off a campaign urging American to follow the icon's guidance and fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables. Subsequent messaging phases will encourage consumers to control portion sizes, enjoy you food but eat less of it and drink water instead of sugary beverages.
Nutrition experts, who often found fault with the increasingly complex pyramid, generally praised the switch to a plate - especially its emphasis on eating more of a plant-based diet. It's a very good change in the right direction, says Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, director of Tufts' HNRCA Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory. Now we need to see how the public interprets the figure and then potentially modify. I would like to see some examples within each sector of specific foods - for example, within the protein sector pictures of fish, poultry, legumes and eggs. I would also like to see different forms of foods - for example, within vegetables fresh, frozen and canned. It might also be a good idea to add the word 'whole' next to grains and expand the protein sector to include dairy.
The simplified plate imagery also omits any depiction of sodium, solid fats (saturated and trans fats) and added sugars - prim targets of the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Says Lichtenstein, The new plate gives no guidance on dietary fat type or level. It would be nice to see some indication that it is important to use liquid vegetable oils to prepare foods and to consume a moderate - rather than low-fat diet.
For these details, you need to dive into MyPlate online. There you'll also find key consumer messages that Uncle Sam wants you to know as you rework your own plates at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Meet the Fruit Group
As for the key message to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, Lichtenstein says, I am not certain the distinction between vegetables and fruits needs to be made. Filling the plate with any mixture of the two may be fine, especially since fruit is frequently added to vegetable salads, and some items are generally thought of as vegetables when they are technically fruit (e.g., tomatoes).
But what about fruit juice? MyPlate's answer is yes, 100% fruit juice counts - but... make most of your choices whole or cut-up fruit rather than juice, for the benefits dietary fiber provides. Frozen, canned and dried fruits also count, not just fresh, but be wary of added sugars.
Other nutritional tips for filling your plate's portion of fruit include:
Select fruits with more potassium often, such as bananas, prunes and prune juice, dried peaches and apricots, and orange juice.
When choosing canned fruits, select fruit canned in 100% fruit juice or water rather than syrup.
Vary your fruit choices. Fruits differ in nutrient content.
The definition of vegetables is pretty straightforward, too - the challenge being not identifying veggies but eating enough of them. Beans and peas appear here as well as in the protein group. MyPlate emphasizes the importance of eating a variety of vegetables from all five subgroups, which also include dark green, red and orange, starchy and other vegetables (from artichokes to zucchini). Fresh, frozen, canned and even juiced and pureed veggies all count here.
Among the tips for making smart vegetable choices:
Select vegetables with more potassium often, such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomato products (paste, sauce and juice), beet greens, soybeans, lima beans, spinach, lentil and kidney beans.
Sauces or seasonings can add calories, saturated fat and sodium to vegetables. Use the Nutrition Facts label to compare the calories and % Daily Value for saturated fat and sodium in plain and seasoned vegetables
Prepare more foods from fresh ingredients to lower sodium intake. Most sodium in the food supply comes from packaged or processed foods.
Buy canned vegetables labeled reduced sodium, low sodium or no salt added. If you want to add a little salt it will likely be less than the amount in the regular canned product.
The Whole Grain Story
Not surprisingly, given the booming popularity of whole-grain products for their health benefits, MyPlate adds a key consumer message to its orange-colored grain wedge: make at least half your grains whole grains. Thought whole grains were also emphasized in the 2005 revision of the food pyramid (MyPyramid), this advice on grains represents a long-term shift from the original 1992 pyramid. That icon was built on the broad base of a bread cereal, rice and pasta group - larger than fruits and vegetables combined. The new lower-carb MyPlate gives grains only about the same prominence as vegetables alone, and emphasizes whole grains:
Choose foods that name one of the following whole-grain ingredients first on the label's ingredient list: brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, rolled oats, whole-grain barley, whole-grain corn, whole-grain sorghum, whole-grain triticale, whole oats, whole rye, whole wheat, wild rice.
Foods labeled with the words multi-grain, stone-ground, 100% wheat, cracked wheat, seven-grain or bran are usually not whole-grain products.
Use the Nutrition Facts label and choose whole-grain products with a higher % Daily Value for fiber.
Look for ingredients that indicate added sugars (such as sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, or raw sugar) that add extra calories. Choose foods with fewer added sugars.
Use the Nutrition Facts label to choose grains with a lower % Daily Value for Sodium.
The Protein Puzzle
The fine print behind MyPlate's wide-ranging purple protein section mostly concentrates on how to avoid the negatives that often accompany protein sources. Choose lean or low-fat meat and poultry, trim visible fat, and cook using a method that doesn't add fat. Look out for added sodium in processed meats and those enhanced with a salt solution, as well as in salted nuts and seeds.
MyPlate echoes the Dietary Guidelines' advice to choose seafood at least twice a week, especially varieties rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel and herring.
By including beans and peas here as well, MyPlate's designers hope to get consumers thinking about these as substitutes for meat on the protein part of the plate.
Sorry, butter lovers, unlike 1943 when butter got its own food group, MyPlate's blue dairy circle adjacent to the main plate doesn't have room for butter, cream , cream cheese or other foods made from milk that are low in calcium. As for the rest, including milk, yogurt, ice cream and cheese, the key message is to cut down on saturated fat. Switch to fat free or low-fat (1%) milk, the USDA says, whether as a beverage with you meal or atop your latte.
Like its predecessor, the food pyramid, MyPlate alone can't solve the nation's obesity epidemic or counter the trend toward chronic diseases. But officials hope the image of a plate that's not dominated by, say, a slab of steak, might help keep Americans on track. This is a quick, simple reminder, as Michelle Obama put it, for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we're eating.
Here are some helpful tips for getting more use out of your fresh herbs.
Bouquet Garni is a must in French cuisine and bay leaves are a must in bouquet garni. For convenience, prepare this recipe in bulk ahead of time so you have lots on hand.
16 whole bay leaves
12 tsp. whole celery seeds
24 whole cloves
12 sprigs fresh parsley
8 tsp. fresh thyme
Divide all of the ingredients equally into 12, four square inch pieces of washed cheesecloth. Tie with heavy, white kitchen twine, leaving a long string for easy removal.
Dishes made with a bouquet garni include:
Beef bourguignon, Pot au feu, Brown Windsor soup, Poule au pot, Carbonnade flamande, Lapin chasseur, Blanquette de veau, Ossobuco, Bouillabaisse
Laurel Bay Mint Bath
This recipe will ease and relax tired muscles after a hard day's work.
1/2 cup dried mint leaves
1 cup bay leaves, chopped
1 tsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. almond extract
Toss all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl, then lay them on a one square foot piece of washed cheesecloth. Tie with some string and submerge it under very hot, running bath water. Let the bath water to cool to a comfortable temperature while the bouquet infuses. Relax in the bath for at least 30 minutes, adding warm water to maintain a comfortable temperature.
A vegetable consisting of layers of thick leaves that grow around each other from the stem. The leaves of some varieties form dense, solid heads and others have leaves that grow more loosely around each other. Some varieties have smooth leaves and some have crinkled leaves. Their outer leaves are generally darker green than the inner leaves. Some varieties are dark purplish red and some are white. Among the varieties, savoy with green leaves, Napa, which has pale green to white leaves, red cabbage, and bok choy (Chinese cabbage) with white stems and dark green leaves. Cabbage is a good source of nutrients and contains a fair amount of soluble and insoluble fiber. When cooked, cabbage gives off a very pungent odor.
It can be used cooked or raw in dishes from corned beef and cabbage, soups & stews, to cold dishes such as coleslaw. Another popular use of cabbage is to allow it to ferment to produce sauerkraut. Cabbage leaves are also used as a wrap for other foods.
How to Buy:
When selecting, choose only the heads that are compact and firm. They should have fresh, crispy leaves that do not contain any markings or browning, which may be an indication of worm damage. The head should only contain a few loose outer leaves. The coloring of the leaves should reflect the variety you are purchasing. In general, the darker green the leaves the more flavor they have. The stem should be trimmed and look fresh, not dry and cracked. Avoid purchasing precut or shredded cabbage. Once the cabbage is cut it begins to lose its vitamin C content, even if it is tightly packaged or well wrapped.
Store the cabbage uncut to prevent vitamin C loss. Place the uncut head in a perforated plastic bag and store up to two weeks in the refrigerator crisper drawer. If the cabbage is cut, wrap the remainder of the head tightly in plastic wrap but use within a couple of days.
A cabbage with a firm, dense head with smooth leaves. Its outer leaves vary from pale green to dark green and the inner leaves are white to pale green. It has a mild flavor and crisp texture. This is one of the most commonly found cabbages.
A red or purplish cabbage that is more mild and sweet flavored than other cabbage. It has a round, solid head and is popular for adding color to salads, coleslaws and stir-fries. The leaves on the red cabbage are tougher than those on the green cabbage because of its longer maturity time. Red cabbage is available throughout the year.
A flavorful crinkled leaf cabbage, which is one of the best for cooking. Its head consists of loose leaves, which vary in color from dark green to light green with lacy patterned veins. Its leaves are tender and have a milder, sweeter flavor than the green cabbage. The Savoy Cabbage is considered one of the best but is not always readily available.
A vegetable with small, dense, compact buds that is round and green and is usually no more than 2 inches in diameter. It looks and tastes like a miniature cabbage. It is named after their place of origin, Brussels, Belgium. Usually the smaller sprouts are the best tasting ones.
A common type of cabbage that provides a mild flavor for a variety of salad and vegetable dishes. High in vitamin C, this cabbage is predominantly grown in Asia and the United States, mainly in California and Hawaii, where it can be grown year round. There are two varieties available for purchase, the chef variety and the Chihili variety. The chef variety has a tall, more compact, head with many pale green colored leaves. This variety may also be found named Tokyo giant, tropical pride or wintertime. The chihili variety has a very large head, which is more oblong shaped and its leaves are darker green in color. They can be found with the names of market pride, michihili or shaho tsai. Both varieties have fairly large leaves in comparison to other types of cabbage or lettuce. Napa cabbage is used raw in salads and slaws, cooked by boiling or steaming to be eaten on its own, or added to some Asian dishes. It can be used in any recipe that calls for cabbage. You can purchase Napa cabbage throughout the year at most large food stores and specialty produce markets. Napa cabbage is also known as Chinese cabbage, celery cabbage, Peking cabbage, tientsin cabbage, hakusai, pe tsai, or wong bok.
A type of Chinese vegetable of the mustard family. It has dark green leaves and white celery-like stalks that have a mild, slightly peppery flavor. Both the greens and the stalks are popular in salads and the stalks are often used in stir-fry recipes. It is also known as pak choi, pak choy, Chinese white cabbage, Peking cabbage, celery cabbage, and white mustard cabbage. Bok choy is available throughout the year. When selecting, look for a firm compact head with fresh leaves. If possible, the cabbage should be used when fresh because it does not store well. If it is necessary to store, keep it in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic. It should stay fresh for a few days if stored properly.
Preparing cabbage basically consist of cleaning and cutting the cabbage to the desired size. When cutting cabbage, a stainless steel knife should be used because if the knife is carbon steel, the cut edges of the cabbage will turn black. The head should not be cut open until it is going to be used because once the cabbage is cut it starts to lose its vitamin C content rapidly. If it is necessary to cut a portion from the head and the remainder will be stored, be sure to wrap the remaining sections tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
Remove the wilted, discolored, and thicker outer leaves. Rinse under cold running water.
Cut the cabbage head lengthwise in half and then into wedges (or quarters). If there are signs of worms or insects after the head is cut open, rid the cabbage of them by soaking it in salt water for 20 minutes.
Cut the coarse stems from each of the wedges.
Cabbage with long, loose leaves should have outer discolored or damaged leaves removed but remaining leaves should be left intact with the stem.
After the cabbage has been cut into wedges and had the core removed, it can be shredded. To shred by hand, place the wedge with one of the flat sides down. Cut across the wedge in slices of desired thickness.
The cabbage can also be cut by the use of a kitchen utensil called a mandoline. The cabbage wedges are slid across the sharp blade located in the middle of the mandoline, which cuts the cabbage into fine shreds. The cabbage can be shred on a clean work surface or some mandolines are designed to sit on the edge of a bowl and the cabbage is shred directly into it.
Cabbage with long, loose leaves, such as Nappa cabbage, should have leaves and stem intact and the leaves should be shredded crosswise.
Cleaning and Preparing Brussels sprouts
Remove the discolored and blemished outer leaves from the brussels sprouts.
Trim the stems so they are level with the head.
If the sprouts are going to be cooked whole, cut an X on the stem area. This will allow the sprouts to cook faster and more evenly.
The larger sprouts should be cut in half to ensure that they get done cooking at the same time as the smaller whole brussels sprouts.
Shred cabbage as shown above. Place in a bowl and add some shredded carrots. Mix dressing according to the recipe and add to shredded cabbage and carrots.
Stir dressing into cabbage and carrots until they are well coated.
After dressing is mixed in thoroughly, let the cabbage sit for approximately 30 minutes, stir occasionally. This will allow the cabbage to wilt and soften slightly. The cabbage with the dressing added will appear to have decreased in volume after sitting for this period of time.
Cabbage can be eaten raw or cooked. It can be boiled, steamed, braised, sautéed, stir-fried, and microwaved. It should be cooked until just tender. Overcooking will result in limp, pasty cabbage and produce a very unpleasant smell. The unpleasant smell is caused by the sulfur compounds that are released when the cabbage is cooked to long. Also, older cabbage or those that have been stored for a long time will have a tendency to have even a stronger smell than freshly picked cabbage. Keep the odor to a minimum by cooking uncovered with as little water as possible and cook quickly, do not overcook. Adding a couple thick chunks of bread wrapped in cheesecloth to the cooking water may help to reduce the odor also.
The color in red cabbage will have a tendency to run when it is cooked. The cabbage turns a purplish blue and turns other foods that it is cooked with to a reddish color. To prevent the red cabbage from discoloring, add lemon juice or vinegar to the cooking water. Approximately 1/2 tbsp. per cup of cooking water will be sufficient.
Some common cooking methods for cooking cabbage are shown below.
Shred cabbage as shown above. Cabbage should be boiled in just a small amount of water. Add 1/2 to 3/4 inch of water to a saucepan and bring to a boil before adding the cabbage. Add shredded cabbage and cook uncovered.
Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. If cooking wedges, cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Check several times through out cooking time to ensure that the cabbage does not become overcook. Cabbage is done when just tender.
When done remove cabbage with a slotted spoon or drain in a colander to remove water. Season as desired and serve while warm.
Add just enough water to a saucepan so that the water will not boil up through the steamer basket when it is placed in the pan.
Bring the water to a boil.
Place shredded cabbage or wedges into the steamer basket and place the basket in the pan of boiling water.
Cover and cook shredded cabbage for 5 to 8 minutes and wedges for 10 to 12 minutes. Cook only until tender-crisp.
When done, remove steamer basket, season cabbage as desired and serve while warm.
Place shredded cabbage or cabbage wedges in a microwave safe baking dish.
To cook wedges: add 2 tablespoons of water or broth, and microwave for 5 or 6 minutes.
To cook shredded cabbage: add 1/4 cup of water or broth per 2 cups of cabbage, and microwave for 5 minutes. Stop halfway through cooking time and stir cabbage. Finish cooking.
Drain liquid and season as desired. Serve while warm.
Heat oil in skillet or wok until hot. Add shredded cabbage to hot oil.
Turn heat to medium and stir-fry cabbage for 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and a little vinegar. Stir constantly until cabbage has cooked to a tender crisp.
When cabbage is done, it will have cooked to a volume about half of what it was when it was raw.
Steamed Brussels Sprouts
Add enough water to the pot so that it is below the bottom of the steamer basket when it is placed in the pot. Bring the water to a full boil using a high heat.
Place brussels sprouts in the steamer basket and place the basket in the pot over the boiling water, making sure no water is coming up through the holes in the steamer. Cover sprouts and cook 10 to 12 minutes.
Check sprouts before the end of the cooking time to ensure that they do not overcook. Cook the brussels sprouts until they are tender. Remove steamer basket from the pot and serve while hot.
Boiled Brussels Sprouts
Fill a saucepan with just enough water to cover the brussels sprouts. Salt the water and bring it to a full boil. Carefully drop the heads into the boiling water and lower the heat to a simmer.
Check sprouts before the end of the cooking time to ensure that they do not overcook. Sprouts should be ready in 6-10 minutes. Remove when just tender.
When cooking red cabbage, prevent the color from running by adding some vinegar or lemon juice to the cooking water.
To add a different flavor to your sandwich, add shredded cabbage instead of lettuce.
Add a little red cabbage in with green cabbage to give more color to the salad.
Rather than shredding the cabbage, cut it into wedges and steam until it is just tender.
When cooking cabbage, place only ½ to ¾ inch of water in the pan. Too much water will cause the cabbage's color to fade, nutrients and flavor to be lost, and the cabbage to become soggy and limp.
Do not add any acidic ingredients to the water. Wait to flavor cabbage until cooking is completed.
For cabbage dishes/salads that are served cold, incorporate enough time into your planning to allow the dish to cool in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
When cabbage is done steaming, cover with melted butter, toasted nuts, minced onion & celery.