Yum, sweet potatoes! This vegetable can be prepared in a variety of ways and tastes delicious with savoury spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. This side dish is very easy to make and adds a beautiful splash of orange to your dinner plate.
- 2 sweet potatoes
- ½ tsp olive oil
- ¼ red onion
- ½ pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 ½ tbsp plain yogurt
- 1 tbsp sour cream
- 1/3 cup cilantro
- 1 avocado
- Salt & pepper
- Wash sweet potatoes very well with water. Cut into small chunks.
- Steam sweet potato until tender, approximately 15 minutes.
- Mash sweet potatoes in a bowl and add yogurt and sour cream.
- In a saucepan, heat olive oil. Add chopped onion and sauté for 3 minutes.
- Cut tomatoes in half and add to the pan, cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the sautéed mix, chopped avocado and cilantro to the sweet potatoes and mix.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
Botanically, the sweet potato is very different from the yam. However, many North Americans still refer to it by this erroneous name. The sweet potato is native to Central and South America and has been depicted in Peruvian imagery dating back thousands of years. This vegetable is available year round and can be found in many different colours such as pink, yellow, green and purple (Bovell-Benjamin, 2007). The purple sweet potato contains a pigment called anthocyanin which is under investigation for its antioxidant properties (Kano, et al., 2005). In animal models, anthocyanin has been shown to prevent the activation of key inflammation processes after consumption which reduced inflammation of brain and nervous tissues (Wang, et al., 2010). The orange variety of this tuber has a highly bioavailable concentration of the carotenoid pigment beta-carotene. Oodles of research have shown that beta-carotene is converted in the body to vitamin A which is eminent for both cardiovascular and eye health (Bobroff, 2011). This vegetable’s pigments are only one of the many ways it aids with the reduction of unwanted inflammation. A study by Ludvik et al. (2008) examined the effects of sweet potato extracts given to people with Type 2 diabetes and found that it helped to decrease plasma levels of fibrinogen and improve insulin sensitivity. Although fibrinogen is naturally found in the blood and is crucial for blood clotting, high concentrations can lead to unwanted inflammation and deterioration of the myelin sheaths that surround nerves. In addition to this vegetables anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties it contains a wonderful expanse of minerals and vitamins such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and vitamins A, B, C and K. It is also a great source of complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber (USDA, 2012). Interestingly, the sweet potato is a key component of the well-known Okinawa diet. This tremendously healthy way of eating, observed in the southernmost parts of Japan, is linked with reduced risks of diabetes, obesity and several age-related diseases (Willcox, et al., 2009). So perhaps this unknowingly healthy tuber may be one of the secrets to a long and healthy life!
I admit that the name of this recipe does not give this salad justice. The additions of roasted butternut squash, goat cheese and spinach make this not only a rich source of many nutrients, but very tasty. Although this salad is best when eaten right after preparation, it can last in the refrigerator for a few days and is still scrumptious when warmed up.
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 ½ cups quinoa
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup water
- 3 cups fresh spinach
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 20 g of goat cheese
- 3 tbsp toasted pine nuts
- Salt & pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425°.
- Cut butternut squash in ½ and scoop out the seeds.
- Place both halves, inside facing up, on a baking sheet and roast for 1hour and 20 minutes or until tender and a fork can pierce easily.
- Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.
- Peel off skin and chop one ½ into bite sized pieces. Save the other ½ in the refrigerator for another meal.
- Combine the quinoa, vegetable broth and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Turn the heat to low-medium and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes.
- Fluff with a fork and stir in fresh spinach until wilted.
- Transfer to a mixing bowl.
- Cut cherry tomatoes in half and add to the mixing bowl.
- Stir in roasted squash pieces and crumbled goats cheese.
- Add toasted pine nuts and combine.
- Salt & pepper to taste and serve immediately.
Spinach is an edible flowering plant which comes in three different varieties distinguished by their leaf type; savoy, smooth and semi-savoy (LeStrange et al., 1996). All three types are extremely nutritious and found in season now until the end of October. One cup of raw spinach contains an abundance of dietary fiber, calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, C, E and K. As well, this leafy green has trace amounts of heart healthy fatty acids (USDA, 2012). While spinach does have noteworthy concentrations of calcium, it also contains high amounts of oxalates which bind to this mineral and substantially decrease absorption by the body (Holmes and Kennedy, 2000). However, spinach is still a great source of magnesium and vitamin K, which are both important for bone health (Armas et al., 2010). The body’s conversion of vitamin K activates osteocalcin which is a protein responsible for bone mineralization (Kapustin and Shanahan, 2011). Vitamin K not only helps to increase bone mineral density and decrease the chances of fractures, but has also been shown to play a major role in blood clotting (Weber, 2001). Coagulation is extremely important for proper bodily functioning and if not maintained could lead to a wide range of problems. Overall, spinach is a highly nutritious food containing several antioxidants which protect the body against oxidative damage and ensure proper health (Moser et al., 2011). So it isn’t a stretch to think that Popeye was talking about more than just muscles when he said, “I’m strong to the finish when I eats me spinach”.
Insalata Caprese is traditionally made using only five ingredients; buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, olive oil and salt. How easy is that?! I have made a few changes to the customary recipe because of taste preferences, for instance using bocconcini rather than mozzarella, adding fresh cracked black pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Both versions are delicious and easy to prepare.
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 100g bocconcini (approximately 1/2 200g container)
- 15-20 fresh basil leaves (which I harvested from the Seed To Feed UHN Real Food Garden)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Slice cherry tomatoes in half and bocconcini balls in similar sized pieces.
- Chop fresh basil and combine in a bowl with tomatoes and bocconcini.
- Pour olive oil over and toss well.
- Add salt & pepper to taste, and then drizzle with balsamic vinegar
Basil is one of my favourite herbs and I absolutely adore the smell. It is native to India, Asia and Africa but is popular in many cuisines throughout the world (Soule, 2011). This highly fragrant plant has over 60 varieties, all with distinctive appearances, tastes and smells. Basil is a great source of magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, beta carotene and vitamins C and K (USDA, 2012). Magnesium relaxes the smooth muscles of arteries which improves blood flow and decreases irregular heart rhythms to promote cardiovascular fitness (D’Angelo et al., 1992). The beta carotene in basil is converted by the body to vitamin A which happens to be a well known antioxidant. In fact, vitamin A has been specifically shown to inhibit the oxidation of cholesterol in the blood stream which prevents atherosclerosis and further improves cardiovascular fitness (Shaish et al., 1995). In addition to the many vitamins and minerals present in basil, this remarkable herb also contains multiple flavonoids. Interestingly, two of the flavonoids found in basil, orientin and vicenin, have been observed to have significant protective effects on human white blood cells against radiation (Vrinda and Devi, 2001). Current research with these flavonoids hopes to demonstrate their clinical potential in cancer therapy. Lastly, the volatile oils contained within the basil plant are known to inhibit the growth of bacteria such as E. coli (Hammer et al., 1999) and even certain antibiotic resistant bacterial strains (Opalchenova et al., 2003). Furthermore, a recent study by Bagamboula et al. (2004) showed that washing produce in a solution containing a small concentration of basil oil decreased the number of diarrhea causing infectious bacteria. This amazing antiseptic property can potentially protect all those who eat uncooked salads. So if you don’t want to get sick from the salad bar, remember to toss some basil into your mix!
A friend made this soup for me and I have made it more or less every week since. It is absolutely delicious and consists of only five ingredients.
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 fennel bulb
- 6 vine ripe tomatoes (or whichever tomato is your favourite)
- 900 ml vegetable stock
- 12-15 basil leaves
- Heat olive oil in large soup pot over medium heat.
- Thinly slice the fennel bulb and add to the soup pot, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes, or until tender.
- Add the roughly chopped tomatoes and stir into the cooked fennel.
- Pour the vegetable stock in and increase the heat to bring the pot to a simmer.
- Once simmering, lower to medium heat and cook for 8 minutes.
- Take off the heat and stir in the fresh basil leaves.
Fennel is known for its strong liquorice taste which leads to people either loving it or not being able to stomach it. If you are one of the many that enjoy the taste then this recipe is for you! This vegetable is a wonderful source of fiber; in fact 1 cup has approximately 11% of an individual’s daily needed value which helps to remove toxins from the colon and may reduce cholesterol levels. Furthermore, in that 1 cup of fennel there is roughly 6% of your daily folate intake and about 10% of your daily recommended potassium (Wood, R. 1988). Fennel is composed of many phytonutrients including the two flavonoids; quercetin and rutin, both powerful antioxidants. Another important phytonutrient involved in reducing inflammation and ultimately preventing the occurrence of cancers is anethole. This compound works by halting the activation of inflammation triggering molecules and is also a known antimicrobial (Chauiny et al., 2000). Interestingly, the ancient Greeks believed fennel to be a food of the gods. In short, fennel is a fantastic vegetable that might just impart the wisdom of the gods upon all those who eat it!