Veggie Vitals:  Zucchini the Great Houdini

zucchiniLike Houdini, zucchini is a great illusionist.  It has a very mild taste, so much so that it is almost indiscernible taste-wise when used in a dish.  I would not say that it is invisible as the texture is evident, but the taste tends to disappear as zucchini picks up the other flavors from the dish.

A great example of this switcheroo is Zucchini Mock Apple Pie.  (See recipe below.) With a sleight of hand the apples are replaced with zucchini and presto-chango  everyone thinks they are eating apple pie.

Do not let all this hocus pocus fool you, though, into thinking that a lack of individual flavor means a lack of nutritional value.   One cup of zucchini is incredibly low in calories – just 20 and offers the following health benefits.

Vitamin C – protects cells from free radicals and aids in nerve communication, helps the body metabolize cholesterol, and keeps your tissues strong.  (1 cup = 25% of recommended daily intake)

Lutein & Zeaxanthin – promote healthy eyesight by filtering light rays as they enter your eyes

Manganese – protects tissues from free radicals and promotes healthy tissue development.  (1 cup = 10% of recommended daily intake)

And, if you’d like to get into the magic act yourself, August 8th is National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day.  You can use this day to make some zucchini disappear from your garden and reappear on your neighbor’s porch.

Zucchini Mock Apple Pie

  • 6 -8 cups zucchini (peel, cut lengthwise, remove seeds, slice 1/4-inch thick)
  • 34 cup granulated sugar
  • 12 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 14 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 14 teaspoon fresh ground cardamom
  • 1 12 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch or 2 tablespoons flour
  • 12 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar (white and apple cider both are good)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2  pie crusts
  • 12 teaspoon sugar, for topping the crust


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cook zucchini slices in boiling water until barely tender, about 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from stove and drain very well and cool.Remove as much moisture as you can with paper towels.
  4. In a bowl, toss zucchini with sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cream of tartar, cornstarch or flour, and salt until well coated.
  5. Place lightly floured pastry in a 9-inch, pan.
  6. Fill with zucchini mixture.
  7. Dot with butter, drizzle with vinegar.
  8. Top with crust.
  9. Brush top crust lightly with water and sprinkle crust with sugar.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes at 425.
  11. Reduce heat to 350 and bake about 45 minutes.
  12. Serve hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  13. Or serve chilled.


Veggie Vitals – Asparagus, A great weapon in your arsenal of healthy foods!

AsparagusThe asparagus spears – get it? Weapon – spears?  Anyway, these spears pack quite a punch when it comes to nutritional benefits and they have been doing so for over 4,000 years.  It was declared a food of the gods by Pharaoh Ikhnaton and his wife Nefertiti and was well liked by the Greeks, Persians, and Babylonians.

Asparagus does take a bit of time, however, to grow into maturity.  It is planted in the ground 3 years before it can be harvested for a full season.  But, once it does start growing, it does so with gusto.  A mature plant is harvested all season – approximately 90 days, and can sometimes grow 6 to 7 inches in one day.

Whenever I pick up some asparagus from the store, my husband always says, “I don’t like the green asparagus, I like white!”  Obviously he is not aware that green and white asparagus come from the same plant.  Sunlight is what causes the spears to turn green.  When the spears puncture through the ground, dirt is piled on top of them to shield them from sunlight.  They continue growing underground and when finally harvested the stalk is all white.  FYI – purple asparagus comes from a completely different plant and if cooked for a prolonged period of time will turn green.

Asparagus is considered by some to be an aphrodisiac.  Apparently there is an Arabian love manual from the 16th century that provided an asparagus recipe for the stimulation of erotic desires.  I did some Googling, but couldn’t find the recipe.  But I did find some scientific rational as to why it might have been considered as such.  Asparagus contains high levels of vitamin E and foliate which are necessary for histamine production and histamine is related to easy sexual orgasm, both in men and women.  Recommendations are that it be consumed over 3 consecutive days for the most powerful effects.

One cup of raw asparagus contains approximately 27 calories, 0 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of protein.  That same cup also provides 70% of your daily vitamin K needs, 20% of vitamin A, 17% of folate, 16% of iron, 13% of vitamin C, 13% of thiamin, and smaller amounts of vitamin E, niacin, vitamin B6, and potassium.

Here are some of the benefits indicated by the Juicing for health website.

Acidity, Blood:  The high alkalinity of this wonder juice is effective in reducing the acidity of the blood and helps cleanses the tissues and muscles of waste.

Arthritis and Rheumatism:   A unique phytochemical in asparagus that produces anti-inflammatory effect helps relieve arthritis and rheumatism.

Bowel movement:  Consume asparagus regularly for its mild laxative effect and dietary fiber that provides for regular bowel movement.

Cancer:   Asparagus is a prime source of anti-oxidant and glutathione that can help prevent the dreaded cancer.

Cataracts:  The anti-oxidant and glutathione in asparagus prevents the progression of cataracts and other eye problems.

Diabetes/Hypoglycemia:  The healthful minerals in asparagus juice make it an important diet for people who are controlling their blood sugar levels. However, it is not to be taken by people with advanced kidney diseases.

Diuretic:  Asparagus is a wonderfully diuretic vegetable and its efficacy is more pronounced when it is taken in juice form.

Heart disease:  Drink a small amount of asparagus juice mixed with raw honey three times a day daily to strengthen a weak or enlarged heart.

Kidney:  The diuretic and alkaline properties of asparagus help prevent or dissolve kidney stones. It helps break up oxalic acid crystals formed in the kidney.

PMS symptoms:  The diuretic effect of asparagus juice helps relieve premenstrual swelling and bloating. The magnesium in this wonder juice also help relieve irritability, fatigue, depression, etc.

Pregnant women:  The high content of folate, calcium and other minerals in asparagus are important in reducing the risk of birth defects and low birth weight. The diuretic effect of the juice is also a big help in reducing water retention in pregnant women.

June 11 is Asparagus Day!

Veggie Vitals: Kale, the New Spinach?

A couple of summers ago I joined a food co-op.  It was located right here on campus and once a week I received a bag of organic fruits and vegetables.  I never knew what would be included and even when I saw the items sometimes I still didn’t know what they were.  That was how I was introduced to Kale.  It appeared one day in the bag.  I had always thought kale was seaweed. Nope.  That would be kelp.  Googling the veggie I found that it is considered to be a wild cabbage and is touted to be one of the top healthy foods.

Great – but I still didn’t know what to do with it.  Back I headed to Google to find some recipes for this quite hardy looking green.  Turns out there were quite a few.  I gave kale chips a try – not really a fan.  But I did find a recipe for kale quinoa salad which quickly became a favorite request of my mom for family gatherings.

Here is the quite impressive list of nutrient you can receive from a single cup of raw kale, containing 33 calories, 6 grams of carbs, and 3 grams of protein:

  • Vitamin A – 206% of the RDA
  • Vitamin K – 684% of the RDA
  • Vitamin C – 134% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B6 – 9% of the RDA
  • Manganese – 26% of the RDA
  • Calcium – 9% of the RDA
  • Copper – 10% of the RDA
  • Potassium – 9% of the RDA
  • Magnesium – 6% of the RDA
  • 3% or more of the RDA for Vitamin B1, B2, and B3, iron and phosphorus

And here is the recipe for kale quinoa salad:

  • 10 kale leaves, washed and torn into bite size pieces
  • 1-2 cups of cooked quinoa (I find that 1 cup is plenty, but the original recipe called for 2 cups)
  • 1 cup pecan or walnut halves
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds, currants, or craisins
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 glove minced garlic
  • Salt/pepper to taste

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour this dressing over the kale leaves, being sure to give them a good coating.  Add the remaining ingredients.  (Make sure the quinoa is cooled.)  Enjoy.