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Dishing up health for the holidays: highlight a festive winter meal with foods high in beta carotene.

Highlight a festive winter meal with foods high in beta carotene.

Not only do these vegetable dishes come naturally in Christmas colors, they also are healthful sources of carotenoids, the plant pigments that help protect us from cancer, heart disease, and other ills. Beta carotene is the most familiar, but others may soon be household words as well. Alpha carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta cryptoxanthin hold the promise of even greater antioxidant and anticancer activities.

As researchers learn more about these nutritional substances, the list of their healthful attributes grows longer.

Studies indicate that:

* Cryptoxanthin and beta carotene from tomatoes, spinach, carrots, and fruits protect against coronary heart disease.

* Lycopene from tomatoes works as an antioxidant and reduces the risk for prostate cancer.

* Lutein and zeaxanthin from dark-green, leafy vegetables help to prevent cataracts and lower the risk of macular degeneration, a problem that affects one in three people over the age of 75.

Traditional holiday favorites such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, and cooked carrots are some of the richest sources of carotenoids. The following recipes include these and other high-carotenoid foods. They'll add healthfulness and colorful Christmas cheer to your holiday meals.

Lemon Ginger Glazed Carrots

(Makes 4 servings)
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4" slices
1 tablespoon margarine
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
 or 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon sugar (if desired)
1/2 tablespoon fresh minced parsley
 or 1/2 teaspoon dried (if desired)

In large saucepan of boiling, salted water, cook carrots until tender, 8-10 minutes. Drain well.

In saucepan, melt margarine. Add ginger and cook 2 minutes. Add lemon juice, rind, sugar, and cooked vegetables. Garnish with parsley.

Per Serving (about 3/4 cup each):

Calories: 63 Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 52 mg Fiber: 2,4 gm Carbohydrate: 8.3 gm Protein: 0.8 gm Fat: 2.9 gm

Diabetic exchange: 1 1/2 vegetable + 1/2 fat

Sweets 'n Nuts Slaw

(Makes 4 servings)
2 cups shredded raw sweet potatoes
1 cup diced apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sunflower seeds or toasted,
 slivered almonds
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or
 1 teaspoon dried
1/3 cup fat-free mayonnaise

In bowl, toss sweet potatoes with ice water. Let stand several minutes; drain. In clean bowl, toss apples with lemon juice. Add sweet potatoes and remaining ingredients; blend well. Chill until ready to serve.

Per Serving (about 1 cup):

Calories: 235 Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 202 mg Fiber: 5.4 gm Carbohydrate: 38,9 gm Protein: 4.4 gm Fat: 6.8 gm

Diabetic exchange: 1 fruit + 1 starch + 1 vegetable + 1 1/2 fat

Creamy Squash Bake

(Makes 4 servings)
1 1/2 pounds butternut, buttercup, or Hubbard squash
1 teaspoon margarine
1/2 Cup fat-free sour cream
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt (if desired)
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cut squash in pieces. Pare and remove seeds. Cook in boiling salted water 15-20 minutes or until tender. Mash squash. Stir in margarine, sour cream, onion, salt, and pepper. Turn into greased 1 1/2-quart casserole.

Bake uncovered in 350 [degrees] oven 30 minutes.

Per Serving (1/2-3/4 cup each):

Calories: 123 Cholesterol 5 mg Sodium: 346 mg Fiber: 5.1 gm Carbohydrate: 24.0 gm Protein: 3,1 gm Fat: 1.6 gm

Diabetic exchange: 11/2 starch + trace fat

Cream of Pumpkin Curry Soup

(Makes 4 servings)
1 tablespoon margarine
1 cup finely chopped onion
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (if desired)
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
3 cups water
3 teaspoons low-salt chicken or
 vegetable bouillon
1 can (15 oz.) solid-pack pumpkin
1 cup evaporated skim milk
Fat-free sour cream and chopped fresh
 chives (if desired)

Melt margarine in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute onion and garlic until transparent. Stir in curry powder, salt, and pepper; cook 1 minute. Add water and bouillon; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, 15-20 minutes to develop flavors. Stir in pumpkin and skim milk; cook 5 minutes or until heated through. Do not overheat or it will appear curdled.

Transfer mixture to food processor or blender container (in batches, if necessary); cover. Blend until creamy. Serve warm. Garnish with dollop of sour cream and chives if desired.

Per Serving (about 1 1/2 cup):

Calories: 169 Cholesterol: 3 mg Sodium: 381 mg Fiber: 4.4 gm Carbohydrate: 27.3 gm Protein: 7.5 gm Fat: 3.3 gm

Diabetic exchange: 1 starch + 1/2 skim milk + 1 vegetable + 1/2 fat

Red & Green Terra

(Makes 8 servings)
Pizza Dough:
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup semolina flour
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour

1 jar (16 oz.) roasted red peppers or pimientos, drained
1 pound fresh spinach, rinsed
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 large sweet onions, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry cottage cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

To make dough: Dissolve yeast and sugar in 1 cup lukewarm water in large bowl. Let rest 10 minutes or until frothy. Stir in semolina flour and oil. Stir in 1 cup unbleached flour and turn out onto lightly floured board. Knead 10-15 minutes, adding additional unbleached flour as needed to prevent sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in lightly oiled bowl and turn once to coat with oil. Cover with damp towel or loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise in warm spot until doubled in bulk, 1-1/2 hours, then punch down.

To make filling: Steam frozen spinach about 5 minutes or until it wilts. Drain and squeeze out all excess moisture. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat and saute onions and garlic until onions are tender, 3-5 minutes. Stir in spinach and thyme. Cook a few minutes, then remove from heat and let cool completely. Add egg substitute into spinach mixture with 1/4 cup Parmesan and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

Lightly beat rest of egg substitute into cottage cheese with remaining Parmesan, basil, parsley, and pepper.

To assemble tart: Preheat oven to 375 [degrees] F. On lightly floured board, roll out 2/3 of dough into 14"-diameter circle. Transfer to lightly oiled 10" springform pan. Firmly press dough into place up sides.

Alternate layers of spinach mixture, half of chopped peppers, cottage cheese mixture, remaining peppers, and remaining spinach mixture. Roll out dough for top crust and cut large steam vent about 1" in diameter in center of crust. Place dough over filling, fold in edges of bottom crust, and pinch crusts together. Bake 50-60 minutes or until puffed and golden. Remove from oven and let cool 10-15 minutes. Carefully remove ring of pan and serve, or allow to cool still more and serve at room temperature.

Per Serving:

Calories: 273 Cholesterol: 6.5 mg Sodium: 279 mg Fiber: 3.9 gm Carbohydrate: 40.4 gm Protein: 15.1 gm Fat: 5.7 gm

Diabetic exchange: 2 starch + 2 vegetable + 1 med.-fat meat
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Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Nov 1, 1998
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