published Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Tossed & Found: Healthful broccoli takes center stage in tasty side dishes

Baked Broccoli Snacks are one way to use broccoli in a new dish.
Baked Broccoli Snacks are one way to use broccoli in a new dish.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
TOSSED & FOUND

Note: Staff writer Clint Cooper has a drawer full of unused recipes in his kitchen. In Tossed & Found, he's pulling some out and giving them a try.

The only way broccoli was prepared for my family when I was a child was steamed. Perhaps that was the same in most baby boomer families. Unlike cooked cauliflower, cooked carrots and cooked beets, I could stomach broccoli, but it was touch and go.

Cheese sauce made it a little more palatable, but it was low on the list of vegetables -- below green beans and peas, certainly, but above asparagus and spinach -- that I would tolerate.

Thanks to the Chinese food I first ate when I was in my early 20s, I developed somewhat of an affection for the vegetable. Of course, that broccoli was stir-fried and provided a delicious crunch beside the meat, other veggies and pungent sauces.

Around the same time, raw broccoli began to appear more and more in hors d'œuvres trays. A sprig of broccoli dipped in something -- ranch dressing was probably the usual culprit -- was not bad at all.

Since then, I've learned to eat broccoli in its many forms. So my recipe drawer is full of broccoli salads, casseroles and other foods that use the vegetable, which is a member of the cabbage family.

There's more to broccoli, though, than its usefulness in various dishes. Among other things, according to healthfood-guide.com, it's high in vitamin C, which aids iron absorption in the body, prevents the development of cataracts and eases the symptoms of the common cold.

Further, it's rich in fiber, aids in battling high blood pressure, helps combat osteoporosis and assists in preventing hormone-related cancers.

The website says it also helps fight Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, calcium deficiencies, stomach and colon cancer, malignant tumors, lung cancer, heart disease, arthritis, even the aging process.

So if you've never liked broccoli, here are four ways to give it a try. Your body won't regret it.

Baked Broccoli Snacks

1 or 2 heads of broccoli

Olive oil

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Minced garlic

Cut broccoli into bite-sized pieces. Put a few teaspoons of olive oil in a secure plastic bag, add salt and pepper to taste, and shake. Spread mixture on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle minced garlic over it. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Cook's changes: The ingredients and instructions for this recipe are vague, so you have to use your own judgment on how much of everything to use. From the amounts I used, it appeared the moister the broccoli pieces (with olive oil and garlic), the better.

Result: Easy to make. Best to eat this while the pieces are hot. The Pinterest pinner, from whom I plucked the recipe, noted "this is our favorite way to eat broccoli of all time! My husband says he would rather eat this than fries." The hot, moist pieces really did have the taste of something crunchy, processed and much worse for you than broccoli.

Broccoli Cheese Bites

16-ounce package of frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained of liquid

1 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese

3 eggs

Salt and pepper (to taste)

1 cup of seasoned Italian bread crumbs

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. With your hands, form small patties and lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, turning the patties after the first 15 minutes. Let cool and enjoy.

Cook's changes: None.

Result: Easy to make. Blander tasting than I'd hoped, though. However, if I make these again, I think a cup of minced (or green) onions, perhaps a few drops of hot sauce or a few dashes of your favorite spice might pep these right up. I also made these slider-sized and might try them hush puppy-sized the next time.

— Stacey Snacks blog, adapted from My Tasty Treasures & WholeSomeBabyFood.com

Skinny Broccoli Salad

2 heads fresh broccoli, chopped

1 head fresh cauliflower, chopped

1/2 cup chopped red pepper

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1/2 red onion, chopped

1/2 cup green olives

1 cup tomatoes, chopped

1 cup reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup reduced-fat ranch dressing

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and toss with reduced fat ranch dressing. Refrigerate until serving. Serves 12.

Cook's changes: I used a yellow onion instead of red, sliced olives, cherry tomatoes instead of regular tomatoes (because of their ease of use) and regular sharp cheddar cheese and ranch dressing (because that's what I had). Recipe says extra veggies and other toppings can easily be added.

Result: Easy to make. Delicious. Entire bowl went quickly at a pot-luck. The reduced-fat items would allow this salad to live up to its name (and still taste good).

— Brooke Griffin, Skinny Mom blog

Slow Cooker Broccoli And Three-cheese Soup

1 quart chicken (or vegetable) broth

2 cups milk

2 (10-ounce) bags of frozen broccoli florets

1/2 diced white onion

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup each of three different cheeses: Jarlsberg, gruyere and cheddar

Mince the onion into really small pieces. The onions are going to soften in the milk and the broth and need to be quite small so you don't crunch on onion pieces when the soup is complete. Add the onion to your slow cooker and top with the milk, broth and spices. Stir in the two frozen bags of broccoli. Cook on low for 7 to 9 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours. The broth is done when the onion is cooked nicely. Twenty minutes or so before serving, shred all the cheese you are going to use, and stir it in. The cheese will be stringy and will stick to the broccoli florets -- that's OK! Serve with your favorite rolls or drop biscuits.

Cook's changes: I used chicken broth, skim milk and yellow onion, and my cheeses were cheddar, Swiss and Monterey jack.

Result: Easy to make -- just dump it in and wait. I made it the night before I needed it, so I used the low-and-slow setting on the slow cooker. Even after the cheeses were added, the soup was not as thick as I'd hoped. However, I love the convenience of slow cookers, so that made the taste of the soup even better.

— Stephanie O'Dea, from "A Year of Slow Cooking"

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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