Feast For Health

IN THE KITCHEN

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The holiday season is behind us. Now most of us are determined to buckle down and start making changes in the way we eat in an effort to lose weight and get healthy.

To that end here is an entire feast of healthy recipes. We will start with Fennel and Orange Salad; Broccoli with Hazelnuts; Wild Rice Dressing with Portobello Mushrooms; and Cranberry Salmon.

Fennel is in season, so it's a good chance to incorporate this aromatic vegetable into your diet. It contains vitamin C and beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant believed to help reduce the risk of cancer, enhance immunity and prevent cataracts.

When shopping for fennel, look for bulbs with no discoloration, firm stalks and bright green fronds.

Cut the stalks off across the top of the bulb where it turns white. The leafy fronds can be saved to flavor sauces and broths, or can be used as garnish. Slice off the root end of the bulb and peel away the tough outer layers. If using fennel raw, slice the bulb into thin wedges or slices. To grill or roast, halve the bulb vertically and you will see a triangular, hard core. Using a small, sharp knife, cut out most of the core, leaving enough to keep the layers attached while cooking.

Fennel and Orange Salad

1 bunch arugula, rinsed and dried

1 large navel orange, peel and white pith removed, cut into thin rounds

1 large fennel bulb

4 paper-thin slices red onion

2 oil-cured black olives

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon orange juice

1/2 tablespoon orange zest

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Make a bed of arugula on each of 4 salad plates. Arrange 1/4 of the orange slices over arugula on each plate.

Cut away feathery tops of fennel at base of round stalks and discard. Slice off bottom of bulb, remove tough outer layer of bulb and discard both. Cut bulb in half vertically. Using a very sharp knife, cut each half crosswise into very thin slices. Arrange over orange slices.

Separate onion slices into rings and arrange over fennel. Add olives.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

In a small bowl, whisk oil with orange juice and zest. Drizzle dressing over each salad. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 142 calories, 7 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat), 19 g. carbohydrate, 2 g. protein, 6 g. dietary fiber, 228 mg. sodium.

Adding nuts to a vegetable dish gives an extra bang to its healthfulness.

Nuts are packed with nutrients. Just 1 ounce supplies 2 or 3 grams of fiber and 4 to 7 grams of protein, similar to about one slice of cheese, but with about two-thirds less saturated fat. Some nuts, like hazelnuts, almonds and peanuts, are a good source of vitamin E, while walnuts are a good source of health-promoting omega-3 fat.

Hazelnuts -- also called filberts -- have a sweet, rich flavor and can be used chopped, ground and whole in both sweet and savory dishes.

Broccoli with Hazelnuts

2-3 tablespoons coarsely chopped hazelnuts

Boiling water

1 pound broccoli, stems peeled and sliced thin and florets separated

2 teaspoon sesame oil

2 scallions, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

In a small skillet, toast hazelnuts over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside.

In a large pot of boiling water, add broccoli and blanch for 4 minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain.

In a large bowl, combine oil, scallions, garlic and soy sauce. Add broccoli and toss well. Top with hazelnuts. Serve at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 54 calories, 3 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat), 5 g. carbohydrate, 3 g. protein, 3 g. dietary fiber, 88 mg. sodium.

Wild rice is not rice at all, it is a grass seed with a rich, nutty flavor.

It's important to clean wild rice thoroughly before cooking it. The best method is to place the rice in a large saucepan and fill it with cold water. Stir it several times and set aside for a few minutes. Any debris will float to the surface and the water can then be poured off. Depending on the method used, wild rice can take up to an hour to cook. Taste-test to make sure the kernels are completely tender, but not too soft.

In addition to being high in protein, wild rice contains the phytochemical called phytic acid, which, in lab and animal studies, appears to slow formation of cancers as well as help control blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides.

Wild Rice Stuffing with Portobello Mushrooms

5 tablespoons canola oil, divided

1 large onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced (optional)

8-1/4 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth

1-1/2 cups wild rice

1-1/2 cups long-grain brown rice

4-6 portobello mushrooms (stems removed), cut in 1/2-inch-by-1-inch thick slices

1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon dried sage, or to taste

1 cup chopped green onions

1 cup chopped almonds or pecans, plus additional for garnish, if desired

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat a large, non-stick pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Pour in 1 tablespoon oil and heat until very hot. Add onion and garlic. Sauté until onion is translucent and mixture is golden. Add 4-1/2 cups broth and bring to a boil.

Add wild rice, reduce heat to simmer, cover pot and simmer 25 minutes. Add brown rice and remaining broth. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and simmer until both rices are barely tender, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large, non-stick pan over high heat until hot. Add 2 teaspoons oil and heat until very hot. Add mushrooms. Stirring constantly, sauté -- in batches, if necessary to prevent overcrowding and "weeping" of the mushrooms, which prevents browning. Transfer each finished batch to a bowl and continue, using a little more oil each time, until all mushrooms are sautéed.

When rice is almost tender, mix in parsley, sage, green onion and nuts. Cover and cook on low heat about 5 minutes longer, or until onion is soft and rice is tender.

Remove pot from heat, uncover and allow rice to cool slightly. Stir in mushrooms until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste and more sage, if desired. Garnish with nuts, if desired.

Serve immediately or store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Makes about 11 cups of stuffing or 22 one-half cup servings.

Per serving: 140 calories, 5 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat), 22 g. carbohydrate, 5 g. protein, 3 g. dietary fiber, 223 mg. sodium.

Cranberries are rich in fiber, vitamin C, flavonoids and other substances that help protect against chronic health diseases, like cancer.

Cranberry Salmon

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

2-1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, divided

4, 5-ounce boneless salmon fillets

1/2 cup cranberry sauce or relish

2 tablespoons chopped shallots

1 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with oil.

In a medium bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons oil and 1-1/2 tablespoons mustard together. Place salmon on foil-covered baking sheet, skin side down, and salt and pepper to taste. Brush salmon with 2 tablespoons of oil-mustard blend, then discard the mixture, as it could be contaminated by the uncooked fish. Roast until salmon is cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk cranberry, shallots and vinegar with the remaining oil and mustard. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set sauce aside.

When fish is cooked through, remove from oven. Preheat broiler. Broil fish until tops of fillets begin to brown, under a minute. Transfer fish to plates, spoon sauce over fillets, serve. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 351 calories, 17 g. total fat (2 g. saturated fat), 15 g. carbohydrate, 33 g. protein, less than 1 g. dietary fiber, 216 mg. sodium.

Recipes from the American Institute for Cancer Research

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