Broccoli has been around for over 2000 years. Primarily eaten by the Romans and Italians, broccoli has not been a popular veggie it’s entire existence. The taste was not well liked by many cultures. The USA was one of those cultures. Broccoli was planted in gardens in the US since the 1700’s, and only commercially produced since the 1920’s.
In recent years, broccoli’s popularity has risen to an all-time high, due in large part to its newly identified status as a superhero of the vegetable kingdom. Labeled a “Super Food” by Dr. Steven Pratt, co-author of the NY Times bestselling book “Super Foods”, broccoli is a vegetable that should be seen on your plate in great frequency (at least once per week).
When it comes to great-tasting nutrition, broccoli has a lot to offer. The stems of broccoli are similar tasting to asparagus and the florets are like cauliflower. A cup of cooked broccoli offers as much calcium as 4 ounces of milk, as much Vitamin C as an orange, and is very rich in vitamin A. Broccoli contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc too. It is also high in fiber and low in calories.
By including broccoli regularly in your diet you can reduce and prevent ailments like cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, high blood pressure and it may help lower blood cholesterol. The nutrients in broccoli also build strong bones, boost the immune system, and lower the incidence of cataracts and birth defects. In addition, broccoli’s wealth of the trace mineral, chromium, may be effective in preventing adult- onset diabetes in some people.
Age to introduce: 8-10 months (cooked and pureed).
Toddler Treat: Broccoli and Rice Casserole
Many toddlers know broccoli as “trees”. Simply steamed, it is a perfect finger food. While broccoli is terrific in its native “tree” form, it is also yummy chopped, julienned and pureed. Our broccoli and rice casserole is an example of what can be done with pureed broccoli. If you don’t feel like making the rice called for in the recipe, stop by a Chinese restaurant and buy a quart to go (by the way, brown rice is better for you than white rice).
- 2 cups chopped broccoli
- 3/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2-3 cups of cooked brown or white rice
- ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
Pre heat oven to 350. Steam broccoli until tender (about 3-4 minutes in microwave/stovetop). Place broccoli, soup stock, oil, and lemon juice in a blender or food processor and process to a smooth puree. Place rice and cheese in an ovenproof dish. Pour broccoli mixture over the rice and cheese. Toss mixture gently to blend ingredients. Place in oven for 15 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is melted. (Instead of using the oven, you can heat this dish in the microwave for 3 minutes, stir, and cook 3 more minutes)
Refrigerate leftovers for 3-5 days, or can be frozen for up to 2 months. This dish should not be introduced to children under 12 months old.
Broccoli for Everyone
At the market: At the market: Good quality broccoli should have fresh-looking, light green stalks of consistent thickness. Look for bright green or purplish-green heads. Don’t purchase broccoli with yellow flowers and enlarged buds. It is a sign of over-maturity.
Storage at home: Store broccoli, unwashed, in loose or perforated plastic bags in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator for up 3-5 days. Wash broccoli just before using it.
Serving: Here are a few easy ideas to add broccoli in your meals:
- Crunchier coleslaw: Replace some or all the green cabbage in your coleslaw recipe with shredded broccoli stems. To shred, use a coarse-size grater or the shredding disc on a food processor. Your slaw will stay crunchier longer than cabbage and is more colorful too.
- Brighten up a crudité: Blanch broccoli or broccolini and add it to a crudité platter. Blanching the broccoli will soften it slightly for easy eating and bring out the bright green color. To blanch, place broccoli in boiling water for 60 seconds. Drain and rinse with cold water until cooled. Serve with your favorite dip.
- Don’t forget the stems. Many cookbooks suggest only using florets, but the stems are tasty and high in fiber. Instead of tossing them out, julienne them and add them to the recipe.
- Add broccoli to a soup recipe. Almost any traditional vegetable, chicken or beef soup recipe will get a boost from broccoli. Simply cut the stems and florets into bite-sized pieces and add during the last few minutes of cooking.
- For an Asian touch to the old standby, steamed broccoli. Just before serving, toss the broccoli with a tablespoon or two of sesame oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds as a garnish.
- Impress your guests with an outstanding sauce. Simply put steamed broccoli into the blender or food processor along with vegetable broth, a little olive oil, and seasonings to create a delicious sauce over brown rice, baked potatoes, polenta, or even pasta.