April 19th, 2018

From Our Table: Nutritious and delicious, broccoli can go with almost any meal

By Medicine Hat News on November 8, 2016.

I love broccoli. I like it in salad, baked, roasted, in casseroles, steamed in chicken broth, smothered in cheese sauce or raw dipped in hummus.

Some of my friends tease me that every time I have guests for dinner I have some type of broccoli dish. When I take something to someone else’s house for dinner it’s often some type of broccoli dish. Did I mention I love broccoli?

Broccoli is very nutritious. A hint to all the vitamins and minerals packed into such cute compact florets is its deep rich bright green colour. The darker the colour of a veggie the more nutrients it has. A good example of this is low nutrient very light green iceberg lettuce versus dark rich nutrient filled romaine lettuce.

Broccoli is very high in folic acid or folate. This is an important nutrient in women hoping to become pregnant as it prevent spinal cord defects in unborn babies.

Broccoli also has many minerals and a vast array of vitamins.

Any way you break up the broccoli it’s simple to use, versatile and totally terrific nutritiously.

The following recipe is a meal all in itself with protein, carbs and lots of veggies. It’s a delicious twist on traditional Alfredo sauce with lots less fat and many more nutrients. Make it your own with your favourite pasta and veggies. It’s sure to become a new favourite.

Joanne Smith is a registered dietitian.

Chicken Penne in Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce

2 Tbsp olive oil (reserved from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes)

3 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 small jar (3-4 oz) sun-dried tomatoes in oil, or use 3-4 oz fat-free sun dried tomatoes

2-3 cups small broccoli florets

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced

1/8 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp paprika, divided

2-3 cups fresh spinach

2 1/2 cups cauliflower sauce

8 oz penne pasta

2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1. Drain sun-dried tomatoes from oil and chop them into smaller bits. In a large pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil (reserved from the sun-dried tomatoes jar) on medium-high heat and sauté garlic and chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Sprinkle sliced chicken with one half tsp of paprika to give it color then add to pan.Sauté until chicken is cooked through, turning it over a couple of times. Add broccoli florets. Sprinkle the salt over the chicken and more paprika while cooking. Remove from heat. Immediately add fresh spinach, cover the skillet with the lid, and let sit until spinach wilts.

2. Cook penne according to package instructions. Reserve some cooked pasta water, at least 1 cup (even though you will likely not use it all). Drain and rinse the pasta with cold water (to stop cooking).

3. Add 1 cup cauliflower sauce and 1/4 cup reserved cooked pasta water to the chicken and sun-dried tomatoes. Add basil, 1 teaspoon paprika, and red pepper flakes. Mix with the sauce.

4. Add cooked pasta to the skillet with the creamy sauce, and stir to combine. At this point, you might have to add more reserved cooked pasta water because the creamy sauce will be too thick (do not add all water at once — you might need just a small amount). Again, taste and season the pasta with more basil and red pepper flakes if needed. Add more paprika if you want your sauce to have more of a red-ish colour.

5. Make sure to salt the dish just enough to bring out of the flavours of basil and sun-dried tomatoes.

Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce

1 cauliflower head

1/2 cup hot cooking water from cauliflower

1 tsp chicken bouillon

1 cup Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper, to taste

nutmeg, to taste (optional)

1. Clean the cauliflower and chop it into reasonably large but manageable pieces. Place it in a big sauce pan with water, bring to boil and boil for 30 minutes until cauliflower is really soft. Remove from heat and drain cauliflower from water but keep the drained liquid. You should have about 3 1/2 cups of cooked and sliced cauliflower pieces.

2. Dissolve chicken bullion cube in 1/2 cup of very hot reserved cooking water.

3. In a food processor, combine drained cooked cauliflower (from step 1) and one-half cup of hot reserved cooking water you just made (from step 2) with one-half cup grated Parmesan cheese. Process until a very creamy sauce forms:

4. Transfer sauce into a large sauce pan and keep it warm on the stove top. Season with salt and pepper, and nutmeg (optional), to taste

Makes 2 1/2 cups

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