GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As the cold weather approaches, cruciferous vegetables are a great way to help increase vegetable intake because they are seasonal, inexpensive, hearty and a nutrition powerhouse. 

So, what are cruciferous vegetables? Cruciferous vegetables are a diverse group that includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, arugula, Brussels sprouts, collards, watercress and radishes. 

The name comes from the Latin word Cruciferae, which stands for cross or cross-bearing. When these vegetables grow, their four petals resemble a cross. While these vegetables grow in all different colors, shapes and sizes, they share several nutritional benefits. 

Most are rich in vitamins and minerals such as folate and vitamin K. Dark green cruciferous vegetables also are an excellent source of vitamins A and C. They are rich in phytonutrients which are plant-based compounds that may help to lower inflammation and reduce the risk of developing cancer. These veggies also are rich in fiber and low in calories, a great combination that will help you feel full and satisfied without overeating.

In today's On the Menu segment, Registered Dietitian Rebecca Serra from Mercy Health shares some key points on cruciferous vegetables and the many ways they can be used in some exciting dishes.

Crispy Roasted Broccoli with Tahini Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of broccoli with stem
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 5 Tbsp. tahini
  • 2 Tbsp. raw sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Remove bottom 2" of tough stem from 1 head of broccoli with a chef’s knife; discard. Cut broccoli crosswise, starting with the stem end into ¼" slices. When you reach the crown, slow your slicing so you can push the florets to the side as they begin to fall with each slice. You want to have lots of loose florets. 
  2. Transfer broccoli to a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp. oil; season with pinch of salt and toss to coat. Add any additional seasoning as desired. Roast until nicely browned, even charred in spots, and crispy with a bright green interior, 8–10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make your tahini sauce. Cut 1 lemon in half. Juice lemon into a small bowl. Cut remaining 1 lemon into wedges; set aside for serving. Add 1 garlic clove into bowl with lemon juice. Add 5 Tbsp. tahini, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, and ¼ cup hot water and whisk until smooth. The richness of the tahini and zippiness from the lemon should be nicely balanced.
  4. Gently toss broccoli by giving pan a shake (or use a spatula). Continue to roast until browned in spots and tender, 5–8 minutes longer.
  5. Heat a small skillet over medium. Toast 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, tossing frequently, until light golden and slightly fragrant, about 2 minutes. Don’t walk away; the seeds will burn quickly! Let cool.
  6. Transfer broccoli to a platter and drizzle with tahini sauce. Top with sesame seeds and reserved lemon wedges for squeezing over. 

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fat free or reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Steam cauliflower until tender, about 10 minutes. One way to do this is to place a steamer insert into a saucepan and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Bring water to a boil. Add cauliflower, cover, and steam until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat; cook and stir garlic until softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Transfer half the cauliflower to a food processor; cover and blend on high. Add remaining cauliflower florets, one at a time, until vegetables are creamy. Blend in garlic, Parmesan cheese, cream cheese, and black pepper. Add salt as needed.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apples

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed 
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup 
  • 1 medium apple, cored and chopped
  • 4 slices turkey bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces   
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.  
  2. Drizzle the Brussels sprouts with olive oil and maple syrup. Toss to coat, then spread on the baking sheet in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 20 minutes in the oven until tender and lightly browned.  
  3. Core the apple and chop into bite-size pieces, roughly the size of the Brussels sprout halves.  
  4. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring periodically, until mostly done, but not crispy.  Drain all but 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings, then add the chopped apples to the pan with the bacon.  Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring periodically, until the apples soften and the bacon is fully cooked.  
  5. Add the roasted Brussels sprouts to the skillet with the bacon and apples and toss to combine.  Adjust salt & pepper as necessary.  

Information and recipes courtesy of Rebecca Serra, RD.

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