We can’t control what’s going on around us, but we can control our nutritional intake. Eating for immunity is our focus lately. We’re eating the rainbow, and then some. Vegetables at all three meals, when possible. Spinach in our breakfast omelette, hearty vegetable soups, and heaping salads for lunch, and we’re including at least two vegetables at dinner, with whatever fish or protein we’re having that night. Snacks are invariably fruits, veggies dipped in hummus, or fruit/veg on cottage cheese.
Last night’s meal was a veggie stir fry with chicken. Broccoli, green pepper, snow peas, baby bok choy, mung sprouts and leeks, along with chicken tenderloins. It all came together in 20 minutes, after a little chop-chop.
The best trick for a stir fry: Preheat an empty cast iron pan in a hot oven, and then place that pan in a warming drawer, if you have one, (or turn the oven down to 200º and leave the pan in there.) Then, cook the meal in stages, and add each cooked veg to the pan to keep warm, while the rest of the meal is cooked.
We cooked the broccoli first, as it is the most dense of the veggies, then the green pepper, the snow peas, the halved bok choy, and then the leeks and mung sprouts together.
When all the veggies were cooked and warming in the drawer, we stir fried the chicken with two thinly sliced cloves of garlic, and some freshly grated ginger. Last to heat was precooked (and dried with a towel) whole grain linguini. We poured 2 tsp of hot chili oil over the pasta, and stirred it up in the same skillet, on low heat, until it was thoroughly warmed up. (All the leftover garlic and ginger embedded itself within the strands of pasta. Yum!) Then it was plated, sprinkled with some sriracha sesame seeds, (yes, there really is such a thing!) and dinner was on the table! Everything (except for the chicken) saw about 3 minutes total in the sauté pan. You want it warmed and crisp, not overcooked and soggy.
Why eat so many vegetables?
One cup of broccoli offers us half the daily requirement of Vitamin C, which, as we all know, is an immunity boosting powerhouse. Broccoli is a “super food,” packing in calcium and Vitamin K for strong bones, and plenty of antioxidants, which fight free radicals that can cause cancer.
One medium-sized bell pepper provides 169% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C. It’s another powerhouse veggie that contains Vitamins B6, E, A and K1, plus it also contains Potassium for heart health, and Folate, which aids cell growth and metabolism.
Snow peas also are rich in Vitamin C. They also are a good source of vitamins B1, B2, B3, and K, which is important for helping your blood to clot.
Bok choy contains vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, nutrients which have powerful antioxidant properties that help protect cells against damage by free radicals. Unlike most other fruits and vegetables, bok choy contains the mineral selenium, which helps to detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in the body. Selenium prevents inflammation and decreases tumor growth rates.
Leeks are a good source of vitamins A, C and K (important for helping your blood to clot). They also contain minerals such as iron (which is important for red blood cells) and manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function).
Mung sprouts are part of the bean family. The sprouting process increases nutrient levels, making sprouts richer in protein, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and vitamins C and K than un-sprouted plants. Including sprouts in your daily diet may also have benefits for your heart. Several animal studies show that eating sprouts may increase “good” HDL cholesterol and reduce total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
We chose chicken as our protein, because it’s lean, cooks quickly, and has less saturated fat than other animal proteins. Chicken provides vitamins mainly from the B complex, including Niacin or vitamin B3, which is essential for the metabolism of fats and sugars in the body, as well as for maintaining healthy cells. It also contains minerals such as magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc. However, plant proteins can be easily substituted.
Style your plate!
If you study the plate in the photo above, you’ll notice that the vegetables comprise one half (or more!) of our plate, with the whole grain pasta as a quarter of our meal, and the chicken the remaining quarter. We always aim for veggies as our largest portion. Give yourself a variety, however. No one wants to sit down to a plate that’s 3/4 full of green beans. Boring!
Choose whatever veggies you like best, and then add one you’ve never tried before.
No real recipe here. We started with a Tbsp of canola oil, and used a spider strainer to remove the veggies each time, leaving most of the oil behind. I think we added only 3 Tbsp of oil for the entire recipe, with the exception of the chili oil for the pasta. This made a perfect dinner for myself and my husband, plus leftovers for another wonderful meal, the following day. I prefer spices in place of soy sauce for a stir fry, because of the high sodium in soy sauce. If you must, add reduced sodium soy, but use it sparingly. Chinese Five Spice Powder is wonderful. It’s a great combination of China cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger and cloves. Just make sure yours contains no sodium.