The year of the pandemic is over, but the coronavirus didn’t leave so we face another year of fighting off infection and encouraging healthy habits. Here’s the good news: Some really tasty and easy to find and make food can nourish your immune system and increase your likelihood of avoiding viral infections or reducing their effect on your health.
Better yet, these are common foods, generally easy to find and afford. What they lack in glamour, they make up for with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and a high-energy profile that can help your body battle illness.
We are talking beans, from peas (which is a pulse, like beans. A pulse vegetable is the seed portion of a legume plant.) We are also talking green leafy veggies, the more the merrier. And, saving the sweetest for last, we are talking berries, from the small blueberry to the large and juicy strawberry and the versatile, always welcome, grape.
Green leafy food and berries carry more than helpful nutrients. They are rich in fiber which can help you properly digest your food and, as an extra benefit, work to lower your cholesterol levels and therefore help protect against cardiac problems. Studies of the damage the coronavirus is capable of point out the dangers of high cholesterol as a weakness the body has to deal with in eliminating the Covid infection.
Here are three recipes to add a healthy, tasty flair to any winter meal, while giving yourself and your family a leg up in case it’s needed.
THREE BEAN TUSCAN STEW
Lots of taste and reheats well
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced yellow onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1/2 cup diced carrot (about 2 medium carrots)
1/4 cup diced celery (about 1 stalk)
4 medium cloves garlic (minced)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or white kidney beans, drained (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained (about 1 1/2 cups)
2(15-ounce) can butter beans (also known as lima beans), drained (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 5 – inch sprigs rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 small bunch kale cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups))
Additional salt and pepper to taste
Additional olive oil for serving (if desired)
Add the olive oil to a large, heavy pan over medium heat. When hot, add the onions, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for one more minute. Stir in the thyme, salt, and black pepper. Add the beans, broth, rosemary, and bay leaf. Stir to combine. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low to maintain a simmer until the stew is thickened, 20-25 minutes. Makes 4 to 8 servings.
Add the kale and cook until wilted, 3-4 minutes. Remove the rosemary sprigs and bay leaf. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired. Serve as-is or over polenta, brown rice, or quinoa. Drizzle individual servings with a little olive oil, if desired.
Note: You can leave out the kale if you don’t have any on hand and substitute with Romaine lettuce or even spinach.
SALAD TO SERVE WITH STEW OR SOUP
1 head of butter lettuce or similar portion of other leafy greens, such as a package or two of Caesar Salad fixings
1 or 2 medium bowls of other greens, like chard, arugula, kale or spinach
1 cup of ripe red, black or white grapes, or a mix of those
1/2 cup Each of blueberries and cut up strawberries
1/2 cup fresh apple slices, washed and cut into bite sized pieces (optional)
Combine all the greens in one large salad serving bowl and toss to mix. Add fruit one (or one-half) cup at a time, tossing again each time. Refrigerate but do not freeze, until about 20 minutes before serving. Add croutons, if desired. Makes 4 to 6 side salads. Leftovers will keep, covered, for several days in refrigerator.
VERY EASY SPLIT PEA SOUP
2 cans of split pea soup, your choice of brand
2 whole, medium to large, white potatoes
1 medium yellow onion
1 cup carrots, peeled and diced into thin rounds or julienned
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped, about 1/2 cup
Dash of nutmeg, pepper and/or ginger (optional)
Pour the cans of soup into a large pot. Add the parsley. Turn on heat to medium. Peel and dice the potatoes and add to the soup. Peel and dice the onion and add to the soup. Finally, add the carrots.
Bring soup to a simmer, stirring frequently, and let it heat to a boil. Do not let it boil but turn heat to medium or low, cover pot, and let cook until potatoes are fork soft. Stir several times while heating to help blend the flavors. Add seasonings, if desired. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until both potatoes and carrots are softened.
Remove from heat and let sit, covered, a half hour. Stir once more before serving. Add a couple of pinches of chopped parsley to the soup as a topping before serving. Makes 6 to 8 or more servings.
Note, if desired, add small to medium meat chunks to simmering soup.
By Jean Redstone