Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chunky Vegetable Pot Pie

The weather where I live is temperamental. It just can't make up its mind if it wants to be cool or hot. It's November and one would think it would be tired of being so hot all of the time, but it can't seem to decide if it is ready for cool. My telling it to stay cool just doesn't seem to be convincing enough. Happily enough, though, it is staying at least reasonable in its temps and I am not having to run either my air conditioner or my heater. I guess that will have to do for now.

When planning my meals for this week, I had looked at soups and chilis. Wishful thinking on my part. Then this pot pie recipe made its appearance and was different enough from the usual for me to go with it.

This recipe is adapted from the book Savoring the Day by Judith Benn Hurley. The book is not a vegan or even a vegetarian cookbook, but it is lovely nonetheless. I like the book because it has nice ideas to travel through one's day, following natural rhythms.

Chunky Vegetable Pot  Pie

1 bag frozen sliced carrots
1 bag frozen Brussels sprouts
1 bag frozen cauliflower
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pkg. sliced mushrooms
1 can diced tomatoes
2 T. lemon juice
1 t. oregano
1/2 t. curry powder
1 double crust pie crust, frozen or homemade

If you decide to use fresh produce instead of frozen, steam the veggies the appropriate length of time until they are tender. I went with frozen for convenience. Thaw the frozen veggies and mix with remaining ingredients. Spoon into pie crust, top with second pie crust and poke holes in the top. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

I did cut the Brussels sprouts in half and trimmed the stalks from the cauliflower for mine.

On a vegan list I'm on, the question was asked what vegetable could we be happy to never see again. I was, but shouldn't have been, I guess, surprised at how many people listed Brussels sprouts. While I wouldn't say they are at the top of my list of favorite vegetables, I do still like them.

Forerunners to modern Brussels sprouts were likely cultivated in ancient Rome. Brussels sprouts as we now know them were grown possibly as early as the 13th century in what is now Belgium. While the origins of Brussels sprouts are unknown, the first mention of them can be traced to the late 16th century. They are thought to be native to Belgium, specifically to a region near its capital, Brussels, after which they are named. The first written reference dates to 1587. During the 16th century they enjoyed a popularity in the southern Netherlands and remained a local crop in this area until their use spread throughout the cooler parts of Northern Europe during World War I. Brussels sprouts are now cultivated throughout Europe and the United States. In the U.S., almost all Brussels sprouts are grown in California.

Production of Brussels sprouts in the United States began around 1800, when French settlers brought them to Louisiana. The first plantings in California's Central Coast began in the 1920s, with significant production beginning in the 1940s. Currently there are several thousand acres planted in coastal areas of San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey Counties of California, which offer an ideal combination of coastal fog and cool temperatures year-round. The harvest season lasts from June through January. They are also grown in Baja California, Mexico, where the harvest season is from December through June.

Brussels sprouts are a cultivar of the same species that includes cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi; they are cruciferous. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K. They are a very good source of numerous nutrients including folate, vitamin A, manganese, dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin B6 and thiamin (vitamin B1) and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, iron, phosphorus, protein, magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin E, copper and calcium. In addition to these nutrients, Brussels sprouts contain numerous disease-fighting phytochemicals including sulforaphane, indoles, glucosinolates, isothiocynates, coumarins, dithiolthiones, and phenols.

Moreover, they are believed to protect against colon cancer, due to their containing sinigrin. Although they contain compounds such as goitrin that can act as goitrogens and interfere with thyroid hormone production, realistic amounts in the diet do not seem to have any effect on the function of the thyroid gland in humans.

Brussels sprouts may have unique health benefits in the area of DNA protection. A recent study has shown improved stability of DNA inside of our white blood cells after daily consumption of Brussels sprouts in the amount of 1.25 cups. Interestingly, it's the ability of certain compounds in Brussels sprouts to block the activity of sulphotransferase enzymes that researchers believe to be responsible for these DNA-protective benefits.

You'll find nearly 100 studies in PubMed (the health research database at the National Library of Medicine in Washington, D.C.) that are focused on Brussels sprouts, and over half of those studies involve the health benefits of this cruciferous vegetable in relationship to cancer. This connection between Brussels sprouts and cancer prevention should not be surprising since Brussels sprouts provide special nutrient support for three body systems that are closely connected with cancer development as well as cancer prevention. These three systems are (1) the body's detox system, (2) its antioxidant system, and (3) its inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system. Chronic imbalances in any of these three systems can increase risk of cancer, and when imbalances in all three systems occur simultaneously, the risk of cancer increases significantly. Among all types of cancer, prevention of the following cancer types is most closely associated with intake of Brussels sprouts: bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer.

Researchers have looked at a variety of cardiovascular problems - including heart attack, ischemic heart disease, and atherosclerosis - and found preliminary evidence of an ability on the part of cruciferous vegetables to lower our risk of these health problems. Yet regardless of the specific cardiovascular problem, it is one particular type of cardiovascular benefit that has most interested researchers, and that benefit is the anti-inflammatory nature of Brussels sprouts and their fellow cruciferous vegetables. Scientists have not always viewed cardiovascular problems as having a central inflammatory component, but the role of unwanted inflammation in creating problems for our blood vessels and circulation has become increasingly fundamental to an understanding of cardiovascular diseases. Of particular interest here has been the isothiocyanate (ITC) sulforaphane, which is made from glucoraphanin (a glucosinolate) found in Brussels sprouts. Not only does this ITC trigger anti-inflammatory activity in our cardiovascular system - it may also be able to help prevent and even possibly help reverse blood vessel damage.

In fact, when the cholesterol-lowering ability of steamed Brussels sprouts was compared with the cholesterol-lowering ability of the prescription drug cholestyramine (a medication that is taken for the purpose of lowering cholesterol), Brussels sprouts bound 27% as many bile acids (on a total dietary fiber basis).

If you've never tried these miniature cabbages, you should. This recipe is a good way to introduce yourself to them.

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