Variety is a central element in a healthy diet. Consuming a wide selection of wholesome foods assures that we maximize our intake of the hundreds of nutrients necessary for maintaining good health. Trying new foods also adds excitement to meal preparation and prevents getting into a rut.

Let’s take a look at two less familiar vegetables: Brussels sprouts and bok choy. Both are members of the Cruciferous family. This family includes: cabbage, broccoli, kale, collard greens, rutabaga, cauliflower, mustard greens, arugula, horseradish, turnip, kohlrabi, etc.

Few foods can compete with cruciferous veggies for their stellar disease-fighting prowess. They share a long list of nutrients, as well as each offers their own unique set of powerful phyto-chemicals (plant chemicals). In addition to fiber and the many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, Bok choy, Brussels sprouts and all the other cruciferous vegetables, contain extremely high levels of glucosinolates. These compounds belong to a group of sulfur-containing chemicals that play a major role in the body’s detoxification and immune systems’ disease prevention.

Bok choy, sometimes referred to as Chinese cabbage, has white crunchy stalks, about eleven inches long and one and a half inches wide, with dark green leaves on the sides and top of each stalk. This vegetable has been consumed in China and other Asian counties for more than 1,500 years and grown in North America for 100 years, mainly in California, Arizona, Texas and Mexico. Bok choy can be steamed, cooked in a skillet or added to soups and stews. In Asian cuisine its stalks are also sliced and pickled.

Brussels sprouts resemble mini cabbages that are about one inch in diameter. It is preferable to buy them in sealed bags rather than in open nets, or they dry out, wilt fast and loose nutrition. Cook Brussels sprouts in a skillet or steam them. Uncooked, they can also be thinly sliced or quartered and mixed into raw vegetable salads. To store, refrigerate them in sealed plastic bags.

Enjoy exploring new horizons in your health journey. Included are some easy-to-make and delicious recipes for you to try.

BOK CHOY DELISH

2 servings

4 Bok choy stalks with leaves

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon peeled, finely grated ginger root

3 cloves garlic peeled, finely grated

Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse vegetable and dry with paper towel. In a skillet, place the oil. Mix in the ginger, garlic, salt and pepper. Cut off leaves along stalks and put in small bowl. Cut stalks crosswise into half-inch slices and add to the ginger mixture in skillet. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. When the food begins to sizzle, reduce heat to low and cook slowly about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, shred the leaves add them to the skillet and mix gently. Cook slowly about 10 more minutes, until the stalk slices are fairly tender. Serve immediately.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND NUTS IN VINAIGRETTE DRESSING

2 servings

12 Brussels sprouts

1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts

DRESSING:

2 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

In a colander, rinse Brussels sprouts then trim off their bottom ends. Steam them for about 15 minutes, until the largest ones are tender-crisp. Drain and gently rinse them with cold water for 5 seconds to halt the cooking process. Drain and set aside. In a small bowl, mix all dressing ingredients. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the dressing, then mix in the nuts. Serve warm or cold.

VEGETABLE STEW

2 servings

1-1/2 cups water

1 large yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 medium tomato, chopped

1 medium carrot, sliced

1 Bok choy stalk, sliced

2 tablespoons dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

7 sprigs parsley leaves, chopped

In large saucepan place the water, vegetables — except parsley — and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook 12 minutes. Add the oil and cook 4 more minutes. Remove from stove and add parsley. Serve on cooked whole grain (brown rice, quinoa, farro or barley).

Judy E. Buss is a syndicated food/health columnist, blogger for the American Holistic Health Association, nutritional cooking instructor and speaker.

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