The Beauty of Artichokes

With spring just weeks away, the vegestable stands are piled high with perfect green artichokes.  These round petaled beauties are one  of the oldest cultivated vegetables.  For centuries most Europeans viewed green foods as poisonous but arichokes were already popular in 15th century Italy and France. In the 19th century,  European immigrants brought them to Northern California  where they flourished in the cool, foggy climate.

I love artichokes and was delighted to learn   they are nutritional superstars.  Rich in vitamin C ( the anti-wrinkle vitamin) folacin, and magnesium, a big beautiful artichoke has just 60 calories.  But   their real  payload is fiber with  one whole artichoke clocking in at 6.5 grams of fiber at  just 60 calories.  Awesome!  By comparison, 1/2 cup of cooked beans has more than  triple  the calories ( 150) for the same amount of fiber.

Raw artichokes are salt free,  fat free and super low in calories– so its a pity that many recipes  drench  them in butter and cheese.  I devour steamed artichokes with a mustard  yogurt dip, add a box of frozen artichokes  halves to sauteed chicken and  of course, toss them into a big salad.  Currently my favorite way to eat artichokes is a great recipe from a new cookbook  5 Easy Steps to Healthy Cooking by Camilla Saulsbury.  I’m doing a full review of her  book  on Monday, but here is one of the recipes that made me such a fan.

Prevencal Chicken Orzo Salad

Ingredients:  1 cup whole what orzo, 1 jar  of marinated artichoke hearts, 3 cups diced cooked chicken breast, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved, 1/2 cup black olives, chopped, 1/4 cup raisins, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 2 tsp Dijon mustard

Instructions:  In a large pot of water cook the orzo according to directions.  Drain, rinse and cool.  Drain artichoke hearts and reserve 2 tablespoons of the marinade.  Roughly chop the artichoke hearts and add to orzo along with chicken, olives, tomatoes and raisins.  In a small bowl wisk together reserved marinade vinegar and mustard.  Add to orzo mixture and toss gently.

The whole what pasta and artichokes  deliver fiber and vitamins.  The olives  provide  heart healthy mono-unsaturated fat, the chicken constributes low fat protein and the cherry tomatoes bring in more vitamin C and and  cancer fighting leutin.  At  just 236 calories per serving, you will walk away from the table  healthy and satisfied.

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