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Here’s a healthy, tasty side dish

January 25, 2011
By Wendy Monro

Most people who know me understand my love of butter, cheese and heavy sauces. I really do enjoy eating dishes like lasagna with a bchamel sauce; eggs Benedict smothered in hollandaise sauce, and baked stuffed manicotti with tons of ricotta cheese, topped with tons of extra cheese. The cheesier and creamier, the better. Any time I think of a snack, cheese always comes to mind first. A filet mignon with a rich Barnaise sauce is so delicious. That's adding butter to steak, which can't be healthy.

So, I do have to balance these meals out with foods that are lighter on the waistline and on the heart. Sometimes, I force myself to eat an apple and not a chunk of cheese. I only eat eggs Benedict on my birthday and Mother's Day. I do this not only because of the amount of egg yolks and butter goes into the making, but also because I want to keep it special. You have no idea how good I feel when I am eating hollandaise sauce.

To balance my consumption of all of this butter and cheese, I also enjoy preparing salads, homemade light soups, grilled; pan seared and baked fish, and tons and tons of vegetables. There aren't many vegetables I don't enjoy. I can only thing of a couple: peas and green beans. Recently, I have learned how to make green beans in a way where I really enjoy them. They have to be cut super thin and marinated in soy sauce. Then, they are very tasty. So, maybe it's only peas that I don't like. I have a homemade salad pretty much every day for lunch. I always include at least one vegetable with any meal I make.

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Broccoli à la Brenda served with salmon.

Not long ago, my cousin Brenda came out to visit us. We always have so much fun with Brenda when she comes to our home. She is a fun, beautiful, wonderful person and any time we can spend with her is appreciated by everyone in my family. She told me that she would like to make us dinner on one of her evenings here. I was very happy about this. I love to cook for other people; but, I am always happy to eat what others prepare for me as well. Even thought I love to cook dinner for my family every night, sometimes it a pleasant break to get to enjoy just eating the food. That evening, Brenda made the most delicious broccoli dish. It was easy to make and so delicious. All she used was broccoli, garlic, almonds and a dash of olive oil. The entire meal Brenda made for us that night was delicious; but, it was the broccoli that stays embedded in my mind. I have made it several times since. Brenda tells me that she enjoys this dish as a snack, just on its own. I have named her side dish, Broccoli la Brenda, and want to share it with all of you.

Everyone knows that broccoli is so good for us. Did you also know just how amazing almonds are for your health? Almonds are low in saturated fat and contain many other protective nutrients such as calcium and magnesium. These nutrients help build strong bones. The phytochemicals in almonds help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. A Loma Linda School of Public Health study showed those who consumed nuts five times a week had 50 percent reduction in risk of heart attack. So, nuts are pretty power packed in terms of your health.

I always keep a container full of nuts with me at work. Every day, without fail, at 10:16 a.m., I pull out the almonds and cashews. I just have a small hand full and my hunger pangs subside until noon when I eat lunch. I don't know why it always happens at this exact time. It's weird. I started eating more nuts after I read Blue Zones, by Dan Buettner. In it, Buettner discovers many similarities amongst the populations where people live the longest. One of these was the consumption of nuts.

Fact Box

Broccoli la Brenda

Serves: 4

Time: 25 minutes

1 large head of broccoli, stalks cut off

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 Cup slivered almonds

salt and pepper to taste

Steam the broccoli for about 10 minutes, until you can easily stick a fork into it. About five minutes after the broccoli begins steaming, place the olive oil into a skillet. Heat the olive oil on medium high. Add the garlic and the almonds. Saut the garlic and almonds for five minutes. Take the broccoli out of the steamer and toss it into the skillet with the almonds and garlic. Add salt and pepper. Serve.

Adding almonds to your broccoli is a great way to get some nuts into your diet. You won't believe how delicious this added toasty crunchiness makes your side dish. Combine this with garlic and you will be in heaven. It is so good. I know we are in the heart of winter and this dish seems very Mediterranean and light. Adding the nuts makes it much more hearty and perfect for a cold night. The last time I made this, I served it with grilled salmon. I even enjoyed it with a nice glass of Pinot Grigio, which is very unusual for me. I have to admit, I enjoyed a bit of white wine with this meal. It complimented the meal perfectly. You could serve this broccoli dish with any fish or meat and it would be a delicious accompaniment.

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