Legend has it that the artichoke was created when the love-struck Greek god Zeus was rejected and thus turned his beloved into a thistle. Bummer for Zeus, but his loss is our gain, because that thistle is now known as the artichoke. Aside from being a mainstay of your favorite dip, artichokes boast tons of health benefits. Whether you believe this myth or not, we're sure thankful to have the artichoke today.
Artichokes were ranked seventh among 1,000 different foods in a study on antioxidant levels. That's pretty impressive--even for Zeus! A few of the artichoke's powerful antioxidants include quercetin, rutin, anthocyanin and more, but OK, I'll stop name dropping. Just remember: Antioxidants help prevent cancer, neuronal degeneration, heart disease and overall aging. (Bye bye, wrinkles!)
However, don't use these benefits as an excuse to scarf down a whole bowl of creamy spinach and artichoke dip with a pound of chips! There are many healthier and tasty ways to enjoy this vegetable. If you're a beginner and intimidated by the look of a fresh artichoke, lucky for you, because canned artichokes are easy to use in any recipe. For the more adventurous, fresh artichokes are a great companion to almost any meal, from fish to fowl. And if all else fails, artichokes can be put to good use as home decor! Read on to see three ways I use artichokes.
Tomato Artichoke Soup (Serves 8)
See you later chicken soup. I love eating this tomato-artichoke version when I'm shivering under the covers with a box of tissues. The vitamin C in the tomatoes and immunity boost from the garlic can help fight off that phlegm. This soup is even comforting and tasty without the side of sniffles.
--15 ounces canned artichoke hearts
--15 ounces canned diced tomatoes
--1 cup chicken broth
--1 tablespoon garlic, minced
--1 small onion, finely chopped
--3 bay leaves
--1 tablespoon olive oil
--1/2 cup white wine
--1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
--Salt and pepper to taste
Puree 2/3 of the artichoke hearts and tomatoes, and add to stock pot. Chop the remaining artichoke hearts and tomatoes as desired. If you want to puree them as well, go right ahead, and add to pot. Add chicken broth to pot and heat.
In a separate skillet, heat olive oil, and add the onions, garlic and bay leaves. Brown until the bay leaves are flimsy. Add all to pot.
Add white wine, crushed basil, salt and pepper to taste. Heat through and enjoy!
Vegetable-Stuffed Artichokes (Serves 2)
This delicious and nutritious side dish will have your friends signing you up to be the next Top Chef!
--2 cups water
--2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
--2 artichoke hearts, chopped
--1/4 cup avocado, chopped
--1/4 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
--3 tablespoons black olives, chopped
--1 tablespoon onions, chopped
--2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
--1/2 teaspoon salt
Trim the thorns from the artichoke leaves with a pair of scissors, and trim the bottoms so that they stand upright.
In a medium saucepan, simmer the artichokes in water and 4 teaspoons of lemon juice over medium heat. The artichokes are done when the leaves can be pulled off easily, after about 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from the water and let cool. Gently pull out the center leaves and scoop out the fuzzy choke with a spoon.
Combine the remaining stuffing ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stir well. Spoon the stuffing mixture into the centers of the artichokes.
If desired, bake for a few minutes to enjoy it hot!
Who knew there was more to the artichoke than being a healthy (albeit weird-looking) vegetable? Use this funky green to show off your DIY side. The spiky leaves can offer an edgy, modern twist to your centerpiece, an interesting vase for flowers, or a festive homemade candle holder.
Take a white or glass pitcher and fill with artichokes so they look like a bouquet. This is a great way to lighten up your kitchen counter or table.
Cut off the bottom of the artichoke so it lays flat and will stay upright when placed on a table. Core the center, and fill with floral foam. Fill with your favorite flowers, and enjoy a beautiful centerpiece!
Similar to the artichoke vase, cut off the bottom of the artichoke so it lays flat and will stay upright when placed on a table. Core the center so the hole is wide enough for your desired candle. Insert candle.
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Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, is the founder and president of Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City, and Nutritious Life Meals, a gourmet, healthy, daily diet delivery program available across the country. She is a member of Women's Health Magazine's advisory board and has authored Slim Calm Sexy Diet, The O2 Diet, and The Snack Factor Diet. Her fourth book, The New You and Improved Diet, will be released in December. Her expertise is regularly featured on the Today show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live, among others, and she hosts "A Little Bit Better" on YouTube's Livestrong Woman channel. Read more of Keri's tips every day on Facebook!