Reintroducing Brussels Sprouts

Unlike most kids, I was not a finicky eater as a child, and to this day, I still eat almost anything. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy some foods more than others, but rather, if necessary and if hungry enough, I will eat almost anything. The only real exception for me is live animals. Sorry Bear Grylls, this country girl will not be biting into a live fish or any other creature that is living and breathing. With this being said, I actually liked my vegetables, especially “trees,” or what you may know as broccoli, even as a little girl. Yet, I feel as though two vegetables have the worst reputation among the tiny folks– broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

However, when I was growing up, my family never served me Brussels sprouts, and I can only recall a couple of times in my life when I tried them. Okay, maybe once. It wasn’t that I disliked them; it was just that I had no real need for them. This has all changed since I decided to incorporate these nutritious gems into my diet, and well, you should too.  Besides being chock-full of vitamins and nutrients, Brussels sprouts can also be an exceptionally tasty addition to your meals.

According to legend, Brussels sprouts were first cultivated in Europe. Whether or not this took place in the city of Brussels remains unknown; however, the first official record of them did appear in Belgium in the late 16th century. In the 19th century, they made their way to England, where they gained lasting acclaim with the British, the world’s top consumers of Brussels sprouts to this day.

Nutritionally-speaking, Brussels sprouts are a healthy addition to any diet. Like most cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower to name a few, they are rich in phytochemicals which are natural plant compounds that may help fight against cancer. Brussels sprouts also contains a healthy dose of nutrients like vitamins A and C, potassium, folate, iron and fiber. And who doesn’t need a little more fiber in their diet?

Being a notable member of the cabbage family, Brussels sprouts look like miniature cabbages and range from one to one-and-a-half inches in diameter. They are similar to cabbage in taste but milder in flavor as well as being more dense in texture. While they are available in many grocery stores year-round, their peak season is usually from September to February. When shopping for Brussels sprouts, look for small, compact heads with a bright-green color. A general rule of thumb is that the smaller the head, the sweeter the taste. Also, try to avoid wilted, dull-colored heads and choose sprouts of similar size so that they will cook evenly. You should store Brussels sprouts unwashed in an airtight plastic bag or container in the refrigerator and use them as soon as possible because their flavor can become unpleasant after a few days.

They can be cooked using a variety of methods, such as steaming, boiling, sautéing, roasting and even microwaving. Prior to cooking, remember to rinse them with cold water and trim the stem ends without cutting the base of leaves or the Brussels Sprouts will come apart during cooking. Also, cutting a shallow “X” in the base of the sprouts will help accelerate the cooking process. To test for doneness, pierce the stem end with a fork or knife―it should penetrate easily.

With such a bad reputation from grown-ups who were force-fed them as kids to today’s picky eaters, Brussels sprouts must be treated with care and eased into the diet slowly. One great way to introduce, or even re-introduce them, is in a vibrant array of other roasted vegetables. Using a mediator, such as rosemary, helps to balance and unify the flavors from a variety of vegetables. The Brussels sprouts along with the other veggies absorb the delicious aroma and flavor of the herb making this an exceptionally great-tasting and filling side dish with yes, Brussels sprouts.

Rosemary Roasted Vegetables

6 small red potatoes, quartered

2 cups baby carrots

1 1/2 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed

1 (8-ounce) package baby portabella mushrooms, trimmed

1 medium yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, add the potatoes, carrots, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and onions. Toss well with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.
  3. Spread the vegetables evenly on a large baking sheet. Bake for 40-45 minutes, stirring halfway through, until vegetables are tender. The outer leaves of the Brussels sprouts will turn a darkish brown color when roasted. Yield: 4-6 servings
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