Please Dont Eat the Daffodils

Edible flowers add a distinctive flavor (sweet lilac, spicy nasturtium, minty bee balm) and a unique splash of color to foods. But you can't eat just any flower!

Some are poisonous; even edible flowers may be contaminated by chemicals if they weren't grown for eating. Don't eat flowers you buy from a florist or a greenhouse-or that you pick along the road. Don't use them as a garnish, either. There's a long list of flowers that aren't edible: buttercup, delphinium, lily of the valley, foxglove, goldenseal, periwinkle, oleander, sweet pea-and daffodils, to name just a few!

For edible flowers, grow your own or buy them in the produce section of your store. They should be labeled as "edible flowers." Only eat flowers if you're absolutely sure of their safety! Tip: If you have hay fever, allergies, or asthma, be cautious about eating flowers.

Try growing these edible flowers in the kitchen garden outside your back door: bee balm, calendula (pot marigold), borage, chrysanthemum, day lilies, dianthus, marigolds, nasturtiums (enjoy leaves and blossoms), pansies, roses, scented geraniums, squash blossoms, sunflowers, tulips, and violets. Enjoy the blossoms from any herb plant, too; try basil, chive, lavender, oregano, sage, savory, and thyme blossoms.

Fertilize your flowers as you would a vegetable garden. Then, when harvesting, wash them well, and gently pat them dry.

To keep edible flowers for a few days, refrigerate them. Just keep the stems in water, or put short-stemmed blossoms in a plastic bag or between damp paper towels. For most flowers, enjoy the petals.

Recipes may list some, but not all, the nutrients you find on a label. Sometimes the nutrient analysis in a recipe is provided for a single portion, but not always. A portion, perhaps of lasagna, in one recipe might be bigger or smaller than a portion of the same food in another recipe. And neither one might equal one label-size serving of a frozen version. Computerized cookbooks offer the advantage of technology. With some, you can plan meals for the day—with recipes from the cookbook—then total the calories and nutrients. Changing the menu for your nutrient and calorie needs takes just a few computer keystrokes!

Choose recipes to complement the whole meal—in fact, meals and snacks for the whole day! Consider variety of color, flavor, texture, taste—and nutrition. Nutrients and calories in any one recipe aren't the whole picture. If the recipe you choose has more fat or sodium, plan your menu with other foods with less.

Most important, choose recipes that appeal to you. No matter how nutritious a recipe sounds, the end result should be something you enjoy—or a food you're willing to experience, perhaps for the first time.

Recipe Makeovers

Ready to decrease calories, fat, especially saturated fat, trans fat, or sodium . . . or boost calcium, fiber, or other nutrients? You can transform almost any recipe, even Mom's specialties. A few subtle modifications may improve their nutrition content without much flavor change. Experiment more dramatically by adding more fruits, vegetables, or whole grains to recipes!

Chefs and test-kitchen experts change recipes all the time. There's nothing sacred about most recipes (except perhaps Mom's). Recipes get altered when new ingredients come on the market, when cooking equipment changes, when consumers want recipe shortcuts, when ingredients are in or out of season or become more or less costly, when consumers shift food preferences, and when nutrition and health issues arise.

In your own "test kitchen," you can modify recipes in several ways: change the ingredients, modify the way the recipes are prepared, cut portion sizes, or do all three. Even one or two small recipe changes can net a significant difference in the nutrition content. This chapter has plenty of ideas to get you started!

Whatever your approach to recipe makeovers, keep flavor, texture, and appeal as priorities. Remember that moderation in your overall food choices counts, not what's in one dish. A single dish that's high in fat, sugar, or salt may not need a makeover—if you don't eat it often; if the rest of your day's choices have less fat, sugar, or salt; or if you eat just a small amount.

1. Change the ingredients or switch proportions. You might use less of one or more ingredients . . . or substitute one ingredient for another . . . or take an ingredient out entirely . . . or add something new.

• Start by reviewing the recipe and the ingredient list. Does it need to be adjusted? Decide what ingredients might be changed to achieve your goals, perhaps to switch the type of fat, boost calcium,

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