Like most people, I love to eat good food, especially during the holidays when an abundance of traditional fare is set upon the table. And, like most people, who have strong family ties, I enjoy the taste and textures and aromas of the foods of my heritage. To me these foods represent a continuity of family and family traditions. For that reason, I like to prepare these recipes that were passed on to me by my grandmother, who so carefully preserved each of them in her memory. No recipe books for her, when she gave me a recipe it was merely a pinch of this, a handful of that, etc. But somehow her recipes have always come out to perfection.

Cooking with nonna. Ph. r_mal on flickr (flic.kr/p/az47b)

Grandma had a great instinct for cooking without recipes. Food and its nourishing qualities were a very important part of her survival in the old country. Not only did her ancestors prepare food for its taste and texture but also for its health benefits. I guess that’s why each of grandma’s receipts are made up of certain vegetables that, today, modern medicine has proven to be good for us, for our hearts, our minds and our overall well being.

My ancestors were all excellent cooks, they believed, as do many from the Old Country, that a meal of these favorite foods relieves the tension of a stressful day and that our spirit sighs after a good meal. I guess that’s why grandma believed we should spend that time in rest and reflection.

To create these beneficial foods will take a little more time and care, but that’s all a part of their charm and tradition. Like Grandma always said, “Food that is too easily prepared is like opening a bottle of champagne without the “pop”, it would eliminate half the fun.”

Calcium

* Calcium, for strong bones and for maintaining blood pH, is found in broccoli, lettuce, green beans, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, celery, and parsley.

Copper

* Copper, for elasticity of blood vessels and heart, is found in vegetables grown in soil rich in minerals, contained in humus.

Iron

* Iron, to build up blood and carry oxygen to cells, is found in spinach, collards, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and parsley.

Manganese

* Manganese, needed to metabolize proteins and fats, is found in such legumes as beans, peas, and lentils.

Potassium

* Potassium, which maintains fluid levels in cells, is found in spinach, celery, lettuce, zucchini and other squashes, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, radishes, parsley, and cucumbers. (Bananas, not a vegetable, of course, deserve mention here as a high-potassium source.)

Selenium

* Selenium, an antioxidant believed to protect cells, is found in corn and legumes. Soil enriched in pulverized kelp will contain this chemical.

Vitamin A

* Vitamin A, an antioxidant and immune system booster, is found in carrots, bell peppers, butternut squash, collards, parsley, and spinach.

Vitamin B6

* Vitamin B6, taken to metabolize protein and control symptoms of stress, is found in spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, beans, tomatoes, squash, parsley, and lettuce.

Vitamin C

* Vitamin C, an essential nutrient thought to prevent colds, is found in sweet peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, Brussels sprouts, collards, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, beans, and celery.

Vitamin E

* Vitamin E, an antioxidant and, some say, a sexual potency enhancer, is found in legumes and leafy green vegetables, such as collards.

Zinc

* Zinc, for cell division, growth, sunburn, bug bites and healing, is found in spinach, parsley, lettuce, squash, and beans, such as limas.

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By Cookie Curci

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