February is when winter's double whammy usually hits many Americans. Cold and nasty weather frequently make walking outdoors for exercise impossible, and cabin fever, especially severe for those who work at home, often makes folks want to eat everything in the house.
Savvy work-at-home people develop ways to counteract that temptation - strategies that all of us could wisely adopt. For example, they tape to the refrigerator a list of healthful snacks that can suppress their appetites. Some suggestions may be familiar: drinking herbal tea or hot broth, and filling up on low-cal veggies like carrots, celery, cabbage and bok choy.
But for some, these savory snacks do not satisfy an incurable sweet tooth. A typical recommendation for this challenge is apples and other fruit that can be eaten out of hand. However, as much as these healthful foods offer - fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals - after a while, even the attraction of fruit can begin to pale.
Fortunately, another food might satisfy a craving for sweets: pickles. Although fat-free and low in calories, pickles can be too high in sodium if they are not selected carefully.
One solution is to make your own pickles - an easy and quick way to customize your snack. One winter favorite, Chow Chow, is well known in the South. Although many cooks have their own version, Chow Chow is typically a crunchy, sweet-and-sour combination of cabbage, carrots and green bell pepper. Ground ginger, turmeric and mustard seeds make it spicy and golden.
You can make a good-sized batch of Chow Chow in well under an hour. It keeps in a jar in the refrigerator for weeks and is great as a snack, or for lunch, perhaps served with cottage cheese, red pepper strips, or a green salad.
Chow Chow Relish - Makes about 3 cups, or 12 1/4-cup servings
2 cups distilled vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. yellow mustard seed
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1/2 medium cabbage, coarsely shredded
Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seed, celery seed, ginger, pepper flakes and turmeric in a large stainless steel, enameled or other non-reactive sauce pan. Bring to a boil, cover and let steep for 10 minutes.
Return the pot to the heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Mix in the green pepper, carrot, onion and cabbage. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon the hot vegetables and liquid into two or more clean glass jars (large enough to hold 3 cups), filling them completely. Seal each jar tightly and let stand at room temperature until completely cool. Refrigerate the Chow Chow for 3 days before using. It will keep at least 3 weeks if stored in the refrigerator.
Per serving: 53 calories, 0 g. total fat (0 g. saturated fat), 13 g. carbohydrate, less than 1X g. protein, 1 g. dietary fiber, 202 mg. sodium.
“Something Different” is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) offers a Nutrition Hotline online at www.aicr.org or via phone 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, MondayFriday, at 1-800-843-8114. This free service allows you to ask questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. A registered dietitian will respond to your email or call, usually within 3 business days. AICR is the only major cancer charity focusing exclusively on how the risk of cancer is reduced by healthy food and nutrition, physical activity and weight management. The Institute’s education programs help millions of Americans lower their cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers across the U.S. Over $82 million in funding has been provided. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.