Nutrition Corner: Fennell and potatoes go great together

Nutrition Corner - Mary Ehret
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Fennel and potatoes are great go-togethers. Fennel is a common herb and bulb to some, but not so common to others. Potatoes are common to all. Mix the two together and you get a great-tasting uncommon dish

We usually find in the store fennel that is a bulb with celery like stalks. But there is another fennel, called “common” fennel, which flowers and yields fennel seeds. The common fennel does not have a bulb-like bottom, rather a root-like bottom. Both types have feathery tops which are sometimes called “fronds.” We can use fronds just like parsley or dill. First rinse, then chop and put on top of salads, etc.

Both fennel and potatoes contain vitamin C and potassium. One large baked potato with the skin gives us almost half of a day’s needs for Vitamin C. One cup of sliced fennel gives us 15% of our daily Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a nutrient needed by our bodies every day because our bodies cannot store it. It helps to produce collagen, a tissue that holds muscle, bones and other tissues together. It also helps to absorb iron from plant sources and is important for healthy gums and to heal cuts and wounds.

Fennel leaves and potatoes contain flavonols, which are a group of phytochemicals. Fennel leaves contain 10 times the amount of flavonols than potatoes. Quercetin, one type of flavonols, may help us stay healthy by attaching damaging free radicals in the body and fight inflammation.

Today, we have potatoes available year-round and they are usually very well-priced. Potatoes sometimes get a bad rap as many folks believe they cause weight gain. Potatoes are considered a vegetable; however, because they are a starchy vegetable, the USDA dietary guidelines suggest that we eat only five cups a week for a 2,000 calorie diet. Every day, we should strive to eat two and one-half cups of a variety of vegetables.

Fennel is low in calories. One cup has only 25 calories. Join them together for a lower-calorie scalloped potato and fennel casserole. Add chicken and make it a meal. Enjoy!

Scalloped Potatoes and Chicken with Fennel

4 medium red potatoes (about 1.5 to 2 pounds)

1 fennel bulb with fronds

2 garlic cloves (minced)

2 large chicken breasts

cooking spray

1 1⁄2 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons flour

1 1⁄2 cups fat-free (skim) milk (divided)

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1⁄8 teaspoon pepper

1⁄2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 350ºF. Leaving skin on, thinly slice potatoes. Cut stalks and fronds from fennel bulb. Save stalks for another dish like soup. Thinly slice fennel bulb. Chop fennel fronts and set aside.

Place potato and fennel slices in 2-quart covered baking dish and add water to cover vegetables.

Cover with lid and microwave on high for about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly and drain vegetables into a colander.

Wipe baking dish dry and spray with cooking spray. Add vegetables back to dish and sprinkle with minced garlic.

Cut chicken breasts in half (total of four pieces). Place atop the potato-fennel mix.

In a bowl, mix oil and flour into a smooth paste. Add 1 ¼ cups skim milk, salt and pepper, stir until smooth.

Pour over chicken, potatoes and fennel. Cover baking dish and place in oven. Bake about 30 minutes.

Mix remaining milk with sour cream. Increase oven temperature to 425ºF. Remove dish from oven.

Spread with sour cream mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and fennel fronds. Return to oven uncovered and bake an additional 10 minutes until top is golden and bubbling.

Internal temperature of chicken should be 165ºF.

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Nutrition Corner

Mary Ehret