Just like people, there are vegetables that get no respect! It’s time to change that for the backbone of veggies, celery! Okay, so science tells us it’s not a negative calorie food but it is low in calories (15 calories for 2 stalks or about 3 ounces) and all that great chewing has to count for something on the satiety score. Also, it’s not just empty calories. Those same two stalks provide 2 grams of fiber, 0 fat, vitamins A and C, and even the bonus of some calcium and iron. Who knew? Yes, there is some natural sodium but it still ranks as a low-sodium food.
The naturally salty-sweet flavor of celery makes it the ideal food to dip or fill, add flavor and body to soups, salads, stir-fry dishes and stews, stuff into the cavity of the roasting turkey or chicken, or to dress up your veggie smoothie or juice! Available year round, celery is one of the veggies that should be a “stock item” (no pun intended!).
5 New Ideas for Celery …
- Ants on a Log. The idea of raisins marching down a bed of celery filled with peanut butter is still a leader for snacks. But let’s shake it up a bit. Try mixing applesauce into the peanut butter (up to equal parts) for an easier spread and another flavor! Substituting almond, chocolate-hazelnut or soy butter fits needs for some allergies. And why not dried cranberries for fire ants?
- Finger Foods. Playing on the “ants on a log” theme, fill celery with chicken, ham or tuna salad. Top with dried cranberries for a sweet and savory appetizer. Go meatless with egg salad, flavored cream cheese, or hummus topped with black beans or chick peas.
- Celery Skewers. Celery sticks have always been a favorite drink stirrer topped with an olive! But letting kids make their own snack sticks can be a food fun activity. Once cut into sticks, you can add chunks of cheese, olives, pineapple or melon or bell pepper chunks, mini-tomatoes or hot peppers, blanched and cooled carrot wedges, even ham. Use a chopstick to poke some advance holes in dense foods making it easier to stab and enjoy.
- Dipping. These need to be made at least one hour ahead for full fanning. Cut the larger ends of celery stalks into 1-2 inch chunks. Use a paring knife to fan one end. Immerse in cold water. The fans are great as an edible decoration along with the leaves. Great with salsa, hummus or your favorite dip.
- Wraps. Using chopped celery in sandwiches and salads is a flavor favorite but try using celery sticks as a center for your wraps for a crunchy backbone! Take a slice of deli turkey or ham, spread with Greek yogurt mixed with salsa, add celery sticks and roll.
Judy Dodd, MS, RDN, LDN
Community Relations Corporate Nutritionist