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GOSHEN, IN -- Happy New Year! Here is to working at getting back to eating for your health and eating more vegetables and fruits. During the holidays we all have had many wonderful food experiences. Many family traditions go along with special foods that are only prepared once a year, and I enjoy them all - but now, back to eating for your health.

The new year brings with it many traditions. A tradition for many cultures is making sure cabbage is a part of menu planning as it is told that cabbage brings good luck. I don’t often hear of cabbage being a popular menu item on many meal plans. I think cabbage as a very versatile food and there are unlimited ways that you can prepare it.

Raw and cooked cabbages are prepared in many countries throughout the world. Raw cabbage can be shredded, dressed, and eaten as salad, as in American coleslaw. Yes, we have the convenience of buying it already shredded, but it doesn’t take long to shred it yourself. There is a difference in the cost and I think it tastes fresher when you shred it at home.

Cabbage can be steamed, sautéed, braised or baked, added to soups and stews, stuffed whole or creamed. Steamed cabbage leaves, which I do in the microwave, can be filled with a stuffing, rolled, and braised. Cabbage also makes popular pickled foods: German sauerkraut, Japanese cabbage pickles, and spicy Korean kimchee are varieties within the same theme, and Belgians and Germans make a cooked sweet sour red cabbage with raisins.

Cabbage is one of the oldest vegetables cultivated by man. It grows well in almost any climate and is appreciated in almost all of the world’s cuisines. The cabbage, part of the brassica family, is quite large and includes such common vegetables as cauliflower, broccoli, mustard, kale, horseradish, radishes, rutabaga, and turnip. This is an interesting group of vegetables as some grow above ground and some grow below ground. Regardless of where they grow, they are all good for us and we should eat more of all of them.

The members of the brassica family that go by the name cabbage are many and varied. Most are characterized by large round heads of tightly packed leaves, although some varieties are elongated, flattened, or loosely packed. Most varieties are white to light green, although red varieties exist and the red varieties make for some wonderful cooked dishes. There is Chinese cabbage, green cabbage and red cabbage. When it comes to Chinese cabbage there is Bok Choy and Napa Cabbage. Some form relatively compact, elongated heads and others are open, leafy, flowering cabbages.

Bok Choy is an elongated, non-head forming cabbage and has long white ribs with dark green leaves; it resembles Swiss Chard. Napa Cabbage, also called Chinese cabbage or celery cabbage, has elongated, tightly furled leaves with wide ribs and soft, pale green tips.

The most common cabbage in America is the large round-headed variety with pale green or green tightly overlapping leaves around a central core.

When you are selecting cabbage chose heads that are heavy for their size, and without drying around the core. I don’t care which cabbage you eat I just know we all need to eat more of it. What is important is that we all eat more vegetables in 2016.

Each year at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair we have special food contests and one year the vegetable was cabbage. Here is a recipe from the contest. Enjoy!

Reuben Chicken

Sally Kyle, Goshen

4 to 8 chicken breasts, skinless (tenders and thighs)

1 large can sauerkraut, drained

1 lb. Swiss cheese slices

1 bottle Thousand Island dressing

In crockpot, layer some sauerkraut, chicken, and cheese, repeating layers until all is used. Pour dressing over top and cook on low 6 hours.

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