Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday Red Cabbage Coleslaw

We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons. ~Alfred E. Newman

My husband’s family always has coleslaw for the holiday meals, actually at nearly every family get-together. I have always thought of coleslaw as an ordinary summer side dish and one of which was not common nor a favorite with my family. I always enjoy interweaving family traditions from both sides in the making of our own, however this tradition is particularly important to us this year, because of the passing of my husband’s father. Practicing traditions, even in just preparing a simple food dish, have a way of honoring our loved ones through our memories and there are so many good memories of our holiday family gatherings. A few years ago, I began playing around with some ingredients and came up with my very own coleslaw recipe that has, to my surprise, become frequently requested year around.

I originally chose red cabbage because it adds a rich, glistening, jeweled color at the holiday dinner table; however red cabbage has some wonderful health benefits. Cabbage is a unique source of several types of phytonutrients, including polyphenols. The polyphenols in red cabbage include antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds called anthocyanins. Cabbage is also unique for its rich supply of glucosinolates; by slicing, shredding, or chopping, the myrosinase enzymes in its cells can become active in converting the glucosinolates in cabbage into isothiocyanates, which have special detoxification and anti-cancer properties. Raw cabbage has some cholesterol-lowering ability as well.

Each of the ingredients in coleslaw have a number of benefits, but I am going to be focusing on the digestive processes, because even though we all know better and promise ourselves we will not do it this year, everyone tends to overeat at a holiday meal! For this reason alone, the offering of coleslaw is so beneficial.

Cabbage, itself, is high in fiber and a welcomed addition to meals consisting of mostly cooked and rich foods low in fiber. The acids in apple cider vinegar improve digestion and deter the growth of disease-causing bacteria in the digestive tract; malic acid, in particular, is the main digestive acid found in apple cider vinegar as well as in our own body cells, which stimulates the metabolism and increases energy production. Olive oil is easy to digest and aids in the digestion of other fatty substances because it encourages the secretions of the peptic system and stimulates the pancreatic enzyme lipace. Ginger cleanses the palette and aids in digestion by speeding up the movement of food from the stomach into the upper small intestine—this would help rid that discomfort that comes from overeating more quickly. The touch of mustard facilitates digestion by promoting the secretion of gastric juices also.

Coleslaw keeps for weeks and can be made well in advance, which I appreciate because my kitchen is a busy place with baking and meal preparation for the holidays.

Holiday Red Cabbage Coleslaw

1 large head of red cabbage, shredded
1 cup white sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon salt (optional)
1 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp dry ginger

1. Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 cup sugar, and mix well.
2. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, oil, salt, dry mustard, and ginger. Bring to a simmering boil.
3. Pour hot dressing over cabbage mixture and mix well.
4. Chill overnight or longer.

At times, just a bit more sugar makes it taste better depending on the sharpness of the apple cider vinegar and you can mix it in after it has chilled, according to your taste. This is best if made a day to two weeks ahead. You also can make it without warming the vinegar–oil mixture, but the olive oil will not emulsify to soak into the cabbage as well and tends to sit on top.

I hope you enjoy good digestion during your holiday feasting and give lots of hugs to your loved ones to let them know how special they are to you. (And, Ganeida, you only need a stove top for this one.)

~ My Lord, thank you for making so many wonderful foods and for ingenuity in all the differing ways of preparing them. ~

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