Illinois is many things – it’s home to Chicago and its many cosmopolitan wonders, as well as to serene suburban communities that are perfect for families. The Prairie State is also known for its rolling farmlands that produce crops, fruits, and vegetables enjoyed not only locally but all over the United States, as well.
Thanks to these widely-available fresh produce, eating healthy is not a problem in Illinois. If you’re making the switch to a healthier diet, check out these recipes using some of the top agricultural products in the state.
Fresh Sweet Corn Salad
Sweet corn is one of the leading crops in Illinois, and you’ll find plenty of uses for it in healthy meals. Originally posted in Diabetic Living Magazine, this simple salad recipe is great for people who have to watch their calorie and sugar intake.
- 4 medium ears fresh corn, husked, or 10 oz. frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 cup thin strips orange bell pepper
- 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil for garnish
- Cut corn kernels from cobs to get 2 cups.
- Heat oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the corn, bell pepper, and onion. Cook, stirring, until the bell pepper and onion are tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve the salad warm or chilled. (Before chilling, drain the vegetables.) Sprinkle with basil before serving, if desired.
Kale & Farro Salad
Fresh kale can be found in many local farms around Illinois. Similar to quinoa, farro is a type of wheat belonging to a food type known as “ancient grains”, which have been around for centuries but have only recently become popular for their nutritional values. Farro can be found in health stores and natural grocers around the state, typically in the whole grains section.
- 2/3 cup farro
- 1 bunch Tuscan kale (about 10 ounces)
- 1 to 2 avocados, cut into large dice
- 2 spring carrots, peeled or scrubbed and sliced into thin rounds
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 stalk green garlic, white and light green parts, chopped, or 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- Leaves from 1/2 bunch tarragon
- Leaves from 1/2 bunch Italian parsley
- 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup Moscatel vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- To make the dressing, place all of the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, or use an immersion blender to blend all the ingredients in a bowl.
- To make the salad, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add the farro and cook until tender, 16 to 18 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water until cool, then drain well.
- Remove the stems from the kale. Cut away any tough ends, then finely slice the stems and tear the kale leaves into small bite-size pieces. Place both the stems and leaves in a large salad bowl.
- To remove stems from chard or kale, start by trimming the stem ends. Then hold a leaf by the stem in one hand and use the other hand to tear the leaves from the stem into bite-size pieces. To make cleaner-looking stems, use a knife to cut the leaves from the stem on both sides in a pointy triangle.
- Add the avocados, carrots, and farro.
- Add half of the dressing and toss to combine. Add more dressing if desired.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
Roasted Cauliflower and Apples with Dill
Apples are among Illinois’s top produce, and apple season typically runs from July to November. Cauliflower is most abundant from August to October. This crunchy, flavorful side dish combines the hearty flavors of these two products to make any meal even more appetizing.
- 1 large cauliflower (2¼ pounds whole; 7 cups chopped)
- 1 large red onion
- 2 apples
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill (do not substitute dried)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Remove the core of the cauliflower and chop it into florets. Slice 1 red onion. Core and chop 2 apples into bite-sized pieces (do not peel). Coarsely chop 2 tablespoons dill.
- Place the cauliflower, red onion, and apples into a large bowl and mix together with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and plenty of fresh ground pepper.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the chopped vegetables on the baking sheet, then roast for 40 minutes until the cauliflower is slightly browned, stirring twice during the baking time. Remove from the oven, stir in the dill, and place in a serving dish. Serve immediately.
Creamy Green Bean Tofu Casserole
Soybeans are Illinois’s second biggest produce and biggest agricultural export. Soybeans have many uses, including healthy food products like tofu and soy milk, which are rich in protein but low in fat. This dish from the Soyfoods Association of North America packs in plenty of flavor and nutritional value.
- 1 pkg House Foods Premium or Organic Tofu Medium Firm, drained and pressed
- 5 lbs fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 lb cremini mushrooms, chopped
- 1 cup fried onions
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ? tsp black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ? medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add green beans and cook for approximately 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Add olive oil to a large pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onions, salt and pepper and cook until mushrooms and onions are golden. Add garlic and cayenne pepper and cook an additional 3 minutes. Meanwhile, puree tofu in food processor or blender.
Sprinkle flour over the mushrooms, stirring constantly. Add vegetable broth and simmer until mixture has thickened. Add tofu and green beans. Mix well and transfer to a baking dish. Top with fried onions and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.
Schaumburg, Elmhurst, Arlington Heights and other Northern Illinois suburbs give you plenty of opportunities for a healthy lifestyle. n fact, if you’re too lazy to try out these recipes and you feel like heading out for a bite, you can check out these restaurants that live by the “health is wealth” motto! Explore your real estate options here. Call Rory James and Unique Realty at (847) 971-0674 or email email@example.com