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Broccoli may be the healthiest vegetable you can eat. The cruciferous veggie is known for high antioxidant content and cancer-fighting abilities. Many studies suggest broccoli lowers the risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Experts believe sulforaphane, the ingredient that makes broccoli bitter, is what slows the progression of cancer cells. Broccoli has never been a favorite of children, but after they try the myriad of delicious ways you can prepare it, they might just grow to like it.

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Prep to Cook

Wash broccoli in cool water. Use a splash of vinegar, if you like, to remove the more stubborn germs and pesticides. Separate the tops of the broccoli, from the stalks by chopping them off. The trees or florets are the part most people use in cooking. The stalks, which are tougher and take longer to cook, are also edible. You can even cook the leaves along with the rest of the broccoli, or save them for soups or pesto.

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Steaming Broccoli

Steaming broccoli is one of the easiest ways to cook it, and the method retains most of the vegetable's nutrients. For a shortcut, purchase microwave-in-bag broccoli from the grocery store. Or, use a steamer on the stove pot. Put no more than an inch of water in the bottom of your saucepan and place the steamer inside, adjusting it to fit the pan. Add the broccoli. Cover the pot and bring water to a boil. Then, allow it to simmer as the broccoli steams. It can take anywhere from five to 15 minutes to cook broccoli this way. Check for doneness by piercing broccoli with a fork. Top off the results of this healthy method with chimichurri or cheese sauce.

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Roasting Broccoli

Toss broccoli florets with some olive oil, crushed garlic, and salt and pepper. Spread them out across a baking sheet. Roast them in a preheated 450-degree oven for 20 minutes or to suit your taste. Caramelization can bring out the best flavor in the veggies, but to reach this point you may need to roast them for a bit longer.

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Stir Frying Broccoli

Stir fry is an excellent cooking method for creating tender yet crisp broccoli. It's often used for Asian dishes, but can be tweaked to suit any flavor preference. Bring your favorite cooking oil to high temperature and toss florets into the pan. You can add other vegetables such as peas or onion, but additions like carrots will take longer and should be added earlier. Cook the broccoli for a few minutes until it starts to soften. Add your choice of sauce, such as soy, and any additional flavorings. You should be able to pierce the broccoli with a fork when it's done, but it shouldn't fall apart.

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Slow-Cooked Broccoli Side Dish

Perhaps the easiest - though not the fastest - way to cook broccoli is to toss fresh florets and stems into the slow cooker! Simply add broccoli and other veggies with similar roasting times into the pot, along with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables on high for about two and a half hours, then plate up a perfectly done side dish.

Boil Broccoli for Salads

Boiling broccoli is a good way to prepare it if you're planning to serve it at room temperature or cold, like in a salad. However, this method also leaches the most nutrients from the vegetable -- many get left behind in the water. Boil the broccoli for up to ten minutes, until it reaches desired doneness. Test it by piercing with knife. Broccoli continues to cook after being removed from the water, so you may want to stop cooking ita few minutes early, and spread it out on a baking sheet to cool.

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Saute for Golden Florets

Sauteing turns broccoli golden. Use a large, very hot skillet and olive oil. After adding the broccoli to the pan, add a little water to create steam and speed up the cooking process. After the water evaporates, don't stir it too frequently or you'll interfere with the delicious browning process. If the pan starts to scorch or smoke, turn down the heat and add a little more oil. Like many of these methods, you can always toss in other vegetables, too.

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Why Blanch Broccoli?

Blanching broccoli will preserve its crisp texture and bright green color. It's tastier than eating it raw and easier to chew. Fill a bowl with ice and water, and set it next to the stove. Add a tablespoon of salt to a pot of rapidly boiling water. Boil the florets for one to two minutes, then remove them with a slotted spoon and plunge them immediately into the ice water. Repeat the same process with the stems, if you like.

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The Best Way to Freeze Broccoli

Blanching broccoli before you freeze it will keep it fresher-tasting, better-looking and more nutritious. By quickly stopping the cooking process by blanching, the enzyme actions that result in a loss of texture, flavor and color cease. This also slows the leaching of vitamins. Make sure your broccoli is well-drained after blanching and store it in plastic bags in your freezer. It's a cinch to cook since you only have to heat it or throw it into a stir fry.

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Choosing the Best Broccoli

When shopping for broccoli, choose bright green heads without yellowing or discoloration. Look for compact clusters. Looser clusters are closer to flowering and may have lost their texture. Choose strong, firm stalks and stems. Store the heads in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. You can also freeze heads of broccoli, but blanching it first will deliver the best results.

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