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Originally published Friday, May 21, 2010 at 4:00 PM

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The best vegetables to steam

Tips on selecting vegetables for steaming and how to properly steam.

You may have heard this before: steaming is one of the best ways to cook veggies so they keep their nutrients. Vitamins are easily destroyed when you cook with water for long periods (i.e. boiling), but steaming uses the steam from boiling water to cook your food.

Any veggie you steam will be around 25 calories per half-cup and chock-full of vitamins and minerals.

Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, artichokes, zucchini and green beans are great choices because they're sturdier and won't turn to mush too easily. Leafy greens — baby bok choy, spinach and Chinese broccoli — also steam up nicely but take less time. If you want to try something new, steam some radishes or quartered new potatoes.

Large chunks of veggies are tough to steam quickly, so if you're in a hurry, cut or trim your vegetables into smaller pieces first.

A steaming basket is a cheap way to steam food. Fill a pot with 2 ounces of water and place the basket with the veggies on top. Once the water boils, it takes anywhere from 5 to 12 minutes to cook. It depends on the thickness of the veggie so you may want to check periodically (but don't keep lifting the lid!) and pull them off when they hit your preferred softness. Don't forget the lid. You won't get anywhere unless the steam is trapped in the pot.

Immediately after steaming, have a colander of ice or bowl of ice water ready to plunge your cooked goodies so your veggies stay nice and crunchy.

You can also steam in the microwave. There are some microwave-ready steam veggie packs you can buy at the grocery store. Or just place evenly cut veggies in a microwave-safe bowl (glass), add a little water to bottom and top with microwave-safe plastic wrap.

Now that you've used a healthy cooking method, don't go adding tons of high-calorie toppings such as oil, cheese or butter. Lemon, garlic or just a dash of black pepper can work wonders. I love a spritz of fresh lemon on steamed asparagus. Try mixing a few minced garlic cloves with a teaspoon of olive oil and drizzle over broccoli.

Courtesy of Toby Amidor on foodnetwork.com

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