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Take the Leafy Greens Challenge!

Some friendly suggestions for incorporating these wonder-foods into your diet.

Last week, I told you I’d share some recipes using dark, leafy greens, but I’m guessing some of you may need further incentive to incorporate them into your diet to begin with.

I mentioned that greens are the ultimate superfood, so I’ll elaborate on that a bit. Given their exceptional nutritional profile and fiber content, greens have the ability to naturally protect the heart, ward off cancers, and keep blood sugar and blood pressure in check. Greens are high in protein, low in fat, and loaded with calcium, magnesium, and folate.

If the American population started eating just ¾ cup cooked, leafy greens each day and substituted whole grains for all the white flour products we consume, doctors would not know what to do with themselves.

Greens are so darn good for you that even if you really think you don’t like them, you’ll be doing yourself a favor to think again. The beauty of greens is that you can easily incorporate them into so many things in such a way that you scarcely know they’re there.

Here’s a very doable challenge/suggestion: Get yourself a bunch of leafy greens of your choice (bearing in mind that mustards and beet greens have more of a bite than say, kale or collards). Strip the greens of any tough stems, wash, chop coarsely, and transfer to a container to go on a prominent shelf in your fridge.

Throughout the week as you make your meals, consider what you might incorporate these ready-to-go greens into. Some examples are soups, stews, pasta dishes/lasagnas, stir-fries, and baked casseroles. I also encourage you to toss a handful of these leaves into the blender as you’re making fruit smoothies. Aside from the subtle, green flecks, you’ll never know they’re in there.

Now, this is not to say that greens should be kept hidden within other foods because the truth is, leafy greens are the “Miss Universe” of the veggie world, which is to say that they’re drop-dead gorgeous. Since you are what you eat, well, that’s yet another good reason to eat them.

Indeed, the ruffled edges of many mustards and kales are pretty enough to adorn an evening gown, and the “Bright Lights” variety of Swiss chard that we grow could well stop traffic. Our favorite way of preparing this jaw-dropper is adapted from “Farmer John’s Cookbook” and is as follows:

Swiss Chard with Raisins and Pine Nuts

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ cup thinly sliced onion

1 clove minced garlic

1 ½ - 2 lbs. Swiss chard, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup raisins

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for about 1 minute more. Add the chard in batches, covering the pan as you go and adding more chard as each batch wilts. When all the leaves are wilted, add the raisins, pine nuts, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. This is a wonderful sweet and savory side dish.

I just came across a recipe from a dear friend that uses kale as the “crust” for quiche. Now, this would seem to be another instance whereby the greens are being buried by other food but really, since it forms the crust, it’s quite visible in the finished product. Here are the instructions:

-  Heat 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil in a large skillet and add approximately 1 lb. chopped kale and ¾ tsp. salt. Sauté until kale wilts and remove from heat.

- To the same skillet, add ¾ cup flour (I use whole wheat), ¾ cup wheat germ or fine bread crumbs, and a dash of nutmeg (or not). Pat all of this into an oiled pie dish, using a fork and/or your fingers to mash down and form a crust. Bake this for 15 minutes at 375˚.

- When done, remove crust from oven and evenly spread 1 cup shredded cheese of your choice (I use mild cheddar). If you like, add 1 cup of your choice of steamed veggies (such as broccoli, mushrooms, etc.) on top of the shredded cheese.

- Combine 3 eggs with 1 cup milk and pour over cheese/veggies.

- Bake quiche at 375˚ for 35 to 40 minutes (watch the top and cover with foil if it begins to get too brown). Cool at least 10 minutes to allow the egg mixture to set.

As I was scouring my cookbooks for some good greens recipes, I came across Deborah Madison’s description of greens as “lively,” “bouncy” and “bursting with vitality.”

If those aren't good enough selling points for you, I don’t know what is.



 



 



 



Becky November 11, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Great suggestions! I'm always looking for new ways to get greens in there because they are easy to grow and apparently essential to our diets. Dr. Fuhrman, a physician who practices a nutriton-based care program, has a revamped food pyramid that has vegetables, primarily greens, as the bottom - 60% - row. http://www.drfuhrman.com/images/foodpyramid/foodpyramid-large.png
Lisa Lewis November 11, 2011 at 05:17 PM
What a great pyramid. The vitamin industry would go downhill if more of us adhered to that, for sure! Thanks for sharing!
Meg Dure November 11, 2011 at 06:52 PM
Oh how I love these recipes Lisa. I can't wait to try the Quiche with Kale Crust. We eat Swiss chard often. Will remember to spice it up with some roasted pine nuts etc.
Lisa Lewis November 11, 2011 at 07:31 PM
Thanks Meg! I knew you were a green-eatin' gal (which contributes to your spelling prowess, no doubt). :)

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