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Go Green!

By ShelleyB | In Nutrition, Uncategorized | on January 16, 2012

You look all around you these days, it is “in” to be green. You have “GREEN” office buildings,”GREEN” office supplies, “GREEN” fuel, “GREEN” housewares, even “GREEN” vacations. It is hip to be green. So, let’s “GREEN” up our diet! No, I am not talking about sustainable, environmentally friendly diet (although if you go that route, that is awesome.) I am talking about LEAFY GREENS.

Leafy greens are powerhouse vegetables. They are jammed-packed with lots of nutritional value like: Vitamins A,K, & C, fiber, calcium, iron, folate, and potassium. A diet that includes these greens often are known to reduce the risk of some heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Another wonderful bonus, is that they are low in calories and sodium. So why are Americans not including them in their diets?

I suspect that we see them in the market place and really don’t know what to do with them other than maybe one or two recipes. But, these leafy super veggies are really very easy to work with, inexpensive, and oh so yummy! We just need to know a little bit about them and have some good recipes.

Here are my top three Leafy Green choices and a little bit about them. I have included a simple recipe for you to try:
It’s just not for decorating your veggie trays anymore! Its ruffled leaves are greenish-blue to green with a very mild cabbage flavor. Kale is as versatile like spinach and cabbage. Try it raw, steamed or sauteed. Add to soups & salad, bake them as chips, or you can even substitute it for spinach in recipes. Before cooking with kale, clean the greens in a water-filled sink and then drain the sink, repeat until dirt free, otherwise you can get a gritty taste in your mouth if not properly cleaned. Use within a few days, for kale develops a stronger and more pronounced bitter flavor when stored too long and goes limp quickly.

Sauteed Kale: 1 1/2 pounds young kale, stems and leaves coarsely chopped, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced, 1/2 cup vegetable stock or water, Salt and pepper, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft, but not colored. Raise heat to high, add the stock and kale and toss to combine. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring until all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add vinegar.

They aren’t just a southern thing! Collard greens are similar in nutrition to kale. But they have a heartier and chewier texture and a stronger cabbage-like taste. These wide leafy greens are gaining momentum in the raw food circles because their leaves can be used as wraps or tortillas. In traditional southern cooking, collards are cooked slowly for several hours to yield very tender eating, and usually with ham or bacon. But they can also be simmered in a seasoned broth for 20 to 30 minutes. Season collards with garlic, onion, chili peppers, ginger or curry. When you are preparing collards, be sure to cut out the center stem as that can leave a bitter taste if not discarded.

Collard Pesto without the Cheese: 1 1/2 to 2 cups basil, 1 1/2 to 2 cups collard greens, 3 cloves garlic, 2 ounces parsley, 3/4 cup olive oil, 3 TBSP toasted walnuts, Salt and pepper to taste

Remove collard stems and parsley stems. Using a food processor chop parsley, collards and basil. Add garlic and oil. Process for 20 seconds. Add walnuts. Process. Serve at once or place pesto in jar in fridge with a little olive oil on top to preserve. Use on top of fish, chicken, steamed veggies, or spaghetti squash.

Chard is a relative of the beets. Common chard is the one with white stalks and deep green leaves. Rainbow chard has various colors – orange, red, pink or purple stalks. Swiss Chard is with red stems, stalks, and veins on its leaves. Swiss chard has a beet-like taste, has a soft texture that’s perfect for sauteeing, and is slightly sweeter than spinach. Chard is a good source of vitamins A and C and is low in calories, but high in nutrients. Swiss chard is also rich in beta-carotene and supplies certain carotenoids that may lower the risk of macular degeneration. Swiss chard contain oxalates, which are slightly reduced by cooking and can bind to calcium, a concern for people prone to kidney stones. The leaves can be used raw in salads or cooked as other greens. To prepare Chard: Wash the greens and trim the stems (just cut an inch or so off the bottom); thinly slice the stems and coarsely chop the leaves.

Greens and Eggs: Chop chard in smaller pieces and sautee in cloves of garlic and olive oil over medium-low heat. Season with salt & peppper. Top with a poached egg and a sprinkling of crushed red pepper.

So, as your mama would say, eat your greens, they are good for you!

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