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How To Eat Your Dark Leafy Greens - Every Day

Posted Jan 25 2011 9:47am
Curly Kale
So, after my cranky morning on Friday, I had a cool experience at the grocery store (I blurbed about it on fb).  I was loading my groceries on the till, and as I was putting up my veg and kale, an elderly man spoke up behind me.  He said "have you ever made a green smoothie?", with a cheerful, bright face.  "Yes I have, I make them every morning!", I replied... and the conversation continued about what greens we use, etc.  After feeling crabby and tired most of the morning, this bright-eyed fellow perked up my day.  It was inspiring to chat with an older chap, and hear him praise the goodness of green smoothies.  My day was instantly better.

Rainbow Chard (SO beautiful!)
How many of you are getting your greens?  Because, let's face it, most of us did not grow up eating them.  As a child I only knew iceberg lettuce (which I don't think qualifies as a "green" at all).  We used to live around the corner from a grocery store, and I remember my mom asking me to run to the store one day to get a head of lettuce (iceberg).  I think I was about 11, and when I returned from the store my mom laughed because I had brought home a cabbage!  Well, really, they look a lot alike, especially from a child's perspective.  Then, it wasn't until I was a teenager that a new exotic lettuce hit the grocery stores - romaine!  Yep, it was fancy-schmancy to eat romaine.  Eat it we did, smothered in gobs of Kraft caesar dressing and Kraft parmesan (instantly disgracing the romaine, and certainly negating any goodness the greens offered)!

It wasn't until I started cooking for myself that I really started to learn about other greens like swiss chard, kale, spinach, collard greens, bok choy, and more.  My favorites to use on a daily and weekly basis are kale, chard, spinach, and mixed greens.  Often during the summer when we visit our farmers' market, people ask what I do with kale and chard when I'm bagging them up.

I think there's still a lot of mystery to greens, but they are easier to eat on a daily basis than you might think.  How do I eat them?  Every morning I have a smoothie with kale (or chard, but usually kale).  Green smoothies are one of the easiest, most efficient ways to get those greens in every day - and BONUS, they're delicious!  Then, at lunch I usually add mixed greens to a wrap, or in a bowl along with hummus or quinoa, tempeh, or some bean dish of sorts.  (Beans 'n greens are the vegan foundation I say!)  And, with dinner, we usually have a salad, unless I've incorporated a lot of veggies into a dish in another way.

I want to offer up some tips on eating greens and getting them into your meals - daily. Here goes
Green Smoothie. The almighty green smoothies. They have changed my life, and my morning routine. I swear they are the most efficient, easiest way to eat greens – and probably the most delicious way to eat them raw.  (Do you need a post about making green smoothies?  Let me know if so!)

Salads. I know salads seem obvious, but some tweaking might be needed here. See, some greens like spinach and chard are milder in flavor. Many of us have had a spinach salad, for instance, no big deal. But, have you ever had a kale salad? That’s a different story. Some greens are more bitter than others. Kale is one of those greens, and chard to a lesser extent. So, when adding rich, dark leafy greens to a salad, chop them finely and mix with other greens or lettuces. I prefer to julienne greens like lettuce and chard.  You can also make pure kale salads, massaging julienned leaves with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, and then working in olive oil, salt, and other seasonings and ingredients (avocado is a good one), but because the greens are much stronger tasting, even with the seasoning and massaging, this might be one type of salad you work up to. 

Pestos and Spreads/Dips. Pesto is one of my very favorite recipes to make, basil pesto in particular, and usually with cashews, brazil nuts, and/or walnuts. When basil isn’t as abundant, but still available in grocery stores, you can modify your pesto recipes by substituting spinach, or even swiss chard, for some of the basil. While I’m not generally a fan of a pesto made entirely with spinach, some partial substitutions work beautifully, along with earthy nuts like walnuts or pecans.  Other spreads/dips can be made like hummus or raw nut dips with spinach pureed through.

With smoothies, salads, and pestos/dips, you are getting those greens into your diet in a raw state.  This is beneficial, but it doesn't mean you can't also gently cook greens, here are some ways
Brief Cooking Methods. Most greens benefit from only very brief cooking. Overcooking turns their vibrant green to a murky green-gray color, and also changes the flavor. I prefer the color and flavor of greens when cooked quickly, just to wilt and warm through the greens. Greens also some of their nutritional value with prolonged cooking, so brief is best, especially for more tender greens like swiss chard and spinach, and the leafy portions of greens like bok choy, beet greens. Sturdier, more hardy greens like collard greens and kale usually take a little longer to become tender and pick up a brighter green color. Here are some ways to quickly warm or heat-through greens – remember, cook until the color has just perked up and the leaves have softened, this is when the flavor is best
  • Quick Saute. Adding some chopped, torn, or julienned greens to a lightly-oiled pan, with a touch of salt, pepper and a little grated/minced garlic or shallot (if you like). Let the greens soften into the oil over medium heat for a few minutes (just a minute or two for delicate greens like spinach, longer for tougher greens like kale). The leaves wilt down considerably, so you may want to use far more than you think!
  • Soups/Stews. Many soups offer the perfect opportunity to get greens into your meal. Consider the stew you are having, and if the flavors/ingredients would suit adding something like swiss chard or collard greens. If so, add them just before serving, letting them wilt ever so slightly into the hot soup, and then serve straight away.
  • Pasta. Much like soups, pastas can be even more delicious with the addition of some greens. Especially if the pasta has a generous sauce just looking for something to cling to! Again, add close to serving, tossing the greens through the finished pasta and sauce to warm through.
  • Lightly Steam. Greens can be steamed in just a matter of minutes, and then are particularly delicious topped with something kind of sauce, like a tahini sauce , or Balsamic Maple Sauce .  
Dinosaur Kale
With all these methods, don't overcook, brief is best, keep vibrant green!

Leafy green vegetables are "super foods" that pack an incredible nutritional punch. They are simply brimming with the things that are good for us–vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, folate, vitamin K, sometimes calcium, and a bevy of phytochemicals that are linked to everything from reduced risk for heart disease to better eyesight with aging. (Source: vegetariannutrition.com )

Here's more on greens from The Thrive Diet : Dark green leafy vegetables are a rich source of chlorophyll, important in offsetting stress by alkalizing the body.  In their raw sate, chlorophyll-containing plants possess an abundance of live enzymes that promote the quick rejuvenation of our cells.  The consumption of chlorophyll-rich, leafy green vegetables combined with moderate exercise is the best way to create a biologically younger body.  

hoo-ahh!  (that's from me, not Brendan)  Yep, greens are mean machines.  Get 'em daily.  And, if you want a post on green smoothies again, holler in the comments.

final word... not about greens, but about brownies... this is the last week for getting votes in the gluten-free contest.  My recipe must be one of the top 3 with the most "replies" to get judged.  I know some of you have added a reply, thank you.  I still need more, so pretty puhleeze link through and add your commentThen, eat some greens! :)
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