There’s a big world out there of delicious leafy green vegetables – beyond romaine, spinach and iceberg lettuce, that you can reap enormous health benefits from. Now is the time they are fresh and plentiful. Gardens and markets offer fresh arugula, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, watercress, dark green lettuces, mustard greens and collards. Here are 10 ways to get more greens on your plate and many take less than 10 minutes to prepare.
We feel like royalty as we sit down to a plateful of them – cooked and raw, and enjoy them liberally on a daily basis. I can’t remember when it was that we started joyfully scarfing them, but little by little green leafy vegetables became regulars at our kitchen table.
Here are some green leafy stats for you: They are prized for their high doses of health boosting vitamins A, K, and C-vital for vision, bone health and immunity. Green leafy vegetables are low in calories and carbohydrates but high in dietary fiber which, in turn, regulates the digestive system and aids in bowel health and weight management. Because of their high content of antioxidants, green leafy vegetables may be one of the best cancer-preventing foods. These same antioxidants have also been proven to decrease the risk of heart disease. There is mounting evidence that consuming dark leafy greens regularly beautifies your skin. Naturally radiant skin….anyone? Yes, please.
Choose greens that look crisp and perky with vibrant hues of green. Pass by any greens with brown spots, yellowing edges or limp looking leaves. To make consuming them more user-friendly, I wash and dry them and store them in vegetable storage bags or a produce plastic bag. Pulling them out of the fridge to add to smoothies, scrambles and salads is made more convenient that way.
There are many ways to enjoy a meal with leafy greens, a fresh green salad being one of the most common. Delicious meals from the garden with arugula, kale, Swiss chard, collards, spinach, lettuces, and mustard greens (not to mention the thinned greens from kohlrabi and beets) are bringing nutritious variety to our table. Here are some leafy side ideas to add to your repertoire. Many are quick !
1. Make a Skillet Breakfast with your greens, leftover baked potatoes, and eggs. Add your favorite sausage if desired. I start by browning the potatoes in a hot oiled skillet. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When they are browned, move them over in the pan and add chopped garlic. (You may have to add a little more olive oil for this). Add your chopped greens and mix until wilted. I add greens gradually, let one batch wilt, then add another. Season to taste. Turn down heat, move greens aside, oil pan and cook your eggs. So hearty and yummy! Serves 2.
2. Make a frittata. I love this application for greens! The skies the limit for what ingredients to use, but don’t go too crazy. Preheat your broiler to high and place your oven rack on the second notch down from the top. Heat your 10 inch cast iron skillet and oil, making sure the sides of the pan get oil too. Scramble 4- 6 eggs and season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Saute chopped garlic, and add leftover veggies from your week of meals that linger in the fridge. Use up to about a cup. Toss them in. Add 4 cups of chopped greens. Stir everything together and season lightly with salt. Leftover cooked salmon is also a great addition. Turn heat down to medium low. Add beaten eggs. Cook until the eggs form a cooked rim around the edge of the pan. This could take about 5 minutes. Watch it carefully. Place pan under the broiler and cook another 4 minutes. Sprinkle top with parmesan cheese if you like. Let sit 5 minutes before you serve it. Serves 4.
3. Make a breakfast smoothie. This is truly a healthy convenience food, and are made easily with a Vita-Mix blender. All ages love them! Freeze leftovers in popsicle forms for kids snacks. There are many recipes online to follow or on this blog.
4. Saute greens with onions and garlic. This is my quick go to that we never tire of. It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare. Saute garlic and chopped onions in a cast iron skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. let cook about 5 minutes, or until soft. Add a lot of chopped greens. They reduce as they cook and I never measure, so err on the side of too much – then you’ll have enough. I add the greens in batches. As each batch cooks down I move it over to make room for another batch. When all is added, mix it all together. Season ever so lightly with salt. Turn off flame, cover and let steam until you are ready to serve. If you like spice, add red pepper flakes early on in cooking. Top with fried eggs for breakfast or a light lunch.
5. Add greens to soup. After a pot of soup is finished cooking, add 6 cups of chopped greens to 2 quarts of soup, while it’s still hot. Turn flame off and allow greens to wilt. Such an easy application of fresh greens!
6. Enrich pasta dishes with greens. For pasta, I took a tip from Giada. Let warm cooked pasta steep in a little olive oil and fresh garlic for flavor. While it steeps, shred about 6 cups of greens (I’ve used kale and chard). Saute with julienned carrots. Season lightly with salt. Toss with cooked pasta. Add some pesto, season with salt and pepper and toss. Top with toasted walnuts.
7. Fried Rice and Greens. Always use leftover cooked rice for fried rice. It’s a rule, you know 🙂 Saute your choice of onions, scallions, garlic and ginger in a saute pan on medium heat. Season with salt. Add shredded greens, the amount is up to you and how many you’re feeding. When greens have wilted, add the rice by moving the greens aside and slowly integrating the rice. Season to taste with salt and tamari soy sauce. We’ve had this for a very satisfying breakfast with the addition of eggs!
8. Make Kale Chips. Such a surprisingly delicious snack! Crispy and tasty! Many recipes can be found online or see mine here. I always use Lacinato Kale not the curly kale.
9. Make pesto and freeze it! You can make Arugula Pesto, or Kale-Cilantro Pesto or just plain basil pesto. I like to make a large batch, fill ice-cube trays and freeze it in smaller batches. Once frozen, I pop out the pesto cubes and bag them up, freezing them for later use.
10. Salads. There are many more ways to implement greens into your meal plan, but I can’t overlook the most often enjoyed…salads! Mizuna mustard greens are a new green we’ve added to our garden this year and it is an early and delicious salad green (terrific cooked too). Arugula, spinach, baby chard and kale make wonderful salads. Throw in a red lettuce for visual effect. Try this Asian Kale Slaw as an option to the traditional green salad.
11. Dried Greens. Okay, I know I said 10-but there is one more I have to mention. Greens dried in our dehydrater with other herbs and onions, then ground in the food processor is useful in soups, potatoes, eggs, and sauces. It’s a great way of preserving the harvest for green leafy vegetables and using these nutrient rich foods year round. And there you have it.
I must apologize for it being so long. I hope these are helpful tips.
Please feel free to share your favorite way to eat greens, comment or ask questions, as I know this is a very general post.
I hope you’re enjoying the abundance of the season as much as we are!