Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How To Eat Your Dark Leafy Greens - Every Day

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! :)

46 comments:

Wethingtons said...

A green smoothie post would be most sweet!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'd love a green smoothie post as well! I'm particularly curious about how to make it taste good!! Thanks!

Vegan Vixen said...

Yes please sweetie. Recipes for green smoothies would be awesome. Getting a little bored of the ones I have x

Ashleigh Sutter said...

I would also love a green smoothie post. I have never made one, but I would love to try one and incorporate it into my lifestyle

ADS said...

Agreed, it would be great to have some quick, easy smoothies that actually taste good.

xoe c said...

Yes. Green Smoothie post, please. I only know how to make one. And i'd like some variety.

miss.complicated said...

The best kale salad I've ever had combines it with raw grated sweet potato, finely sliced onion, diced red bell pepper, and grated ginger, then dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, and sesame oil, and sprinkled with pumpkin seeds. I could eat kale every day that way!
I like to juice kale, as well, with apples, carrots, and ginger. I would love some good smoothie recipes, though!

Anonymous said...

I would love a green smoothie post!

Anonymous said...

I have read that spinach is a non-nutritive green, meaning that it needs to be cooked so we can better absorb the iron in it. I also read that raw spinach contains enzymes that inhibit the body's absorption of calcium and iodine. How do you balance out these effects of the green smoothie in your diet?

The Annessa Family said...

mmmm...Green smoothie post...go for it!

Kaycee said...

Wow I love this post! That is a really good idea to encorporate greens into pestos, dips, sauces etc. Thanks for sharing!

Kaycee
Follow my blog for vegan recipes!
Vegan Machine

Karin said...

A green smoothie post would be great! Also, do you use a juicer or a blender for yours?

Ana said...

we've been on a raw & greens kick at home lately (or have been trying to...) and so learning about green smoothies from you would be most timely and EXCELLENT! Please...soon...thank you!

Suzanne said...

I would love to hear your green monster recipes!

Zoe said...

Yes pleease do a post on green smoothies :)
It might seem like a perfectly simple thing to you but I've never had one even though I'm interested in raw and have been vegan for half a year :)

Ilana said...

I love the massaged kale treatment, but I recently started lightly steaming kale in a couple of drops of water (think like water frying) until they become just perfectly bright green, then serving. I did it last night for dinner and topped with veggie quinoa, and oh-my-gosh, the kale like melted in my mouth. New favorite way!

aimee said...

Green smoothies are changing my life too, so yes a post would be great!

Anonymous said...

I'd really enjoy a post on green smoothies, particularly if there was some indication of how good these might taste to non-vegans.

We are currently an omnivorious household, having 4-5 days a week that we eat vegetarian, and trying to introduce new vegan dishes. The problem for me is that if I go *too* vegan, it is too different for my family and they reject it. So I'm trying to locate good transitional dishes. Smoothies sound like a great start!

Anonymous said...

Yes please! Would love to learn how to make green smoothies. I too am wondering if you need a juicer or does a blender work?

Colleen said...

I also drink a green smoothie every morning, although it's not made exclusively of greens. I love me my blueberries and bananas to not include them.

I've also been eating salad every day for the past 3 weeks...and I already feel a million miles better than I did before.

Bethany said...

Yes, to green smoothie post!

fifi said...

How do you make a green smoothie? I am just now (age 47) deciding that a vegan diet maybe what is right for me. I just don't know where to start. I'm searching, please help.
Thank you,
Lori

alissa said...

i need some more ideas for green smoothies!
my go to is this one and it's great but i don't like having the same thing everyday!:

1 overripe frozen banana
1 tbsp ground flax seeds
2 tsp cocoa powder
2 handfuls spinach
1 cup milk (almond, skim, whatever)

Audrey said...

I would love the post on green smoothies. I'm okay with spinach but I find that the ones I make with kale taste really bad. Do you have any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the informative post, Dreena! I would love to learn more about your green smoothies.

Ali said...

What a coincidence! Out of the blue today I had a mad craving for a green smoothie (which is weird because I've never had one before).

So I drank one for supper and it was delicious. I used spinach but I would love to see your recipe with kale!

Keep up the great work - your blog is great!

Tami said...

would love a green smoothie post

Nikki S. said...

Yes! Please post some of your favorite green smoothie recipes...especially ones that are good for the winter months, when a lot of the yummy fresh fruit isn't in season anymore (like cantaloupe, watermelon). I love the smoothie you have in Eat, Drink, Be...but it's kind of a summertime drink.
I too make the same smoothie everyday:
1 ripe banana
almond milk
pea protein powder
organic kale
blueberries
sometimes avocado

Kristen's Raw said...

Great post. I get my greens with green juice, green smoothies, green salads, green wraps, and more. :) I'm definitely into green foods! :)

Cheers,
Kristen

Rachel W. said...

I'm going to 3000th the request for a green smoothie recipe. I've had the Green Machine from Naked Juice but haven't liked it. Would love a tasty way to get my green on.

Shiela Marvel said...

I really love smoothies! Thank you for this! I'm excited for your next post!

Dreena said...

guess you all have spoken! will indeed get a smoothie post up soon then.

anonymous, it's true that the calcium and iron in spinach is not well absorbed b/c they are high in oxalates (Becoming Vegan is a good resource for this). But, I wouldn't say spinach is non-nutritive just b/c calcium and iron aren't well absorbed. It's still a source of chlorophyll, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and other vitamins. I do use kale in my smoothies most of the time, for the higher iron/calcium absorption, but I wouldn't steer someone away from making a green smoothie if they only had spinach on hand - all the fruits and other good stuff you can whip into a smoothie is beneficial.

and, next anonymous... don't need a juicer, blender does the trick!

Audrey, I will help you mask the taste of the kale, promise!

Thanks kids, I'll be back with more soon...

wanderingveganyogi said...

I'm doing the Crazy Sexy Diet cleanse and I'm living on green juice and green smoothies plus many of your recipes I can make on this 21 day tune-up so I'm super psyched - bring on the recipes!

Jess T. said...

I would love a green smoothie post! I know I need to eat more greens, I just need to know more about how to eat those greens!

Karen said...

Yes please post about green smoothies. Your brownie recipe looks awesome! I bought your cookbook Eat, Drink and Be Vegan and am having fun going through some of the recipes. your walnut.cranberry. choc chip clusters are deelicious! Tofu with ginger and cashew sauce was great and even better over some leftover brown rice I had...Just purchased copies of two other cookbooks of yours. Thanks for your blog! Karen

Steph said...

Yes please post about green smoothies - it's a new thing I'm into, all the insight I can get would be great!

Minkey said...

Amen to green smoothies,especially for the littluns. What kid doesn't love these? Also...just tried raw kale 'chips' made locally in N. Vancouver....excellent.

Elaine Shandra said...

Some friends and I just had dinner together where we all brought something. I brought some Kale chips and after one friend's daughter initially snubbed them (she gave her a "no thank you helping"), she ended up loving them! It was too cute watching her grab more and more out of the bowl while she exclaimed about their yumminess!

And, yes, a post about green smoothies would be great!

Sarah @ Flavoropolis said...

Thank you for the little reminder about the greens :) I go through phases where I eat about 10 servings of greens a day, then phases such as my current one where I get about 1. Definitely gotta change that. Smoothies are the best way I've found to do so; too bad my blender is stuck in storage limbo!

andrea said...

I just made the "drink your greens" smoothie from the ED&BV cookbook. It was really good! I don't really know what kale is, but after tasting it by itself, I decided that the extra was going in the salad that I was making. The smoothie tasted like a fruity banana. If you don't blend it enough, be sure to check your teeth afterwards!

Glucosamine said...

green vegetables are best way to contain heart and kidney disease so keep it up with your good work

Jakethy said...

As a recently-become vegetarian, I think smoothies are a great way to make veggies interesting. My vegan GF calls 'em "smoo-smoos" and puts in kale along with a bunch of other fruits and veggies. Heck, even Oprah gave special mention to the power of smoothies in her vegan episode on Tuesday. My plastic co-writers and I have a smoo-smoo post in our future.

Phoenix's Muse said...

I would definitely love to hear all your favorite green-smoothie recipes. :D

jilij said...

Would love a green smoothie post :)

Chrystelle said...

Yes a green smoothie post would be great.

Alissa said...

I've always wondered why some children and adults don't want to eat their greens, especially when it's such an easy way to stay healthy. But this is great!