November 6, 2012

Get adventurous with greens

Now that summer is gone, many of us are eating fewer salads, but that does not have to mean fewer greens. 

Cooking greens — such as kale, Swiss chard, even cabbages and brussels sprout — are more cold-resistant than salad greens, so they are actually in season now. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend that at least 3 cups of your total vegetable choices per week should be dark, leafy greens. Eating these will add some variety to the green component on your menu.

Also known as cruciferous vegetables, these greens are usually full of vitamins A and C and contain antioxidants, which may help to reduce the risk of certain cancers. As with most vegetables, they are very low in calories and are part of a heart-healthy diet.

Dark, leafy greens are also easy to prepare and can taste really delicious. Most people are pretty familiar with cabbage recipes like coleslaw and boiled dinner. For a healthier twist on your cabbage favorites, try vinaigrette coleslaw or make and bake your own egg rolls. You can find egg-roll wrappers at most grocery stores with instructions on the package for how to wrap them. I use lightly steamed (in the microwave) shredded cabbage seasoned with garlic, black pepper and a little ginger to fill the wrapper. Then I bake them on a prepared baking sheet until crispy. Vinaigrette coleslaw is delicious with or on top of a pulled pork sandwich. Brussels sprout, which look like mini cabbages, have a stronger taste than cabbage but taste great roasted. Admittedly, the first time I enjoyed brussels sprout, I roasted them with a slice or two of bacon, but now I love them in olive oil with a dash of pepper and Parmesan cheese.

Chard and kale are great and grow locally, but I do not think they are as widely familiar here as cabbage. Swiss or rainbow chard can be substituted in any recipe that you would cook spinach in, and rainbow chard has beautiful pink and yellow stalks. Lightly sautéed Swiss chard with garlic is great with whole-wheat pasta, chick peas and balsamic dressing for a nutritious and fiber-filled pasta salad. I recently saw an article that recommends steaming the thick ends of the stalk and enjoying it like asparagus.

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