October 22, 2014

The green, green hills of health: Think kale!

Inspired by the beauty of Irish green hills and St. Patrick’s Day, it’s time to showcase the lusciously life-sustaining advantages of cooking with dark, leafy greens.

Dark, leafy greens are not a significant ingredient in many American kitchens, with many believing that iceberg lettuce and a few slices of cucumber make a healthy salad. There are an amazing array of green to choose from such as cabbage, Swiss chard, broccoli rabe, beet greens, bok choy, collard and mustard greens, arugula and kale.

Dark, leafy greens are among the most invigorating foods you can fortify your body with. Besides purifying the blood and working to eliminate depression, greens are high in fiber content, helping to aid digestion, stabilize blood sugar and lower cholesterol. With the exception of Swiss chard and spinach, greens are an excellent source of non-dairy calcium.

Packed with antioxidants including Vitamin A, lutein and zeaxanthin, greens may help cataracts as well as being cancer-preventive. Consuming greens will also provide your body with iron, folic acid, chlorophyll, magnesium, vitamin C and beta carotene, which boost immunity and helps prevent heart disease.

There are many enticing ways to prepare leafy greens. Ruffled leaves of kale can be added to soups or frittatas, steamed or sauteed with olive oil and garlic and crushed red pepper. Beet greens are sensational when steamed and drizzled with cider vinegar. Curvaceous bok choy adds crunch to stir fries, while the pungent punch of mustard greens adds sassy verve to potato, grain or bean dishes. Swiss chard and spinach add flavorful flair to stews and pasta.

Buy organic when possible and look for bright, crisp leaves with no yellowing. Bring your greens home, fill a large bowl with cool water and plunge the greens into the bowl. Swish around and remove, emptying the bowl and repeating the process until there is no dirty residue in the bottom of the bowl. You can store the greens in a salad spinner or a plastic bag with a few holes punched in it.

Whether you plan to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day or not, I hope you enjoy this traditional Irish recipe.

Remember to eat lots and lots of greens as you prepare your delicious life!

Sláinte chugat!

Colcannon

Serves 6.

2 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 large sweet onions, peeled and diced

1-1/2 tablespoons butter

4-5 cups Savoy cabbage, shredded

2-1/2 cups vegetable broth (or water)

4 cups of kale , washed and chopped

1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

sea salt 

freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add potatoes. Cook until tender, approximately 20 minutes. Drain potatoes, saving 1 cup of cooking water. Season potatoes with salt and pepper, then mash in a bowl with the reserved cooking water. Heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a large frying pan and saute onions until translucent. Add savoy cabbage to pan with 1/2 cup of broth. Cover pan and cook on medium low until cabbage is tender. Set aside. 

In a stockpot bring 2 cups of broth to a boil. Add the kale and cook for a few minutes, just until tender. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Remove kale from pot and drain well. Stir cooked kale, cabbage, onions and parsley into mashed potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture into a casserole dish. Top with remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until piping hot.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP is certified in holistic health counseling by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. As The Conscious Cook, she specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to students of all ages, emphasizing the use of healthy ingredients and easy to prepare recipes. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net