Be Light and Healthy

Greens, Greens, Greens

Posted on: March 13, 2011

 

“For each petal on the shamrock, this brings a wish your way.  Good health, good luck, and happiness for today and every day.”  Irish Saying

The month of March conjures up thoughts of St. Patrick’s Day, the coming of spring, and the color green.  Green is the dominant color of Mother Earth and one of the colors associated with the heart chakra.  Green symbolizes renewal and growth.  The nurturing energy of the earth is evident as we see tiny green plants sprouting from the ground and budding on the trees.  The energy of green reminds me of a mother’s love and how it acts as the catalyst to provide balance and stability within a family of unique individuals.  Visually, green pulls all the colors of the rainbow together.  Notice how the greens in a floral arrangement draw all the colors together and convey a sense of natural harmony.  When decorating, try adding a little green to balance other colors and add visual appeal.  Green plants can completely change the atmosphere of a room by adding uplifting energy.

Leafy, green vegetables are nutritional powerhouses that are often overlooked in our diets.  Greens are high in chlorophyll, which absorbs sunlight and converts it into energy for the plant cell.  In a sense eating leafy greens is like consuming the energy of the sun.  Greens are high in minerals, especially iron and calcium, anti-oxidants, and a good source of fiber.  Human beings have a symbiotic relationship with greens.  Plants breathe in carbon dioxide and expel oxygen in direct contrast to humans breathing in oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide.  The plant’s circulatory system, which distributes minerals and water to the plant, is visible in the network of veins that branch out of the stem.  The circulatory system of the plant is reminiscent of our circulatory systems, and greens are especially healing to the heart and lungs.  The ancient Greek physician and father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, strongly believed in the healing powers of watercress and insisted on building a hospital next to a stream where it grew.  Some leafy greens that you may be less familiar with are bok choy, napa, kale, collards, watercress, mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, arugula, swiss chard, and beet greens. 

Many people think the bitter taste of strongly-flavored greens is overpowering.  For this reason, greens are typically more appetizing when they play a supporting role in a dish instead of standing alone.  The flavor of greens can be enhanced or toned down by pairing them with complimentary flavors.  Authors Johnna Albi and Catherine Walthers frankly address the issue of taste in their book Greens, Glorious, Greens.  They admit that though steaming may seem like a healthy way to cook greens, it also leaves them looking gray and tasting bitter.  The acids in the greens destroy the green color and concentrate the bitterness.  Blanching strongly-flavored greens, such as kale, collards, dandelion, turnip and mustard greens by cooking them in a large pot of water dilutes the acids so they do not lose their color but the bitterness is mitigated leaving them tastier and increasing their tenderness. If desired, the greens may be sautéed after blanching.   

Consider incorporating greens into your current dishes.   In addition to providing nutrients, they can add to the visual appeal of a dish.  Some suggestions:

  • Add to baked dishes:  scrambled eggs, omelets, macaroni and cheese, stir fries, baked potatoes, pasta dishes.
  • Add to soups or stews. 
  • Add to a salad.
  • Add to a sandwich in addition to or in place of lettuce.
  • Add to a grain or bean dish.
  • Pair with nuts or seeds
  • Add to a smoothie – great way to sneak greens into your kids’ diets!  I like to add fresh greens but also keep a bag of frozen spinach, collards, or kale in the freezer for days when I’ve run out of fresh greens. 

I’ve had more than one person tell me that after they started eating kale, they began to crave it every day.  Today we eat leafy greens almost every day; however, when I initially suggested adding them to our diets, my husband looked less than thrilled.  Since he wasn’t crazy about the idea, his transition was eased by pairing them with something he does like – peanut butter! 

Creamy Peanut Butter Kale

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch chopped kale
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ vegetable broth or water

Directions:

  • Remove thick ribs by tearing kale into pieces; discard ribs or save to add to a smoothie.
  • Sauté garlic and onions in olive oil.
  • In a bowl whisk peanut butter, soy sauce, broth/water, and spices until the peanut butter has dissolved and turned saucy.
  • Add kale to the garlic and onions and cook until the leaves are dark and wilted.
  • Add the peanut butter sauce to the pan.
  • If it’s too dry, add more water/broth.  Delicious!

Another great introduction to kale is kale chips!  These are surprisingly tasty and your kids may find eating the whole pan irresistible! 

Kale Chips

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches kale
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 to 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  • nutritional yeast – optional
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds – optional

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 375 Degrees.
  • Rinse kale and pat dry – make sure it is thoroughly dry.
  • Remove thick ribs by tearing the kale into pieces; discard ribs or save to add to a smoothie. 
  • Toss with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. 
  • Spread on a rimmed baking sheet.  It does not need to be in a single layer; it will shrink as it cooks.
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring approximately every 5 minutes, until leaves are tender, crisp on the edges, and slightly browned. 
  • Sprinkle with sesame seeds and/or nutritional yeast before serving. 

I invite you to experiment with different leafy greens to help move you in the direction of good health and happiness.  Gradually incorporating them into the dishes you make today or smoothies is a great way to start experimenting and benefiting from these nutrient powerhouses.  Notice if you are left with a feeling of lightness after you eat them.  In addition, I invite you to forward this blog to your friends and sign up for weekly e-mail updates at www.belightandhealthy.com to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.  When you sign up, you will receive an e-mail requesting you confirm your subscription.  After you confirm, you will begin receiving weekly updates.

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