Now that we’ve all reveled and partied; socialized and entertained; and eaten and drunk possibly past the point of judicious reason on one or more occasions during the past holidays, it’s time for a more moderated approach. One with less. Of everything involving fat, carbohydrates, sugar, alcohol and excess. The quickest and simplest way to find dietary equilibrium is by inserting more greens into our bowls and onto our plates.
Green vegetables of all kinds, as many of us know, are filled with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and fiber. What they aren’t filled with is the fore-mentioned excesses, unless we are talking portion size, and in that case, more is a good thing. I’m planning on getting my greens in any way I can over the next couple of months. Here are a few suggestions from my kitchen:
1. Add a salad to an already planned dinner. Easy, easy. This is something many of us already do; just make sure you have enough greens in the house and use a vinaigrette rather than a creamy dressing for a little while. When you dress your salad with lemon juice (and extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper) you have the added bonus of helping your body to absorb all of the nutrients in the greens.
2. Salad as the main meal. Add protein of any kind and texture of any kind to create a meal rather than a side. Beans, avocado, nuts, dried fruit, cooked chicken or fish – really the sky is the limit.
3. Add another green vegetable to an already planned dinner. Steamed or sautéed is best for nutrient retention. With either, remove from heat when tender but still bright green.
4. Smoothies made with kale, spinach, Swiss chard, or collard greens. Or add a handful of greens to your already favorite breakfast smoothie. If you choose fruit or veggies that are light or green in color, your smoothie will also be bright green. If you love strawberries or other red or purple fruit in your smoothie, you’ll have to deal with dull green and brown. Get over it, they still taste great!
5. Add pureed greens to already prepared soups. For every soup that serves 4 people, heat 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock and puree with one cup lightly packed greens. Add to prepared soup right before serving and serve immediately. If not, the brilliant green becomes a dull avocado color.
6. Soups with greens as the main event. Again, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, or collard greens are the best go to’s.
Spinach Soup (with variations)
This soup is a gorgeous, brilliant green, and should be served immediately. If you would like to make it ahead, prepare everything just before adding the spinach. When you are ready to serve, heat the soup to a simmer and puree with spinach in the blender as per the directions.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
11/2 cups diced onions; about 1 medium onion
1 1/2 cups diced celery; about 2 stalks
1 cup peeled and diced parsnips; about 2 parsnips
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 ounces spinach leaves, de-stemmed and well-washed; about 3 cups lightly packed
Garnish with minced chives or a swirl of creme frâiche
In a medium stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables, salt and pepper and sauté until they become soft and translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the stock and again bring to a boil.
Place the uncooked spinach leaves in the blender and pour the hot stock over the leaves. Puree in a blender and serve immediately.
Serves 4 (Makes 6 cups)
Chicken and Cilantro Spinach Soup – add 1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves with the spinach and 1 1/2 cups diced poached chicken. Puree the greens with the stock or leave it rustic.
Cannellini Bean and Pesto Spinach Soup – add 4 tablespoons pesto with the spinach, puree, and then add 1 (15-ounce) can of cannellini beans.
Kale and Mushroom Soup – substitute kale for spinach, puree, and then add 1 cup sautéed mushrooms (3 cups raw and sliced).
7. Substitute the pasta, potatoes, or rice for a bed of greens. For example, with beans and brown rice for dinner, just add a bed of sautéed kale, or even better, forgo the rice and just have the beans and kale with all the fixin’s. Instead of mashed potatoes, add roasted kale or collard greens to your plate. Toss spinach leaves with a hot vegetable pasta sauce and have a warm wilted salad for dinner without the pasta.