Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ask the Internet: Eating More Leafy Greens?

Sweet readers! Don’t forget: Thursday kicks off CHG’s No-Cook July, our month-long journey into Joseph Conrad’s heart of darkness meals made without heat.

But first, today’s question! It comes from the lovely Rebecca. She asks:

Q: My boyfriend loves him some leafy greens and I'm trying to, really really trying to, but a few years ago I lived in a co-op where they fed me nothing but leafy greens and it's kind of ruined it for me. We even make a bunch of recipes that use greens on your site, but still no go. I think I have a mental block towards them or something, who knows.

Do you have any suggestions for tricking myself into eating more of these great-for-you vegetables? (No, I'm not six-years-old, but the strategy is probably similar!)

A: Rebecca! My buds with co-op memberships are having very similar issues right now. Apparently, it’s purslane season.

My favorite trick is sautéing anything down – kale, spinach, chard - and shoving it into egg dishes. Omelets and quiche take very well to leafy greens, and are fairly easy to throw together. You can use half a bunch in one sitting, especially if you're feeding two. For more recipes beyond that, Cheap, Healthy Leafy Greens: 246 Recipes for Cabbage, Kale, Spinach, Swiss Chard, and Beyond might be of some use.

But enough from my piehole. Readers, what think you? How do you sneak leafy greens into your own diets?

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

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Annie Jones said...

I love greens! For the stronger flavored ones (like collards, mustard), I like to simmer them with a little orange juice. It sweetens them a little and makes for an interesting sweet/bitter flavor combination.

Holly said...

I can't wait to hear the responses to this question! I just went to the farmers market and came home with a lot of stuff with greens attached! One girl can only do so much before they go bad!

I've been experimenting with a recipe for kale chips with my other greens. The kohlrabi greens worked great, but the beet greens, though tasty, will require some perfecting due to flat leaves.

Valerie said...

Not sure how well it would work with other leafy greens, since I'm not too familiar with the flavors, but I tend to toss cooked or defrosted frozen spinach into anything involving tomato sauce and pasta. Baked ziti, eggplant parm, lasagna, etc. Then again, I love spinach!

Anne said...

In the land of what-works-with-picky-little-kids, a friend of mine puts HUGE amounts of raw spinach into her son's fruit smoothies. I've tried it myself, and while it LOOKS odd (GREEN!), it doesn't taste any different from the same smoothie without the spinach.

In omg-at-least-pretend-to-be-grownup land I often saute them down a bit and stick them on homemade pizza or in pasta dishes.

Anonymous said...

My mother-in-law cleaned and cooked swiss chard down then made it into a type of fritter/pancake thing and they turned out really good. One way to cut corners is to use a corn muffin mix and add that to it.

Heidi said...

In my personal opinion, greens should never be cooked. My family and I eat a lot of greens by having frequent salad nights, where the whole dinner is a big bowl of lettuce and about nine or ten different toppings (nuts, veggies, and a meat) and six dressings (all low-fat vinegar-based). Everyone just piles their plates with whatever they want and chows. We go through lots of greens, and it's an absurdly healthy meal. My kids (four and two) love it, and my husband likes it because he recently lost fifty pounds and he knows he can enjoy as much of the meal as he wants to without worrying about his weight.

wosnes said...

I put them in soup -- or omelets or frittata. Yesterday I had a frittata with some leftover greens. This morning I had an omelet with spinach. I'm making a pot of soup (in the crockpot) with Swiss chard.

A few years ago I read Good Food Tastes Good by Carol Hart. She said that we should rely more on our senses and less on nutrition labels. She suggested making food taste good. Southern cooks added a ham hock to greens because it made them taste better and then people ate more of the greens.

If taste is part of the reason you shy away from greens, do what it takes to make them taste good.

I like some sauteed in olive oil with some garlic and a little salt. At the end I add a little lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and sometimes a pinch of sugar. Delicious!

kittiesx3 said...

I dislike them also. So I just make salads with the greens I do like. Why suffer through food you don't care for?

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of dips. Any leafy green works well in place of spinach in spinach artichoke dips.
How about this wilt 1 bag of greens. Chill Add 1 cup of mayo 1 bag can of artiochoke hearts(not the jar marinated ones the canned ones.)+ 10 or so oz of shreeded italian cheese and a few cloves of chopped garlic + a tiny dash of rooster sauce. Blend in blender or food processor Yummy

shris said...


Allrecipes.com is my favorite place for recipes. I have tried a number of interesting recipes from there, since my CSA is totally overloading me with all sorts of greens this summer.

Some things that worked for me:
Swiss Chard (minus the stems, which taste like dirt to me) with white wine, onions, garlic, and a few other bits in a saute (from allrecipes)

Collard greens in lasagna! I decided to try it even though I never saw it anywhere as a recipe. I grabbed a lasagna recipe but used some bottled sauce for speed. Just heat the sauce with the greens until they're wilted, then use as you ordinarily would in a lasagna.

Kale chips are tasty for me, but it's hit or miss for the rest of the family. They crisp better if there's no oil involved, but oil sticks the seasonings on.. I'm considering trying greens in the dehydrator to see if they crisp well without burning..

Any greens with any sort of sausage or ground meat--breakfast sausage, bratwurst, ground beef, etc. Cook up the ground meats first, then toss in the other stuff--onions, garlic, greens, tomatoes, beans, whatever you like.

There was a greens recipe on allrecipes that had cranberries in it--this was good, but skip the sugar until you've tasted it and then decide if you need any sugar. It's very 'thanksgiving' to me, and a total change from any other greens recipe I've tried.

Try kohlrabi greens if you can instead of some of the usual suspects. It's a little more cabbagey and a little less bitter.

A lot of people seem to think that cider vinegar is good with greens--and I would say yes, but only a tiny bit. I don't like them as much when they're sour, so a tablespoon or two per bunch of greens is really enough for me.

I was considering trying some of the bigger leaves as substitutes for grape leaves in a 'stuffed grape leaves' recipe, or as a sub for cabbage leaves in a stuffed cabbage recipe. It ought to work as far as texture is concerned, but the leaves have to be really big since you remove the central rib. Might be good with leaves overlapped before wrapping.

Anyway, the CSA has totally expanded my greens horizons, I never had anything but spinach before last year. Now I feel like I'm getting reasonably good at fixing them so the five-year-olds will eat them. :)


Dan said...

I just eat them... because I'm an adult and I know I should.

Rebecca's Boyfriend said...

Re: Dan's comment

That is how I started with leafy greens but CHG has so many tasty recipes that use them I've been converted. We made the polenta w/ chard and egg last week and it sealed the deal, so damn good.

KitschenBitsch said...

Green smoothies! Combine greens (spinach or kale are great) with a banana, an apple, maybe some peanut butter, cocoa powder, and the milk or fake milk of your choice and blend! Keep the fruit/veg ratio to 60/40 and you won't have bitterness. Expect trial and error as you find what works. I've got some recipes posted on my blog, and folks across the net do as well -- experiment! Chocolate spinach milkshakes are more delicious than you'd ever imagine!

Diane said...

You can try "hiding"them. One of my favorite recipe's is Mark Bittman's Kale Pie (yum!)


I also really like dark greens in Indian curries. There are all kinds of recipes - I'd check out R. Iyer's 660 Curries for an awesome collection. I happen to like greens and potato together. Often I make Indian curried greens as a "sandwich filling" - heat oil & pop mustard seeds & cumin seeds for the tarka, add chopped onion & chilis to fry a bit, add chopped greens washed but not dry - and cover & wilt, add salt to taste.

Sara Habein said...

I asked my 6 year old, and she probably wasn't any help for you. I said, "What's your favorite way to eat leafy greens?" and she said, "Spinach in a salad. Spinach is good for you." Well, I guess I've done SOME things right. ;)

tatiana said...

I agree with the greens in your smoothie thing. While I really love a variety of leafy greens, it really is easy to put a handful of spinach or chard or kale (but that usually requires a very good blender to make it smooth)into a smoothie and drink them up! I personally love frozen banana, frozen mango, and spinach smoothies.
Or how about trying them in a creamy smooth pureed soup?

tatiana said...

Oh I forgot! I have also made pesto with them! Greens, herbs, garlic, parmesan - the herbs really are the prominent flavor. Dee-licious!

Kristin said...

I have been acquiring a taste for greens. I grew up in a family that only knew nasty frozen spinach as "greens". Anyway, I really love fresh greens now, especially collards. I can think of my 3 favorite recipes. Here are some links:

1. Emerald City Salad. It is a meal of a salad. You wilt the greens with warm wild rice at the end. Go to this link: http://www.cookusinterruptus.com/index.php?video_id=34

2. Massaged Kale and Apple Salad with Gorgonzola. You don't cook the salad, you just massage it with salt and it takes out the bitter taste. It sounds wierd but it is yummy. Here it that link: http://www.cookusinterruptus.com/index.php?video_id=34

3. Sicilian Sauted Greens is a wonderful Martha Stewart recipe in the book Martha Stewart's Cooking School, where you saute a bunch of good stuff and at the end you add the greens a handful at a time. Someone else liked that recipe, too and they've put it here: http://arugulafiles.typepad.com/the_arugula_files/2010/03/sicilian-swiss-chard.html

Sam said...

Most things that contain ground meat-- burger patties, meat loaf, pasta bakes-- can stand to have something like a thawed block of chopped spinach stirred in. That, plus a few carrots shredded, add nice color and nutrition!!

I Heart Kale said...

I'll second the ideas for kale smoothies and kale pesto if you're a greens-hater (or a posessor of way more kale than you know what to do with). I also like it dehydrated with a little maple syrup and cayenne--a good snack on the go, and a nice way to preserve kale for later.

Jaime said...

I might be crazy, but I really think kale is fantastically tasty. The trick is to cook it at high heat with plenty of salt and oil. Chard, collards, and spinach can all get bitter when you sautee them, but I think kale is way better. Roasting it in the oven also does the trick, but is maybe less ideal for summer.

I agree with folks about adding greens to smoothies, but make sure to add the greens last and not for too long, or else they do start to flavor the smoothie. Same deal for letting it sit a while before drinking.

laurel said...

Definitely green smoothies. You won't even notice the greens in there. Also, I have heard that kale chips are addictive :)

mark e said...

Green smoothies all the way! My favorite thing in the morning! Frozen bananas really increase the creaminess of the smoothie, too. Add a little cinnamon, honey, or agave if you want to tweak the sweetness factor. Grind up some flax seeds in a coffee grinder and add them to the smoothie for a daily boost of Omega-3's. My fav greens have already been mentioned: spinach, kale, and chard. Another great base liquid? Coconut water from a young Thai coconut (the smooth, green kind). Wow, that's good!

mark e said...

I also enjoy making a veggie chili and serving it in romaine leaf "boats". Or cooking a dark, leafy green into a stir-fry right at the end. I usually enjoy adding sweetness to my stir-frys by adding things like raisins, walnuts, unsweetened shredded coconut, pineapple, and/or peanut or teriyaki sauce. But that's a tangent point...

Rebecca H. said...

Thanks, guys! As soon as boyfriend and I get a blender, I'll definitely be making smoothies for my morning commute (unless, of course, this is possible in a food processor?)

Quiches and other egg dishes are a great start until I can overcome the mental hurdle that makes me eat around every green thing I see.

Thanks a lot!

Anonymous said...

One peach, a good handful of spinach, a cup of ice... blend until smooth.

Mmmm... perfection.

Wendy (The Local Cook) said...

Here's a post I wrote a few weeks ago, Top 10 Things to Do with Kale. Greens are so versatile!


LC @ Let Them Eat Lentils said...

My bf will always eats greens in lasagna. If you're a lasagna lover, that is the way to go.

Smoothies of course (but that's more for spinach).

I recently discovered bok choy. It's such a mild taste and you still get the great nutritional boost. Also arugula is a spicy addition of dark green to a salad or sandwich without being overwhelming (kale, gag me)

Jenna Puckett said...

My all time favorite way to cook kale - baked or sauteed with rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and sesame oil. Mmmm!

Amy in Iowa said...

Cheesy Greens Rice and Beans is a favorite at our house. In a large skillet, saute one small onion in olive oil, add some garlic. Once fragrant, add about 2 cups of cooked rice and one can of drained black beans. Add chopped greens and soy sauce, and cover to steam. Once the greens change color, remove from heat and stir in shredded cheddar cheese.

sarah said...

Ways to eat disguised greens:
I like to chop the greens finely and add to soups in the last minute of cooking.
Or use them in a creamy salad dressing.

Ways to learn to like the taste of greens:
Make a fragrant butter and spice topping (an idea I got from Nigel Slater, the UK food writer).
Make these delicious greens and bacon pancake rolls.

Growing Raw said...

Green smoothies for sure. You can blend up parsley too in an intensely healthy smoothie.

Then there's soups, fritters and eggy stuff. But best of all may be stir fries with heaps of greens (maybe 50%of the uncooked volume) added in with your tofu and veggies. Cook all the other stuff, spread the greens on top then put the lid on for 2-3 minutes so the greens shrink down a bit without going all mushy.

mk said...

Green smoothies! My favorite is a couple handfuls of different greens, an apple, a banana, and a scoop of frozen berries. MMM.

Anonymous said...

One option few people mention is soup. In Portugal, where I come from, soups are basically vegetable purées with a little olive oil and salt. You add no milk, no cream, no chicken stock.
Every basic soup recipe includes a base made of chopped starchier vegetables (potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, turnip or even zucchini) boiled in water that you purée down. You can then boil your choice of chopped greens in this purée. For a sweeter taste, sautée some onion in olive oil before adding the water and starchy vegetables. You can also purée the whole mixture after it's cooked.
The only tricky thing is getting the right amount of water in the soup so it is not too thick or thin. I usually boil the starchy vegetables in just enough water to cover them, purée, and then add boiling water until I get the desired thickness.
Try a carrot and pumpkin base, with cabbage and red beans thrown in.

Harper said...

Two words: Aloo Palak--That's spinach with potato in the world of Indian/Pakistani food. I could live off the stuff. Works with chard too, although I haven't tried any other leafy greens. And no, I normally am not a leafy green fan.

queen dani said...

Not sure whether it's been said but; crap loads of kale pureed into fruit and yogurt smoothies (I've even been known to throw in raw grains... but i really like the taste of oats, flax and such) smoothies. I've tried but apparently I am equally as bad at cooking greens as I am good at cooking everything else. Veggies are better raw anyway, right? ;)