Spring Greens

More and more, healthy eating is in the media. Even fast food restaurants are adding salads, lean choices, low carbohydrates, and calorie counts to their menus, designating healthy choices. Individuals and families are paying attention to their diet, striving to eat balanced, nutritious meals.

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“Farm-to-table” menus and restaurants are becoming popular. All of this points to a time before processed foods, when people ate what was in season. This time of year in New England, we can once again find fresh locally grown greens for salads and cooking.

Fresh spinach, mesclun mix, arugula, leafy lettuce, dandelion greens, Swiss chard, and kale, become readily available in April and May in Vermont. These dark leafy greens are rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and anti-cancer nutrients.

People often think salads aren’t satiating or simple to prepare. The key is having a combination of ingredients on hand to create a satisfying, delicious dish.

I like to use spinach, mesclun mix, leafy lettuce or arugula for the greens. And then add almonds or pumpkin seeds, cranraisins, orange sections, avocado, and goat, blue, or feta cheese. Lightly dress the salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Toss it all together, and your taste buds will be pleased every time. It takes 5 minutes to prepare – so I’d consider it fast food.

Kale, and Swiss chard too, can be prepared simply and quickly to produce savory dishes. One of our favorites is Swiss chard or kale with pasta and a pesto/red sauce combination, with sausage (if you like meat.)

Here’s how: Boil water and prepare your favorite pasta – we use a gluten free choice made from rice. While the pasta is cooking, sauté a few cloves of garlic in a tablespoon or two of olive oil; add the sausage if you are using it and cook until browned; add the chopped Swiss chard or kale to the skillet, toss it with the sausage and the olive oil; saute the greens until soft. It helps to cover the pan, to reduce the greens down, tossing often to insure they don’t burn. Once the greens are soft, add your favorite marinara sauce and some pesto. You can determine how much of each to add – I usually add about twice as much red sauce as pesto. Drain the pasta and stir it into the sauce mixture, tossing thoroughly. Serve into individual dishes and add fresh Parmesan to taste. Prep time: 20 minutes.

*Guest post by Jo Kirsch

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