With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, I’m thinking shades of green. While there are plenty of green veggies, I thought I’d feature one that is perfect for the spring season and a personal favorite–spinach. There’s a reason this leafy green was touted by sailorman Popeye as his means of being big and strong. Spinach is high in both Vitamins A, C and K. It’s a good source of fiber, high in iron and folate, a good source of magnesium and it’s one of the few fruit and vegetables that is a source of calcium. Quite an impressive resume for such a tiny leaf!
So now that you know how good spinach is for your body, let’s discuss how to add it to your diet. There are really many ways–you can use frozen, chopped spinach and add it to soups, casseroles and stews. This is really simple and, quite frankly, you will barely even notice that you’re eating it. But I LOVE spinach so let’s explore some of the ways you can actually enjoy the flavor this veggie has to offer. My favorite way to prepare spinach is by sauteeing it with a little olive oil and garlic. It’s quick and very easy. Simply chop garlic (I love garlic so I use a lot) and heat olive oil in a large non-stick pot. Add the garlic, washed, fresh spinach leaves and cook, continuing to stir to prevent any burning. You’ll start with the pot filled with leaves and see how quickly the spinach will cook down. I will sometimes add a dash of crushed red pepper for a little “zing.” To serve you can sprinkle a little parmesan cheese on top or add a squeeze of lemon over it.
Another popular way to enjoy spinach is raw, as in a salad. You’ll find spinach salad on most restaurant menus, but beware—many versions are loaded with fat and calories. Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has a great alternative, Spinach Salad w/Apples and Eggs. This recipe omits high fat ingredients like bacon and adds apples, dried figs and uses a light honey mustard dressing.
Another great recipe from Fruits & Veggies–More Matters uses raw spinach, but with an interesting twist–Mango Berry Rotini Salad combines spinach with fresh fruit, pasta and feta cheese to create a blend of sweet and savory flavors. An extra bonus is that mangoes are in season right now.
Over the next couple months you’ll find spinach to be in season, plentiful at the supermarket and at that means budget-friendly and at its peak of flavor. Take advantage of this and experiment!
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March is National Frozen Food Month, so I thought it appropriate to bring to light the benefits of frozen fruit and vegetables. Now, I know some of you are probably wrinkling your noses and protesting because you will only use fresh produce. However, I’m here to tell you that frozen fruit and veggies are not only convenient, they are also a nutritionally sound alternative to fresh and they taste great–especially when prepared correctly!
To start, you have to get away from the old fashioned way of dumping a block of frozen veggies into a pot and heating them on the stove and serving them like that. If it sounds boring, it’s because it is boring and it’s going to taste boring too. I like to use frozen fruit and veggies in specific recipes where they are best suited. Think things like casseroles, soups and stews. Frozen veggies hold up better than fresh–they tend to keep their form a bit better and they work best for these kind of dishes. In other words, they won’t turn to mush!
Let’s talk about frozen fruit. Berries are super popular, but unfortunately they are only in season for a short period of time. This is where frozen fruit comes in handy, especially when making treats like smoothies and shakes. It doesn’t matter what time of year you’re making them, your favorite berry is always available in your grocer’s freezer section and it’s just as delicious as adding fresh.
I mentioned earlier how you prepare frozen veggies is very important. Here is a simple, quick and delicious idea that incorporates fresh and frozen vegetables. Let’s say you only have a small portion of fresh green beans on hand–not enough to make a full side dish for your family. What you can do is add some mixed frozen veggies to the green beans and create a delicious side. Boost the flavor with some herbs like dill or perhaps a little sauteed shallots in olive oil.
A few other quick favorite ways I like to use frozen veggies are adding peas to my salads or chopped spinach to quiches or soups. Another simple way to use frozen fruit is adding it to oatmeal or your favorite hot breakfast cereal. During the winter months, in particular, when fresh produce is hard to find in season, give frozen produce a try. Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has a terrific section that feature some tasty recipes, which highlight frozen fruit and vegetables as their ingredients. This is a great way to get you started!
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Potatoes are a popular veggie, but they can often get a bad rap when thinking about healthy diets. This is because we so frequently associate them with foods like French fries and potato chips. I’m happy to say that potatoes are a lot more than these few, less-than-healthy food choices and you’d be wise to add them to your healthy meal plan. To start, potatoes are fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free, loaded with Vitamin C and a good source of potassium. Keep the skin on and you’re also adding valuable fiber to your diet.
As I pointed out in the examples I mentioned, it’s important how you prepare potatoes to reap their benefits and keep from loading them with unnecessary fat and calories. Simple recipes that call for roasting sliced potatoes with a bit of olive oil, rosemary and sea salt is a perfect example. Or, try adding low-fat chicken broth in place of milk to your mashed potato recipe–it works just as well and will reduce the calorie and fat content. Fruits and Veggies–More Matters has taken an old favorite–scalloped potatoes and reworked it. This version, Scalloped Potatoes & Chicken w/Fennel, makes it a main meal by adding chicken and ups the flavor with some fennel.
If you’re tired of the same, old potato dishes, the U.S. Potato Board has come up with something new–Chile Lime Potato Tacos. Ready in 25 minutes and under 250 calories, this dish is a winner!
I personally love to keep it really simple and put a potato in the microwave and “bake” it. Then, I top it with healthy ingriedients like cooked broccoli, diced tomatoes and shredded low-fat chedder cheese. It’s the perfect lunch–quick, easy and filling. The bottom line is don’t dismiss this delicious and nutritious veggie if you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle. There are plenty of ways to incorporate potatoes into your daily meal plans–visit Our Recipe Section for more ideas.
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