Why Clean with Green?
After gorging on less-than-nutritous food all holiday season (as I have!), a lot of those foods have less than satisfactory effects. Too much processed high fructose sugar can actually tax your liver even more than the same amount of ethanol sugar--alcohol. That's right, sugar can also be a weapon against the body. Not to mention sugar lowering the effectiveness of one's immune system, causing the formation of cavities, and increasing the uric acid levels in the blood (high uric acid levels is the cause for gout and many other problems). Dairy can also increase uric acid levels int he blood, increase the production of mucus, and if inorganic, attack the body with an onslaught of hormones, antibiotics, and the types of fats that are too present in our modern diet, causing weight gain, acne, brittle hair, nails, and bones, and a sluggish metabolism.
I know, I know. Your new years resolution is now going to be to stop reading this blog because I keep threatening you with all of these ailments. BUT before you add me to your "blocked sites" list, know that buried deep in the epicenter of our guilt and fear of eating unhealthy foods, there is a great glimmer of hope: greens!! Think of it like Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. The big "fix-all." That magical place of instant health, understanding, and forgiveness. I may not be able to promise magic teleportation shoes, a heart, or courage, I can absolutely do my best to lay down the path for you to reach optimum health and happiness (munchkin kids not included).
Step 1: Don't be afraid of failure. Try the dating scene. Get to know a few greens at your local store, co-op, farm, or farmer's market. Here are some great options, each suited for a different intention. To make it easy, I'll categorize the greens by the intentionality of their use.
SALAD GREENS: Spinach, frisee, Belgian Endive, red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, parsley, cabbage sliced thin, romaine lettuce, mizuna, baby arugula, spring mix.
GREENS BETTER SUITED FOR COOKING: Spinach, escarole, swiss chard, red and green cabbage, lacinato (also called Dinosaur) kale, curly kale, collard greens, turnip greens, mature arugula, beet root tops, tough mizuna.
Step 2: After playing the field, have found some potential mates, then, be open. Test 'em out. Try one new green a week in a few different recipes. Become acquainted with its taste, its texture, its cooking time. Getting to know the taste of a green can help you understand its best purpose, ie, how to serve it. For example, arugula is spicy and pungent. Using a mustard vinaigrette would not be a wise choice since it too is spicy and pungent. Like in matchmaking, we're looking for balance. Consider a sweet but not overly saccharine choice to balance out the arugula. Sweet cherry tomatoes would be very nice. Or grilled roma tomatoes with olive oil, cracked pepper, and salt, or thin-sliced asian pear, orange segments, or the classic green apple pieces. Now, you'll need some salt for balance. For you dairy-eaters, try an unpasteurized chevre, stilton, or other sweet but salty cheese. For you vegans, try another salty options, maybe just a simple olive oil, salt, pepper, and orange juice vinaigrette? Maybe some cinnamon-and-salt-toasted pecans or walnuts? This same principle of balancing goes for cooking. Making a soup that needs some extra salt but you'd like to cut down on sodium? Try a handful of chopped parsley, which adds a lot of flavor and natural saltiness to foods. To balance the parsley's astringent qualities, you may need some sweetness. Tomato would work very well. Or a sweet bean like black-eyed-peas. Yum. Then a little tart, some fresh lemon juice to brighten it up. In the case of the tomato in soup, it provides both the tart and the sweetness to balance parsley. Then add some garlic, maybe some white beans, great northern beans, or butter beans, some escarole, chopped kale, or spinach and some chopped garlic finished with a swig of olive oil on top and a glass of red wine and you've got yourself a delicious and balanced soup with greens!
Step 3: Research. Think of this like the background check period. Get to know your greens' friends. Parsley and tomato spend a lot of time together.....escarole and kale love to mingle with olive oil and soft, buttery white beans. Frisee is a friend of the goat cheese+grilled fruit (such as peach, plum, or apple) combo, and spinach is the universal friend, cooked, raw, in soup, salad, on eggs, creamed, any way, spinach is the easy-going guy or gal. Look up pictures of greens so you aren't completely overwhelmed at the market or store with all these new foods and their missing labels in the produce aisle. Look up some traditional recipes from the area of origin of your green. Get to know its flavor profile and how it has been used throughout history. Let the knowledge of past cooks inform your choices and know-how now. Getting to know a new foods helps you to be able to use it well, releases fear or anxiety, and is fun......broaden those horizons! Become a vast source of knowledge and experience!
Step 4: After you've found your favorite greens, the honeymoon phase may begin to melt away and you may be searching for, well, a little more. Nothing to be ashamed of, greens monogamy is quite the boring game out there with so many options and combinations available. Always try new recipes, new ingredients....this will keep your interest so that eating well is always a new and enjoyable experience. So much diet failure comes from setting up a strict monotonous routine with the same few recipes again and again and again! Get out of that slump, experiment! Go ahead, try a menage a trois (with greens of course! I don't want to get any emails from angry husbands and wives in the morning......so, for now, stick to the swiss chard and spring mix).
THE VIRTUES OF GREENS
-Chlorophyll, the cells in plants that make them green, is very similar to a crucial part of human blood: hemoglobin. Chlorophyll helps build blood, stimulating the production of new cells.
-Chlorophyll also brings oxygen to your cells, it increases the amount of oxygen in your body. Eat a huge bowl of steamed greens with olive oil, toasted garlic, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Eat slowly, chew well. Pay attention to how much larger your breaths are 30 minutes after eating if you chewed well. Chlorophyll is great for athletes, busy people, those looking to lose weight, and those wishing to have more energy. It floods the body with oxygen, bringing nutrients and energy to cells, cleaning the blood, cleaning the arteries and veins, increasing brain function by feeding the brain a lot of oxygen, and in combination with water, helps flush fat out of the body.
-Greens require much, much less energy and water to produce than meat, thus helping stop global warming, superfluous energy spending, and the overuse of water.
-Greens are easily found locally (more so than most other foods). Don't think so? Try one of these websites to find a CSA or Farmer's market near you: HERE or HERE. From my local farmer I can get 6 heads of organically-grown collard greens (my FAVORITE green!!) all winter and fall for only $6. With each head being about the size of 3 basketballs, that is enough greens for 2 people for 2 weeks......for $6!!!!! Can't beat that!
-Greens promote healthy teeth by cleaning as you chew. AND get this......it even helps reverse signs of aging in the face. Developing strong jaw muscle and chewing food very well is like exercise for the face. It increases blood flow to the face, allowing skin to look younger and fresher, it tightens up sagging skin, promotes collagen production, which helps fill in wrinkles and make skin look more taut. New slogan: "Greens, the Original Face Lift."
For more on chlorophyll, check out my basic class on polyphenols HERE.
Now, a recipe using organic and local swiss chard, local eggs, and local sweet potatoes! This gnocchi recipe is delicious and very simple since you can make a lot ahead of time, freeze them, and boil them whenever you'd like.
SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI RECIPE:
- 1 lb of sweet potatoes, or about 4 sweet potatoes....if you have extra sweet potato, no problem, make a quick mash to serve with the gnocchi!
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 eggs
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- One spanish onion, sliced.
- Grapeseed or coconut oil for sauteeing, or local butter.
- salt to taste and pepper
- 1/2 tsp powdered, dried sage
- dash of cinnamon
- Use as much swiss chard as you'd like! I used about one pound.....I love my greens!
|Beautiful, vibrant orange yolks......can't get a color like this from the store!|
|Mixing the dough.....getting as messy as possible of course|
|Just cut, pre-cooking|
|After cooking, mingling with a light olive oil finish to prevent them from sticking together.|
|The Final Presentation|