Monday, September 12, 2011

How to eat spinach like Popeye without really trying

A long time ago, I posted about my unfortunate waste of a package of organic baby spinach. Since then, I've put in a concerted effort not to repeat my mistake. The result has been kind of surprising: I find it's pretty easy to get through a pack of spinach in a matter of days. And here's the kicker - I don't even like spinach that much!

When I started this blog, one of my goals was to learn to eat veggies and other healthy foods in ways that were truly nose-holding or grimacing; no bribing myself (or my kids) with treats as a reward for choking down some stinky vegetable in the name of a well-balanced diet. In this vein, I have sought out ways to genuinely like eating spinach, and I can proudly say that my relationship with this nutrient-dense little leaf has reached new heights. I no longer buy a package of spinach because I feel obligated, but because I've found so many yummy and easy ways to incorporate it into my diet. Here they are:

1) Pile it (I mean REALLY pile it) on a sandwich.

I got this idea when I ordered a turkey avocado sandwich from my gym's cafe. It was served on ciabatta bread, and simply heaped with spinach. At first I thought it was too much. But then I took a bite...and I hardly even noticed it was there. In fact, it really added to the sandwich - gave it a little crunchy texture and some moisture, since spinach is so water-dense. From now on when I make a turkey sandwich, I don't just slap a sad little lettuce leaf on there; I go crazy with the spinach. It's like having a sandwich and salad all in one.

Another little tip: If you are like me and looooove a good crusty bread, but are trying to avoid white bread and the carb overload that comes along with it, ciabatta rolls are a good choice. They're light and airy, not super heavy. And what I usually do is slice it in half, then pull out chunks from the inside of each half so it's mostly just the outer crust that's left. Then I broil it in the oven for a few minutes to give it some added crunch. It's all the pleasure of crusty bread without all the calories.

2) Throw it in a smoothie.

Spinach has become a regular ingredient in my smoothies, both for myself and for my girls. If you make a dark smoothie and can't actually see the spinach, you'll never guess it's in there. I promise. I know a lot of people will be skeptical about this, but it's true. Here's one of my favorite concoctions: blueberries, strawberries, pomegranate juice, spinach, banana, yogurt, and enough ice to make it cold (if you're not using frozen fruit). It's a perfect way to get your veggies, fruits and protein all in one.

3) Saute with garlic and serve with ravioli or tortellini.

I've never really been into sautéed spinach as a side dish. Just picking up a forkful of spinach and eating it doesn't appeal to me (although I'm hoping some day it will). However, picking up a forkful that contains spinach and some yummy pasta is super appealing. Ever since I've discovered this, I no longer feel like I need to eat a salad alongside my pasta. Instead I do this: heat some olive oil and chopped garlic in a pan on medium-low. Add a lot of spinach (you'll be amazed how small it gets when it wilts) and slowly stir until it starts to wilt. Add a few dashes of lemon juice and some white wine (if you prefer). Season with salt. Serve underneath a few raviolis or some tortellini. Now you can turn your bag of Costco ravioli (we all have one, right?) into a well-rounded, semi-homemade dinner.

4) Chop up and add to soups, sauces, and eggs.

As I mentioned above, what seems like lot of spinach turns into a teeny tiny bit of spinach when it's cooked. And I find the taste of it to be fairly innocuous when paired with something else. I love stirring some into scrambled eggs, especially when you add some smoked salmon. I also throw it into jarred pasta sauce when I'm heating it on the stove. Pre-made soups are another great chance to add some spinach in your life.

Here's to no more spinach in the garbage!

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