Strong to the finach

I announced to my family that this St. Patrick’s Day is the opportune time to be “going green!” While to some this immediately implies being more environmentally friendly, but to my kids this means only one thing… “another green vegetable is going to be appearing in the meal!”

Left: Make quick and easy spinach dips to eat with whole grain breads. Or better yet

Left: Make quick and easy spinach dips to eat with whole grain breads. Or better yet

I announced to my family that this St. Patrick’s Day is the opportune time to be “going green!” While to some this immediately implies being more environmentally friendly, but to my kids this means only one thing… “another green vegetable is going to be appearing in the meal!”

Well, they are right. The green vegetable that I will be campaigning for is the one that many baby boomers watched their favourite hero, Popeye the Sailor man, engulf and get his super human powers from…the infamous spinach!

Spinach is a dietary powerhouse and should be eaten regularly. According to Wikipedia, it is filled with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, A, C and B12. It has calcium, potassium and iron in it as well. The calcium content in spinach strengthens bones. The A and C vitamins in spinach plus the fibre, folic acid, magnesium and other nutrients help control cancer, especially colon, lung and breast cancers. The flavanoid in spinach help protect against age related memory loss.

The health benefits are particularly impressive when you consider that raw spinach contains only seven calories per cup.

For the longest time, spinach, in the hierarchy of green vegetables, was considered above all others. The mythical strength-giving properties of spinach are, however, mostly credited to a simple mistake in reporting the iron content of the vegetable.

This myth about spinach’s high iron content transpired when a scientist in the late 1800’s misplaced the decimal point in his published study, acclaiming spinach to have 10 times more iron than it actually had. It took over 60 years before a German chemist reinvestigated this “miracle vegetable” and corrected the mistake. By that time Popeye had already been eating spinach and everyone simply associated this green vegetable as the strong man’s source of strength.

But truth be known Popeye did a great deed for the parents of that generation; he inspired children to give spinach a chance.

In reality, a 60 gram serving of boiled spinach contains around 1.9 mg of iron. A good many green vegetables contain less than 1 mg of iron for an equivalent serving. So spinach still does contain a relatively high level of iron for a vegetable.

So without Popeye how do you convince the family to go green with spinach? By using it in foods that they already love.

Try adding chopped fresh or frozen spinach to lasagne to boost the nutrient content of this tasty comfort food. Then there is pizza! Who doesn’t like pizza? Or you could add chopped spinach to your favourite soup recipe.

Make quick and easy spinach dips to eat with crunchy raw vegetables and whole grain breads like pumpernickel, and enjoy the health benefits of spinach while you nibble on your favourite veggies. Use fresh spinach instead of lettuce to add a twist to your favourite sandwiches. Add chopped fresh or frozen spinach to omelettes and frittatas. Just make sure frozen spinach is fully thawed and well drained.

There’s a reason Popeye’s girl friend was named Olive Oyl. Spinach and olive oil belong together and create a terrific taste when combined. Though it has not been scientifically proven, some chefs believe that the fat in the oil releases the nutrients in the spinach which in turns makes them more useable by the body. Sauté spinach leaves in olive oil, and top with fresh pressed garlic, lemon juice and sea salt. Or sauté in olive oil and add pine nuts and dried cranberries.

Everyone talks about going green and I am all for helping out our planet but there is another way to go green — by eating spinach!

Alu Palak ( Sautéed spinach with potatoes)

2 large bunches of spinach, chopped

1 large potato, sliced into thin wedges

1 small onion, finely sliced

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

2-3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 tsp red chilli powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

2 tbsp light cooking oil

salt, to taste

Heat oil in a deep non-stick wok and sauté cumin and coriander seeds with garlic and onions till fragrant. Add in spices and fry for a few seconds.

Throw in potatoes, season with salt and fry for a few minutes till partly done. Add in spinach, and stir fry till it starts to wilt and potatoes are cooked through. Serve warm.

Pesto Spinach Pizza

Prepared Basil Pesto sauce (I use ClassicisTM) Amount depends on the size of pizza crust.

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

1 unbaked pizza crust

1 tomato, sliced

1 bunch fresh spinach, torn

1 sweet onion, sliced

1 fresh jalapeno pepper, chopped

1 (6 ounce) package feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven according to pizza crust package directions. Spread a couple of tablespoon s of pesto sauce. Spread parmesan cheese. Spread mixture evenly on pizza crust. Arrange tomato, spinach, onion and jalapeno on pizza. Top with crumbled feta cheese . Bake according to pizza crust package directions.

Madhu Badoni is a Red Deer-based freelance food writer. She can be reached at madhubadoni@gmail.com. Watch for Madhu’s Masala-Mix blog on bprda.wpengine.com.