It’s easy to work more greens into your meals and your diet.
But first, if you are a kitchen gardener and are growing the greens yourself, as I do, I need you to give me the Girl Scout pledge and promise you will simply ignore the bug holes in the leaves. It’s hard to be a suburban organic gardener without a few snails and other critters chomping on your leaves, so lean in closer and hear my gentle advice: Just get over it! Just give the leaves a good wash and carry on. To truly be organic, you have to embrace your inner bug.
Now that we have that settled, I suggest you use what I call the “greens strategy.”
Simply put, this is where you cook a mess of your favorite greens on the weekend, drain and keep it in a Tupperware or zipper-top bag, and use the greens throughout the week.
You will toss a handful into whatever you are cooking, whether it is mac `n cheese, tuna fish salad, hummus dip, soup, chile, spaghetti sauce, burritos, quesadillas, meatloaf, etc. Your family will get used to seeing green things in nearly everything, and it won’t be such a big deal. (If you are putting the greens in tuna fish salad or egg salad or hummus or another dip, you may wish to mass the cooked greens on the cutting board and chop them a bit finer, for a better and more refined presentation.)
Use the cooking method you prefer, whether boiling, steaming, sautéing, or even microwaving. At the moment, I prefer simply wilting them in a nonstick skillet.
Here’s how I did my home grown chard
- Pick some! Ignore the holes in the leaves. You will never notice them later once the chard is chopped and wilted.
- Wash the leaves well by running cold water over them. Inspect for bugs and whatnot (discard any bugs you find), and give the leaves another rinse just to be sure.
- Drain in the dish drying area, or you could spin them in your salad spinner if you like. Leave them slightly damp.
- Remove the stems if you wish. Or not. Your choice.
- Chop the leaves.
- Place in a large nonstick skillet. This is 12 ounces of chard, chopped.
- Turn the heat on to medium-high and cook, tossing every 30 seconds, for a total of 4-5 minutes. The chard will still be bright green, but will wilt considerably.
- As it wilts, it takes up much less space in the pan! Turn heat off.
- Place wilted chard in a lidded container and cool. Refrigerate once it is cool.
- Use it throughout the week, in anything and everything you can think of!
Suggestions for using your cooked chard without a recipe
Summary: Some days you don’t feel like following a specific recipe. Maybe you just want to noodle around in the kitchen and come up with something tasty. Or perhaps it’s a day when you are making a tried and true recipe from your files, and you simply want to add greens to it. Or you might be an extremely experienced cook who knows amounts, timing, etc. and all you need is the spark of an idea. Try these quick ideas on those days when a recipe is too much, but a hint is just right.
- When making jambalaya, risotto or virtually any pasta dish, mix up to 12 ounces of chard into the finished dish, folding it in gently. The heat from the cooked dish will heat the greens beautifully.
- Add chard to your spaghetti sauce. If your sauce tends to be a bit chunky anyway (from the tomatoes, ground meat, red peppers, onions, etc.), the extra texture imparted by the greens won’t be noticeable. If your sauce tends to be more on the smooth side, you might want to add only the green leafy parts, and leave out the stems, which have more texture.
- Sauté chard with some half-and-half, then add some grated Parmesan cheese for flavor. Add some strips of grilled chicken, season to taste and roll it up into a tortilla. Serve with a small side salad for a quick, easy dinner that relies on leftovers.
- Mix wilted chard with canned black beans, corn, leftover rice, grated cheese and a few squirts of hot sauce, and wrap it up in a tortilla for a nutritious homemade burrito.
- Stir beans and cheese into your wilted chard, then roll mixture up in corn tortillas, place seam side down in baking dish, top with prepared enchilada sauce, more cheese, and bake, for a green enchilada.
- Max wilted chard with cooked couscous, chick peas, lemon juice and garlic, for a bright, tasty side dish.
- Use wilted chard on top of homemade pizza with olives and goat or feta cheese.
- Use wilted chard when making vegetarian lasagna.
- Add chard to a bean and sausage soup. Make a broth using chicken stock or vegetable broth, then add a can of cooked beans (such as Great Northern), chopped onions, sliced smoked or Polish sausage and the chopped greens. You can make it as hearty or liquid as you like, and even add a chopped tomato. Cook it just long enough to tenderize the greens and meld the flavors.
- If you’re making a quiche, simply add wilted chard to the egg mixture, pour into pie shell, and bake as usual.
Have fun! It’s easy to be green!