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March is a green month. It’s time when the trees start to bud and everything starts looking bright and green. St. Patrick’s Day is coming up next week and thoughts go to green food.
March is also National Nutrition Month. This year try to combine the best parts of these two celebrations and look for some green foods that can brighten, fortify and add some nutrition to your March menus.
The first foods that come to mind are green fruits and vegetables. They contain many health-promoting phytochemicals. They’re also low in calories, high in fiber and contain important vitamins and minerals that help maintain strong bones and teeth. Many green fruits and vegetables are also known to help protect against certain cancers and help maintain vision health.
Here are some ideas … I’m sure you can think of others
Make sure you serve green cabbage with your corned beef.
If you’re really into an Irish meal, include a traditional St. Patrick’s Day side dish of colcannon. This is sautéed onions and green cabbage mixed into mashed potatoes. The cabbage adds texture and nutrients to the mashed potatoes. You can make it quickly by using shredded cabbage found in the bagged lettuce section of the grocery store.
Make a green fruit salad with kiwi, green grapes, green apples and honeydew melon. Garnish with a sprig of mint or chopped mint.
Add chopped green herbs to salads, rice dishes, pasta dishes and soups. Great herbs to add both flavor and color would be cilantro, parsley or fresh basil.
Add avocado slices to salads and sandwiches. To maintain avocados’ green color, eat them immediately or sprinkle with lemon or limejuice.
How about a veggie pizza with green peppers?
Spinach, asparagus and/or green pepper omelets can be garnished with parsley.
Looking for a green dessert? Try glazed kiwi over a sponge or angel food cake.
Make a big batch of split pea soup.
Find new ways to serve broccoli. Add it to your favorite Waldorf salad or toss it into pasta dishes and soups.
‘Green leafy’ ideas for serving up the green
Romaine lettuce doesn't have to be just for the Caesar salad. Try braising it in a small amount of chicken or veggie stock and serving it as a side dish or as a “bed” for entrees.
Endive (also known as chicory or radicchio if it’s red) can be shredded and used in pasta or seafood salads or as a crunchy garnish for soups or stews.
Kale is the king of green. Kale can be chopped, raw, and added to salads or used as a garnish for soups, stews and casseroles. Steam it quickly, with a small amount of garlic and chopped onion and serve as a side dish.
Escarole (broad-leafed chicory) is high in fiber, with a peppery, astringent taste. Escarole is a good counterpoint to mild lettuce in green salads, or shred and use it in a stir-fry or soups.
Boston or Bibb lettuce is a sweet green for salads or as a spring roll wrapper (filled with cooked rice or barley and chopped greens)!
Looking for a green side dish? Here’s an idea from Communicating Food for Health for green rice. It can be made on top of the stove, in the microwave or a rice cooker.
2 cups water
1 cup chopped frozen spinach leaves
2 Tbsps. chopped green onions
2 Tbsps. chopped cilantro (or parsley)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup brown rice, dry
3 Tbsps. grated Parmesan cheese
Place the water, spinach, green onion, cilantro and garlic powder into a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth.
Microwave: Place the rice in a large microwaveable container with the spinach and water mixture; stir, cover, and microwave on full power until rice is done, about 30 minutes. Fluff with a fork, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve hot.
Stovetop: Place the rice and spinach and water mixture in a large Dutch oven pan and bring to a boil. Stir well and cover, then reduce heat to low simmer. Cook at a simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 30 minutes.
Rice cooker: Place all ingredients in a rice cooker; stir well. Cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 30 minutes.
Fluff rice with a fork and serve hot. Makes 4 servings.
Each cup serving contains 204 calories, 4 grams of fat, 126 mg of sodium and 3 grams of fiber.
Source: Communicating Food for Health http://www.communicatingfoodforhealth.com; Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, CCE; and Alice Hennemen, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
Cheryle Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science staff member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, at 253-2610.