If you love spinach at your local farmer’s market, but want it at your finger tips, go ahead and grow your own….and now is the perfect time! Most people don’t know it, but spinach thrives in cooler weather. Whether you grow it yourself, or buy it on your way home from work, the emerald veggie is so easy to incorporate into quick healthy meals that kids and grownups alike will enjoy. You can toss spinach into salads, mix it with pasta and other grains, layer it in sandwiches. And you’ll be doing your kids a nutritional favor: Spinach is a good source of fiber, iron, calcium, and vitamins C, A, E, B2 and K. We’d be healthier families if we sneaked more spinach into family meals. Here’s how.
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Get It Fresh Spinach grows best in the cool months of spring and fall, when you’ll see perky bundles of crisp, bright jade green leaves. Look for spinach that is not wilted or yellowed. Spinach keeps well for a few days if refrigerated in a plastic bag, but use it soon, as it will lose nutrients after picking and upon refrigeration. If you get spinach in bunches, clean it well by trimming off the roots swishing the leaves in a large bowl of cool water to dislodge any dirt. Lift out the leaves, empty and rinse the bowl, and refill with clean water; continue rinsing and swishing until the water stays clear. Shake the leaves in a colander to remove excess water. Now you’re ready to add it raw to recipes, steam it, sauté it, use it to build salads.
Raw spinach can layer texture, color, and nutrition to many food. Use as a pizza topping – it will wilt in the oven. Add it to sandwiches and wraps. It’s the top pick for salads, too. The sturdy leaves catch droplets of dressing and the sweet taste goes with many salad combinations. Try these spinach salad combos:
- Sliced or diced pears, walnuts, and blue cheese with vinaigrette
- Strawberries and pecans, with balsamic vinaigrette
- Chopped hard-cooked eggs, toasted pumpkin seeds, with Dijon vinaigrette
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Sautéed and Sassy
To sauté, dry the leaves with paper towels. Heat a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add a handful of spinach, stirring until it is lightly wilted before adding the next handful. When all the spinach is wilted, season with a little salt and pepper. Try these add-ins:
- Sauté a little chopped garlic before adding the first handful of spinach. Season with a squeeze of lemon at the end
- Toss with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, toasted chopped almonds, and top with crumbled feta
- Chop and add to cooked rice or pasta; layer in lasagna, or add to a frittata or quiche
Steamed and Dressed Before steaming spinach, clean and shake the leaves in a colander; clinging water drops will help it cook. Place the leaves in a large saucepan or skillet and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring gently, for 3 to 4 minutes or until the leaves are wilted but still bright green. Season with a little salt and pepper. To dress it up, try these:
- Toss in dried cranberries and sunflower seeds , and serve topped with crumbled goat cheese.
- Before adding the spinach, toast a few teaspoons of sesame seeds in the hot saucepan or skillet, and set aside for serving.
- Toss steamed spinach with a little soy, tiny dash of dark sesame oil, and the toasted sesame seeds.