Cooking with Tammy Kelly: Spinach and its remarkable benefits

Cooking with Tammy Kelly: Spinach and its remarkable benefits

Spinach is in season and readily available. For me, spinach is an easy vegetable to throw in any recipe to add a boost of nutrition. This leafy green has some pretty remarkable potential health benefits; from improving bone health to anti-cancer properties, you should always keep spinach on your grocery list.

Spinach is one of the most nutrient-rich plant foods; it’s loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that each provides their own unique benefits. The vegetable is a good source of vitamin K, known for improving bone health, and holds the distinction of being spinach one of the top “good-for-your-bones” foods. 

It’s also a great source of vitamin A, which supports your immune system, vision, and cell growth. Spinach can also play a valuable role in diabetes management. The antioxidants in spinach are also credited with numerous potential health benefits, including cancer prevention. 

The high iron content in spinach makes it a good choice for people with or at risk of anemia, and it can help regulate digestion, lower blood pressure, and promote healthy hair and skin. 

Fresh or frozen, add these greens to your food menu as often as you can.  Here are ways to get more spinach in your diet.  

*  Add chopped fresh or frozen spinach to lasagna, spaghetti, and pasta dishes, to up the nutrient content of this tasty comfort food.

*  Add chopped or frozen spinach to your favorite vegetable soup recipe.

*  Sauté spinach with a bit of garlic for a tasty super food combination. Try it on top of a baked potato.

*  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 favorite veggies.

*  Use fresh spinach instead of lettuce to add a twist to your favorite sandwiches.

*  Add chopped fresh or frozen spinach to omelets and frittatas. Make sure frozen spinach is thawed and well drained.

Give these main dishes and sides a try!

Basic Sautéed Spinach with Soy and Sesame 

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 bunches flat-leaf spinach, trimmed, very coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add spinach, tossing and letting cook down slightly before adding more, until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Pour off any cooking liquid and toss spinach with soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil. Serves 4. 

Creamy Winter Greens

3/4 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Cooking spray

2 tablespoons chopped almonds

2 teaspoons canola oil, divided

1 cup sliced leek (about 1 [11-oz.] leek)

2 tablespoons sliced garlic

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 cup fat-free milk

3 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese

2 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces kale, stems removed, leaves chopped

14 ounces spinach leaves

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread chickpeas in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet; pat dry with a paper towel. Rub with the palm of your hand to loosen chickpea skins. (Do not remove skins from pan.) Coat chickpeas with cooking spray. Bake at 400°F until almost dry and slightly crunchy, about 20 minutes. Stir in almonds; bake until chickpeas and nuts are toasted and crunchy, about 5 minutes.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Add leek and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and starting to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add flour, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Stir in milk; bring to a boil, and boil 2 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat. Add cream cheese, mozzarella, and salt; stir until cheeses melt.

Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium. Add kale and spinach to Dutch oven; cover and cook until starting to wilt, about 3 minutes. Add milk mixture to spinach mixture; reduce heat to low, and cook until spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir just until combined. Transfer to a serving bowl, and top with toasted chickpeas and almonds.

Serves 8, each serving contains:  Calories 16, Fat 7 g, Protein 9 g, Carbohydrate 19 g, 

Fiber 4 g, Cholesterol 13 mg, Iron 3 mg, Sodium 192 mg. 

 

Spinach Pesto Pasta and Shrimp 

(Little extra work but worth it!!)

Pesto:

2 cups packed fresh baby spinach

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup seeded chopped plum tomato

6 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/3 cup)

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

 

Pasta:

8 ounces uncooked whole-wheat penne pasta

1 pound fresh asparagus, cut into 2-in. pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 pound large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup halved multicolored grape tomatoes

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

To prepare pesto, bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil. Add spinach and basil; cook 20 seconds. Remove spinach mixture to a bowl filled with ice water (reserve water in pan); let stand 30 seconds. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.

Place parsley and next 7 ingredients (through garlic) in food processor; process until finely chopped. Add spinach mixture and 2 tablespoons oil; process to combine. Place 3/4 cup pesto in a small bowl; place plastic wrap directly on pesto. 

To prepare pasta, return water in pan to a boil. Add pasta; cook according to package directions, adding asparagus during last 5 minutes of cooking. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high until butter melts. Sprinkle shrimp with red pepper and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Add shrimp to pan; cook 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until done. Remove shrimp from pan.

Add pasta mixture and reserved 3/4 cup cooking liquid to pan; cook 1 minute. Stir in remaining 6 tablespoons pesto, shrimp, grape tomatoes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Divide pasta mixture evenly among 4 bowls

Serves 4, each serving contains:  Calories 409, Fat 15.5 g, Protein 27 g, Carbohydrate 50 g, 

Fiber 9 g, Cholesterol 154 mg, Iron 5 mg, Sodium 443 mg. 

 

Easy Spinach and Tomato Pasta 

(Adapted from a Cooking light Recipe)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted petite-diced tomatoes, undrained (I used fresh grape tomatoes)

1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

8 ounces whole-grain spaghetti or linguine (such as Barilla)

1/2 teaspoon salt

10 ounce fresh spinach

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup)

Heat a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until onion starts to brown. Add tomatoes, stock, oregano, and pasta, in that order. Bring to a boil.

Stir to submerge noodles in liquid.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 7 minutes or until pasta is almost done.  Uncover; stir in salt.

Add spinach in batches, stirring until spinach wilts. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with cheese.

Try adding chopped skinless, boneless chicken or ground turkey for an extra boost of protein.     

Serves 4, each serving contains:  Calories 333, Fat 7 g, Protein 15 g, Carbohydrate 55 g, 

Fiber 9 g, Cholesterol 5 mg, Iron 5 mg, Sodium 538 mg. 

 

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