Spinach Still Reigns as Super Food

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Spinach should be at the top of your grocery list of super foods. Spinach is a versatile ingredient that you can use in breakfast, lunch or dinner and the health benefits are numerous!

Spinach and other dark leafy greens like kale, collards, Swiss chard, turnip greens and bok choy are loaded with calcium, folic acid, vitamin K and iron. Spinach is also rich in vitamin C, fiber and carotenoids. Not to mention the added bonus of fiber, folic acid, magnesium and other nutrients which help control cancer, especially colon, lung and breast cancers. Folate also lowers the blood levels of something called homocysteine, a protein that damages arteries. So spinach also helps protect against heart disease.

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. Find fresh local spinach at the Lenoir County Farmer’s Market!

  • Add chopped fresh or frozen spinach to lasagna 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 lightened up recipes a try when planning your next meal.

Creamed Spinach and Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 8 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 (10-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • ¾ cup fat-free milk
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 2½ ounces ⅓-less-fat cream cheese

Directions

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1½ teaspoons oil; swirl to coat. Add mushrooms; cook 6 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Remove mushrooms from pan. Add 1½ teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add spinach; cook 1 minute or until spinach wilts. Remove from heat.
  2. Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil; swirl to coat. Add shallots and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Combine milk and flour, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to pan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. Add cheese; stir until cheese melts and the mixture is smooth. Add mushrooms and spinach to milk mixture, and toss gently to coat.

Serves 6. Each serving contains Calories 102, Fat 6.1 g, Protein 4.8 g, Carbohydrate 8.1 g, Fiber 1.4 g, Cholesterol 9 mg, Iron 1.7 mg, Sodium 241 mg.

Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Portobello’s

Ingredients

  • 4 large Portobello mushroom caps
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh spinach
  • ½ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped kalamata olives
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ¾ cup prepared marinara sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Place mushroom caps, gill-side up, on the prepared pan. Sprinkle with salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper. Roast until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, mash ricotta, spinach, ¼ cup Parmesan, olives, Italian seasoning and the remaining ⅛ teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Place marinara sauce in a small bowl, cover and microwave on High until hot, 30 seconds to 1½ minutes.
  4. When the mushrooms are tender, carefully pour out any liquid accumulated in the caps. Return the caps to the pan gill-side up. Spread 1 tablespoon marinara into each cap; cover the remaining sauce to keep warm. Mound a generous ⅓ cup ricotta filling into each cap and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan. Bake until hot, about 10 minutes. Serve with the remaining marinara sauce.

Serves 4. Each serving contains Calories 201, Fat 10 g, Cholesterol 28 mg, Carbohydrates 13 g, Protein 14 g, Fiber 2 g, Sodium 680 mg.

Spinach Artichoke Chicken Casserole

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces chicken, chopped into small pieces
  • 8 ounces short pasta, such as ziti
  • 6 cups of fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 can quartered artichoke hearts (14 ounces), drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup pecorino Romano cheese
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup cream cheese softened
  • 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Cook the pasta one minute shy of the package instructions, then toss it with olive oil or nonstick spray and set it aside.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, over a medium high heat, add the chicken with a tablespoon of oil and salt and pepper to taste then sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the chicken just starts to brown on all sides then push the chicken to one side of the pan.
  3. Add the spinach and garlic to the empty space in the pan and sauté for 2 minutes. If the pan gets too dry, add a few tablespoons of water as needed.
  4. Add the artichokes and stir to combine, then add the milk, sour cream, cheddar, cream cheese, mayo, and pecorino Romano cheese and stir allowing the cheeses to melt and blend together. Simmer slowly for 2 minutes, then stir in the cooked pasta and simmer for another minute to blend all the ingredients.
  5. Pour the contents of the pan into a greased baking dish and top with grated cheese and paprika and place under the broiler for 2 to 5 minutes or until the top is golden and crispy.

Spinach Bacon Cheese Puffs

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill
  • 2 packed cups chopped fresh spinach
  • ¾ cup crumbled feta
  • 3 slices crispy cooked bacon, crumbled
  • Coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounce package), thawed and cut into 9 squares (cut them on a floured board with a paring knife)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease 9 round or square cups in a muffin pan.
  2. Briefly microwave the cream cheese – about 20 seconds or longer if needed until it’s soft and melted but not steaming hot. Mix the egg, oil and dill into it until well combined – the cream cheese may not be smooth and that’s ok.
  3. In a separate bowl add the spinach, feta and bacon. Pour the cream cheese mixture over top, season it with salt and pepper (about ½ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper) then use a fork to combine it together.
  4. Line the muffin pan with the pastry squares, stretching them out a little if needed; press them into the bottom of the cups. Divide the spinach among the cups as evenly as possible. Bring the 4 points together over the filling and press them together.
  5. Lightly brush with the melted butter. Bake about 25 minute until golden brown and puffy. Allow to cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes then run a knife around the edges to loosen them and help pop them out.

Rice, Cheddar and Spinach Pie

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups of fresh spinach, chopped 3 cups cooked instant or quick-cooking brown rice
  • 1 cup diced extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¼ cup nonfat milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Generously coat a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and spinach; cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Transfer to a large bowl. Add rice, cheese, pepper and salt to the bowl and stir to combine.
  3. Whisk eggs and milk in a medium bowl. Stir into the spinach-rice mixture. Transfer to the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  4. Bake the pie until lightly browned in spots, about 25 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Serves 6. Each serving contains Calories 340, Fat 18 g, Cholesterol 144 mg, Carbohydrates 30 g, Protein 14 g, Fiber 3 g, Sodium 309.