The power of green

  • Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 1:09 a.m.
    UPDATED: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 1:10 a.m.
Leaf vegetables like collards and mustard greens are high in fiber and antioxidants.
Leaf vegetables like collards and mustard greens are high in fiber and antioxidants.

Wanting more green in your diet? Dark, leafy vegetables might be a good place to start. From broccoli to the new fad food, kale, green veggies are brimming with essential vitamins, minerals and other goodies.

“Going Green,” the third workshop in “Learn. Act. Grow.” series co-hosted by South Rowan Regional Library and Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, aimed to educate community members on the many benefits of leafy greens. Guests Lisa Westfall, clinical nutrition manager at Novant Health Rowan, and Chris Herron, the hospital's executive chef, provided helpful tips for incorporating greens into every meal.

As it turns out, your mother was on to something when she told you to eat your greens. Dark and vibrant green vegetables like spinach and collards are packed full of fiber and cancer-fighting antioxidants. They're also high in minerals such as iron, magnesium and calcium; as well as vitamins like A, B, K, and C — an immune booster. So be sure to eat plenty of greens. Because of their high calcium content, greens are a great choice if you're lactose intolerant.

A general rule for choosing which greens to eat is color. Westfall said that, generally, the darker the green the better it is for you. So the next time you're faced with picking a salad made from iceberg lettuce (which is basically water) and Swiss chard, you'll know what to do.

When it comes to preparing greens, there really is no wrong way to cook them. Sauteed, baked, steamed or boiled, they still pack a punch.

The only wrong way to eat a green, Herron said, was to overcook it. Overcooked greens — and overcooked vegetables in general — lose lots of their nutrients and end up limp and unappetizing.

For those not fond of these tough and often strongly-flavored leaves, Westfall suggested chopping them up, adding some fruit and yogurt and making a smoothie. You'll still get all the nutrients — including the fiber — without having to worry about the taste.

Herron gave recipes using these essential vegetables since stay-at-home chefs may not be sure what to do with them. Some examples:

• Swiss chard can be cooked just about any way with a little garlic, onion, or white wine. It also makes a good salad.

• Collard greens, often over-cooked, should be put in a pot with some vegetable broth and cooked for no more than 45 minutes.

• Brussel sprouts can be covered in oil, cracked black pepper and balsamic vinegar and roasted in the oven at 400 degrees.

• Mustard greens, with their strong flavor, should always be mixed with another ingredient or green.

While whipping up a tasty salad for the audience to sample, Herron challenged the community to not only incorporate more greens into their diet, but to try a vegetarian meal or two.

“It's going to make you feel good,” he said.

The next “Learn. Act. Grow.” workshop is “Outdoor Exploration” and will be held Monday April 28 at the South Rowan Regional Library from 5:45 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. Please register online at

Kale Chips

• Kale

• Extra Virgin Olive Oil

• Kosher or Sea Salt

Wash kale, de-stem, and chop or tear into small pieces. In a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss. Sprinkle with salt. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake at 275 degrees for 20 minutes.

Kale Salad with Glazed Pecans, Strawberries and Poppyseed Vinaigrette

Serves: 10

Glazed pecans:

• 2 c. Pecans

• 1 c. raw sugar or honey

• tbs. Butter

• tbs. Salt

Combine sugar/honey and pecans in a nonstick saute pan over medium-low heat. Stir frequently, until the nuts are toasted and evenly glazed. Stir in the butter and sprinkle with salt. Pour onto a lightly oiled sheet pan and separate.

For Salad:

• 12 c. Shredded kale

• c. Italian parsley leaves

• 2 cartons strawberries,

hulled and sliced

• 8 green onions, finely sliced

• 8 oz. Crumbled goat, feta, or

any other soft cheese

• salt and pepper to taste

•1 c. Poppyseed vinaigrette

Gently toss kale, parsley, strawberries, green onions, cheese and glazed pecans in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and dress with vinaigrette just before serving.

Lemon Poppyseed Dressing

• 1 c. White wine vinegar

• 1 c. Extra virgin olive oil

• 1 c. Water

• c. Honey

• 1/3 c. Poppyseeds

• 1 tsp. Kosher salt

• 1 tbs. Cracked black pepper

Put all items in a bowl except the olive oil. Whisk together. While whisking, slowly add the olive oil.

Spinach Hummus

• 1 can chickpeas, drained

and rinsed

• 1 tbs. Tahini (found at Harris

Teeter or any specialty

or whole foods store)

• 1 tbs. Minced garlic

• 1 tbs. Fresh lemon juice

• 1 8-11 oz. Bag frozen spinach,


• Extra virgin olive oil

Squeeze excess water out of spinach. Place all ingredients but olive oil in a food processor and run. While the food processor is running, drizzle in the olive oil until the hummus reaches a creamy consistency.

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