Was your New Year’s resolution to start eating a healthier diet? A common complaint by health specialists about the American diet is that we eat far too few vegetables. When I first moved out, I thought I was going to hop right on the health food bandwagon- I was no longer constrained by what my family wanted to eat. I could make my own choices!
That enthusiasm died quickly as I realized that it’s difficult to shop for one person instead of for a family. It’s easy to buy a week’s worth of vegetables, but if you don’t plan ahead you’re likely to end up with half of them in the trash, mushy and unused at the end of the week. It’s a waste of money, and a drain on New Year’s enthusiasm to eat better.
That’s why I’m introducing a column on shopping and using vegetables. Each installment will focus on one vegetable and will cover what to look for when shopping, how to cut and store it, and a variety of recipes to use it in so that you really get your money’s worth. By planning your meals around the food that is most likely to go bad the quickest, you save yourself a lot of wasted food!
First up: Spinach
Spinach is a wonderful vegetable that’s full of nutrients like iron, fiber, and vitamins. It has more nutritional value than lettuce, and can be used in just as many ways as it’s leafy counterpart. Spinach usually needs to be eaten within a week of purchase, which makes it very important to know what you want to eat it with when you buy it.
Shopping: Look for leaves that aren’t wet or wilted. Dirt can be washed off, but if leaves are already wilting in the store they will not last more than a day or two at home.
Storing: Spinach should be refrigerated. Don’t wash spinach until right before use to keep it fresh longer.
Preparing: Separate leaves and pull out any wet or wilted leaves. Rinse leaves in water. If eating them raw such as in a salad, pat dry with a towel. You can eat spinach leaves whole, or you can remove stems and tear leaves by hand.
Sunny-side open sandwich
Slide one slice of bread in to the toaster. If you don’t have a toaster you can also heat bread in a frying pan until crisp. While the bread is toasting, cook one egg over-easy or sunny-side up. Place toasted bread on a plate and cover it with spinach leaves, or wilt the spinach in the frying pan with a a little oil, before placing on toast. Slide cooked egg on top of the spinach. Sprinkle lightly with salt, and you’re done!
Shopping list: Spinach, bread, egg.
Scoop one spoonful of canned cranberry sauce on to each of two pieces of bread. Leftover cranberry sauce can be poured in to a storage container and saved as jelly. Spread sauce evenly. On one slice, arrange sliced deli-turkey to desired thickness. Lay spinach leaves over turkey. If you’re feeling fancy, add crumbled feta cheese and walnuts. Place other slice of bread on top.
Shopping list: Spinach, bread, turkey, canned cranberry sauce.
Optional: Feta, walnuts
Wash and dry the amount of spinach you plan to eat. Add a half-cup of your preferred fruit- strawberries, blueberries, or diced apples make good additions. Add 1-2 tablespoons of lemon poppy seed salad dressing or raspberry vinaigrette. If desired, garnish with crumbled feta cheese and walnuts. Enjoy!
Shopping list: Spinach, fruit, salad dressing
Optional: Feta, walnuts
Spinach and ravioli
Use one package of fresh or frozen ravioli. Good combinations could be spinach-ricotta ravioli, cheese ravioli, or sausage ravioli. Prepare as directed on the package. While ravioli is heating, put on tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan and turn heat on medium-low. Add ¼ cup diced yellow onion and minced garlic (1/2 teaspoon jarred garlic or 1 clove fresh) to the pan. Cook until onion is soft. Shred 2 cups spinach leaves to 1 inch pieces and add to pan. Cook until just wilted. Combine veggie mixture with drained pasta, and enjoy!
Shopping list: Spinach, ravioli, onion, garlic (whole garlic cloves or jarred, minced garlic)
Please share in the comments below what’s your favorite way to eat your spinach? Soup? Green smoothie? Spinach pie?