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How to Cook Winter Greens

If you’ve seen the Greenling newsletter this week, you know that we’re  celebrating a great season of greens! Winter is prime time in Texas for kale, spinach, curly mustard, collards, arugula, bok choy, and lots of other leafy vegetables. These nutritional powerhouses are fun to cook with and easy to include in meals, either as main dishes or as sides.

The guide below gives some basic cooking methods for greens, plus suggestions as to which vegetables are best suited for those methods:

Greenling’s Cooking Guide to Greens

Of course, a great way to enjoy greens is on their own, either as a side dish or an entrée.  The chart above can also help you to include greens in some familiar recipes. Simply match the cooking style of your existing recipe to one of the greens you have on hand. For example, if you’re making scrambled eggs, any of the greens in the “sauté” column will make a great addition. Just sauté a 1/2 cup of finely chopped greens in a skillet, then add two eggs and cook them as usual.

Add any greens from the “boil” column to comforting dishes like this chicken noodleor tortilla soup for a painless extra serving of veggies with lunch or dinner. Same goes for the greens in the braised column. During the last 10-20 minutes of cooking, throw in a few cups of chopped beet greens, chard, kale or spinach to your favorite braised bratwursttofu, or chicken recipes, and you’ve got an instant, one-dish meal.

The biggest secret to cooking with greens is to use the freshest ones you can. Fresh greens from a local farm are more nutritious and taste better than greens that have flown across the country before sitting on a grocery store shelf all week.

It’s also important to choose organic greens, since conventionally grown greens like spinach, lettuce and kale carry high levels of pesticide residue, even after washing.  Give your family a green challenge this week and try to include leafy vegetables in as many meals as you can.  Your taste buds– and your local farmers– will thank you!

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and also appears on their blog, “Eating Out of the Local Box.”



Portobello Parmesan Pasta

Last night I was craving fettuccine alfredo from the popular restaurant I’ll call “Schmalloff Garten.” I don’t eat at restaurants like that any more because of their impact on local economies and the environment, but I still crave junk food sometimes!

I wanted to make a version of the dish that would be easier on my waistline, and that would utilize some of the wonderful, local produce hanging out in my fridge. To lighten up the fat and calorie content, I skipped the heavy cream found in traditional alfredo sauces and used skim milk instead, with a little cornstarch as a thickening agent. I used full fat butter and heart-healthy olive oil in this recipe, and I added mushrooms and dark greens to increase the calcium, fiber, and vitamin content of the dish.  As a bonus, the sauce for this dish is gluten free, so all my celiac friends can enjoy this with GF pasta!

I used portobello mushrooms from Kitchen Pride, penne from Austin Pasta Company, and mixed greens from My Father’s Farm in this recipe, but any variety of mushrooms, dark greens and pasta would work with a similar result.

Portobello Parmesan Pasta (makes 6, 1-cup servings)
1 lb. pasta*, use gluten free if you wish
1 lb. dark greens, like kale, beet greens, spinach, whatever!
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups chopped portobello mushroom pieces, about 2 large caps’ worth**
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cup skim milk, plus 1/4 cup milk to make slurry
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Chop greens and set aside. Boil water for pasta and prepare as usual, adding greens to the pot one minute before pasta is finished cooking.  Drain pasta and greens together.  For sauce, melt butter and olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Chop mushrooms and garlic and add to pan.  Saute until tender.  Make a slurry of 2 tablespoons constarch and 1/4 cup milk;  pour into pan, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring constantly, for two minutes until the mixture is thick and gooey.  Slowly pour in an additional 1 1/4 cups milk, stirring constantly.  Bring liquid to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove pan from heat and add cheese, stirring constantly until all cheese is incorporated.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour finished sauce over hot pasta and greens; stir gently to combine.  Garnish with cracked pepper and a little more parmesan cheese.

*If you’re making this dish for company, it’s worth taking time to remove the dark brown gills from the mushroom caps.  They taste fine, but they’ll turn your cream sauce a gray color as they cook.

**If you want a more authentic Schmalloff Garten white-colored dish, you should use fettucine pasta made with refined wheat flour.  Pictured is a delicious pumpkin penne from Austin Pasta Company. It was yummy, but resulted in a more yellow appearance than what I was originally going for.

Finally, here’s the nutrition information for my recipe, calculated on About.com’s very useful recipe calorie counter. The serving size here is 1 cup of the finished recipe.

If you’re interested, here is the nutrition information for a dinner portion of Schmalloff Garten’s fettuccine alfredo, as published on their website:

The restaurant only discloses those 5 categories of info, so there’s no telling how large the serving size actually is, and what specific ingredients are in the dish. The percentage of daily values were calculated by me according to the standard FDA values. (Please don’t sue me for doing math, Schmalloff Garten!!)

My Open Pantry

Internet, meet my pantry.

This hutch was a hand-me-down from my sister when we both moved earlier this year.  Since I cook so much at home, this is one of the most-used pieces of furniture in the whole apartment.  I store a lot of produce on the hutch, plus my collection of vintage glassware.  You may recognize that green cake plate and the pressed glass pieces from my wedding.

I purchased that green cake plate at an antique store in El Campo, Texas, and the other pressed glass pieces were thrifted here in Austin and in Pella, Iowa.  (You can see a whole album of our wedding pictures by clicking on either image above.)  Now those pieces are used almost every day when I’m cooking dinner.

I know it’s unconventional to store staples out in the open, but we use up our veggies really quickly and seeing all that yummy glassware and food together makes my heart happy.

Speaking of the heart, check out that footed glass trifle bowl in between the potatoes and the peppercorns.  It’s filled with glass alphabet beads that spell Rami’s and my last names, all jumbled together.  I bought those just a year after Rami and I started dating, fully intending to display them in our home together some day.  I hid them in my closet for more than 24 months before he proposed.  Sometimes you just know, I guess!

Meal Plan 9/22-9/28

It’s close to the end of the month, and my birthday is on Sunday!!  I’m trying to keep this week’s grocery budget under $60 so that Rami has more money for presents. And so I can get a pedicure at the end of the month.

I already spent $43 at Greenling on our local box, plus 1 lb. tomatoes, 1 head of butter lettuce, milk and a surprise me!  That leaves $17 for groceries, plus whatever leftover food I can scrounge from my pantry and fridge.  Can I do it???

Here’s what’s coming in the local box:

  • Fresh Black-Eyed Peas – Naegelin
  • Limes – G&S Groves
  • Lentil Sprouts – Groovy Greens
  • Indian Cucumbers – My Father’s Farm
  • Sweet Italian Peppers – Lundgren
  • Red Potatoes – Naegelin
  • Butternut Squash – Massey
  • Sorrel or Canary Melon or Eggplant – Tecolote
  • Herb – Pure Luck
  • Yellow Onion – Naegelin
  • Okra – Bradshaw Farm

Here’s what I’m gonna make:

Wednesday: Sorrel Soup garnished w/plain yogurt, hash browned potatoes
Thursday: Fattoush salad with steamed lentil sprouts, pita with hummus
Friday: Old Fashioned Wilted Lettuce, Garlicky Butternut Squash, spiked limeade
Saturday: Black eyed peas, cornbread
Sunday:  Misc. leftovers (I’ll be working at an event for my job that night)
Monday: Okra gumbo, rice
Tuesday: Weelicious pepper tofu packets
Wednesday: Weelicious pepper tofu packets

Most of the perishable ingredients for the recipes above will come from Greenling.  I’ll be able to scrounge the dry ingredients and 3 cups of chicken stock from my pantry. The rest, hopefully, will come out to less than $17! Here’s the grocery list:

Phoenicia pita ($2)
10 slices Bacon ($4)
Bunch parsley ($.50)
Mushrooms ($2)
Extra firm tofu ($2.50)
Cereal ($4)
2 cups chicken broth ($2)


Texas Longhorns Volleyball athletic logo

Image via Wikipedia

Today the Texas Longhorns are gonna BTHOO Wyoming, and my brother in-law and sister invited Rami and I to come over to their house to watch the carnage.  I’m planning to bring some delicious tailgate food that features some of the goodies I got in this week’s Local Box, plus some leftover stuff in my fridge and pantry.  My sister’s family gets the local box, too, so we will double on up the recipes that she’s got leftover ingredients for, too.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an extra pound of okra, personally.

Here’s my team of players, erm, ingredients:
2 packs Phoenicia whole wheat pita*
2 eggplant
14 fingerling potatoes
1 lb. okra
1 red bell pepper
4 cloves garlic
leftover sorrel pesto
leftover basil pesto
roma tomato
9 gala apples
mozzarella cheese

Baba Ghanoush
Leftover Tzatziki
Phoenicia Pita Bread*

1st half:
Roasted fingerling potatoes with sorrel pesto dipping sauce
Roasted okra

Pita pizzas with basil pesto sauce and mushroom, tomato, and roasted red pepper topping

2nd Half:
Nutty Apple crisp

The gameplan for preparing all this is to roast everything but the okra this morning: bell pepper, 2 eggplant, potatoes, 2 cloves of garlic.  Then I’ll whip up the baba ghanoush and the crisp topping here at my house this afternoon.  (I can’t do it this morning or I will eat it all for lunch.) We’ll pack all my premade dishes plus the other stuff and head over to the game site, where we’ll cook the okra, pizzas, and crisp in the oven there.  I’ll try to take pictures tonight so you can see how it all turns out!

*Phoenicia Pita didn’t come from Greenling, but a girl can dream, right??

Sorrel Surprise

Instead of arugula we got sorrel in our local box yesterday.  Also some tomatoes and a patty pan squash instead of melon.  Combined with some of this week’s work drama, the change is making me a little twitchy.  I was annoyed last night, but this morning I realized I like tomatoes and squash way better than melon, so this was a good substitution.  But what to do with the sorrel?

When I tasted a raw leaf yesterday it tasted like a spicy, acidic, tangy version of spinach.  Too strong for a salad on its own. Too soft to sautee with garlic.  But just right for a pesto, which will complement the pasta dish I was planning to make tonight anyway.  Here’s how I plan to adapt my usual pesto recipe:

  • 1 bunch sorrell, ribs removed
  • 1/2 cup shelled pecans
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese*
  • 1 Tbs. ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt

Making pesto is really easy if you have a food processor.  We also got basil in the box, so I will probably whip up a batch of basil pesto to have on hand while I have the food processor out.  The recipe is just like above, except I sub basil for the sorrell and pine nuts for the pecans.

*use more cheese if you’re planning to serve hot with pasta or pannini