Bacon Sauteed Spinach

Green vegetables… Oh, my! We all know that we need to add them to our diet in a daily basis. This is so important for your health, but some days it is hard. Too busy, too tired… I am facing the same issues. Finding quick ways to cook veggies help us to keep on track.

I love spinach and I have learnt to cook them here in Canada, more exactly to cook them differently.

In France, we have had the tendency (30 to 40 years ago… I am not sure if we are still doing this nowadays) to boil mostly all the vegetables before to “sauté” them in butter or olive oil. Imagine the impact of boiling for several minutes delicate on vegetable like mushroom and spinach. Yaqui … the spinach turns dark green/kaki color and has no taste, and the mushrooms’ texture is similar to rubber without any flavor. I have grew up learning this technique of cooking… no questioning at that time about taste or texture!

Cooking in Canada was a new adventure where I have learnt to cook vegetable differently. During my first few years here, I shared my apartment with Chinese girls, students like me at University of Toronto, who are my friends now. They were exceptional cooks. I have learnt how to cook Chinese food, and more importantly I have discovered the technique of stir fry, and this technique has changed my life – more specifically my way to cook vegetable. I am not cooking anymore the same way, and cooking vegetable is now my number one talent. Thanks to the Chinese cuisine!

Stir fry takes only a few minutes. It is an easy way to cook spinach (no excuse like I am too busy) and keep the overall nutritional and health value of this fantastic veggie.

As I have explained in a previous blog, spinach is one of the best sources of magnesium… so important for your health.

Magnesium is a key nutrient that contributes to overall cellular health and plays an important role in more than 300 different bodily functions. For example, magnesium is needed to regulate calcium, potassium and sodium, which together all control neuromuscular signals and muscle contractions. This is why a magnesium deficiency can sometimes result in muscle pains and cramps. Magnesium deficiency is also associated with insomnia, mood disturbances, headaches, high blood pressure, and an increased risk for diabetes. One major concern is the fact that a lot of adults in developed nations are actually experiencing a magnesium deficiency. The good news is, magnesium in spinach stays intact after being cooked.

Another important aspect is the fact that if you are cooking spinach with some fat, you are going to improve the absorption of its mineral and vitamins content. You can use, vegetable oil or why not, grass-fed butter, pastured lard or bacon fat. I am using bacon in this recipe, for extra taste. This is the Chinese way to cook vegetable with a little of ground pork meat for taste.

Why bacon?

As explained so nicely in a blog of Nourished Kitchen, lard is still on disgrace, and this despite the fact that monounsaturated fat, the same fat that makes olive oil and avocados so healthy, is the primary fatty acid in lard (~ 40-45% of the fat content). The remaining 55-60% is a combination of saturated fat (~37-42%) and polyunsaturated fat (~ 18-23%).

Lard is also a potently rich source of vitamin D, the second richest source after cod liver oil. This is only the case if the fat comes from pasture-raised hogs. Hogs, like humans and unlike cows, are monogastric animals and they manufacture vitamin D in their skin which makes their fat extraordinarily rich in this fat-soluble vitamin.

To date, up to 60 to 70% of the Canadian population is suffering from insufficient and deficient levels of this vitamin as sunlight alone is typically not adequate in replenishing vitamin D stores and some should be consumed in the diet. The inclusion of pastured lard as well as supplementary cod liver oil and the eating of oily fish helps to ensure you get plenty vitamin D which is essential for proper immune system function, cognitive health, regulation of inflammation, calcium absorption and overall systemic wellness.

Try to add some pasture-raised lard or bacon to your diet.

I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe.

2 to 4 servings                            Preparation 5 minutes                             Cooking 8 to 12 minutes

 

Ingredients

1 to 2 slices of pastured bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips

2 bunches baby spinach

Peppercorn

 

Preparation

Rinse the spinach well in cold water to make sure it’s very clean. Spin it dry in a salad spinner, leaving just a little water clinging to the leaves.

In a very large pan or skillet over medium heat, cook bacon for 5 to 7 minutes until it begins to get a nice brown color or you begin to salivate at the incredible smell. – Increase heat to medium/high, and fill skillet with as much spinach as will fit. Season with pepper. Cook, tossing spinach and adding more as it wilts (it may take up to 2 minutes to fit it all). Continue to cook until tender, 1 to 3 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, lift the spinach to a serving bowl that contain beer infused rice pilaf or rice and quinoa. Serve hot.

Bonne Appetite!

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Spinach Broccoli Creamy Soup

… don’t be afraid by the bright green colour, it is all natural!

Making a creamy soup without using any starchy vegetables like potatoes or the addition of cream is a healthy alternative. I have learnt from my mum and grandmothers that a vegetable soup needs to contain potatoes, and it took me years before I have been able to understand that potatoes doesn’t need to be one of the main ingredients in soups. Changing habits can take time!

This soup is one of the most simple soups I am making regularly. It contains olive oil, onions, two green vegetables – broccoli and spinach, some old cheddar cheese (or French Comté or Gruyere), salt and peppercorn. This is it!

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I love this soup, not only because of its bright green color that invites us to enjoy without delay the first spoon of this green nectar, but also because of its fresh and tasty flavors. The secret, the broccolis are cooked slowly for more than one hour; this helps them to develop a sweet and nutty flavor and not the cabbage flavor that is so familiar when they are overcooked. The spinach are added at the end, just before to puree all the ingredients together.  You can enjoy this soup for dinner and keep the left over for your lunch.

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Adding green leafy vegetables to your diet is really important for your health – everybody knows this. But sometime putting this adage in practice is another story. Finding different ways to accommodate these green vegetables can be challenging. Meals where green vegetables are the main ingredient can be boring if your only solution is to  cook steamed them. Stir fry, salad, smoothie, soup, pie… There are no limits. It is yummy! Every day, a new culinary adventure  for you and your family!

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I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe (adapted from America Test Kitchen).

The recipe

4  to 6 servings

Ingredients

3 to 4 small onions, diced

1 bunch broccoli

1 bunch spinach

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 to 5 cups chicken stock

80 grams old Cheddar (or Comte or Gruyere)

Salt and peppercorn

Directions

Cut the broccoli florets from the stems. Peel the tough outer skin from the stems and trim off the fibrous ends. Cut the stems into small pieces.

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Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onions and cook until light brown. Add the broccoli, lower the heat to low, and cook for 1h.

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Add the stock, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and leave it to rest for 5 to 10 min.

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Puree the soup in a blender in small batches. Add some of the spinach and some of the Cheddar to each batch and then puree it.

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Return the soup to the pan and reheat over gentle heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Thin the soup if necessary. Keep warm.

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It is time to enjoy… Bon Appetite!

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Served with graded cheese, roasted peanuts and bannock …. Yummy!

If you want to learn more about the nutrition and health benefits of these two vegetables, there are more information for you below:

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Does cooking affect significantly the nutritional value of these two green vegetables? Not necessary

Boiling broccoli leads to the biggest losses of cancer-fighting nutrients. Steaming for up to 20 minutes, microwaving for up to three minutes and stir-frying for up to five minutes produced no significant loss of cancer-preventive substances. Raw broccoli maintains all of its nutrients, but it can irritate your bowels and cause gas.

Cooking spinach actually increases its health benefits. Just half a cup of cooked spinach will give you twice as much nutrition as one cup of raw spinach. One of the main explanation is the fact that the body cannot completely break down the nutrients in raw spinach for its use.

As an exception to the advice above (and this happens a lot in nutrition and health sciences), research studies have shown that taking spinach in juice form is actually the healthiest way to consume it. Blend spinach with other vegetables or fruits to create a delicious glass of juice, or try a green smoothie.

Spinach is one of the best sources of magnesium… so important for your health

Magnesium is a key nutrient that contributes to overall cellular health and plays an important role in more than 300 different bodily functions. For example, magnesium is needed to regulate calcium, potassium and sodium, which together all control neuromuscular signals and muscle contractions. This is why a magnesium deficiency can sometimes result in muscle pains and cramps. Magnesium deficiency is also associated with insomnia, mood disturbances, headaches, high blood pressure, and an increased risk for diabetes. One major concern is the fact that a lot of adults in developed nations are actually experiencing a magnesium deficiency. The good news is, magnesium in spinach stays intact after being cooked.

On the other hand, freezing spinach diminishes its health benefits. The way to get the best from the leaf is to buy it fresh and eat it the same day.

Add spinach to your ‘organic shopping’ list, mostly because the leaf tends to be sprayed heavily with pesticides that don’t come off with normal washing. In contrast, if you are budget limited, you can buy and enjoy conventional and/or local broccoli without problems.

 

 

 

 

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References:

1) http://www.livescience.com/45408-broccoli-nutrition.html

2) http://www.care2.com/greenliving/love-it-or-hate-it-broccoli-is-good-for-you.html

3) http://draxe.com/spinach-nutrition/

4) http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-surprising-health-facts-about-spinach.html#ixzz3VGarHWnm

5) http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/ss/slideshow-to-buy-or-not-to-buy-organic

A Nutritious Smoothie – Kale, Cucumber, Banana and Honey

Kale is not the kind of vegetable that I was used to eat when I lived in France. In fact, I have never seen a leaf of kale at the farmers’ market of Beaune (the city where I was born in Burgundy) until recently. This green leafy vegetable was not part of the French culinary repertoire that includes among others spinach, parsley, green cabbage, lettuce, chicory, dandelions and Swiss chard.

I have discovered kale here in Canada, but I was quite skeptical. Its dark green color and the texture of the leaves have been for me a “no, not at all” signal. It was difficult for me to bypass my own inhibition.

Like a child, I have rejected this vegetable for many years because of its two physical aspects: dark color and thickness. They were synonymous in my subconscious of strong flavor, too many fibers and as a result: difficulty to swallow. This was my gripe! I was conditioned by my past experience and own boundaries. I adore bright green vegetable with tender leaves. They are so delicious. Kale was far different from the vegetables I have learnt to enjoy when I was younger. This kale might be just another food that I haven’t tried and liked yet; but it was not won in advance.

Appetite for a specific food is not simply a response to physiological or nutritional needs. It has also a psychological and emotional component. In fact, our relation to food is largely a function of expectation, emulation and adaptation. It is why it can be so challenging for people to modify their food behaviors. I went through this kind of challenges.

Interestingly, “our attitudes toward, and responses to, certain foods can be altered enormously by the contexts in which we encounter them, the number of other people we see eating them, the way they do or don’t dovetail with the diets we mean to maintain” (Frank Bruni, New York Time). And it is exactly what happened to me.

During the first few years in Canada, I have tried to keep my French way to eat (homemade food, a lot of veggies & fruits). But over time, I have gradually changed, not only because of the people I worked with and my new friends, but also because of my busy professional life. I have adopted the North American diet because it suited my new life style and social group: a lot of restaurants, eating on the go, all the time on the road – sandwiches and muffins almost every day, a lot of sugar, very little fruit and vegetable intake.

And one day, I woke up. I said no, not anymore. I needed to be more watchful of my weight and energy. I needed to reconnect with the French culinary practices, my family’s farmer roots. I needed to learn again to enjoy vegetables & fruits and more simply, to reconnect with good healthy food. I went to the farmers’ market here in Toronto where I met kale again. This time it was inescapable. I needed to try it, I needed to like it!

Kale is what we call the “the queen of greens” and “a nutritional powerhouse”.  It provides an earthy flavor and more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food around.  Kale’s nutrient richness stands out in three particular areas: (1) antioxidant nutrients, (2) anti-inflammatory nutrients, and (3) anti-cancer nutrients in the form of glucosinolates.

Without sufficient intake of antioxidants, our oxygen metabolism can become compromised, and we can experience a metabolic problem called “oxidative stress.” Without sufficient intake of anti-inflammatory nutrients, regulation of our inflammatory system can become compromised, and we can experience the problem of chronic inflammation. Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation — and the combination of these metabolic problems — are risk factors for development of cancer.

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3 to 4 bananas

Now I try to eat kale 2-4 times per week, and I like to have a smoothie for my breakfast or during the day as a snack. It is a great way to enjoy kale. I have read a lot about kale, I have reviewed a lot of smoothie recipes that contain kale. One of my major issues, there was not enough kale. I wanted to boost my kale consumption, and consequently, the nutritional and health impact of this powerful vegetable. I have tried different combinations: kale with berries, pineapple, pear, yogurt, almond…Too much kale was a challenge, it does not necessary interact well with other ingredients. At that point, I didn’t like the color and/or the taste.

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Half a cucumber

Making smoothies, it is a constant learning process. I try new combinations. I try to be creative, I learn and move on.

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200 g of kale

After many weeks of experimentation, I came to the conclusion – simplicity is the best! My smoothie contains banana, kale, cucumber and honey. Each cup brings 40 to 50 grams of kale. The bitter, peppery flavor of kale is counterbalanced by the sweet combination of banana, raw honey and bee pollen. Cucumber is here to add water but also its refreshing flavor that balances appropriately the sweetness of banana and honey. An interesting alchemy! I always keep one cup in a thermos for later in the day. The various ingredients have time to settle down and to develop new flavors. It is so yummy! I discover each time a new alchemy of flavors that was not necessary here when the smoothie was just ready to drink. You really need to try.

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One table spoon of honey, 1/2 teaspoon of bee pollen and 6 ice cubes

I think it is time to cook. This is my recipe:

Serving: 4 to 5 cups

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Add 2 to 3 cups water

Ingredients:

3 medium or 4 small bananas (mature or well mature)

Half a cucumber (medium size)

6 to 8 leafs of kale (200 g)

If you are using a Vitamix, do not remove the stem. If you are using another kind of blender, remove the stem but increase the number of leafs (10 to 12).

1 tablespoon of raw honey

1/2 teaspoon of pure bee pollen

2 to 3 cups of cold water (depending if you like the consistency more liquid or not)

5 to 7 ice cubes

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Purée until smooth

Place all ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. With my Vitamix, I increase gradually the speed and mix at maximum speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Simple and easy to do! Your smoothie is ready.

Bonne Appetite!

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Ready for my snack

 

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