Featured ingredient: Kale

Photo: iStockphoto.com/MonaMakela
Brighten up your winter dinners with Canadian-grown greens such as kale and spinach!

Winter greens

No matter what kind of wintry weather is happening outside, a steaming bowl of spicy soup will definitely reinvigorate your spirit and your body. Even better if it boasts dark leafy greens, such as kale, collards and spinach, among its ingredients. These hearty winter vegetables are so-called superfoods because they’re rich in phytochemicals.

Chew on Kale

Kale is a standout. Until recently, it has had a pretty low profile—in part because of its sturdy texture (not surprising, given that it’s part of the cabbage family). But, once you’ve learned to cook it, you won’t look back. According to the Canadian Nutrient File, it is a nutritional powerhouse, packed with vitamins B6, C and K, fiber, iron, copper, calcium and potassium. These essential nutrients are critical to fending of the season’s nastiest bugs, but scientists have also zeroed in the high amounts of lutein found in kale (as well as spinach and collards). Research shows that Lutein is an antioxidant that helps ward off disease; it’s also helps sustain good vision and has been shown to decrease the risk for eye diseases and degeneration.

Boost your energy

To help you raise your energy, try to cook with nutrient-rich whole foods as often as possible at this time of year. This means finding appealing ways to cook from scratch—and soup is one dish that will really convince you how worthwhile this is. For example, a good soup will turn what’s often just a hapless plate of greens (that probably had you rethinking healthy eating altogether) into a heavenly broth. With the right medley of spices, you can mellow out the powerful flavours of green veggies and still reap their benefits. Soup will also defeat kale’s texture, turning into silky ribbons.

Recipe: Warming Winter Spanish Chickpea and Chorizo Soup

This delicious recipe idea is a favourite of Lindsay Evans, chef, food stylist and one of Green Living’s bloggers.

You’ll need:

2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil

5 1/2 oz. chorizo sausage, finely chopped

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped

6 to 8 cups (1.5 to 2 L) fresh baby spinach or kale

1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes

1 14 oz. can of chickpeas, drained

4 cups (1 L) chicken stock

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

6 slices prosciutto, finely chopped

Large handful of freshly grated parmesan reggiano

Directions

1. In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chorizo and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then add your shallots, garlic and celery. Turn the heat down and cook slowly for 12 to 15 minutes with a lid on, stirring occasionally.

2. Remove lid and add your spinach, tomatoes, chickpeas, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for around 40 minutes.

3. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped prosciutto. Allow to cook for 3 to 4 more minutes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide into bowls and sprinkle with generous amounts of freshly grated Parmesan. Serve with crusty bread!

But think of the health of the planet, too, when selecting your ingredients. It is naturally even superior if you can select only third party certified organic fresh foods that are assured to be GMO and grown pesticide free (click here to familiarize yourself with the different eco-labels). Fruits and vegetables that are grown locally haven’t been dragged across continents and if they were produced in sustainable ways, their higher nutritional content will repay you in big ways.