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Get creative to slip in these super foods

| Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
A variety of greens prepared by Olga Watkins.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
A variety of greens prepared by Olga Watkins.
Chedder and Greens Muffins
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Chedder and Greens Muffins
Sunday Greens (Slow-simmered greens with bacon and ham hocks)
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Sunday Greens (Slow-simmered greens with bacon and ham hocks)
Sauteed Greens With Chiles and Lemon Vinagrette
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Sauteed Greens With Chiles and Lemon Vinagrette
Greens dishes prepared by Olga Watkins September 4, 2013.  (top) Chedder and Greens Muffins; (Center row, from left) Greens, Beans and Sausage Flatbread,  Sunday Greens, and Mixed Greens Ragout; (front row, left) Greens Ravioli With Walnut Orange Sauce and Sauteed Greens with Chiles and Lemon Vinagrette
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Greens dishes prepared by Olga Watkins September 4, 2013. (top) Chedder and Greens Muffins; (Center row, from left) Greens, Beans and Sausage Flatbread, Sunday Greens, and Mixed Greens Ragout; (front row, left) Greens Ravioli With Walnut Orange Sauce and Sauteed Greens with Chiles and Lemon Vinagrette
Mixed Greens Ragout
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Mixed Greens Ragout
Greens, Beans and Sausage Flatbread
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Greens, Beans and Sausage Flatbread
Greens Ravioli With Walnut Orange Sauce
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Greens Ravioli With Walnut Orange Sauce
If you keep your pantry stocked with some essentials, like Kale, you'll always have a good meal at home.
If you keep your pantry stocked with some essentials, like Kale, you'll always have a good meal at home.

Every TV doctor, nutritionist, personal trainer and healthy food-related publication constantly reminds us that we all need more “greens” in our diets. Dark, leafy greens are considered super foods; full of unparalleled amounts of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that will help to ward off disease and promote better health and longer life. But, as a certain frog once said, it's not easy being green.

Finding creative ways to add more greens into your family's diet can be challenging. Where kids and meat-and-potato types are concerned, greens can be a tough sell. Your kids and spouse might be less than pleased with you if they find greens, in any form, packed into their lunchboxes or even served at the dinner table. But there are ways to ease yourself and your family into a greener diet. Adding greens into foods that you already enjoy is a good place to start.

Although all of the sturdy greens used in the recipes below can be eaten raw, they are generally a bit more appealing when cooked. You can stuff cooked greens into ravioli noodles or savory turnovers, simmer them with pork products, quickly saute them with lemon juice, crisp them in the oven, fold them into muffin batter or use them as a substitute in just about any recipe that calls for cooked spinach.

Try using half spinach and half kale, mustard greens, collard greens or chard in a familiar recipe that includes spinach as a primary ingredient. That will give you an opportunity to experience the different flavors of various greens without running the risk of preparing a dish that you absolutely hate. If raw veggies are more your speed, you can incorporate greens into smoothies and salads or just nibble on the leaves. Whatever your preference, there's no time like the present. The local supply is plentiful as turnips, spinach, kale, collards and beets are in season now through October. And, your body and taste buds will thank you. You'll be green with, well, greens.

When purchasing greens, make sure leaves and stems are firm and fresh-looking, not wilted. Leaves should be light- to dark-green, some with red veins. Avoid greens with brown or yellow spots of discoloration. To store, remove the leaves from the stems and keep the leaves in a produce-specific bag in the produce drawer of your refrigerator for four to seven days. If you plan to freeze excess greens, they should be blanched for a few minutes, cooled and packaged for freezing in airtight containers or zipper bags with a little of the blanching liquid. For most greens, the yield from fresh to cooked is about 50 percent to 70 percent. That means that 1 pound of raw will equal 1 to 1 12 cups of cooked product. Prior to cooking your greens, make sure you separate any stems and leaves from stalks and clean them properly under cold, running water. With some greens, dirt can get trapped in the the smaller, inner leaves.

For the following recipes, you can use any of the greens mentioned here. You also can use spinach or any combination of raw cooking greens.

Greens Ravioli With Walnut Orange Sauce

If you don't have a favorite pasta dough recipe, try this: Mix 34 cup Caputo pasta flour with 12 cup semolina, 2 large eggs and a pinch of salt. Use semolina on your counter to roll out the dough.

This recipe will make 16 to 24, 2 12-inch-size ravioli.

For the ravioli:

Pasta sheets or homemade pasta

14 cup chopped white onion

1 cup greens

1 large egg

12 cup bread crumbs

14 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon orange zest

Salt

Water

Fresh herbs, for garnish

For the sauce:

14 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup walnuts, chopped or crushed

12 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

12 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon orange zest

Juice of one navel orange

To prepare the ravioli: Caramelize the onions, cook the greens and drain them of any excess liquid, then set both aside to cool. Cut 2-to-3-inch circles or squares into the pasta dough. Combine the cooled greens and onions with the egg, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, red pepper, orange zest and a pinch of salt and stir.

Scoop 1 tablespoon of the mix into the center of each ravioli square or circle. Dip your finger in some water and run it around the edge of the ravioli dough, cover with another square or circle, seal by pressing down with your fingers or the tines of a fork and allow the ravioli to dry for about 10 minutes before cooking. These can also be refrigerated or frozen.

To cook, bring a pot of cold water and 2 teaspoons of salt to a rapid boil. Carefully drop the ravioli into the boiling water, and cook for about 10 minutes, drain, top with sauce and serve right away. Use fresh herbs for garnishing. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce.

To prepare the sauce: Heat the oil in a large saute pan on high heat. Add the butter. As soon as the butter melts, add the walnuts, salt and pepper. Toss in the pan a few times. Add the orange zest and juice. Toss a few more times while some of the liquid in the pan evaporates. The entire cooking process should take about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the heat off, plate the pasta, then top the pasta with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Mixed Greens Ragout

This stew-like sauce is best served over pasta or rice. You can make this completely vegetarian by excluding the meat and substituting vegetable stock for chicken stock. This needs to simmer for hours, so start it just before lunch if you intend to serve it for dinner.

14 cup olive oil

12 pound smoked sausage, diced

1 small yellow onion, 14-inch dice

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 small carrot, 14-inch diced

12 sweet red bell pepper, 14-inch dice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 pounds raw greens

2 small cans chicken stock

3-4 sprigs thyme and oregano

2 sprigs rosemary

1 cup red wine, not too dry

1 cup tomato sauce

Heat the oil in a 4-to-8-quart stock pot on medium heat. Add the smoked sausage and cook for about 1 minute. Add the onions, garlic, carrots and peppers and stir. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and stir, cooking for another 3 to 5 minutes. Add the greens and the chicken stock and a pinch of salt and pepper and cover the pan. Cook for another 5 minutes, then remove the lid and stir. The greens should be fairly wilted at this point. Wrap the sprigs of herbs in cheesecloth. Add the herbs and the wines to the pot. Stir, then leave the pot uncovered on medium-high heat until it begins to softly boil. Add the tomato sauce and another pinch of salt and pepper, stir and turn the heat down to a medium simmer. Stir occasionally, allowing the sauce to reduce until it is thick and stew-like. Serve over pasta, rice or braised meat.

Serves 4 to 6 as a main course.

Cheddar and Greens Muffins

12 stick butter, softened, plus more for greasing muffin tins

2 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

12 teaspoon salt

12 teaspoon cayenne pepper

12 granulated garlic

12 teaspoon granulated onion

12 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 cup cooked greens, drained and chopped

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Thoroughly grease the muffin tins. Beat the butter. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and buttermilk, then add the mixture to the butter and mix well. Add the dry ingredients to the eggs and buttermilk mixture. Fold in the cheese, then fold in the chopped greens. Spoon into the muffin tins and cook for 16 to 18 minutes.

Makes 1 dozen large muffins

Greens, Beans and Sausage Flatbread

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 12-inch flatbreads, partially cooked

12 white onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced

1 can white beans of your choosing

1 pound fresh greens, cleaned, coarsely chopped and patted dry

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

14 large lemon, seeded

2 cups shredded provolone or mozzarella, divided

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, cooked, crumbled and drained of excess fat

12 cup shredded parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

In a large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil on high heat. Use the remaining olive oil to rub 1 tablsepoon of each of the two flatbreads.

Caramelize the onions. Turn the heat down to medium, remove the onions from the pan and set them aside. Heat the sliced garlic in the pan. Add the beans and saute for about 2 minutes.

Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the greens to the pan. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and saute for 30 seconds. Squeeze the lemon juice over the greens, saute for an additional 30 to 60 seconds and remove the pan from the heat. The greens should be slightly wilted but not completely.

Using 1 cup of the shredded provolone or mozzarella, divide it in half and sprinkle it evenly over both flatbreads. Allow the greens and beans to cool for a few minutes, then divide the mixture in half and spread it evenly over both of the flatbreads. Divide the cooked and crumbled sausage in half and sprinkle it evenly over both flatbreads. Divide the caramelized onions in half and spread evenly over both flatbreads. Divide the remaining 1 cup of shredded provolone or mozzarella in half and sprinkle it evenly over both flatbreads.

Sprinkle both flatbreads with a pinch of salt. Divide the grated parmesan, Romano or asiago in half and sprinkle over both flatbreads. Add freshly ground black pepper to each flatbread. Cook each in the center of the oven for 6 to 8 minutes. Cut into eighths and serve hot.

Makes two 12-inch flatbreads.

Sauteed Greens With Chiles and Lemon Vinaigrette

This recipe takes less than 5 minutes to prepare.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon diced hot chile peppers of your choosing

1 pound fresh greens, cleaned and coarsely chopped

12 teaspoon lemon zest

juice of 12 large lemon (seeded)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil on high heat. Add the chile peppers and saute for no more than 30 seconds. Add the greens, lemon zest, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper and saute again for about 1 minute or just until the greens are slightly wilted. Adjust the salt and pepper to your taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 2 to 4 as a side dish.

Sunday Greens (Slow-simmered greens with bacon and ham hocks)

12 pound thick-cut bacon, chopped

1 white onions, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

12 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar

14 cup Frank's Red Hot®

14 cup apple-cider vinegar

12 cup fresh orange juice

4 pounds raw greens, cleaned and coarsely chopped

4 cups water

1-2 smoked ham hocks

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a heavy-gauge, 8-quart stock pot on medium-high heat, cook the chopped bacon until almost crispy. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and add the brown sugar, Red Hot, cider vinegar and orange juice to the pot and stir until thoroughly combined. Add the greens, water and ham hocks, cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes. Turn the heat down to a medium-low simmer, remove the lid and cook the greens for another 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Serves 8 as a side dish.

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