Jazzy Spinach

Jazzy Spinach
Toddler, Kid, Adult

Green vegetables really are all they're chalked up to be.

Bursting with cancer-fighting phyto (plant-based) nutrients, as well as fibre, vitamin C, B vitamins like folate and minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron (great for vegetarians!), green vegetables have been an integral part of many healthy ancient diets.

Sadly, the intake of green veggies in the West today is far from optimal, with debilitating health consequences. 

So what's the big deal about greens anyway? Can't we get all the same nutrients from 'tastier', more kid-friendly veggies? Not so fast. 

A recent study shed even more light on the benefits of green veggies, which contain an important type of sugar called sulfoquinorose. Complicated nomenclature aside, these SQ sugars are food for the good bacteria in our guts. A healthy gut means a healthy you - this makes gut-friendly greens even more critical in our diets. 

Getting kids to eat their greens, however, isn't always an easy task. 

We have likely tried and failed, facing vehement rejection. We may have occasionally snuck them into soups, stews, fritters and frittatas in an effort to get our tots to enjoy their umpteen benefits.

While there's nothing wrong with occasionally disguising veggies, I was determined to get my almost 4 year old son to embrace and celebrate greens in their natural, pure, unadulterated form, in order to set the stage for a lifetime of 'green veggie loving' (wishful thinking?).

And so, I played around with a bag of frozen spinach until I found a recipe that was a home run. I share it with you today in the hope that your kids and families will enjoy it as much as we have.

Here's to loving our greens! 

A Note On Spinach And Oxalates
Spinach and some other greens contain oxalic acid which reduces the absorption of calcium from that same food. As long as you are not eating boatloads of spinach daily or relying on it as your main source of calcium, this should not be an issue. For this reason I also suggest varying your greens. Kale, Swiss Chard and Collard Greens are all worth bringing into your rotation.

Yield
Serves a family of 3-4

Ingredients
1.5 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tomato, finely chopped
250 g / 8 oz of frozen spinach (fresh is fine too)
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 - 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adults only :)) 
salt to taste
squeeze of lemon juice

Method
In a saucepan for which you have a lid, heat the oil on medium high heat. Add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle but not burn, about a minute. 

Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add the turmeric and mix well until the spice opens up, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and sauté the mixture for 3 minutes. 

Stir in the frozen spinach and cover the pan with the lid for 5 minutes stirring the mixture every couple of minutes. This will speed up the thawing process. Take the lid off, lightly salt the spinach and sauté for 5 additional minutes. Add the cumin and coriander powders and sauté for 2-3 minutes until most of the water has evaporated. Check for salt and adjust seasoning. Shower with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Serve as a delicious and nutritious side dish. Layer onto a grilled cheese sandwich to make it ultra healthy or roll in a pita bread with hummus for the perfect, quick lunch. Stir into yoghurt for a cool summer side or serve on top of crackers as a snack. 

Khichdi (Rice & Lentil Porridge)

KHICHDI (Rice & Lentil Porridge)
6 months+

Science Corner
Khichdi, a rice and lentil porridge, often prepared with vegetables, is a revered food in the ancient Indian medical system known as Ayurveda (translated the Science of Life). The combination of rice and lentils provides all essential amino acids. When made with white rice (stay tuned for my post on my data-driven massive change of heart about brown rice for babies!), the dish is thought to be extremely energizing and healing for the digestive tract and is highly recommended for babies who are learning to flex their digestive muscle. Khichdi also presents itself as a canvas for various vegetables rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. The addition of spices like turmeric and cumin boosts the antioxidant content and augments the digestibility of the lentils, although one typically uses skinned yellow or red lentils for babies, which are easier to digest anyway. All of these factors make khichdi a great addition to baby's meal plan, elevating it with science and flavor. 

Yield
6 baby servings (can be frozen for later use)

Ingredients
1/2 cup white rice
1/4 cup red or yellow lentils
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 cup peeled and chopped carrots
1/4 cup peeled and chopped zucchini
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
2 black peppercorns
1 whole clove
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
3 cups water

Method
Wash the lentils a few times and soak for 1-3 hours to reduce phytic acid (an anti-nutrient that inhibits absorption of certain minerals like zinc) and discard the water. Wash the rice a few times and drain. 

In a pot for which you have a lid, heat the oil on medium high flame until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds and wait for them to start crackling, 30-60 seconds. Add the rice, lentils, veggies (feel free to use whatever you like - cauliflower, eggplant, spinach, green beans are all fair game), ginger, peppercorns, clove and turmeric and sauté for 30 seconds until well mixed and coated with oil. Add the water and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook covered for 30 minutes, checking every 10 minutes to make sure the mixture hasn't dried out, adding a bit more water if so. At the end of 30 minutes, the lentils should have disintegrated and the dish should have the consistency of a liquid porridge. If using a pressure cooker, reduce cooking time to 10 minutes after 1-2 whistles on high heat. Once cooked, pick out the peppercorns and clove, mash lightly or blend and serve. Older kids can enjoy it with texture and some salt. It's also the perfect food for an upset stomach, even for adults!