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. 

Cumin-y Refreshing Spinach Soup

As far as I'm concerned, kids can't eat too many green veggies! This cold and refreshing spinach soup has been a surprising hit with my toddler and also works beautifully on the family table. Serve it with a hot grilled cheese multigrain sandwich for a satisfying and nutritious lunch or summer supper. 

Science Corner
Spinach is one of the most nutritious veggies we can give our kids and families. It's rich in carotenoids (converted into vitamin A in the body), vitamins B, C, E, K and minerals like iron, magnesium, manganese and calcium although the calcium in spinach is poorly absorbed because of it's high oxalic acid content. One way around this is to boil the spinach (which we do here) to reduce the oxalate content. Combined with Greek yoghurt, digestion boosting and antioxidant rich cumin and lemon, which boosts the absorption of iron, this cool and refreshing spiced soup is yummy and healthy for all. 

Yield
2 adults and a toddler as a side dish or starter

Ingredients
5 cups spinach leaves
1 cup water for cooking the spinach
1 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste
1/2 lemon juiced
olive oil for drizzling
1 teaspoon fresh chopped coriander

Method
Place the spinach leaves and water in a pot with a lid. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes until the spinach is wilted. Puree extremely well in a food processor or using an immersion blender. Allow it to cool. If your toddler/kid is averse to texture, particularly shreds of spinach (mine is!), you can strain for a smoother soup texture or feel free to leave as is. 

Mix the yoghurt with the cooled spinach and stir in the cumin, salt, sugar and lemon. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and coriander (if your kid doesn't hate "green things") as a refreshing and nutritious starter or side.