Janna dePorter is an AmeriCorps/VISTA Member doing a year of service with Solid Ground’s Cooking Matters program, which provides classes on nutrition, healthy cooking and food budgeting for people at risk of hunger and malnutrition. This post is adapted from the Cooking Matters Seattle blog.

Fresh kale

Fresh kale

Greens! In one of my Cooking Matters classes, we introduced kale to women who had never seen or heard of it before, but after tasting sautéed kale with garlic, red pepper flakes and balsamic vinegar, they were sold. Many people have seen greens and heard about how fantastic they are nutritionally, but do not know what to do with them. My aunt loves to send me yummy recipes she has seen in the newspaper and tried out. Last week she sent me Swiss Chard and Chickpea Minestrone from Margaret Shulman’s Recipes for Health from the New York Times. It looks so beautiful with all of the colors and textures it features.

Not only are greens beautiful, but they also provide lots of vitamins and minerals. In her New York Times article,  A Versatile Vegetable for a Chilly Spring, Margaret Shulman says, “It’s the most versatile of greens, and an excellent source of calcium and potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A and beta-carotene.” She also provides a great tip on how to preserve the nutrients in greens when cooking: “Some of you have asked why I blanch greens before using them in dishes. I find it’s the most efficient way to wilt them quickly and evenly, and they aren’t boiled so long — just a minute or two — that the nutrients are depleted.”

You can make this simple side dish to incorporate more greens into your meals:

Sautéed collard greens

Brazilian-Style Sautéed Greens

By Chef Jessica Grosman, Boston, MA
Serves 4, ½ cup per serving


  • 1 pound collard greens
  • 4 medium cloves garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper


1. Remove stems from each collard green leaf.
2. Stack the leaves on top of each other and roll them tightly into a tube-shaped bundle of leaves. Make multiple stacks if there are too many leaves to roll into one bundle.
3. Use a sharp knife to slice the bundles into ¼-inch wide strips.
4. Place all cut greens in a large bowl and fill with cold water, allowing any dirt to settle to the bottom of the bowl. If greens are very dirty, repeat this step.
5. Peel and mince garlic.
6. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add canola oil.
7. Lift greens out of the bowl, shaking off any excess water and place in hot skillet. Use caution as the oil might splatter when the damp greens are placed in the hot pan. If the greens can’t all fit in the pan at once, cook in two batches.
8. Stir the greens to cook evenly, about 1-2 minutes.
9. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic. Sauté until all greens are fully cooked, about 5-7 minutes, and any excess water has evaporated. If garlic starts to brown or burn, reduce heat to medium low until greens are fully cooked.
10. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Chef’s note: Try chard, kale or any other leafy greens instead of collards.


Yogurt: Plain & simple

This week, I’d like to focus on a food that many of you probably have in your refrigerator – plain yogurt. Plain yogurt is so versatile, scrumptious and great for your health that it could be included in every meal! As my mother knows well, I am a voracious consumer of plain yogurt. I eat it with almonds and berries for breakfast, as a dip with spices and veggies for a snack, and as a marinade for chicken for dinner. I find it to be a particularly satisfying food, because it contains a balanced amount of fat, protein and carbohydrates that keeps me full for longer. I do not choose flavored yogurts, because there are so many added sugars rendering the yogurt too cloyingly sweet for my taste buds and less versatile. I can use plain yogurt for both sweet and savory items, but flavored yogurt can only be sweet – imagine trying to use vanilla yogurt as a replacement for sour cream, yuck! Another great thing about yogurt is that it can be digested by many people with lactose intolerance. The bacteria in yogurt help to break down the lactose naturally found in milk so that your body doesn’t have to. It’s also a fabulous source of calcium!

Tips for choosing & using yogurt:

  • Go for plain yogurt; you can sweeten or spice it to your liking.
  • Choose yogurt with vitamins A & D.
  • Choose yogurt with some fat in it. In order to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A & D, we need to consume it with fat.
  • Choose yogurts without stabilizers, pectin or gums – the yogurt will just taste better and be a whole food.
  • Use yogurt as a replacement for sour cream.
  • Use yogurt as a base for sauces, dips, soups and dressings.

As per usual, Martha Shulman has come up with a great list of recipes that use plain yogurt. This recipe, also by Martha Shulman, sounds fantastic and includes another superfood, quinoa!

We got the beets!

•2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
•2 allspice berries, ground (about 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground allspice)
•1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
•1/8 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom seeds
•3 cloves, ground (1/8 teaspoon freshly ground cloves)
•1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander seeds
•3 cups cooked quinoa (either red or regular; 3/4 cup uncooked)
•Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
•5 to 6 roasted beets, yellow, red or a combination; peeled and sliced
•1 cup drained yogurt
•2 garlic cloves
•1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 2-quart baking dish or gratin. In a medium saucepan or a large, heavy skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil, and add the spices. When they begin to sizzle, add the cooked quinoa. Stir together for one minute, and remove from the heat. Taste and adjust salt. Transfer to the baking dish, and spread in an even layer.
2. Arrange the sliced beets over the quinoa. Drizzle on the remaining olive oil, cover and place in the oven for 20 minutes or until hot. Meanwhile, place the garlic in a mortar and pestle with a generous pinch of salt, and mash to a paste. Whisk or stir into the drained yogurt.
3. Remove the quinoa and beets from the oven, and top with dollops of yogurt. Sprinkle with the walnuts and serve.
•Yield: Serves four to six.
•Advance preparation: The cooked quinoa and the roasted beets will keep for three to four days in the refrigerator. You can assemble the casserole without the yogurt up to a day in advance. Cover tightly and refrigerate.
Nutritional information per serving (four servings):
•370 calories
•15 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat)
•2 milligrams cholesterol
•48 grams carbohydrates
•8 grams dietary fiber
•134 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste)
•14 grams protein
Nutritional information per serving (six servings):
•247 calories
•10 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat)
•1 milligram cholesterol
•32 grams carbohydrates
•5 grams dietary fiber
•89 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste)
•9 grams protein

Summer [food] is here!

Summer doesn’t just mean great weather. 
Summer also means that some crops are finally coming in season, and these foods are popping up in farmers markets and grocery stores (often on sale). Strawberries are now especially affordable and delicious. They are a great source of fiber, Vitamin C and manganese. Manganese is a trace mineral that’s used in many of our body’s reactions. Strawberries simply look stunning and taste just as good. You can eat them whole and fresh, cut up in fruit salads, or frozen in smoothies or parfaits. There are so many options that it’s hard to choose one!

Broccoli is a vegetable that is also in season. It’s a cruciferous vegetable which many scientists believe have the potential to prevent cancers due to the antioxidants and nutrients found in cruciferous vegetables. For non-dairy eaters, broccoli is a great source of calcium. It is fabulous steamed, stir fried or puréed. Below you’ll find a recipe for Broccoli Soup from the Cooking Matters curriculum. Enjoy!

Chef Alicia McCabe • Boston
Serves 8, 1½ cups per serving
•1 large onion
•1 medium potato
•1 medium carrot
•1 stalk celery
•3 broccoli crowns
•1½ teaspoons olive oil
•1 bay leaf
•2 cups non-fat milk
•1 (14½ ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth
•1 teaspoon salt
•¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Rinse and peel onion, potato and carrot. Rinse celery.
2. Dice celery and onion. Slice potato and carrot into thin slices.
3. Rinse broccoli. Cut the florets of the broccoli away from the stem.
4. Slice the broccoli stems thinly.
5. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add celery and onion and cook until soft, about 4 minutes.
6. Add potato, carrot, broccoli stems, bay leaf, milk and broth. Bring to a boil.
7. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes.
8. Remove and discard the bay leaf. If desired, purée part or all of soup in a blender.
9. Return blended soup to pot.
10. Add broccoli florets, salt and pepper, and simmer until just tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Chef’s Notes
•Try cauliflower instead of broccoli.
•Serve over rice or pasta if you like.
•Top with shredded low-fat cheddar cheese or low-fat sour cream, if desired.
•Blend hot soup carefully! Only fill the blender half full and blend in batches. If your blender lid has a removable cap, remove the small cap and then cover the lid completely with a kitchen towel for safer blending. This will allow hot steam to escape.

Nutrition Facts (amount per serving)
•Calories 60
•Calories from Fat 10
•Total Fat 1 g
•Saturated Fat 0 g
•Cholesterol 0 mg
•Sodium 470 mg
•Total Carbohydrate 10 g
•Dietary Fiber 1 g
•Sugars 5 g
•Protein 4 g

Cooking Matters: Calcium

Editor’s note: Cooking Matters will regularly bring the nutritional expertise of Solid Ground’s Cooking Matters program to our blog. We hope you enjoy their tips and recipes!

Collard greens, a great source of calcium!

I hope everyone enjoyed the fantastic Northwest weekend! I took a few great walks, including a trip to the local farmers market. I’m really excited about the upcoming produce season!

One of the great benefits of the abundance of greens we have in the Northwest is that many of them are packed with calcium. Many folks are lactose intolerant, and even people who can safely consume dairy often wonder how in the world they are going to take in enough dairy products to get their calcium.

No fear, there are options! One option is to use dairy substitutes such as soy milk instead of cow milk, because calcium is added to the soy milk so that it has the same amount as regular milk. But there are plenty of other options for getting the calcium needed for building and maintaining bones. Many plant products are actually quite good sources as are some animal products (like canned salmon, yum!).

Here are some nondairy sources of calcium:

  • Collard greens, 1 cup (357 mg)
  • Spinach, 1 cup (291 mg)
  • Soy beans, 1 cup (261 mg)
  • Canned salmon with bones, 3 oz (181 mg)
  • Calcium-set tofu, 3 oz (163 mg)
  • Oranges, 1 cup (72 mg)
  • Almonds, 1 oz (70 mg)
  • Fortified cereals (varies)

You can find more information and other sources here:

Adults should get between 1,000-1,300 mg of calcium a day, based on their sex and age. It’s important to incorporate calcium-rich foods into your diet to maintain bone health. See below for a Cooking Matters Recipe that’s a good (nondairy) source of calcium!

Pasta with Lima Beans and Collard Greens

By Chef Carole Wagner Greenwood in Washington, DC

Serves 12, 1 cup per serving


1 – 13 oz package whole wheat pasta
1 – medium carrot
2 – cloves garlic
2 – medium onions
2 pounds (1 bunch) – collard greens
2 tablespoons – canola oil
½ cup – water
1 teaspoon – dried oregano
1 teaspoon – dried red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon – ground black pepper
3 – 15.5 oz cans lima beans

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

2. While pasta is cooking, peel, rinse and dice carrot and onions. Peel and mince garlic.

3. Rinse collard greens – more than once if necessary to remove all grit, remove tough stems and chop coarsely.

4. Heat canola oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat and sauté garlic, carrot, onion and greens until onions are soft.

5. Add water and spices, and cook until greens are tender.

6. Drain and rinse beans in colander. Add beans to the greens. If needed, add a little more water to make a sauce.

7. Toss greens and beans with cooked pasta and cook for 5 more minutes or until pasta is heated through.

Contains 150 mg Calcium per serving.

%d bloggers like this: