Winter Greens: A Pirate’s Treasure!

Northwest Kidney Centers offer heart- and kidney-healthy recipes with lots of nutrients

Winter greens

With the aid of my flashlight the other day, I found treasure in my garden – Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, kale, spinach, beets (and their greens) and parsnips. Better than pirate’s booty during these long, dark Seattle winters!

If you don’t have a winter garden, you may think the world is lying silent and still, but there’s lots of fresh produce to be found. Leafy greens are plentiful – truly winter treasures! They are known to help prevent cancer and to add a ton of vitamins (especially K, A and C) to your diet. Plus, there are plenty of low-salt ways to cook them to keep your heart and kidneys healthy.

If you don’t like the sometimes pungent taste of Brussels sprouts and cabbage, I’m willing to bet you aren’t cooking them right. If you cook them in an uncovered pot, the bitter oils evaporate right off, which lightens up their strong taste. My favorite way to cook Brussels sprouts is sort of a stir fry technique (see the recipe below). Done this way, they taste roasted, nutty and sweet, with no hint of bitterness.

Swiss chard has a more delicate flavor if you’re new to leafy greens. There are varieties that come in a rainbow of colors ranging from magenta stems to dark burgundy, and even neon yellow. So when the winter days are dark, you can enjoy a plate full of jewel-toned treasures. Enjoy!

Winter Toasted Brussels Sprouts

1-2 pounds Brussels sprouts

1-2 tablespoons olive oil, butter or half of each

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, tarragon or sage

¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, pecans or almonds

Fresh grated parmesan cheese

Rinse Brussels sprouts and remove outer leaves if loose. If small, cook whole. If large, cut in half or quarters; try and make them all about the same size for ease of cooking. Melt butter or heat oil in wok or large fry pan. Add sprouts and stir constantly to avoid burning. Add fresh herbs toward the end of cooking, which should take about 5-7 minutes. Once they turn bright green and just start to brown, they are done. Sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts, pecans or almonds and fresh grated parmesan.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrient information (per serving): calories: 163, carbohydrates: 14 g, protein: 7 g, sodium: 89 mg

Fiona’s Sautéed Fresh Greens

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup onion, sliced thin

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon sugar

¾ pound (4 cups firmly packed) greens. Choose from: mustard, collard, kale, Swiss chard, beet greens or mixed.

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

½ cup white wine vinegar or rice vinegar

¼- ½ teaspoon each of sesame oil and sesame seeds

Cut greens into 2-inch long shreds. Heat oil in wok or large fry pan. Sauté onion until translucent, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle turmeric over onion, let cook another 2 minutes. Add greens and leave lid off for about 5 minutes. Add sugar and cover. Reduce heat and let greens steam in their own juices until tender, about 5-8 minutes. (During this time, uncover and turn occasionally; add a little water if sticking.) Remove greens with a slotted spoon, leaving juices in pan. Add soy sauce and vinegar to liquid and heat to boiling. When it has thickened slightly, remove from pan and pour sauce over greens. Garnish with sesame oil and seeds.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrient information (per serving): calories: 51, carbohydrates: 4 g, protein: 1 g, sodium: 100 mg

Pirate’s Kale and Pasta

8 ounces spiral pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cups chopped kale or other winter green (spinach, collards or Swiss chard), chopped

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

½ purple onion, sliced thin

½ cup low-sodium vegetable broth

½ cup pine nuts

½ cup blue cheese or feta

In large pot, bring water to boil and add pasta. In wok or fry pan, sauté onion until transparent. Add garlic and chopped greens. Sauté about 5 minutes uncovered, then add broth, cover and simmer a few more minutes, until greens turn bright. Remove from heat. Drain pasta, put in serving bowl, and layer greens on top. Sprinkle with pine nuts and blue cheese or feta.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrient information (per serving): calories: 456, carbohydrates: 49 g, protein: 14 g, sodium: 228 mg

The recipes in this column are meant for people who want to keep their kidney health by following a low sodium diet. These recipes can also be used by people who have stage 1-3 kidney disease, but they may be too high in phosphorus and potassium for some people with stage 4-5. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.

[Katy G. Wilkens is manager of nutrition and fitness services at Northwest Kidney Centers, a nonprofit provider of life-sustaining dialysis, plus kidney education and research serving patients in King and Clallam counties. For more information go to www.nwkidney.org]