After the recent discoveries of E. coli and salmonella lurking in spinach and other fresh produce, it’s not easy eating green. But relax—and open the freezer. Frozen leafy veggies, especially spinach, are more nutritious (and safer) than their fresh-picked counterparts, says a Journal of Food Science report by Penn State scientists. When stored on trucks and in markets, fresh leaves lose many nutrients. Unless you eat from your garden, frozen veggies offer more essential vitamins, such as the B compound (often depleted by HIV, it supports nerves and the immune system), folate (produces and maintains cells) and carotenoids (help prevent heart disease, cancer and degenerative diseases, including osteoporosis), than the bunches in vegetable bins.
And store this in your cupboard: Canned veggies match fresh and frozen in dietary fiber, folate, carotenoids and other vitamins, say scientists from the University of Illinois. Canned products are precooked, so don’t reduce nutrients by overcooking. Defrost frozen veggies to cut nutrient-cutting cooking time too.
How to freshen the taste and texture of frozen spinach? We thawed you’d want to know:
That childhood fave grows up in a lower-fat version. Ingredients:
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp canola or sunflower oil
2 pkgs frozen spinach, defrosted
1 cup 2% milk
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp unsalted butter
¥ cup low-fat cream cheese (optional)
¥ tsp nutmeg (optional)
2 tbsp grated Parmesan
Prepare the spinach:
1. In frying pan, sauté onion in oil until soft.
2. Add garlic and sauté for two minutes. Squeeze all water out of spinach, add to pan and cook until hot.
Make the white sauce:
1. In a pot, melt (don’t brown) butter.
2. Add flour, and stir into a smooth paste. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly until thick and smooth.
3. Add cream cheese, and stir until smooth.
4. Fold white sauce into spinach mixture and stir.
5. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
6. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.
Serves four as a side; contains about 207 calories and 12 grams fat per side-dish serving (if all ingredients are used).
Mediterranean Veggie Stew
Brew a protein-rich meal from frozen and canned ingredients:
1. Prepare spinach as above, omitting white sauce and nutmeg.
2. Heat 1 can crushed tomatoes.
3. Add 1 can white beans (cannellini, white kidney or garbanzos) and continue to heat.
4. Add heated spinach and salt and pepper to taste.
5. Top with 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese. Turn over a new leaf.
Serves four as a main dish, six as a side; about 170 calories and 2 grams fat per main-dish serving.