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Gardens can green up your diet

 Two days of warm weather and sunshine is really calling my name to get back outside. How about you? After this blasted winter it’s finally time to get back in the fields and gardens. Nothing feels better than getting your hands into the dirt on a warm sunny, spring day. My love of growing things not only came from growing up on a farm but from my grandma and grandpa. They lived right around the corner and they loved to garden, as my memories serves.

One of my most vivid memories was harvesting and sampling fresh turnips in the garden with my grandpa. A visit to grandma’s always included time in her gardens. Gardening adventures could be anything from fertilizing her rhubarb with the ancient lamb poop, to picking peas in the large vegetable garden to planting and maintaining her weedless begonia beds. I have many memories of picking and eating grapes where grandma’s hairnet never failed to get caught in the vines as I tried to stifle my little girl giggles. As she aged, her gardens may have diminished but she always continued to surround herself with plants.

As many of you head back into the fields, don’t forget about your own gardens. April is National Gardening Month. Check out nationalgardeningmonth.com for 100 ways to celebrate National Gardening Month. One of my favorite ways to get back to the dirt is to plant some greens. They are an easy to grow, take care of and add to your plate. They have pack your salads with lots of good vitamins, minerals and their dark colors add antioxidants to your salad. Try some of these non-traditional greens to spice up your garden, kitchen and palette this spring season.



Taste: Pleasantly pungent and peppery

Best in: Salads and sandwiches. Also known as rocket, roquette, rugula, and rucola, the leafy green is a staple of Italian fare and often found in mesclun (young tender greens) salad mixes, where it behaves like a cross between lettuce and herb.

Smart substitutions: Watercress, endive, or young mustard greens

What’s so great about it:1 cup has 5 calories, .5g pro, .3g fiber and is packed with Vitamin A, C, K and Folate.


Swiss chard

Taste: Chard is in the same family as beet, so you may detect some beetlike flavor in the ribs. The leaves taste more like intensely flavored spinach.

Best in: Swiss Chard’s hearty leaves are excellent added to cooked dishes such as casseroles, stews, and lasagnas.

Smart substitutions: Beet greens or spinach

What’s so great about it: 1 cup has 7 calories, .6g pro, .6g fiber and is packed with Vitamin A, C,K and Folate.



Taste: Earthy and cabbage-y, like other cruciferous vegetables, baby kale is more tender and less strong tasting.

Best in: Kales sturdy leaves are excellent sautéed and added to casseroles.

Smart substitutions: collard greens, Swiss chard, mustard greens, or spinach

What’s so great about it: 1 cup has 34 calories, 2.2 grams of protein, 1.3 grams of fiber and is packed with Vitamin A, C and Folate.



Taste: Mildly earthy and bitter.

Best in: Loose spinach is easy to use in salads, soups, pastas and casseroles

Smart Substitutions: For cooked dishes, Swiss chard, beet greens, kale, turnip greens, escarole; arugula in salads

What’s so great about it:1 cup has 7 calories, .9 grams of protein, .7 grams of fiber and is packed with Vitamin A, C, Folate and Iron.


*Green nutrients taken from calorieking.com and mercola.com.


Butternut Squash and Kale Quesadillas          www.pioneerwoman.com


1/2 whole Butternut Squash, Peeled, Seeded, And Diced.

2 Tablespoons Butter

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Black Pepper to Taste

1/4 teaspoon Chili Powder (more To Taste)

1 bunch Kale, Leaves Torn, Stalks Discarded

8 whole Small (fajita Sized) Flour Tortillas

2-1/2 cups 2% Monterey Jack Cheese, Grated

Fat-free greek plain yogurt For Serving

Cilantro, Pico De Gallo, Salsa, Avocado Slices (optional)



Heat 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add squash and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Cook for several minutes, turning gently with a spatula, until squash is deep golden brown and tender (but not falling apart.) Remove to a plate and set aside.

In the same skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat and add in the kale. Toss it around with tongs and cook it for 3 to 4 minutes. Add in the cooked squash and gently toss together. Set aside.

In a separate skillet, melt additional butter and lightly brown both sides of the 8 tortillas. Build the quesadillas one by one by adding a layer of cheese topped with a layer of the squash/kale mixture, topped with a second tortilla. You’ll have four quesadillas when you’re done.

Brown each quesadilla on both sides, adding more butter to the pan to make sure tortillas are nice and golden and yummy.

When the cheese is melted, remove each quesadilla from the skillet and cut it into four wedges. Serve with sour cream, cilantro, pico de gallo, salsa, avocado…or any sides you’d like! (Note: The butternut squash/kale mixture is also great tossed with a little pasta and olive oil, and topped with Parmesan shavings!)


Swiss Chard Spanakopita Casserole www.cookinglight.com


Cooking spray
2 1/4 cups minced white onion
3/4 cup minced green onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
9 c chopped trimmed Swiss chard (1 1/2 pounds)
6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons minced fresh mint
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 large egg whites
10 (18 x 14-inch) sheets phyllo dough, thawed



Preheat oven to 350°.Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add white onion; sauté 7 minutes or until golden. Add green onions and garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in chard; cook 2 minutes or until chard wilts. Stir in parsley and mint, and cook 1 minute. Place in a large bowl; cool slightly. Stir in cheeses, salt, pepper, and egg whites.

Place 1 phyllo sheet on a large cutting board (cover remaining phyllo to prevent drying), and coat with cooking spray. Top with 1 phyllo sheet, and coat with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with 3 additional sheets. Cut phyllo stack into a 14-inch square. Place square in center of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray, allowing phyllo to extend up long sides of dish. Cut 14 x 4-inch piece into 2 (7 x 4-inch) rectangles. Fold each rectangle in half lengthwise. Place a rectangle against each short side of dish. Spread the chard mixture evenly over phyllo.

Place 1 phyllo sheet on a large cutting board (cover remaining phyllo to prevent drying), and coat with cooking spray. Top with 1 phyllo sheet, and coat with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining phyllo sheets. Place 18 x 14-inch phyllo stack over chard mixture. Fold phyllo edges into center. Coat with cooking spray. Score phyllo by making 2 lengthwise cuts and 3 crosswise cuts to form 12 rectangles. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until golden.

Note: Cut the phyllo stacks so they fit in and up the long side of the baking dish. Arrange folded section against short edges of dish to encase filling.Nutrition Facts:12 Servings:CALORIES 121 (35% from fat); FAT 4.7g (sat 2.8g,mono 1.4g,poly 0.3g); IRON 1.3mg; CHOLESTEROL 14mg; CALCIUM 134mg; CARBOHYDRATE 13.6g; SODIUM 449mg; PROTEIN 6.1g; FIBER 1.6g


Cavatappi with Spinach, Beans, and Asiago Cheese www.cookinglight.com


8 cups coarsely chopped spinach leaves
4 cups hot cooked cavatappi (about 6 ounces uncooked spiral-shaped pasta)
1/2 cup (2 oz.) shredded Asiago cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (19-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, drained
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Cracked black pepper (optional)


 Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl; toss well. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper, if desired.Optional add garlic, 1/2c onions,1/2 walnuts, red peppers.Makes 4-2cup servings:CALORIES 401 (27% from fat); FAT 12g (sat 3.4g,mono 6.2g,poly 1.2g); IRON 6.4mg; CHOLESTEROL 10mg; CALCIUM 306mg; CARBOHYDRATE 54.7g; SODIUM 464mg; PROTEIN 18.8g; FIBER 6.7g


Strawberry and Arugula Pizza adapted from cooking light


12-16 oz. pizza crust dough

1/3 cup (3 oz.) crumbled fat free feta or goat cheese

½ c mozzarella cheese

1 cup sliced strawberries

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1 cup trimmed watercress, arugula or other leafy green

1 Tbsp. basil, cut into short strips

1/2 c balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp. honey

1 tsp. olive oil

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Dash of salt

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Dash of freshly ground black pepper

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1/4 cup (1 oz.) shaved fresh Parmesan

3 Tbsp. dry-roasted pistachios, chopped



Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Start the balsamic reduction. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar and honey. Gently simmer the mixture on medium-low heat until it is reduced in volume by half (this should take about 10 to 15 minutes) and set aside.

Sprinkle rimless baking sheet with cornmeal. Roll out dough on floured surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to baking sheet. Bake crust for 10-15 minutes or until just set. Remove from oven and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and crumbled feta cheese. Combine strawberries, basil, greens, olive oil, 1 Tbsp. of balsamic reduction, salt, and black pepper; toss gently to coat. Arrange strawberry mixture evenly over cheesy crust. Sprinkle pizza with Parmigiano-Reggiano and nuts. Cut into wedges. Serve immediately.



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