Try Spinach

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Spinach in colander in sink under running water.

Our Extension Master Food Volunteers (EMFV) developed a series of produce fact sheets for use at local farm markets and food pantries. Each fact sheet focuses on a local fruit or vegetable and features a recipe, nutrition information, and tips from our EMFV. All of these fact sheets can be found on our website. Several of the recipes are also featured in a step-by-step video on our YouTube channel.

We’re adding new ones to the collection. Our latest topic is spinach! According to the Produce for Better Health Foundation’s website (PBH), “Spinach was first cultivated over 2,000 years ago in Iran. By 1806, it had become a popular vegetable in America and in the 1920’s the U.S. pushed spinach commercially, with the Popeye the Sailorman cartoon becoming a great advocate for spinach consumption.”

The featured recipe adds fresh spinach leaves to this fast-cooking, hearty, and healthy soup. I like this recipe because all of the ingredients can be kept in the pantry (except the fresh spinach). With the oregano and basil seasoning, it has an Italian flare similar to minestrone. 

Quick Bean and Spinach Soup topped with cheese on a wooden surface with fresh vegetables surrounding the outside of the bowl

Quick Beans and Spinach Soup

Ingredients 

  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) low-sodium diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) low-sodium cannellini or white kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat orzo pasta
  • 1-2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions 

Wash hands and work area before beginning to cook. Pour chicken broth and tomatoes into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, carefully wash spinach under cold running water and coarsely chop. Drain and rinse the beans. Add spinach and beans to pot and simmer 5 minutes more until pasta is tender. Top individual servings with 1/2 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese (optional). Makes approximately 4 one-cup servings.

Extension Master Food Volunteer Tips

  • Stewed tomatoes can be substituted for diced tomatoes in this recipe.
  • If you don’t have fresh spinach, use frozen.
  • Use any small pasta but look for whole grain.
  • Precooked rice could replace the pasta and will only need reheated.
  • Use this recipe as a soup base, add or change the ingredients to make it your own. 
  • Want more “heat”? Replace the oregano and basil with black pepper, a few bits of jalapenos and some cumin.
  • Any variety of canned beans will work.
  • If the soup is too thick, add water or more broth.

Nutritionally, spinach is fat free, saturated fat free, cholesterol free, low in calories, and high in dietary fiber. It’s high in Vitamin C and a good source of both Vitamin A and iron. 

A Nutrition Education Program (NEP) Factsheet from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension offers these tips for selecting fresh spinach:

When buying fresh spinach, choose fresh, crisp, green bunches. Avoid leaves that are limp, damaged or spotted. If you have fresh unwashed leaf spinach, store it loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel and refrigerate in a plastic bag and use within 3-5 days. To wash, rinse in lots of fresh running water and rub the leaves gently to remove any soil. Wash just before you use.

Close up of quick bean and spinach soup

Spinach is frequently available in ready-to-eat or ready-to-cook bags. Since the small leaves are sweet and tender, spinach is often part of a baby greens mix. Be sure to keep these bags cold. When buying bagged spinach check the label, not all spinach in bags has been washed. If they have been pre-washed it’s not necessary to do it again. Also, look for use-by dates on bags of washed fresh spinach. If it’s approaching the use-by date and I still have part of a bag of spinach in the refrigerator, I frequently make this soup.

Source

Produce for Better Health Foundation 

University of Nebraska- Lincoln 


Cheryle Syracuse wrote this article and more similar ones for the Family and Consumer Sciences Column in the Brunswick Beacon. Syracuse is an FCS team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, 910-253-2610 or by email at cheryle_syracuse@ncsu.edu