In my last post on Food Prep Strategy, I mentioned the latest positive influence that Instant Pot‘s glorious set-it-and-forget-it convenience has graced upon my cooking routines… something I like to call INSTA-GREENS. Really, it’s nothing more than batch-cooking my leafy greens, but in my eyes it’s become an anchor of my weekly self care routine. A simple task that makes me feel like I am treating myself right.
why more greens?
Nutritionally, leafy greens have a lot going on, and we could go deep on a number of topics – things like glucosinolates, magnesium, folic acid, and various anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories – but for now, let’s skip ahead to the actual point: researchers have observed that people who eat more vegetables are healthier than people who eat less. The benefits are well known and wide reaching. From Increasing vegetable intakes: rationale and systematic review of published interventions:
If you still need more convincing, I’ll share one more detail I stumbled upon that really stood out to me from a study on memory and aging: researchers found that older adults who ate 1-2 servings of leafy greens daily were assessed to have the cognitive ability of a person 11 years younger than those who consumed none. This is huge! I know which of those groups I want to be in…
insta-greens: how to cook
After washing your greens, begin by removing any especially hard/fibrous stalks (pressure-cooking does a pretty good job of softening stalks, but the more robust ones are not really good eats). I usually do this by hand, grasping the stem in one hand while stripping away the rest of the leaf with the other. Sometimes with collards, which have extra-thick stems, it may be easier to slice them out with a chef’s knife on your chopping board. For the remaining edible portion, run your knife through to create whatever kind of “bite-size” effect you’re after.
OR, if you don’t feel up to the trimming/chopping, you may prefer to buy already-prepped greens! When I don’t prep my own, I like the bagged organic Tuscan kale from Trader Joe’s.
Add 1/2 cup water or broth to your pressure cooker, and dump in those greens. Remember that greens “cook down” (shrink) a lot, so don’t be afraid to fill ‘er up! Just stay below the max fill line.
Rule-Breaker Alert: this is an often-broken rule, but be aware that Instant Pot does recommend using a minimum of 1 cup liquid when pressure-cooking. I want to avoid using this much water in my greens if I can get away with it, because I want to minimize nutrient loss into the cooking liquid. I have always had good results using 1/2 cup liquid. BUT sometimes unexpected things happen in the kitchen – for whatever reason, if the water level is too low for your situation, here is what will happen: the display will read “OvHt” – this means overheat, and it is a safety mechanism that kicks in when the temp sensor is high enough to risk burning. Don’t panic – just stop cooking, open back up, add another good splash of water, and start over.
Now that we have that out of the way, back to the greens. Close the lid (valve in sealing position), select Manual mode, and adjust the time down. Some greens are tougher than others – even within the same varietals – but the times I choose fall within these ranges:
- Swiss Chard: 1-2 minutes
- Kale: 2-3 minutes
- Collards: 3-4 minutes
I like lightly-cooked greens, so if you prefer them very soft, you may wish to add extra time – experiment as needed. After the cooking time is up, I usually open the valve right away, but I have not found the greens to be overcooked if I leave them for a natural pressure release.
Potentially Offensive Aroma Alert: Just saying… Think about the smell that accumulates in your kitchen when you cook cruciferous vegetables. Now, think about the vigorous fountain of steam that explodes from your Instant Pot when you release the pressure. You may wish to de-pressurize next to an open window!
After cooking, I toss the greens with salt and a splash of vinegar – I like to stay pretty plain-jane with the batch-cooking so the leftovers can be dolled up with whatever sauces or condiments strike my fancy during the week. But there’s one secret ingredient that always joins the party, thanks to a hot tip from Dr. Rhonda Patrick of FoundMyFitness fame… a pantry staple that not only adds sharp/spicy flavor, but also serves a functional role in optimizing the health-factor of those leafy greens. What is this special seasoning…??
Mustard seed powder! Quickie Science Lesson:
- Kale, collards, and the rest of their cruciferous cousins contain compounds called glucosinolates.
- When we eat these, they can have a positive affect on our bodies’ antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification pathways, and they are thought to play a major role in the reduced disease risks we observe in people who eat more of these vegetables.
- Glucosinolates must be broken down into their active form by an enzyme called myrosinase. This enzyme is present in the vegetable, but it is heat-sensitive, so cooking inhibits its activity and makes our glucosinolates less bioavailable.
- Mustard seed powder contains myrosinase! By sprinkling it on cruciferous vegetables after cooking, it provides a fresh source of the enzyme and lets us get the most nutritional bang for our buck!
insta-greens: how to eat
Add a helping of insta-greens to anything and everything you like to eat. I’ve talked about what this can look like in an earlier post on all-purpose greens, but I thought now would be a good time to share a few real-life-application shots.
Here’s a nourishing breakfast, featuring greens, two scrambled eggs with tomatillo salsa, half of a small avocado, and a piece of whole grain toast with grass-fed butter.
Happy day: my kale was paired with a multigrain bagel & smoked salmon, yumyum. Trader Joe’s “everything but the bagel” seasoning is 100% essential.
Enhancing leftovers at lunchtime: Cajun red beans & brown rice + collard greens.
Even pizza night isn’t safe from my appetite for greens! Yes, I’m still working on the perfect whole-grain sourdough crust. This one is topped with chard, morel mushrooms and lots of garlic.
I think that’s enough for Green Gospel for today… are you feeling it? Surely I’m not the only one using Instant Pot to maintain a ready-to-eat vegetable surplus. Tell me, how do you do your veggies?