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Healthy Living Recipes

Deb Morgan: This month I offer you a classic: spanakopita, also known as spinach pie. I recently returned from a trip to Greece, where I discovered that cheese pie in many forms serves as a breakfast food, a quick bite of lunch, or a dinner starter. We make ours with filo dough, lots of greens—spinach and chard work best—and feta cheese, of course. To accompany your spinach pie, try a glass (hot or cold) of one of my favorite teas, Moroccan mint—it’s become a guest favorite here.

Spinach Filo Pie

Makes one 9” square baking pan.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
3–4 cloves garlic, minced
12 or more cups chopped spinach and/or Swiss chard
1 tablespoon fennel seed (dill weed can also be used)
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Black pepper to taste
1 package filo
½ cup melted butter

First, if filo is frozen, allow to thaw slowly—overnight in the refrigerator is best to avoid the filo becoming too damp.

In a large sauté pan, sauté onions in olive oil. Add garlic, fennel seed, and salt and continue to sauté. Add spinach and Swiss chard. Heat just until wilted. Remove from heat and let cool. When room temperature, add whisked egg, crumbled feta, black pepper, and/or dill if using.

To assemble: Brush melted butter on the bottom of the baking pan. Then place seven layers of filo down one at a time, brushing each layer with butter. (You may need to cut the filo or fold it in half to fit the pan.) After seven layers, place half of the vegetable mixture and top with another seven layers of filo, brushing with butter as before. Lay remaining vegetable mixture on top of filo and top with a final seven layers of filo. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes; remove cover and bake for 10 minutes to brown.

Note If you prefer, you can use olive oil in place of the butter. Keep in mind, though, that your filo will not be as flaky.

Read John Bagnulo’s nutritional commentary: Spinach, Swiss Chard, and Oxalic Acid

I cringe when people tell me they purposely avoid spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, and other sources of oxalic acid. Usually they have been told that foods rich in oxalic acid will leach calcium from their bones or cause kidney stones. The truth is that, while oxalic acid can reduce the bioavailability of the greens’ calcium, it does not leach calcium out of the skeletal system, and these greens are actually excellent foods for building stronger bones. They also provide the body with an abundance of potassium and are therefore highly alkalinizing. To avoid kidney stones, don’t omit these greens; instead, drink plenty of water, limit animal protein, and be careful not to supplement with too much calcium.

These greens have a more subtle taste than members of the brassica family (kale, collards, mustard greens, etc.), so those who don’t enjoy strong-flavored greens may prefer these. In addition, these very dark greens are an excellent source of lutein, a member of the carotenoid family (think lycopene, beta carotene) that is one of the most protective substances against macular degeneration.

Moroccan Mint Tea

Makes 6 cups.

6½ cups water
½ cup fresh mint (stems and all), washed
2 tablespoons green tea (or 6 tea bags)
1–2 tablespoons sweetener of choice—organic sugar, agave, or honey work well

Bring water to a boil. Turn off heat, add mint, and allow to steep five minutes. Return to a boil, turn off heat, and add tea. Allow tea to steep no more than three minutes. (Green tea will become bitter if over-steeped.) Remove tea and mint; sweeten to taste. Great hot or cold.

Find more delicious and nutritious recipes in Kripalu Recipes.