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"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: kale

“kale . . . beautiful kale!”

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My daughter is a big fan of kale. For a long time, I wasn’t. But, now I am.

Mostly, my change of heart is due to figuring out a way to cook it that’s both  tasty and easy to make. It was also important to learn that you can slice out the thick ribs and enjoy just the leafy greens. Plus, it’s cheap.

I bought a big bunch of kale at Whole Foods yesterday. The photo above shows the leaves cut from the ribs. The ribs go out and then I cut the washed leaves in small pieces. Then, back in the fridge until I stir fry part of them tonight to go with our supper of oven fried chicken thighs.

When I’m ready to cook the kale, I heat up a large skillet with a little skim of olive oil. Then I toss in a finely chopped shallot. When sizzling but not burning, I toss in the kale pieces. It cooks down quickly and I may add a spoonful or two of chicken broth. As it cooks down a little more, I splash in some Osawha organic soy sauce, a sprinkle of Marukan seasoned rice vinegar and a dollop of honey. Mix lightly and turn off the heat. By this time, the kale will be wilted and fragrant. Just about everybody likes the taste of this dish. If you try it, hope you will too!

grilled chicken legs . . .

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In the past few months, I’ve been using a bottled teriyaki marinade when cooking fresh chicken legs. Today, I had some Whole Foods air-chilled chicken legs which I cut in pieces including making cuts down either side of the thigh bones to expedite thorough cooking. I then added Osawha organic soy sauce, cooking sherry (Holland brand,) two crushed cloves of garlic, green onions and fresh ginger root sliced into slivers. A spot of honey went into the mixture at the end. I turned the chicken with a big spoon and put a plate on top of the large pyrex mixing bowl that contained this ambrosia mixture for dinner.

After marinating, I’ll broil the chicken with the skin side up last. With it, I’m cooking up a pot of jasmine rice and sauteeing a skillet full of fresh kale. A simple supper that’s aromatic and healthy at the same time!

 

tastes, part 2! . . .

green tea

It’s been about a month now since I embarked on an immersion course to explore ways of eating to lose some weight and lower my blood glucose level. I’ve tested a panoply of new recipes including baking with gluten-free flours, alternative sugars and reading cookbooks by health gurus (Mark Hyman and Joel Fuhrman) plus “Superfood” cooking gurus such as Julie Morris and other cooking mavens.

After a three week precipitous drop in my glucose level which I was excited about, I was disheartened to find that it went up ten points after only one week of eating gluten-free muffins and gluten-free pasta, I learned the hard way that there are potentially MORE CARBS in gluten-free ingredients than in those with gluten. Moreover, honestly, the various muffins I tried tasted just awful even though the GF spaghetti was appetizing. So much for the large cardboard box of newly acquired gluten-free flours, coconut sugar, sucanet that I’ll remove from my pantry, hoping to find someone who’s gung-ho on using them.

I’ve decided that my modus operandi will be to AVOID baking anything for awhile. Period. But when the time comes, maybe in the Fall or around the holidays, I’ll make wonderful high puffed popovers and maybe a cake or pie or two. In other words, LESS (flour & sugar) might be MORE, health-wise, but it won’t just disappear from my life. And when these ingredients are called for, I’ll use unbleached regular flour and turbinado sugar – just as in the past and everything will turn out tasting delicious. And so, we’ll also know that we can continue to live a little. – just in moderation.

My brother has reminded me a couple of times that he lost ten pounds last year just by cutting out carbs and fast food. By eschewing gluten-free products, we’ll actually be cutting out carbs we didn’t realize we were using!

Another thing I discovered is that SMOOTHIES are just not my thing. It takes too many various ingredients for a single smoothie recipe; and a whole slew of other ones for a different smoothie. It also usually requires freezing a banana – and eating a whole banana (which has a lot of sugar); plus various bags of frozen fruit full of sugar which never get finished and cramp up the freezer. I also confess that I usually can’t finish the smoothie even though I make smaller portions AND it’s a nuisance to clean the blender (which can go in the dishwasher) or the Vitamix (which runs soapy water to clean it out. So, there go the packets of hemp and chia seeds and other exotic ingredients that I can’t even remember the name of them – substitutes for cocoa and so on– that will go into the same box as the gluten-free ingredients. I’m sorry that smoothies gotta go even though they look so delectable in Julie Morris’s “Superfood Smoothies” cookbook.

Although I realize I am sounding like a health food heretic, I am nevertheless now going to name the one food that has become the Holy Grail of healthy eating (even Bill Clinton!) and that is . . . KALE. I’ve tried massaging kale leaves with olive oil and/or dressing to help it absorb the flavor. I actually really like the LOOK of lacinato kale with its bumpy ridges and dark green color. I just don’t like the taste and I’ve tried it numerous ways: sauteed, in salads, in smoothies. It’s just not a vegetable that I feel compatible with. It almost feels sacriligious to type out these words: “I d-o-n-‘t  l-i-k-e  K-A-L-E!”

I don’t feel bad about these experiments though, because this journey is about gradually shifting our eating lifestyle to something we’ll want to keep eating.. We haven’t had any red meat in all this time and neither G. nor I have a desire to have any either. Our weekly menus have included wild caught grey sole which we enjoy simply cooked meuniere style with a little lemon butter and parsley.

Homemade vegetable soup once a week has supplied us with warm broth on chilly, rainy days as well as providing a “stone soup” concept for using up vegetables before they spoil. Making salads that are composed and attractive in a wooden bowl along with some new salad dressings have been a boon too. A fresh buttermilk peppercorn ranch dressing tops them all. To the online recipe, I increased the amount of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and sour cream, added lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice, a dab of honey and six grindings of multi-colored peppercorns into the mix. We thought it tasted divine, unlike the sometimes gloppy ranch dressings we’ve had in the past.

I found that drinking a large pottery tea bowl of green tea in the middle of the afternoon is a good substitute for when I’m thinking about having a snack.

So, there it is: I’ve bought tons of baking and smoothie ingredients, read books and experimented with numerous recipes that have drawn me to these very personal conclusions: I’ll bake less often but when I do, I’ll use regular ingredients; I won’t be making smoothies in the near future but will use my blenders to process delicious cream of cucumber soup and other dishes. And finally, I’ll pass up buying lacinato kale and maybe even collard greens. But I’ll still fill up my basket with broccoli, cauliflower, English peas, romaine, arugula and butter lettuces, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, eggplant, artichokes and garden fresh spinach. We’ll wait until the cool Fall and Winter months to bake Japanese sweet potatoes, acorn squash and other starchy root vegetables.

I’m still feeling optimistic after these lessons learned. Unless we enjoy what we eat, a new lifestyle of eating won’t last for very long. I can’t just follow recipes of food that don’t appeal to our palate. And some of the recipes have long lists of ingredients that require more effort than the simple way that I like to cook. The tweaking I’ve described above feels good to me although they might not be for everyone. And I feel a little lighter now that I don’t feel forced to conform to foods (and fads) that don’t taste or feel right for the way we live and the way I like to cook.

Bon Appetit! To each our own!

 

 

tastes . . .

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I feel like I’ve been on a quest for Jason’s golden fleece these past few weeks. You know, go out and rescue yourself by seeking a noble impossibility. Well, it hasn’t been that bad but there have been a lot of dead ends. Expensive too when considering a new pantry of ingredients, some of which I’m not sure I’ll use again. But, that’s what trial and error means, I guess.

As described in the past few posts, I’ve gone from one extreme (foodie Paleo) to another (strict Vegan) and come out somewhere in the middle: “Pegan.” However, the one guiding principle that I intuitively adhere to during this wayward journey is that if the food doesn’t taste good to my palate and it isn’t something that I truly like to eat, then, it’s a wayward journey and not one that will be sustainable. It’s like travelling on vacation somewhere and you just don’t like the cuisine. Even if it’s good for you, you won’t keep wanting to eat it.

So.

Today, a volume in my bookshelf caught my eye called “Crisp” published by Marie Claire, the magazine. It’s a beauty to look at with imaginative, many Asian-inspired recipes for simple bites of delicious looking, light fare. Given what I’ve learned in the past few weeks, sugar and flour can be substituted with agave nectar or stevia and I now have gluten-free flour in the pantry. Most of the recipes are fresh vegetables and small amounts of protein. The difference between this approach and “Eat to Live” (Joel Fuhrman’s cookbook) for example, is that it doesn’t feel medicinal or health-food-like at ALL. It also doesn’t require a five inch list of ingredients either.

“Crisp” is beautifully photographed, contains few-ingredient recipes, and approaches healthy foodie in a good way. Finally. A “Pegan-Foodie” blend that doesn’t break the bank when going to Trader Joe’s. I am going to wait a few days to go to ANY grocery store until there’s more room in the fridge now containing kale, collard greens, zucchini, broccoli.

Tonight, I’m going to try a recipe from Julie Morris’s book, “Superfood Kitchen” for supper: zucchini “linguine” with onions, dulse (seaweed) and walnuts. A salad of butter lettuce, english cucumber and red onions with a ginger vinaigrette.

That sounds good, doesn’t it?

 

 

cold weather noodles . . .

noodles 2It’s been frigid here and elsewhere (so many minus degrees below zero where M. lives in Minneapolis that they closed the schools!) This morning, I straightened out the books and magazines on my small Chinese table and came upon the “healthy” recipes that Bon Appetit was promoting in its January issue.

Leafing through, there was a teriyaki sauce recipe from a restaurant called “Canal House.” Three simple ingredients of the same measure:

1 cup packed light brown sugar;

1 cup mirin (Japanese rice wine); and

1 cup Ohsawa soy sauce (or low-sodium soy sauce):

simmered until the sugar dissolved and then cooked at very low heat for 40 minutes until the sauce thickened slightly. Good in the fridge for a month, the recipe said.

I paused midway through the thickening of the teriyaki sauce and tasted it with the tip of my spoon. The flavor was so rich and delectable that I imagined right away using a dollop of it to flavor fresh shitake mushrooms, softened in a pan; or glazing a piece of salmon or chicken thighs on the Le Creuset “Soleil” grill pans my daughters and I received as Christmas gifts from Santa (that’s me!)

So here’s the recipe for cold weather noodles I made for supper tonight:

1. Boil fresh Chinese wide egg noodles, drain and rinse with cold water, shaking out excess water. Defrosted a frozen pack of noodles tightly zipped in a plastic bag set in warm tap water and used two coils worth of noodles (see top photo.)

2. De-rib some lacinato kale and chop the leaves into two inch diagonal pieces.

3. Chop up some napa cabbage including leaves (same diagonal slice.)

4.  Saute 2 cloves of garlic in a pan, add greens above and take off the heat when just wilted. Drain and set aside.

kale and napa cabbage

kale and napa cabbage

5. Combine 1/2 pound of fresh ground pork with scallions, ginger, and brown in a saucepan, adding a little teriyaki sauce when pork is browned.

cooked pork with garlic, kale and cabbage

cooked pork with garlic, kale and cabbage

6. Make a dashi broth in a sauce pan (either instant powder or with kombu and bonito flakes); add browned pork, cooked greens and stir. Cook gently for soup flavors to combine. To taste, add a spoonful of teriyaki sauce to the broth.

7. Add cooked noodles to soup and simmer.

dashi broth, kale, cabbage, pork, noodles flavored with teriyaki sauce . . .

dashi broth, kale, cabbage, pork, noodles flavored with teriyaki sauce . . .

8. Ladle into soup bowls and add a poached fresh organic egg on top or sprinkle with scallions.

It’s still pretty cold out there. But in here, it smells like heaven.