Spicy Black Eyed Pea Soup (Vegan)

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You have heard that ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’.  Well, this yummy soup was a brainchild of a recent severe rainstorm, on a day we lost power for 4 or 5 hours due to heavy rain and high winds.  Our lights came back on around 6:30pm so I went around blowing out candles and then had to come up with something for dinner, now that I had no excuse not to cook.  I found a bag of frozen black eyed peas and a few veggies in my refrigerator.  Threw in a few canned items from my pantry and I ended up with a big pot of some pretty tasty hot soup.  I didn’t take any photos because I didn’t think those humble ingredients would amount to much.  Boy was I wrong!  The fire roasted tomatoes and peppers combined with cumin and enriched with a splash of Worcestershire sauce (or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos) add a savory and slightly spicy backdrop for the veggies.  Luckily for my family, I had to make it again just to take photos – such a hardship…

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Black eyed peas are not peas (which are actually seeds in a pod).  They are legumes (beans) and the seed we eat is called a pulse.  There you go, that was the vocabulary lesson for the day. Black Eyed Peas are a good source of protein (at 6.7 grams per half cup), fiber and a host of vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, potassium, Vitamin A and Folate.  They are also low in fat and have zero cholesterol, making them an ideal food. They also have a mild flavor and firm texture which makes them a popular choice in soups and stews.

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Frozen black eyed peas are just fresh peas that have been frozen with no additives, so they are my preference if you can find them.  Occasionally, I am lucky enough to find them fresh in the produce section and consider it a great find. For those that live in areas where you can’t get good fresh produce year around, I recommend stocking your freezer with fresh frozen beans,  dark leafy greens and pre-cut veggies.  You won’t regret it, especially on nights where you are searching the kitchen for dinner ideas. Add whatever veggies you have on hand.  I used kale, zucchini, carrots and celery.

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TIPS: If you are using canned black eyed peas, drain and rinse them before adding them to the soup.  Just in case you’re wondering about that slimy liquid with them in the can, it is mostly water and salt  and/or calcium chloride (both of which are preservatives ) along with natural starch given off by the beans.  Some recipes call for the starchy liquid to thicken dishes but I usually rinse because I don’t care for the texture or the flavor which is sometimes metallic from being in the can. Those watching sodium in their diets will also benefit from rinsing the extra salt from the beans.

If you are using dried beans, I would recommend soaking one and a half cups of them overnight in cold water.  Drain and follow the recipe but increase cooking time to about an hour, or until beans are soft.

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SPICY BLACK EYED PEA SOUP

  • 32 oz bag frozen black eyed peas (or 2 14 oz cans)
  • 1 Tbsn olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed and chopped
  • 1 large stalk celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 16 oz can fire roasted chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 4 oz can fire roasted green peppers
  • 1-2 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or liquid aminos (GF)
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup lacinato kale, stems removed and thinly sliced

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  • Saute onion, carrots and celery in olive oil until softened (about 5 minutes)

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  • Pour in vegetable broth and add all remaining ingredients, except zucchini and kale.  I recommend adding 1 can of peppers, 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon of your chosen sauce to begin. Simmer about 30 minutes.  Add more broth or water, if necessary.

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  • Taste broth and add cumin, soy sauce, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste. If you want more zing, add another can of fire roasted peppers.  Stir in zucchini and kale and cook another 5 minutes.

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  • Serve with crusty bread or a fresh green salad.

Spicy Black Eyed Pea Soup

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 32 oz bag frozen black eyed peas (or 2 14 oz cans)
  • 1 Tbsn olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed and chopped
  • 1 large stalk celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 16 oz can fire roasted chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 4 oz can fire roasted green peppers
  • 1-2 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or liquid aminos (GF)
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup lacinato kale, stems removed and thinly sliced
  1. Saute onion, carrots and celery in olive oil until softened (about 5 minutes)
  2. Pour in vegetable broth and add all remaining ingredients, except zucchini and kale.  I recommend adding 1 can of peppers, 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon of your chosen sauce to begin. Simmer about 30 minutes.  Add more broth or water, if necessary
  3. Taste broth and add cumin, cayenne pepper, soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste. If you want more zing, add another can of fire roasted peppers.  Stir in zucchini and kale and cook another 5 minutes.

 

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Baked Eggs in Kale Cups

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Move over eggs and toast, Baked Eggs in Kale Cups is more delicious, nutritious and way cuter!  With easy preparation and few ingredients, breakfast is on the table in 30 minutes or less. This is the perfect weekend treat! The kale is crispy on the sides but creamy and garlicky on the bottom, while the egg is perfectly set with hints of parmesan, red pepper flakes and fresh basil. Delish and easy!  Just pop them in the oven and enjoy a cup of coffee and the newspaper while they bake.  (It will only look like you worked so hard…)  These pretty baked eggs are a good source of protein to start your day and the KALE  adds vitamin B6, dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamin E, vitamin B2, iron, magnesium, vitamin B1, omega-3 fatty acids phosphorus, more protein, folate, and niacin. Whew!  That is why kale is king…. These little beauties are also elegant enough to serve at a brunch or even as a quick and easy dinner. Serve with fresh fruit or a tossed green salad. For a hearty appetite, add roasted or baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.

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I spotted this recipe in the November, 2015 edition of Vegetarian Times and decided to make it for Sunday brunch using  eggs from the backyard chickens next door and fresh kale from my garden.  I have a great arrangement with my neighbor, Sandy.  I give her all of my cooking and vegetable garden scraps and she gives me beautiful organic eggs from happy chickens.  Look at the gorgeous orange of the yolks.  Darker yellow/orange yolks usually means the hen had a varied diet and the resulting egg is richer in Vitamins and micronutrients like vitamins A and E plus omega-3. as compared to the anemic pale yellow, less nutritious standard supermarket egg.  Did you know that egg yolks are one of the foods that naturally contain Vitamin D?  Another egg fact you may not know is that the color of the shell doesn’t indicate how nutritious it is, just the kind of chicken that the egg came from. My Mom raised a variety of chickens who laid eggs that ranged in color from off white to green, blue and brown – all equally nutritious because they were raised the same, happy and on the earth.

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However, if you aren’t lucky enough to have chickens like my brother, Tom, and his wife, Kelle, or have  a neighbor with chickens, try to buy eggs that are labelled “Pasture Raised”.  Other egg labels are often meaningless and lies misleading as producers try to capitalize on people’s desire to make more humane and nutritious choices.  Just because something is labelled ‘Organic’ or ‘Free Range’ doesn’t mean the chickens were given nutritious food or had a chance to go outside and peck at the ground.  There is little to no oversight so producers just decide for themselves what those terms mean. Outside might mean a tiny concrete enclosure that the chickens may not even know is there or have real access. For a breakdown on what egg labels are supposed to mean and what they really mean, click HERE to read an article by NPR.  And, FYI, chickens are NOT vegetarians…

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TIPS:  I used lacinato kale because that is what I had ready in my garden, but you can use any kind of kale you like.  Curly kale would make extra pretty ‘cups’ in this dish.  When forming the nests/cups, use more kale than you think and make sure the muffin tin is completely covered to prevent leakage and that the fronds stick up out of the muffin tin, as the kale shrinks quite a bit during baking.

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BAKED EGGS IN KALE CUPS

      2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
      1 12-oz. bunch kale, stems removed
      2 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
      1-2 cloves garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
      6 large eggs
      1 Tbsn fresh basil, chopped (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat extra-large six-cup muffin pan with 1 Tbs. oil or cooking spray.

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  • Place kale leaves in large bowl, add remaining 1 Tbs. oil, cheese, and garlic. Massage kale until tender and glistening.

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  • Line prepared muffin cups with large kale leaves, covering whole muffin cup, and leaving some of leaf edges sticking up (smaller leaves can be layered in cup).

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  • Crack 1 egg into each kale nest, and season with salt and pepper, more red pepper flakes and a sprinkle of parmesan, if desired.

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  • Bake 17 to 25 minutes, or until egg yolk is set.

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  • Cool 5 minutes before removing kale nests from muffin cups.

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  • Using a large spoon or a knife edge, carefully release the sides from the cupcake tin and place on a platter to serve. Sprinkle with fresh basil, if desired.

Baked EggS in Kale Cups

  • Servings: 3-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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        2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
        1 12-oz. bunch curly kale, stems removed
        2 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
        1-2 cloves garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
        6 large eggs
        1 Tbsn fresh basil, chopped (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat extra-large six-cup muffin pan with 1 Tbs. oil or cooking spray.
  • Place kale leaves in large bowl, add remaining 1 Tbs. oil, cheese, and garlic. Massage kale until tender and glistening.
  • Line prepared muffin cups with large kale leaves, covering whole muffin cup, and leaving some of leaf edges sticking up (smaller leaves can be layered in cup).
  • Crack 1 egg into each kale nest, and season with salt and pepper, more red pepper flakes and a sprinkle of parmesan, if desired.
  • Bake 17 to 25 minutes, or until egg yolk is set.
  • Cool 5 minutes before removing kale nests from muffin cups.
  • Using a large spoon or a knife edge, carefully release the sides from the cupcake tin and place on a platter to serve. Sprinkle with fresh basil, if desired

Meatless Monday – Kale Salad with Lentils and Wild Rice

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This one is for you, Margie!  My sister, Margaret, asked me to come up with a new lentil salad recipe, so here you go!  Thank you for the inspiration –  this one is a keeper!  Lentils and rice are one of my favorite food combinations but they can be heavy which makes them a perfect belly warming winter meal but luckily those cold winter months are behind us.  I decided to lighten them up for summer by tossing French green lentils in a salad with chewy wild rice, toasted pine nuts, tomatoes and kale. Top with scallions, fresh herbs, crumbled feta and a drizzle of lemony vinaigrette for a really delicious and satisfying salad.

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Lentils come in a rainbow of colors, each with their own characteristics.  In general, the darker the lentil, the firmer the texture.  Lighter colored lentils, like yellow and red, are quite mushy when cooked and best for soups.  Brown lentils have a nice flavor but can get mushy if cooked too long.  French green lentils (pictured above) are my favorite but closely followed by Black Beluga lentils which I often use with colorful squashes because of the striking color contrast.  If you don’t normally eat lentils, here are Five Reasons why you should start:

  1. PROTECT YOUR DIGESTIVE SYSTEM – high in fiber
  2. PROTECT YOUR HEART – significant amount of folate and magnesium
  3. STABILIZE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR – full of complex carbohydrates
  4. HIGH IN PROTEIN- the vegetable with the highest level of protein other than soybeans
  5. IMPORTANT MINERALS AND ANTIOXIDANTS –   good source of iron, magnesium and zinc

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Wild rice is actually not really rice. It’s the seed of the water grass, Zizania.  It has a wonderful chewy texture and nutty flavor that is really good in this salad, however it packs it’s own nutritional whollop.  Wild rice is also a good source of protein, fiber, iron and copper as well as other minerals and vitamins including B complex.  Together, they make this meal hearty enough to be a main course.

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Should we even talk about kale?  We all know it’s the reigning queen of leafy greens for it’s nutritional benefits, and rightly so. I used a bunch of red kale from my CSA box but lacinato (dino) or curly kale will work well too.  Since kale is so fibrous, I removed the center rib and sliced the leafy green leaves into thin julienne strips.  This preparation makes it easier to eat and allows the flavors to blend more easily since all the other ingredients are so small.  I learned one unexpected benefit of using kale in salads instead of more traditional lettuces.  I had some leftover salad which I stored in the refrigerator.  Well you know what happens to salads that have already been dressed that sit in the refrigerator overnight… Two days later, I remembered the salad and went to throw it away but it still looked okay.  I ate it for lunch and it was still surprisingly good.  The kale held up really well.  Who knew?

TIPS:  I used two Roma tomatoes for this salad because they are easier to dice and have fewer juices and seeds than the larger Beefsteak or Celbrity types, however, any ripe tomato will work.  If you aren’t a fan of wild rice, you can use a wild rice mix or substitute any kind of rice you like.  A long grain rice cooked al dente will give better results than the stickier shorter grains.

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Kale Salad with Lentils and Wild Rice

1/2 cup dry wild rice
1/2 cup dry lentils (green, black or brown)
1 large or 2 smaller tomatoes, finely diced
2 cups kale, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta (optional)

VINAIGRETTE

¼ cup Olive Oil
1 Tbsn lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp coriander
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt

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  • Cook the wild rice according to package instructions (about 45 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool, uncovered.

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  • Cook the lentils according to package instructions but make sure they don’t get too soft.  They should be firm enough to maintain their shape.  Remove from heat and let cool, uncovered.

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  • Toast pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat until golden brown.  Remove from heat and let cool

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  • Wash kale and remove the thick center rib.  Stack kale and slice thinly crosswise.  Place in a large serving bowl
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  • Whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.

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  • Transfer wild rice, lentils, pine nuts and cilantro to bowl with kale. (Wild rice and lentils can be slightly warm but not hot)

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  • Just before serving,  toss with vinaigrette.  Serve with crumbled feta or goat cheese, if desired.

Kale Salad with Lentils and Wild Rice

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1/2 cup dry wild rice
1/2 cup dry lentils (green, black or brown)
1 large or 2 smaller tomatoes, finely diced
2 cups kale, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta (optional)

VINAIGRETTE

¼ cup Olive Oil
1 Tbsn lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp coriander
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt

  • Cook the wild rice according to package instructions (about 45 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool, uncovered.
  • Cook the lentils according to package instructions but make sure they don’t get too soft.  They should be firm enough to maintain their shape.  Remove from heat and let cool, uncovered.
  • Toast pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat until golden brown.  Remove from heat and let cool
  • Wash kale and remove the thick center rib.  Stack kale and slice thinly crosswise.  Place in a large serving bowl.
  • Whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.
  • Transfer wild rice, lentils, pine nuts and cilantro to bowl with kale. (Wild rice and lentils can be slightly warm but not hot)
  • Just before serving,  toss with vinaigrette.  Serve with crumbled feta or goat cheese, if desired.

 

 

Meatless Monday – Penne Pasta with Asparagus & Kale

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Thinking green for tomorrow?  Asparagus is in season, so it must be spring!  Hey it’s a spring vegetable and I’ve always considered asparagus a harbinger of spring even though I know spring doesn’t officially begin until the 2oth.  My Dad used to pile us kids into the car on sunny spring Saturday mornings, and head out to the countryside, armed with sharp knives and plastic bread bags (which ‘back in the day’ were used for everything including snow shoe coverings) to ‘hunt’ for wild asparagus.  Of course, now I know that some of the fields were really abandoned asparagus farms that were turned into open space after big business moved in, which was why asparagus were so abundant and easy for little kids to find.  Sometimes we would feel inclined to sample a particularly tender young spear right on the spot.  My brothers and sisters and I loved the hunter-gatherer experience and would return home flush with our victory spoils.  Then my Mom would make a huge pile of steamed asparagus for dinner.  Yum!   Just for fun I found a photo of asparagus growing in the wild compliments of Wild Asparagus Growing.  Brings back memories.

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This pasta dish is so delicious and it’s simplicity is refreshing in that it has minimal ingredients and you can have dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less.  That already makes it a big winner in my book… however, we can also talk about how good it is for you too.  You already know that Kale is a nutritional powerhouse packed with vitamins and minerals.  But did you know that kale has more health benefitting phytochemicals than an other leafy green veggie?  Yeah, there’s a reason so many people are riding the kale train.

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Asparagus is no slouch itself.  Here are five things you may not know about asparagus:

  1. It’s loaded with nutrients: Asparagus is a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells.
  2. It is a particularly rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds like free radicals.
  3. Asparagus is packed with antioxidants, ranking among the top fruits and vegetables for its ability to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals. This, according to preliminary research, may help slow the aging process.
  4. Another anti-aging property of this delicious spring veggie is that it may help our brains fight cognitive decline. Like leafy greens, asparagus delivers folate, which works with vitamin B12—found in fish, poultry, meat and dairy—to help prevent cognitive impairment. In a study from Tufts University, older adults with healthy levels of folate and B12 performed better on a test of response speed and mental flexibility. (If you’re 50-plus, be sure you’re getting enough B12: your ability to absorb it decreases with age.)
  5. One more benefit of asparagus: It contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic, and increased urination not only releases fluid but helps rid the body of excess salts. This is especially beneficial for people who suffer from edema (an accumulation of fluids in the body’s tissues) and those who have high blood pressure or other heart-related diseases.

So there you have it.  Simple, delicious and will make you live longer and healthier, younger and smarter.  What a combo!  Eat up!

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PENNE PASTA WITH ASPARAGUS AND KALE

3/4 lb penne pasta (preferably whole grain)
1 small bunch kale
1 bunch asparagus
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsn butter
1 Tbsn olive oil
1/2 cup scallions or spring onions, chopped
zest from one lemon
1 Tbsn fresh thyme
1/4 cup parmesan, shredded or flaked

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  • Cook pasta according to directions.  Scoop out and reserve 1/2 cup pasta water before draining. Wash and prepare vegetables.

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  • Stack kale leaves and slice them sideways into julienne strips.  If your kale has a prominent center rib, remove it first. Discard the stems.

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  • Saute the kale and garlic in the butter and oil for several minutes.

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  • Cut the asparagus into 2 inch pieces and add to kale. Saute for about 5 minutes. Kale should be soft and asparagus softened but still slightly al dente.

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  • Turn off heat and add lemon zest, spring onions and thyme and stir

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  • Add pasta and parmesan, if using, and toss to combine, adding pasta water to desired consistency.

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  • To serve, top with more parmesan, if desired.

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Penne Pasta with Asparagus and Kale

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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3/4  lb penne pasta (preferably whole grain)
1 small bunch kale
1 bunch asparagus
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsn butter
1 Tbsn olive oil
1/2 cup scallions or spring onions, chopped
zest from one lemon
1 Tbsn fresh thyme
1/4 cup parmesan, shredded or flaked

  • Cook pasta according to directions.  Scoop out and reserve 1/2 cup pasta water before draining.
  • Stack kale leaves and slice them sideways into julienne strips.  If your kale has a prominent center rib, remove it first. Discard the stems.
  • Saute the kale in the butter and oil for several minutes.
  • Cut the asparagus into 2 inch pieces and add to kale. Saute for about 5 minutes. Kale should be soft and asparagus softened but still slightly al dente.
  • Turn off heat and add lemon zest, spring onions and thyme and stir
  • Add pasta and parmesan, toss to combine, adding pasta water to desired consistency.
  • Top with more parmesan, if desired.

Meatless Monday – Eggplant, Kale & Tofu with Black Bean Sauce

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Are you a lover or a hater?  Tofu gets a bad rap and seems to trigger a love/hate reaction. I am totally a lover, I think it’s delicious and guilt free-just sayin’.  Let’s talk about what’s good about tofu besides the obvious – no animals were harmed in the making of my dinner!  Tofu is high in protein, low in fat, and naturally cholesterol-free. along with providing a whole slew of healthful nutrients. It is fairly bland in flavor and easily absorbs flavorful sauces and marinades so it’s easy to manipulate in cooking. So why does tofu get a bad rap?  Well some people just don’t like the taste and texture but there is controversy beyond the likability aspect. Tofu is a processed soy product, and the verdict is still out on it’s health benefits and risks.  For more info click HERE.  It’s quite a complicated topic and no one seems to agree.  So for now, I will keep making delicious (and guilt free) tofu dishes like this one with eggplant and a yummy black bean sauce.

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This dish was a bit hit in my house.  Tofu, cooked to crispy perfection, sauteed with eggplant and kale (still the darling of the day) and coated with a tasty spicy black bean sauce. Delicious and ready in less than 30 minutes!

TIPS:  Make sure you buy organic tofu.  Over 90% of tofu produced in the U.S.  is GMO and treated with ‘Roundup” which is a poison and shouldn’t be on your dinner plate.  The more liquid you can squeeze out of your tofu, the more flavor can be absorbed.

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EGGPLANT, KALE & TOFU WITH BLACK BEAN SAUCE

14 oz firm tofu
2 Tbsn vegetable oil (avocado, coconut or other high heat oil)
1 globe or 2 Japanese eggplants
1/2 bunch (6-7 kale leaves, 0r other bitter green like collards, mustard greens or broccoli rabe)

BLACK BEAN SAUCE
2 Tbsn black bean sauce
1 tsp chili sauce (or paste)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp corn starch
1/2 tsp white or apple cider vinegar
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced (or 1 tsp garlic paste)
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

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  • Slice tofu block into 1 inch slices and place on double paper towels.  Cover with double paper towels and place a heavy object on top (like a heavy pan or cutting board with canned goods) to press out the water.  Let sit at least 10 minutes.  Then cut into 1 inch dice. Set aside.

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  • Cut unpeeled eggplant into 1 inch dice. Set aside.

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  • Remove rib from kale (either tearing with your hands or using a sharp knife), then cut into 1-2 inch pieces. Set aside.

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  • In a small bowl whisk together the ingredients for the black bean sauce. Set aside.

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  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a well-seasoned cast iron pan or non-stick pan over medium high heat. Add the tofu and cook until light brown, turning each piece over to brown all four sides, about 8-10 minutes. If tofu is sticking add a bit more oil. Remove tofu from pan and set aside.

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  • Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan over medium high heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring frequently, until it is soft, about 8-10 minutes. If it sticks or seems to dry, add a few tablespoons of water instead of more oil.

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  • Stir in the kale and cook until it softens, 2-3 minutes.

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  • Pour in the sauce and stir to combine.  Fold in the crispy tofu  and cook until the sauce is thick and coats the vegetables, about a minute.

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  • Serve with brown rice or noodles.

 

Eggplant, Kale & Tofu with Black Bean Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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14 oz firm tofu
2 Tbsn vegetable oil (avocado, coconut or other high heat oil)
1 globe or 2 Japanese eggplants
1/2 bunch (6-7 kale leaves, 0r other bitter green like collards, mustard greens or broccoli rabe)

BLACK BEAN SAUCE
2 Tbsn black bean sauce
1 tsp chili sauce (or paste)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp corn starch
1/2 tsp white or apple cider vinegar
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced (or 1 tsp garlic paste)
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

 

  • Slice tofu block into 1 inch slices and place on double paper towels.  Cover with double paper towels and place a heavy object on top (like a heavy pan or cutting board with canned goods) to press out the water.  Let sit at least 10 minutes.  Then cut into 1 inch dice. Set aside.
  • Cut unpeeled eggplant into 1 inch dice. Set aside.
  • Remove rib from kale (either tearing with your hands or using a sharp knife), then cut into 1-2 inch pieces. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the ingredients for the black bean sauce. Set aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a well-seasoned cast iron pan or non-stick pan over medium high heat. Add the tofu and cook until light brown, turning each piece over to brown all four sides, about 8-10 minutes. If tofu is sticking add a bit more oil. Remove tofu from pan and set aside.
  • Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan over medium high heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring frequently, until it is soft, about 8-10 minutes. If it sticks or seems to dry, add a few tablespoons of water instead of more oil.
  • Stir in the kale and cook until it softens, 2-3 minutes.
  • Pour in the sauce and stir to combine.  Fold in the crispy tofu  and cook until the sauce is thick and coats the vegetables, about a minute.
  • Serve with brown rice or noodles.

Meatless Monday -Pasta with Fried Lemons, Kale & Chili Flakes

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Pasta with Fried Lemon13

Fried Lemon?  Yes, you read correctly.  Even the lowly potato is turned from wallflower into the life of the party when fried in oil, so just imagine what frying can do to a crowd pleaser like the lemon! I have a Meyer Lemon tree outside my kitchen door which is exploding with lemons.  Most lemon trees have two crops a year, a summer crop and a winter crop which, surprisingly is the larger of the two. The winter crop is right now so lemons should be plentiful and inexpensive.   My freak of nature tree, however, has lemons all year around and right now it is so heavily laden with fruit that branches are bending under the weight.  Just take a look at this bounty! I can’t even get the whole tree in the photo.  It might be time to make some more Limoncello

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It has become a job (a fun one) to figure out how to use all my lemons, and not just sending every visitor home with bags full. So when I see a new way to use lemons, I get excited, especially when the lemon is treated as an actual fruit and not just a flavoring.  In fact, lemons are so good for us, we would all do well to include more of them in our diets.  A Care2 Article lists 16 health benefits of eating lemons and how they are good for our bodies, beyond the big dose of Vitamin C they provide.  Even though lemons are acidic in taste, they are one of the most alkaline-forming foods in our bodies which helps restore our pH balance.  Lemons also stimulate  our livers and cleanses our bowels, to name only a few benefits of the wonderful lemon.  I have seen a couple of recipes lately for fried lemon and after researching the various techniques, I decided to try the method in which thinly sliced lemon wheels are dredged in flour and fried in oil until golden brown and crispy.  I was not disappointed.  Fried lemons are delicious, a perfect combination of crispy,  salty, chewy and tart.  They make a great garnish and will elevate even a simple dish into something more elegant.  I decided to revamp a favorite but simple recipe that I have done in the past, Garlicky Kale Pasta with Lemon and Parmesan, using the same ingredients but a different technique.  This time I fried the lemons into crispy little wheels and sauteed julienned Dino Kale in butter, olive oil, garlic and chili flakes.  Tossed together with spaghetti, delicious!

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TIPS:  If you are not a devout believer in kale, spinach would make a great substitute, just reduce the cooking time or the spinach will get too soft.  Meyer lemons are sweeter and less acidic than the typical grocery store lemon, usually the Eureka lemon.  It also has a thinner skin and the pith is not so pronounced or bitter, making it perfectly suitable for eating whole, however, Eureka lemons can be used as well.  Some recipes suggested blanching the slices first in boiling water and adding a pinch of sugar to the flour before frying to reduce the bitterness, so that is worth a try if you are not using Meyer lemons.  Otherwise, add whatever fresh herbs you have available.  You can’t go wrong.

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PASTA WITH FRIED LEMONS, KALE AND CHILI FLAKES

3-4 lemons (preferably Meyer Lemon)
1/2 pound spaghetti (or other pasta shape)
2 Tbsn extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
2 Tbsn unsalted butter (or use more oil)
5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsn fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
¾ tsp chile flakes, more to taste
1 bunch dino kale or spinach
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

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  • Prepare fried lemon (1 or 2 lemons)  according to directions below and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to directions, drain, reserving a half cup of cooking liquid.

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  • While the pasta is cooking, finely zest 2 of the lemons and set aside.

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  • Cut the center rib from the kale (if using) and slice the kale into 1/2 inch strips about 4 inches long.

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  • Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, chile flakes, thyme and lemon zest (reserving some for garnish) and cook until fragrant.

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  • Add kale and saute about five minutes, or until softened.

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  • Toss in pasta and reserved pasta water.  If you like it extra lemony, add a squeeze of lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with the carmelized lemons and parmesan cheese, if using and garnish with additional lemon zest.

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FRIED LEMONS

1-2 lemons (preferably Meyer Lemon)
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup oil (olive, coconut or avocado)

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  • Mix flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl or pie pan and set aside.
  • Slice unpeeled lemon into paper-thin slices and remove any seeds.
  • Heat olive oil in a brimmed skillet on the stove on medium-high until hot.

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  • Dredge each lemon slice in the flour mixture, shake off any excess and place in the oil.

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  • Cook for approximately 1 minute on each side until browned.  Remove from heat and let cool on a paper towel. They will crisp as they cool.

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  •  Serve as a garnish or stir them into pasta or salad

Pasta with Fried Lemon, Kale and Chili Flakes

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 Pasta with Fried Lemon13

3-4 lemons (preferably Meyer Lemon)
1/2 pound spaghetti (or other pasta shape)
2 Tbsn extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
2 Tbsn unsalted butter (or use more oil)
5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsn fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
¾ tsp chile flakes, more to taste
1 bunch dino kale or spinach
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Prepare fried lemon (1 or 2 lemons)  according to directions below and set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to directions, drain, reserving a half cup of cooking liquid.
  • While the pasta is cooking, finely zest 2 of the lemons and set aside.
  • Cut the center rib from the kale (if using) and slice the kale into 1/2 inch strips about 4 inches long.
  • Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, chile flakes, thyme and lemon zest (reserving some for garnish) and cook until fragrant.
  • Add kale and sautee about five minutes, or until softened.
  • Toss in pasta and reserved pasta water.  If you like it extra lemony, add a squeeze of lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the carmelized lemons and parmesan cheese, if using.
  • Garnish with additional lemon zest.

FRIED LEMONS

1-2 lemons (preferably Meyer Lemon)
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup oil (olive, coconut or avocado)

  • Mix flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl or pie pan and set aside.
  • Slice unpeeled lemon into paper-thin slices.
  • Heat olive oil in a brimmed skillet on the stove on medium-high until hot.
  • Dredge each lemon slice in the flour mixture, shake off any excess and place in the oil.
  • Cook for approximately 1 minute on each side until browned.  Remove from heat and let cool on a paper towel. They will crisp as they cool.
  • Serve as a garnish or stir them into pasta or salad

Meatless Monday – Sweet Potato and Kale Gratin

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Comfort food. For some people that might be chicken soup or macaroni and cheese but whatever your go to dish might be, you may want to add this creamy, savory, slightly sweet and surprisingly rich gratin.   I love when readers send me recipes or offer suggestions!  I was at a book event last week when reader and friend, Patti Boston, asked me if I had made the Sweet Potato and Kale Gratin that was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle last week.  Patti had tried the recipe and loved it, so what was I to do?  Of course I had to give it a try.  Now this is not a combination I would normally have made up on my own, so I followed the recipe pretty carefully, with one exception.  Instead of using one cup of whole milk and one cup of heavy cream, I used 1 1/2 cups of milk and 1/2 cup of plain yogurt. I often use plain yogurt to replace some of all of the cream, sour cream or mayo that is called for in many recipes.  I think it’s a healthier option and provides great results.  My favorite milk and yogurt are from local, Straus Family Creamery.  Not only do I love their products but I appreciate their dedication to animal welfare, including the calves, which is not common in the dairy industry. All their cows are free to roam in pastures and are fed organic, non-GMO food. The creamery is also environmentally aware, using reusable (and returnable) glass bottles and renewable power in their methane digester (yes, I’m talking about poop to power).

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Kale is still the darling of the culinary world and rightly so. It reigns as one of the world’s healthiest foods, providing protein, fiber and a wealth of vitamins and minerals.   Sweet potatoes add more than just a creamy, sweet flavor.  They are a great source of beta carotene, as evidenced by their brilliant orange color.  Did you know that adding a bit of fat to your sweet potatoes allows your body to maximize the nutrition, or make it more  usable? (So don’t sweat that pat of butter). Together, kale and sweet potatoes make a delicious and nutritious team.  Let me know if you try it.  As always, I appreciate photos and will post them to my You Made It! page.

TIP:  If you have a pan that can go from stovetop to oven, this becomes a one pot dish.  Otherwise saute the vegetables on the stovetop then pile it all into a buttered baking dish to bake in the oven.  I chose to use a combination of whole milk and plain yogurt but you can use half milk and half heavy cream, as the original recipe calls for, or any combination that appeals to you. Next time I make this dish I will most likely consider replacing some or all of the milk and cream with vegetable broth as a lower calorie, less fat option.

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SWEET POTATO AND KALE GRATIN

2 pounds sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter + more for the gratin dish
1 small yellow onion, julienned
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 cups lacinato kale
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 cup whole milk + extra as needed
cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Peel and slice sweet potatoes into 1/4 inch rounds.  Set aside.

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Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic, cover and cook until completely soft, about 10 minutes. (Keeping the pan covered will help prevent browning.)

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Remove the tough core of the kale and slice into julienne strips.  When the onions are soft and translucent, add the kale, cover again, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the rosemary.

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Add the milk and yogurt, bring to a simmer, and cook about 10 minutes until reduced by one-quarter.

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Remove from the heat and season with more salt; you will want the mixture on the salty side.

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With the pan off the heat, add the sliced sweet potatoes and 1 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir to coat the slices.

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Butter a 10-inch round or oval gratin dish. Transfer the potato mixture to the gratin dish, spreading it evenly in the dish. You may need to add a little extra milk; it should look like a little liquid is seeping out of the gratin. Top with the remaining ½ cup of cheese.Cover the gratin with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes, or longer until fork tender.

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Uncover, then bake another 15-20 minutes, until the top is brown. Serve hot or at warm room temperature.

Sweet Potato and Kale Gratin

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Sweet Potato Kale11

2 pounds sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter + more for the gratin dish
1 small yellow onion, julienned
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 cups lacinato kale
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 cup whole milk + extra as needed
cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

  • Preheat oven to 350. Peel and slice sweet potatoes into 1/4 inch rounds. Set aside.
  • Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic, cover and cook until completely soft, about 10 minutes. (Keeping the pan covered will help prevent browning.)
  • Remove the tough core of the kale and slice into julienne strips.  When the onions are soft and translucent, add the kale, cover again, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the rosemary.
  • Add the milk and yogurt, bring to a simmer, and cook about 10 minutes until reduced by one-quarter
  • Remove from the heat and season with more salt; you will want the mixture on the salty side.
  • With the pan off the heat, add the sliced sweet potatoes and 1 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir to coat the slices.
  • Butter a 10 inch round or oval gratin dish. Transfer the potato mixture to the gratin dish, spreading it evenly in the dish. You may need to add a little extra milk. It should look like a little liquid is seeping out of the gratin. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup parmesan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes or longer, until fork tender.
  • Uncover, then bake another 15-20 minutes, until the top is brown. Serve hot or at warm room temperature

 

Meatless Monday – Garlicky Kale Pasta with Lemon and Parmesan

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CAN WE GET A KALE YEAH!!!  I spotted that slogan on a billboard for Naked Juice in Boston and knew I was going to be making kale  soon.  Kale, also known as the ‘Queen of Greens’  is the culinary darling of the moment although I have not personally gone kale crazy. I like kale all right but I just like other leafy greens better.  That said, I really like this garlicky, lemon, kale pasta dish that I adapted from ivillage.com .  It’s very simple, only six ingredients, allowing each flavor to shine, and can be made using only one pot.  I normally don’t like boiling vegetables since nutrients are lost in the water, but in this case, the pasta is cooked in the salty kale cooking water and the resulting pasta is way more flavorful than when just cooked in plain water.  The pasta definitely absorbed some of the kale flavor, and hopefully some of the nutrients as well.

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Want to hear more about kale?  Did you know it is closer to the cabbage and broccoli families than chard or other leafy greens? It’s kind of like a wild cabbage whose leaves don’t form a head-a bit of a free spirit.  Kale is a great source of fiber and an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K , as well as many important phytonutrients. In selecting kale, smaller leaves are usually more tender and less bitter than larger leaves but you may need to use more as the yield will also be smaller.  The center rib is edible but very fibrous, so unless the kale is going into a soup where it gets cooked for a while, the rib is usually removed and discarded. The photo below shows curly, dino (lacinato) and purple kale.  Click HERE for more info on the different types of kale.

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TIP:  I used curly kale but dino kale, or any other type will work just fine.  Curly kale is a bit more bitter and fibrous and may need to cook longer than other types. There is a perfect point in cooking kale where it is tender and the natural sweetness comes out.  Cooked too long, kale can get bitter again and it loses it’s beautiful bright green or purple color.  Spinach may be substituted for non-kale lovers.  Just use twice as much spinach since it shrinks so much during cooking. If you want to add some protein or make this a heartier dish, stir in  a cup of cooked white beans.  Since I was cooking this dish for myself, I reduced the ratio of pasta to kale because I like extra veggies.

Pasta with Garlicky Kale, Lemon and Parmesan

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 pound kale (or more if you like heavy veggies)
3/4 – 1 pound spaghetti
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved or freshly grated (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

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  • Remove the tough core and stem from the kale and slice into ribbons.

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  • Rinse well.

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  • Wash and dry lemon (drying with a cloth or papertowel removes any residual debris).  Zest the lemon before cutting in half to juice.

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  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the kale and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until tender. Using a mesh spoon or sieve, scoop the kale out of the water and transfer to a bowl or platter. Return the water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook, stirring often to ensure it doesn’t stick together, for about 8 minutes, or until tender but still firm to the bite. Scoop out and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the spaghetti.

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  • Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup of the olive oil and the garlic and cook for about a minute, or just until fragrant. Stir in the kale, add the lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper.

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  • Add the spaghetti and the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and toss to coat. Stir in the lemon juice, followed by half of the Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in enough of the reserved cooking water to moisten the pasta as necessary.

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  • Divide the pasta among four pasta bowls, top with the remaining Parmesan cheese, and serve.


3 Kale Photo Credit:  PopSugar

 

 

Meatless Monday – Penne with Braised Greens

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Pasta is the ultimate comfort food.  It is simple and inexpensive to make and very versatile.  Most comfort foods are warm and oozing with creamy sauce and cheeses (think lasagne or mac and cheese), but as I am married to a non-creamy food guy, I usually opt for sauces that are broth based with an optional cheese topping. Cooking with broth adds flavor without all the extra calories.    In this dish I braised the greens in a reduced vegetable broth with onions and garlic and a touch of crushed red pepper flakes.  I added baby lima beans for a protein boost, and to help fill up our tummies, although any bean or legume would work fine.  There is nothing worse than finding yourself back at the refrigerator rooting around  for something to eat 30 minutes after dinner.  Braising greens, or cooking them in a bit of liquid just until they wilt,  is a great way to use excess salad or garden greens, even beet or  turnip tops that you might normally throw away.  Using a combination of greens like spinach, chard, kale, collards, mustard, bok choy or  raddichio makes for a more interesting flavor and braising them brings out the intense greens and reds, unless you cook them too long, then they turn to mush.  Don’t worry if it seems like too many greens, as they reduce quite a bit in volume when they wilt.  You can always add a handful more, if desired, since they cook quickly.

So we all know that greens are good for us but it turns out that the bitter in them actually serves a purpose.  It sends a chemical reaction through our bodies that helps absorb nutrients, cleanses the body, increases metabolism and curbs our sweet tooth, among other things, so feel free to pile them on.  .  Read more.

This is a light but satisfying dish that is pleasing to both the eye and the palate.  For a heartier dish, use white cannelini beans and top with shaved or shredded parmesan.  You can also increase the amount of broth, onions and garlic if you like a lot of sauce.  Buon appetito!

 

Penne with Braised Greens

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

3/4 lb dry penne pasta (preferably whole grain)

1 T olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 large or 1 small onion, diced

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1 cup baby lima beans, edamame or peas (frozen or fresh)

3 -4 cups mixed greens(chard, spinach, kale)

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp salt

1/4- 1/2  tsp red pepper flakes

 

  • Cook the pasta according to package directions in boiling salted water.  Drain  and set aside.  You can drizzle with a bit of olive oil to keep from sticking if desired.
  • In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Saute the minced garlic, onion and red pepper flakes  for two minutes, until the onion is translucent.

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  • Pour in broth and reduce by half, 5 to 10 minutes

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  • Add the  beans and cook for about five minutes.

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  • Stir in greens and cook several more minutes until they wilt.
  • Add the pasta, lemon zest and salt.  Adjust seasonings if necessary.

Options:  Top with flaked or grated parmesan or toasted nuts, if desired.  For a heartier meal, substitute or add cannelini beans.

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Meatless Monday – White Bean & Kale Dip

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Kale is the current ‘It’ food. We have Kale Chips, Kale Smoothies, Sauteed Kale and Kale salads. I guarantee if you show up at a party bearing anything with Kale, you will be heralded as a hip Foodanista.  I don’t want to knock kale, because it really is a nutritional powerhouse definitely worthy of being the star of the latest food fad. It’s not called ‘The Queen of Greens’ for nothing!   “One cup of chopped kale contains 33 calories and 9% of the daily value of calcium, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and a whopping 684% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. (www.webmd.com)

Combine kale with white beans which are high in minerals, fiber and protein and you’ve got a snack worthy of superman. White Bean and Kale Dip combines some of my favorite flavors, white beans (cannellini), kale, cayenne, cumin, lemon, tahini and pine nuts and has none of the fattening creams or cheeses (which I love but am trying to cut back on).  The creaminess in this dip comes from the white beans, pine nuts and a bit of olive oil, all healthy and nutritious.  More importantly, it is delicious! If you are looking for a yummy but healthy appetizer, then this is for you.  I served it with pita crackers but its also great with carrots and other raw veggies.  You can also spread it on toasted bread and add a sprig of arugula and tomato. Yum!

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There are a surprising number of recipes out there for White Bean and Kale Dip (or perhaps not so surprising given kale’s goddess status).  Variations include walnuts or cashews instead of pine nuts and spinach instead of kale.  I would recommend Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale, which is sweeter and less tough(chewy) than the curly type, for this recipe since we are using it raw. If you include nuts, I would recommend running them through the food processor or blender to make a fine powder before adding the other ingredients. You could probably also use an almond or cashew butter if you have it  instead.  Otherwise, this dip only takes a few minutes to put together but it needs at least an hour to chill in the refrigerator to firm up. I actually thought it tasted better the next day.  So time to jump on the Kale Bandwagon if you haven’t done so already!

White Bean and Kale Dip

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 can white cannellini beans,- drained and rinsed
1 cup kale, roughly chopped
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
2 Tbsp tahini
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsn balsamic vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
Zest from ½ lemon
1 tsp cumin (optional)
 1/2 tsp black pepper
½ tsp cayenne (or more to taste)
Salt to taste
1/4 cup water, if needed

White Bean and Kale Dip

Directions:

  •  If you’re using nuts, process them into a fine powder in the food processor before adding the other ingredients.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Add water if needed to blend ingredients.
  • Pour into a serving dish and chill in fridge for 1 hour or more.  It will thicken quite a bit and the flavors will meld.
  • Serve with crackers or raw veggies.

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