Posts tagged ‘kale’
Farmers Markets were not something I frequented while living in Boston. While there were some great ones to choose from, I was intimidated by the crowds and the price tag. Since moving, however, Dan and I have become major converts to all of the fun, fresh, local ingredients that you can find at the market. While certain items can still be pricey, there can be some great deals on seasonal fruits and vegetables that all begged to be picked at once. We have also learned that there are some things that are worth the extra dollar or two! The best part is getting to know the vendors and supporting local business. We are on first name basis now with “The Egg Lady” and know who has the best tasting tomatoes or the best prices on lettuce. We go every weekend that I have off for some staples (eggs, seasonal vegetables, and occasionally some local berries or peaches) and allow ourselves one splurge per visit (usually locally-raised meat, fancy cheese, a bottle of local wine, etc.)
Here are some of the things we have found lately!
Staples: Seasonal Green Vegetables
One of my menu planning strategies is to not plan my vegetable sides. Why? This allows me to look for deals on what looks best or has the best price at the market. I am able to make a list generated by the main component of the meal for the grocery store, and then make sure I pick up 4-5 varieties of vegetables to accompany my meals for the week! Some of my farmers market favorites are zucchini, sweet corn, and lettuce, as these are low-fuss to prepare during the week and are usually abundant. The most notable find, however, was this gigantic bunch of kale grown by the local middle school gardening club that I picked up for just $2!
Worth it: Eggs
Farm fresh eggs are worth every extra penny, in our opinion. Not only do the chickens that lay them live a happier and healthier life, but the resultant quality of the eggs is incomparable to anything you could get in the grocery store. Not a believer at first, my husband directly compared a cage free, organic egg from Trader Joe’s to one from our favorite vendor at the Delmar Farmer’s Market. While the egg at Trader Joe’s was sunshine yellow, there was no comparison to the golden yolk that came from the farm fresh egg. The egg whites are also less runny, which means that our fried eggs are much easier to cook perfectly. He is now such a convert that we are now on first name basis with the egg vendor, and may even head to their farm one weekend to meet the chickens and pick our own dozen!
Not convinced? Here is a picture of our typical Sunday morning breakfast. Drool.
Treat yourself: Flowers
For weeks, I had been eyeing the gorgeous zinnias and dahlias, lusting after the gorgeous colors. While flowers are never cheap, some farmers market bunches can run upwards of $10 for a small bouquet. Since they are not a necessity in our weekly budget, I held out for the perfect occasion to splurge on these beauties. Finally getting the new table that my sister and brother-in-law hand-crafted for me seemed like the perfect occasion!
Putting it all Together: My Favorite Meal
One of my favorite meals from the summer is actually one of our simplest. We put together a salad from the bounty we had picked up at the market the day before, and boy was it good! The base was a baby lettuce blend with arugula, topped off with cucumbers, local aged goat-milk cheese, and a poached egg. I also threw in a handful of sweet strawberries that we picked ourselves at a local farm, and finished the salad with a simple balsamic vinegar reduction. I wish salads always tasted this good!
Question: Are you a farmers market fan? Share some tips and favorite finds below!
If you haven’t noticed, I am rather passionate about those three words in the title. Food should be simple, healthy, and delicious. Simply put. I often feel like a broken record, but there are times where even I forget that. When life gets busy, take-out seems easier. Healthy seems to fall by the wayside. Delicious seems like a luxury.
I have been doing lots of reading and research for school about talking with and educating patients about nutrition and developing healthy lifestyle habits. It is remarkable how ineffective we as a medical community have been at focusing on prevention of chronic disease! As I read more about the “standard American diet,” often pithily labeled the “SAD” diet, I think that the lack of nutrition in the average diet can’t all be related to lack of access or knowledge. I often think that healthy eating, generally, feels the opposite of the things above. Prepping fruits and vegetables does not feel simple. It is time-consuming and takes planning and thought. Kale also isn’t always the most appetizing, even for the biggest veggie enthusiast. So… how do we find a way to unify these words again?
Take some short cuts every once in a while! I recently discovered the pre-cut items at Trader Joe’s and have instantly fallen in love. (I know, I catch on slowly.) Broccoli slaw, spinach, kale… you name it! Cut, washed and ready to go, there isn’t an easier way to get greens on your dinner plate! While the bag of kale will be marked up compared to a bunch of it, the time savings is often worth it. So that takes care of the simple, now what about the healthy? Trader Joe’s (and Costco!) also have a great line of flavorful chicken sausages that add tons of interest to any simple meal! I really like the Chipotle Mango Chicken sausage, but my favorite is the Spinach and Red Pepper Chicken sausage (from Costco). There is so much flavor packed into each bite of these sausages that a lot of the work in finishing off your delicious meal is done for you! Try out the recipe below- packed with protein, fiber, and flavor, there is no better quick fix to get greens on your weeknight dinner table!
Are you as convinced as I am that food should meet all of those three criteria? Then share with me your tips and tricks for making healthy eating simple and delicious!
Chicken Sausage, Kale and Quinoa Salad
1/2 white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
1 cup quinoa
1 cup low sodium vegetable broth (or chicken)
1 cup water
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
5 Roasted Red Pepper and Spinach Chicken sausage links
Parmesan cheese, to serve
In a medium saucepan, saute garlic and onion in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes or until soft. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and stir for 1 minute. Add the quinoa, then stir for about 3 minutes or until the quinoa is well toasted. Add the water, broth, and vinegar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer until the quinoa is cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Meanwhile, steam the kale until just before it is soft. (I microwaved it with a bit of water for 3 minutes). Also cook the chicken sausage links in a frying or grill pan until crispy on the outside and heated through. Slice the chicken sausage links into bite-sized rounds. Stir together the quinoa, cooked kale and chicken sausage until well-combined. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
Some days, comfort food is a necessity. Specifically, rainy days filled with grumpy patients, impossible automated phone calls, and traffic. After a rather benign but somehow still intolerable Friday, I dreamed up this comforting pasta bake while stuck in traffic on my way home. I had a bunch of leftover tidbits of ingredients from my Girl’s Night and a lot of leafy greens from my Boston Organics box that seemed to scream out for a creamy pasta dish. At first, I had an idea to make a grown-up version of my Mom’s amazing mac n’ cheese, which was inspired by our favorite white pizza. However, I saw the tomatoes and sauce calling out to be used and morphed this into a Tomato Basil Pasta bake. (I will have to come back to that other idea though!) To me, comfort equates to carbs and cheese, but done in a way that avoids the bloaty, to0-full feeling that plagues me after most rich pastas. For this dish, the ricotta adds the rich creaminess without making it too heavy, and the 1:1 pasta and greens ratio helps make this a healthier version of a typical cheesey pasta. Try this the next time a long day at work leaves you craving comfort!
Tomato Basil Pasta Bake
1/2 box whole wheat rotini
1 large bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
4 on-the vine tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup)
3/4 cup fat-free ricotta
1/2 cup low sodium pasta sauce
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 +1/4 cup parmesan cheese, separated
1 tbsp basil, chiffonade
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350. Cook pasta according to directions, but stop 1-2 minutes shy of recommended cooking time for very al dente pasta. Meanwhile, prepare the kale and place in your pasta strainer. Strain your pasta over the kale, allowing the hot water to slightly steam the kale. (You don’t want to cook it, just soften it so that it stirs into the pasta better). In a separate bowl, mix together the remainder of the ingredients, except for separated 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Mix in the pasta and kale. Stir until well combined. Pour into an 8×8 brownie pan coated with cooking spray. Top with remaining parmesan cheese. Bake at 350F for 12 minutes or until heated through and the cheese has fully melted. Cut into rough squares and serve!
The biggest roadblock for me over the past few weeks as a vegan has been community. I feel awkward accepting dinner invitations, hesitant to ask for restrictions on what my friends can cook but also unable to eat what I am served without question. Dining out can be difficult, depending on the menu. Hosting should feel like the easiest option, but I get nervous about my friends reactions to my “weird vegan food.” However, sharing meals with friends is an important part of my life, and I needed to face my fears of communal vegan eating head on this weekend.
I met up with friends for lunch and was terrified of not being able to order anything at the tiny diner we ducked out of the snow into. I scanned the menu, seeing fancy omelettes, pancakes, homemade muffins… and I panicked. But then I saw the life-saving asterisk: for vegans/vegetarians, all eggs can be replaced with tofu or tempeh. At no extra charge, this was a miracle! I got to enjoy tempeh with home fries and veggies, which was a really filling and satisfying lunch! As my friend said, “only in JP,” commenting on the characteristic residents of this notoriously hippie Boston neighborhood. Not all restaurants are so vegan friendly, but I was happy to have a small hurdle to conquer my fear!
My evening was spent catching up with a few friends from school over dinner, so I got to conquer my fear of serving friends “weird vegan food” as well. It was also an easy hurdle, since four of them were independently doing their own vegan challenge, and one was a former vegan. We laughed about experiences with friends, family, and servers; commiserated over the questioning of preparation methods and scanning of ingredients lists; and swapped recipes and new foods to try. It was such a great night, and the food was a hit!
To avoid the, “Um, what did you say that is?” reaction, I wanted to find a recipe recreation that would be familiar to people’s taste buds. I chose Mama Pea’s Thai Fried Quinoa, since it harkens Thai pineapple fried rice and can be customized with various toppings. It was a huge hit and definitely a recipe I will make again! On the side, I made Sesame Kale Chips. Kale is a veggie-lovers green, but I have never met someone who could turn down a crispy kale chip. Even my Dad loves kale this way, despite his usual turned up nose when it appears in soups and stews! I omitted the lemon juice, used a little less oil, and added a dash of ginger. I will definitely be playing with different seasonings for my kale chips from now on, since these were so flavorful and not just overly salty! The green stuff went faster than the main dish, which I think speaks volumes!
Vegan desserts on their own can be tricky, but another wrench was thrown in – my friends were also not eating any added sugar! Good thing I had these muffins on hand! A friend and I baked on Friday night, and certainly got our peanut butter and chocolate fix with these. I put out the rest of the muffins for dessert, and my friends were so excited to be able to enjoy a sweet treat at the end of the meal! You can’t go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate, and the natural sweetness comes from the dates. They are even healthy enough to fill the role of an on-the-go breakfast, making these another make again recipe!
What I learned from my Saturday: don’t let fear hold you back! It might take a little more creativity, planning and thought, but you can enjoy communal meals and laughter with friends, no matter what your current food lifestyle choices are!
Question: Have you ever been afraid of friends reactions to food you serve?
Time for another WIAW! Thank goodness this is a short week! I really needed Monday to recover from my half-marathon and other related festivities! I spent the day doing laundry, prepping snacks for the week, and enjoying good muscle-recovery food. Here is a glimpse into my day of domestic recovery!
I woke up much earlier than planned because I was starving! I guess running 13.1 miles the day before will do that to you! I grabbed a handful of granola and tried to fall back asleep, but eventually gave in and got up. I am done with my sugar fast, so I enjoyed jam again for the first time in three weeks! One of my favorite combos on toast is berry jam with goat cheese, and this sandwich was made extra special by homemade blackberry jam from my visit to Italy and fancy bread from the pre-race pasta party.
I spent most of my morning catching up on blog writing and reading, cleaning, doing laundry, and making snacks for the rest of the week! I made these bars from Miss Smart, and enjoyed a few bites as I was rolling them out! I also made these cookie dough balls from Chocolate Covered Katie, taste testing a bit here and there!
Vitamins and minerals in leafy greens are also essential for muscle recovery, so I made myself a big raw kale salad! Angela recommends allowing the kale to marinate in the dressing for 15 minutes, so that is what I did. The result: balsamic marinated raw kale with cranberries, celery and almonds. I was surprised at how good this was! The kale softened a bit in the dressing and had more flavor and crunch than normal lettuce leaves. And how could a combo of balsamic, almonds, and cranberries be bad?
I received a bag of whole almonds as a gift, and just couldn’t let them go to waste! I spent some time shelling them, and then made Chelsey’s cocoa roasted almonds. I probably nibbled as many cracked almond pieces as I did get successfully shelled almonds, but at least nothing went to waste. ;) And now I have a great study snack to satisfy any chocolate cravings I might have in the next few weeks! Afternoon snacking was rounded out by a crisp apple, though not pictured.
My original plan for the afternoon was to make a Roasted Garlic and Potato soup that I have been daydreaming of for a while, complete with some homemade bread, but the unseasonable weather changed my mood! After having the oven on for only 20 minutes to roast the almonds, I decided it was way too hot out to make soup and bread. I pushed that recipe back into my head until it cools down later in the week, and settled on some leftover barley and beet risotto instead. Served with a little shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on top – just as good as the first time! My night was finished off with a handful or two of BBQ potato chips and a glass of red wine while studying with a friend – a little splurge to treat myself for the previous day’s work!
Hope to be making that soup later today now that fall is back in Boston… stop by later this week to see the results!
Question: What is the best thing you ate today?
Everyone has their own theory on how to best prepare for a big race. One camp: Eat a lot of carbs the week before, but carbo-loading the night before is a bad idea. Another group: Eat as you normally do, changing nothing from the way you have been training. Traditional opinion: Carbo-load. There are so many schools of thought, and I have no real opinion. I am, however, a firm believer that friendship and support the night before a big race is the best medicine.
That being said, I invited all of my Boston friends running the half-marathon over for a homemade pasta party the night before our half-marathon. Some were running their first race, while others have run half and whole marathons (one even qualified for Boston!) We made fresh pasta, enjoyed a good meal, swapped stories from previous races and tips for race day. We laughed and joked, getting nervous energy out before the big day and bonding over our collective goal of running 13.1 miles.
Before my friends arrived, I started on the pasta sauce. I roasted some garlic in the oven, then chopped that and sautéed it with some onions. I added whole, peeled tomatoes with the paste they were canned in, and let it all come to a boil. I used the immersion blender to get a nice smooth base, and then added one more can of tomatoes, as well as some salt, pepper, parsley, and bay leaves for seasoning. To make it sugar-free, I added a few spoonfuls of apple sauce, simply to cut the bitterness of the tomatoes. I left it uncovered and let it continue to simmer, allowing the whole tomatoes from the last can to break down into chunks. The sauce came out perfectly, and was really easy to make!
Rolling out pasta for 10 people is a big job, but many hands make light work! It was fun to show my friends how to make the dough, then roll it first into sheets and the cut it into strips. For a basic pasta recipe, see here. As they took over the rolling process, I pulled together a simple veggie side of kale with Balsamic vinegar, white beans and dried cranberries. The cranberries were an afterthought, but really made this dish. I will definitely make this again – over cous cous or quinoa, this would be a perfect weeknight meal for kale!
Everyone left full and happy, ready for our big race! I have shared the recipes from the evening, pared down into normal family sized meals. Feeding 10 hungry athletes required 3x this amount! This post is scheduled to go up as I am running. Wish us all luck and I will be back tomorrow with the race day recap and results!
Question: Have you run a race before? What are some of your pre-race traditions?
Classic Tomato Sauce
adapted from here, for 1 lb pasta
2 28 ounce cans whole tomatoes, packed in paste
3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp unsweetened apple sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 bay leaf
2 cloves roasted garlic
Wrap garlic cloves in foil and roast in toaster or conventional oven at 350 degrees for a half hour. Mince the roasted garlic finely, along with the onion. Saute in olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until the onions begin to soften. Add the red wine vine vinegar and one of the cans of tomatoes. Allow to come to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Using an immersion blender, create a smooth base for the sauce. Add the second can of whole tomatoes, including the paste. Add the apple sauce and season with salt, pepper, parsley and a bay leaf. Allow to simmer uncovered until the sauce begins to thicken. Occasionally, use your spoon to break the whole tomatoes down into chunks. Serve over cooked pasta, fresh or dried, with fresh chopped basil and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Kale with White Beans and Cranberries
serves 2 as a main dish (with a grain) or 4 as a side
1 bunch kale
1 can white beans
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3 cloves roasted garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Roast the garlic as instructed above. Mince, and saute in a large pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, remove the kale from the stems and tear into bite sized pieces. Rinse well, and add to the saute pan. Add the rinsed beans and Balsamic vinegar, cover with a lid, and allow to steam for 4-5 minutes. Add the cranberries and stir to combine. Serve hot, alone as a side dish or over a bed of cous cous or quinoa as a main dish.