Saturday, February 28, 2009

Soup: Black-eyed Peas with Kale

(Photo: Fresh greens from the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market Feb 28, 2009)

I went down to my Farmers' Market this morning to buy some fresh kale or other fresh hoop-house-grown Michigan greens, because I was so inspired by listening to my friend and chef Maggie Green, RD of The Green Apron Co. who was on the radio show 101 Foods to Save Your Life, broadcast on WYLL out of Chicago this morning. Maggie offered her tips for choosing kale at the market and used her black-eyed peas and greens soup recipe as just one example of how to easily use kale in a delicious recipe. You may hear Maggie on the podcast of the 2/28/09 show, along with me talking about the health benefits from eating kale, instead of leaving it as decoration on your plate! (oops - the podcast is not posted yet, so keep checking back to hear us "live" - I'll post the link when it is active. )

I started with some dried black-eyed peas that I found tucked away in the corner of my Hoosier cabinet, out of sight, out of mind, in other words rather old. After washing and sorting through them to discard those that clearly looked shriveled and/or discolored (only a few), I poured ~4 cups of boiling water over 1-1/2 cups of the dried peas and left them to sit soaking in a medium sauce pan for about 3-4 hours while I went to the Farmers' Market, walked my dog, and had lunch with friends. Upon returning home, I drained the peas, refilled the pan with ~4 cups of cool water, brought the water and peas to boil, then turned down the heat to let them simmer. Because these peas were many years old, I expected them to take forever to soften while cooking, but that was not the case. They were nicely tender after about ~2 hours (maybe even somewhat less time than that). Drain and set aside to add to the soup when ready (or don't bother with this step, which is the cheapest way to get your protein!, and use the frozen or canned black-eyed peas as suggested in this recipe, both options still very economical ways of consuming a healthy vegetable protein source).

(Photo: Fresh kale from Goetz Farm in Riga, MI, where the 265 acre farm is tilled each spring by 3 Clydesdale horses)


• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• ~1/2 roasted red pepper, chopped (I used my frozen peppers, those in jars ok, too)
• 1 medium carrot, scrubbed and chopped small
• 1/2 tsp. powdered cumin
• 1/8 tsp. powdered cayenne pepper (more to taste)
• 1/2 tsp. smoked sweet paprika (more to taste)
• One 16-ounce bag frozen black-eyed peas or 2 cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed (about 3 cups) (if cooking your own dried black-eyed peas earlier in the day, start with ~1-1/2 cup)
• 2-3 cups diced potatoes - wash, scrub (do not peel), dice in small pieces about the size of your little fingernail
• 8 ounces fresh or frozen chopped turnip greens or kale (I used ~2 cups, but could have easily used more) - do not use any tough stems (save in the freezer to make soup stock in the future) but tender ones are fine to chop and include
• 8 cups vegetable stock (preferably home-made and/or low-sodium)
• Salt to taste (I did not add any)
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste


1) Cook potato pieces and carrot pieces together in water to cover in a medium-size pot until tender but not so done that they fall apart or are mushy (check 10 minutes after water comes to a boil). Drain when done.

2) While potatoes and carrots are cooking, place oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, garlic, and peppers and cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes.

3) Add the cumin, cayenne, and smoked paprika seasonings to the onions, etc. Cook stirring for 1 minute. Do not burn garlic or seasonings.

4) Add the broth plus cooked black-eyed peas, chopped greens, cooked potatoes and carrots to onions etc in big soup pot. Bring all to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for ~15-20 minutes until broth and ingredients are heated through (only cook enough so that kale is still bright green). Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary (i.e., check here to see if any salt or black pepper is needed plus add any additional spicy and smoky seasonings to your family’s tastes). Serve immediately.

Makes 8 generous servings

(Photo: Diana's Black-eyed Pea and Kale Soup)

This recipe is vegan, without the usual addition of ham-hocks as in Maggie's original recipe. Instead, I added some smoked sweet red paprika to see if I could accomplish the delicious and satisfying smokey flavor that the ham-hocks would typically add. Thus I added the paprika at the very last step where I say to adjust the seasonings to taste to see if I could taste the difference before and after. All I can say is "Yes, I can!" Oh wow, yes the difference was notable (good before, fantastic afterward!). And I was surprised, too, because I thought I started small, initially adding only 1/2 teaspoon of the smoked paprika to the whole soup pot, i.e., for the 8 cups of broth and assorted beans and vegetables. I did not need to add any more, which is a very economical use of this spice, which might appear rather pricey at first blush (I will make a guesstimate that I might have used 10¢ worth). Thanks, Graham B. for introducing us to this spice. I feel like I cannot live without it now!

(Photo: Mixed young salad greens from Brines Farm - front)

Serve with a green salad (fresh salad greens were also hoop-house-grown and available at our Farmers' Market this morning), some cornbread or other fresh bread. We ate some of the young mixed salad greens pictured above plus my husband's Bird Seed bread; one day he'll get that recipe posted on his blog

Next time I make this soup, I think I'll try other fresh greens, like mustard greens (they were all sold by the time I got the Market this morning) or collard greens, both other delicious and nutritious relatives of kale. These greens also available frozen and fresh in most grocery stores (although often needing to be shipped cross-country), but I always try to support the local farmers in my community whenever possible. I love the tag line "Know your farmer!" at Brines Farm, one of my local farms. I hope you know and help support your farmers, too!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate! How about yours? After listening to this podcast, how are you inspired to use kale?

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Recipe: Spicy Lentil-Sweet Potato Patties with Kale

(Photo: Mini spicy lentil patties with unflavored yogurt - almost gone! I was too busy hosting my dietitian SOLE Sisters book club to get a photo of the full plate.)

I've entered this delicious, nutritious, easy, and cost-conscious recipe in a contest sponsored by the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission. Did I mention that it is a beautiful dish to serve, too? The recipe pictured at the top of the post is the "mini" version, just right for appetizers. Tonight for supper I am going to pull out the larger patties that I froze when making this recipe last week as my own fast food that is really slow food. :-)

I'm sure there will be lots and lots of scrumptious sweet potato recipes entered into this contest. I'm looking forward to seeing them and experimenting with adding kale (or other Brassica greens) to them, too, like I did to this recipe.

Recipe: Spicy Lentil-Sweet Potato with Kale Patties

(Photo: cooked lentils with garlic and seasonings added, cooked sweet potato waiting to be peeled, frozen kale waiting to chop, whole grain bread crumbs)

• 2 cups (1# bag) dry green lentils (they look brown, not green)
• 2 bay leaves
• 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. chili powder
• 1-2 tsp. ground cumin
• 1/2 tsp. coriander
• 1/2 tsp. black pepper
• 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper and mixed Italian herbs (each)
• 1 large sweet potato, baked, peeled, mashed
• 1-2 cups frozen kale, thawed, drained well, chopped small
• 1/2 cup bread crumbs (make yourself from left-over bread)
• 2 tsp. olive oil or parchment paper
• Fresh Salsa or unflavored yogurt

1) Combine lentils and bay leaf in large soup pot. Add water to cover by 3 inches. Boil until lentils are very tender, about 1 hour. Drain water from lentils and discard bay leaf. Transfer lentils to a large bowl and cool.
2) Then add seasonings. Stir with lentils until well blended. Cover lentils and refrigerate overnight.
3) Bake sweet potato(s) in oven or microwave. Cool, peel, and coarsely mash. Add mashed potato to lentil mixture the next day and mix well.
4) Chop kale, squeeze with your hands to make as dry as possible, then add to mixture
5) Using a spoon or both hands, form mixture into balls. Flatten each ball into a 1/2" pattie for the "mini" version. These can be any size (I made two dozen "mini-patties" plus several "burger-size"). Press breadcrumbs lightly onto patties. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes to 6 hours.
6) Heat in non-stick pan with small amount of olive oil or baked in oven on parchment paper until hot and crispy at 350 for 20-30 minutes (I baked mine). Flip over at the half-way point. Freeze any extras for a fast meal in the future.

(Photo: 24 mini spicy lentil patties ready to bake)

7) Serve warm or room temperature with salsa or plain, unflavored yogurt.

I served these mini patties (pictured at the top of the post) at my book club last week. Two different people tasted them before asking me what they were, and each independently declared that these were even better than falafel. Now that is a compliment!

Using sweet potatoes plus adding kale kicked this basic tasty lentil patty recipe up several notches for both flavor and nutrition. This recipe belongs in my file of "Nutrition Rock Stars" and will be used again and again in the future!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate (plus I use sweet potatoes every chance I get)!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Recipe: Diana's Kale-Bean Salad

(Photo: Kale-bean salad close-up)

For days after first tasting my husband's kale slaw, I kept thinking it reminded me of something else I had eaten, in fact eaten a lot of. Hmmmm, it finally came to me (aha!) that the dressing was very similar to my mother's recipe for a 3 bean salad. Thus, my recipe is a variation of Dick's kale slaw with several types of beans added to more mimic my mother's bean salad recipe and a couple of other changes, which turned out to be a very pleasant taste surprise.

I took this dish to the first picnic of the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers in July 2008. It was a hit (!!), so we have made it several times since. I included this dish as one of my three favorite kale recipes when I was interviewed about the health benefits of eating kale on the radio show 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life (to be aired February 28, 2009)

Kale-Bean Salad Recipe

Salad Ingredients:
• Fresh kale leaves (a variety is preferable, which you can easily grow or find at your local Farmers' Market, rather than only using the standard and tough curly kale found in the grocery store) - enough to end up with ~4 cups of small chop kale leaves without large stems
• 1/2 medium onion, small dice (I used a yellow onion from our garden)
• 1/3 fennel large bulb, small dice (or more to taste, but this was all I used)
• 1/2 red sweet pepper, small dice
• 1-2 cups garbanzo beans, cooked, drained (one 15 ounce can, rinsed well and drained, would work fine for all the beans)
• 1-2 cups black beans, cooked, drained
• 1-2 cups adzuki beans, cooked, drained
• 1-2 cups flageolet beans (or any white bean, but the light green of the flageolet beans adds a lovely, unusual color), cooked, drained
• 3-4 bulbs fresh garlic, very small dice (I used one huge elephant garlic clove)

Dressing Ingredients:
• 1/3 cup brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
• 2 tablespoons white vinegar
• ¼ cup water
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Blend dressing ingredients together in a blender or food processor (the fennel seeds did not completely blend but end up as chopped pieces, which is fine)

1) I washed the kale, trimmed away the big or tough stems, shook the leaves dry, then spun them in the salad spinner to dry even more (surprisingly little water was left after shaking dry initially). I diced the leaves into small pieces with a chef's knife. It sounds like a lot of work, but the dicing went quite quickly. In fact, I had picked more than enough kale from our garden.
2) Dice the onion, fennel, and red pepper.
3) Toss all together with the kale and beans in a very large bowl.
4) Add the dressing and toss again. This dressing recipe made the bare minimum of dressing for this amount of salad. I think next time I might experiment with making 1-1/2 times the dressing amount.
5) Allow to marinate to blend flavors, then transfer to a serving bowl where all the beautiful colors of this salad can be seen and appreciated.

I was worried both that the fennel would be too strong or that it would not be discernable. However, I was as pleased as could be at the subtle flavor that the amount of fresh fennel and seeds I used contributed to the overall salad. One friend attending the picnic where I took this salad said she didn't think she liked fennel but maybe she did! I don't recall that my mother ever used fresh fennel or fennel seeds in anything she cooked. I think adding the fennel and kale makes a refreshing update to her bean salad (which was my only introduction to dried beans while growing up).

Make a large batch of this colorful and delicious recipe, and enjoy 'good eatin' along with your good health for several days this week. :-)

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Kale on the Radio!

(Photo: Our garden kale last December ready for the last harvest before a large snowfall finally covered it all up for the season)

I was interviewed today about my passion for the health-promoting benefits of eating kale on an upcoming segment on the new radio show called 101 Foods to Save Your Life hosted by Dave Grotto, RD, author of the book by the same name. The show will air on Saturday February 28, 2009 at 8:30 AM Central time. There are 3 ways to hear it.
  1. Hear it live at 8:30am CST on AM 1160, WYLL (Chicago)
  2. Hear it streaming live at 8:30am CST at WYLL
  3. Catch the podcast after the airing date at Dave's radio show website
My friend, dietitian, and chef Maggie Green will also be on the show talking about how to prepare kale. Check out Maggie's great blog FromMyKitchenTable, which is one of my favorite blogs.

I only had 11 minutes on the show and (typically!) was over-prepared. I had so much I wanted to share about the benefits of eating kale (and its many relatives in the Brassica family) that there was not time to cover. So, of course, I'll be adding all that information to my blog, bit by bit.

So tune in to the radio show live on February 28 or catch the podcast at your convenience after the show airs. I certainly will be doing so because I want to hear if what I had to say made any sense at all (!!) and of course, I want to hear what helpful tips Maggie has to offer, too. :-)

Several of my kale recipes along with several from Maggie will be posted on Dave's website. Until then, I will continue moving many of my kale recipes over from my dianadyer blog while also posting new ones here.

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What's in kale? Calcium

(Photo: some of our garden kale in early Spring 2008 - not a photo today as we got more snow yesterday!)

Many of the brassica greens are good sources of available calcium, required for building and maintaining bones and teeth, muscle contractions and nerve conduction, blood pressure control, along with blood clotting. Along with the traditionally promoted dairy foods and other foods that are fortified with additional calcium (such as some soy milk, tofu, and orange juice among others), kale and other brassica greens such as collards, turnip, mustard, and bok choy can be substantial dietary sources of calcium for your diet.

Here are some examples of the calcium content for brassica vegetables:
Collard greens, cooked, 1 cup - 357 mg
Turnip greens, cooked, 1 cup - 249 mg
Kale, cooked, 1 cup - 179 mg
Bok choy, cooked, 1 cup - 158 mg
Mustard greens, cooked, 1 cup - 152 mg
Broccoli, cooked, 1 cup - 94 mg

The recommended dietary intake of calcium for adults age 19 through 50 years is 1000 mg per day from food and/or supplements. An intake of 1200 mg of calcium is recommended for those age 51 years and older. By looking at the figures in the above chart, one can see that daily intake from a variety of brassica greens can provide significant calcium to a healthy diet. 

In fact, a higher percentage of calcium is absorbed from some of these brassica vegetables (including kale) when compared to milk. An example to illustrate this is the following: 
• Milk contains 300 mg calcium/cup x 32% absorbed = 96 mg calcium absorbed    
• Kale contains 197 mg calcium/cup raw x 42% absorbed = 83 mg absorbed 
One can easily see from this example how kale can be an important dietary source calcium source for forming and maintaining healthy bones and teeth, along with the other essential functions that calcium performs in our body. Thus I have a question. Why not "Got Kale?"

A very good resource regarding calcium requirements and food sources for people following a vegan diet is The Vegetarian Resource Group.

Enjoy eating your kale (and all the other brassica greens) while you picture those calcium molecules building or maintaining your bones and all its other vital functions in your body. I do!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

What's in kale? USDA nutrient content data

(Photo: Homegrown kale, frozen, now thawing)

Here is a complete chart showing the nutrient content of 1 cup of chopped raw kale, an amount I would easily consume in a fresh salad, mixed with various other greens or as my husband's delicious kale slaw recipe.

The standouts are the high content of calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folic acid,
vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin K, potassium, manganese, copper, and even the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid). In addition to the carotenoid beta-carotene, kale contains other very important carotenoid molecules called lutein and zeaxanthin (both necessary for eye health) and numerous others (probably too many to count, and maybe even yet identified).

The fact that you can consume such a large quantity of these important nutrients from a food that is so easy to grow, readily available, easy to incorporate into many different delicious recipes, plus so low in calories is a huge bonus and reason to eat some kale 365 days of the year!

I plan to write posts in the upcoming months to give you more information about the importance of each of these nutrients and other molecules (phytochemicals not required for growth but important to optimize overall health) contained in kale and other brassica vegetables. Doing so will be a great review and fun for me; in fact, I can almost guarantee that I will learn something new, too, and I will enjoy sharing this information with you!

Kale (raw)

Scientific Name: Brassica oleracea (Acephala Group)

Nutrient Units 1 cup, chopped
67.000 g
Total lipid (fat)
Carbohydrate, by difference
Fiber, total dietary
Calcium, Ca
Iron, Fe
Magnesium, Mg
Phosphorus, P
Potassium, K
Sodium, Na
Zinc, Zn
Copper, Cu
Manganese, Mn
Selenium, Se
Vitamin C, ascorbic acid
Pantothenic acid
Vitamin B-6
Vitamin B-12
Vitamin A, IU
Vitamin A, RE
Vitamin E
Fatty acids, saturated
Fatty acids, monounsaturated
Fatty acids, polyunsaturated
Amino acids
Aspartic acid
Glutamic acid

USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 12 (March 1998)
Where kale is more than decoration on my plate (of course I eat that too if I know that it has been washed)!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Recipe: Hummus with Kale

Remember the spinach dip we all began making years (maybe decades) ago? The recipe is commonly served in a bread bowl and typically has used mayonnaise, sour cream, and some dried soup or salad seasoning for flavor, being very tasty but unfortunately also very high in total fat, saturated fat, sodium and low in fiber. Actually I had completely forgotten about that dip, having not made it or even seen it at parties for probably 20 years! So imagine my surprise when I had my husband taste the following recipe I created this afternoon and he said "this reminds me of that old spinach dip recipe, only better!"

He was right, by golly! I could not put my finger on exactly why I felt something stir in my memory "way back there" when I tasted this recipe, but as soon as he said that, I had to agree with him! I took this new dip recipe to a meeting of dietitians today. Dietitians love food but are discerning tasters, so the many compliments received for this recipe are high praise indeed.

This hummus recipe gives extra bang for the buck by including kale. Not only is a health-promoting Brassica vegetable incorporated in an unexpected recipe, but the hummus is both beautiful with the green flecks and has a texture that has some interest to it while also being "lighter" than a typical hummus.

I served it with some thinly sliced whole grain baguette, topped by just a couple shakes of smoked paprika for a touch of color and added flavor. Not much was left after our meeting, maybe just enough to top a baked potato for lunch this week, one of my favorite ways to eat hummus!

Recipe: Hummus with Kale


• 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained
• 2 Tbsp. tahini (sesame paste)
• 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (fresh is best, but bottled is ok, too)
• 1/2 cup thawed frozen chopped kale, drain very well (save any liquid for soup stock)


1) Put all ingredients except kale in a food processor - pulse until smooth
2) Put kale in food processor with hummus - pulse until kale is chopped into very small green flecks but still with enough texture that it is just slightly "lumpy"
3) Place into serving dish

Sprinkle with sweet paprika, smoked paprika, or powdered sumac (spice found in Middle Eastern grocery stores) for an extra taste and also a slight red color addition to the dish.

• This recipe can easily be doubled. Just be sure to use a larger food processor than a mini-size.
• Try some other greens, too, like collard greens, turnip greens, Swiss chard, or even spinach.

Instead of an old recipe that was high in fat and not particularly healthy, Hummus with Kale is a healthy, delicious, quick, and easy recipe that will please and expand your family's taste buds.

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Recipe: Potato Pancakes with Kale

This original recipe was just called Potato-Veggie Pancakes. I tweaked it a bit to add kale for both color and nutrition, yet another easy way that you and your family can enjoy eating some kale (or other brassica greens - see list at the right side of my blog) 365 days of the year!

Potato-Kale Pancakes


• Parchment paper or cooking oil spray
• 6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
• 2 large carrots, scraped
• 1 medium yellow or white (not sweet) onion, peeled
• ¼ cup white whole wheat flour
• ¼ cup parsley, finely minced (or use other green herbs you might have on hand)
• 1-½ cup fresh or frozen kale, (remove the large center stems and then chop small)
• 2 large eggs, beaten
• 1 Tbsp. canola or extra-virgin olive oil
• ½ tsp. salt
• ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• Applesauce, for garnish


1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray large non-stick baking sheet with cooking spray or cut parchment paper to fit a baking sheet.

2) Using a food processor or large hand grater, coarsely grate potatoes and carrots and onion. Place grated vegetables in large colander. Set colander into large bowl so it nestles securely.

3) Hand-squeeze vegetables to wring out as much liquid as possible (you can save this liquid for future soup broth). If vegetables still feel wet, pat dry with paper towels. A friend just told me that you can also use a flat tea bag squeezer to really make vegetables "dry". I have one of those so I will try using it next time after squeezing by hand.

4) Transfer vegetables to a large mixing bowl. Stir in flour, parsley/herbs, kale, eggs, oil, salt and pepper, making sure ingredients are well combined.

5) Spoon small mounds of potato mixture on baking sheet to form 2-½ inch pancakes (about 12 per cookie sheet), leaving ~1/2 inch between each. Pat down flat gently if needed.

6) Bake pancakes until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes per side, turning once with spatula. Transfer to plates or platter and serve at once with applesauce, plain unflavored yogurt, or even some yogurt cheese, if desired. Although terrific when hot, these are also very tasty when room temperature or even cold. 

Makes about 24 - 2-½ inch pancakes or 8-12 servings.

• Add other spices as desired such as hot and spicy chili, Cajun, Thai, whatever you might have on hand and like,
• Add a couple of tablespoons of ground flaxseed to the mix or even on top of the patty before baking
• Freeze extras for an easy side dish later in the month, or eat extras for lunch in pocket pita bread with added lettuce, shredded cabbage, tomato, cucumbers, onion slices (all if available) and hummus

These went "like hotcakes" at a recent potluck dinner. What few extras remained were traded for some other fabulous food to take home. I'll make this easy, tasty, and healthy recipe again for sure!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Freezing Kale

A reader recently asked if I froze the kale I used in a previous post for Chinese-style Kale with Tofu. Yes, I did, using kale harvested in late November right before I knew that the real snow was coming, was not likely to melt again, which finally put an end to our gardening for 2008.

Here is what I did to freeze kale:
• Put on a big pot of water to boil.
• Wash kale in sink of water then drain in a second sink or on a towel on the counter top.
• Tear or cut into 2 inch strips or manageable sizes (I did not freeze the big thick stems from the curly kale but smaller stems are ok).
• Fill sink with clean cold water, including as many ice cubes as you have on hand.
• Place the cut kale in boiling water and boil for 3 minutes.
• Take kale out of pot with tongs, a colander, and/or slotted spoon.
• Put hot kale in cold water and swish around.
• Take kale out of water.
• Drain any excess water off greens (save for future soup broth!).
• Measure either 2 cups or 4 cups and place into freezer bags.
• Mark freezer bag with date and type of greens.
• Press any excess air out of bag and freeze.

I also did this exact procedure to freeze lamb's quarters (a very healthy and delicious weed!) in the spring. You can see from these photos that a huge bowl of cut or torn kale turns into 2 full quart bags of frozen kale. I expect to use this kale later this winter, either as yummy braised kale with many variety of seasonings or as an addition to soups, stews, stir-fry, filling for quesadillas, adding to frittatas, toppings for baked potatoes, etc, etc.

I have read on the web plus heard from the owners of Tantré Farm, a local farm and CSA, that blanching the kale is not necessary. Next spring when kale initially grows in abundance, I will try mincing some of the kale into very small pieces (small enough to add to hummus, or make into kale balls as just two ideas) and simply freeze these small pieces in a zip-lock bag while fresh. That way I can experiment and compare using frozen kale done by two different methods to decide which to do when I do the bulk of the kale freezing next fall.

One of my "tricks" as a long-term cancer survivor has been to always have future events to plan and/or look forward to. Now I am looking forward to two things: (1) spring to see which of our kale plants make it through a Michigan winter and give us an early gift of spring food without the work of planting and waiting with the ultimate gift of free seeds to start all over again, and (2) comparing the eating from two methods of freezing kale!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What is a Rutabaga?

Photo: Glazed Rutabagas by Dr. Dick

Rutabagas are a member of the large family of Brassica vegetables along with kale. Thus, when I recommend eating a serving per day of a "kale-type" vegetable for the multiple health-promoting benefits they all provide, rutabagas do count!

I think I have mentioned that my husband just loves rutabagas, in fact he has loved them for as long as he can remember (full disclosure - my husband also loved spinach as a child!). He made glazed rutabagas for dinner tonight, using locally grown rutabagas from Tantré Farm, a local CSA. Yum, yum, yum! They are easy and delicious. Tonight was the second or third time he has made them, tweaking the recipe each time. I'm guessing by the title of his blog post tonight that he is now satisfied. :-) Feel free to click through to get his recipe then be sure to put rutabaga on your grocery list for this week and enjoy a new vegetable or at least a new way to prepare it! I'll bet you become a fan, too.

Where kale (and rutabaga!) is more than decoration on my plate,
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What's in kale? Glucosinolates

(Photo: 2008 Farmers' Market purchase of irises, kale, lamb's quarters, and spinach.
Yes, spring is coming!)

One reader asked a good question. Is there a difference in indole-3-carbinole content of brassica vegetables when comparing light-colored ones like light green cabbage to dark-colored ones like dark green kale?

Most likely yes, however, I like to think of the 3-V's of good eating as "variety, variety, variety". :-) Researchers have hardly begun to really examine all the molecules in our foods that are first there for the plants natural defenses against insects, herbavores, viruses, and other plant pathogens and secondarily, also help promote our good health when eating them. So, what I am saying is don't get stuck eliminating one entire food based on its content of just one molecule. A general rule of thumb is that darker is better, but that thinking would incorrectly minimize the many benefits of consuming garlic, onions, leeks, and cauliflower, just for starters.

Indole-3-carbinole (i.e., I3C - the molecule I discussed in a previous blog post) in kale and other brassica vegetables is a metabolite made in these vegetables from a large group of ~120 parent compounds called glucosinolates. Thus, to just think about the content of I3C in vegetables is potentially missing a big part of the picture. I3C may be getting a lot of attention right now, but it may only be a small part of the 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.

The Linus Pauling Institute website has a great chart showing the overall analysis of total glucosinolate content of several brassica vegetables (you can see this list is not complete).

Glucosinolate Content of Selected Cruciferous Vegetables (90)
Food (raw) Serving
Total Glucosinolates
(mg/g of food)
Garden cress ½ cup (25 g)
Mustard greens ½ cup, chopped (28 g)
Brussels sprouts ½ cup (44 g)
Horseradish 1 tablespoon (15 g)
Kale 1 cup, chopped (67 g)
Watercress 1 cup, chopped (34 g)
Turnip ½ cup, cubes (65 g)
Cabbage, savoy ½ cup, chopped (45 g)
Cabbage, red ½ cup, chopped (45 g)
Broccoli ½ cup, chopped (44 g)
Kohlrabi ½ cup, chopped (67 g)
Bok choi (pak choi) ½ cup, chopped (35 g)
Cauliflower ½ cup, chopped (50 g)

The optimal intake of of glucosinolates is simply not known. Although I3C is now available as a dietary supplement, I do not recommend its use in that form until much more is understood about its "solo" action, which is in essence as a drug. There have been a few studies actually showing increased cancer development in animals who were given isolated I3C and then implanted with cancer cells. These few studies are difficult to interpret into "real world" recommendations. However, consuming whole foods within whole meals is and has been "real world" for a long time and is a far safer way to get multiple essential nutrients plus health promoting phytochemicals that are acting from within the entire "real world" matrix of consumption, digestion, absorption, and metabolism. Aim for 1 serving of kale or a different brassica vegetable each day.

In future posts, I will discuss food preparation techniques and the various effects of boiling versus steaming, etc, on the bio-availability of these components of kale and other brassica vegetables. So, stay tuned and keep checking back (or subscribe to a "feed" for this blog - easy instructions on the right side of my blog)!

Thanks for the great question, Buttercup!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate,
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, February 2, 2009

Recipe: Chinese-style Kale with Tofu

This recipe was inspired by a recipe from Simmer Down!, one of our Michigan Lady Food Bloggers. Check out her other great recipes. :-)

Chinese-style Kale with Tofu


  • 1 large bunch kale (I used 10 ounces of my frozen kale, feel free to substitute any other brassica greens like collard or turnip greens)
  • 1/2# extra-firm tofu (drain and cut into 1-inch size cubes)
  • 1-2 roasted red peppers (from a jar or frozen) - cut into slices/pieces
  • 1-2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard powder, or more to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. dried red chili flakes (1 teaspoon is very spicy!) or chili sauce from a jar (the kind with seeds)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. soy sauce (I always look for the low-sodium variety)
  • 1/4 tsp. toasted (dark) sesame oil (just do a couple of shakes, rather than actually measuring this - no need to waste any coating the measuring spoon!)
  • Optional: 1 Tbsp. rice wine or Shaoxing (Chinese cooking wine


  1. Thaw and drain the frozen kale (I do this in a colander over a bowl to catch any thawed liquid to save for future stock), or remove the large stems from the fresh kale and chop into strips about 1-1/2″ wide; wash and set aside in a colander to drain (save that liquid for future stock also).
  2. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot (such as a dutch oven or a wok), heat about 2 Tbsp of oil (add more if it doesn’t cover the bottom of the pan) and 1/4 tsp (a few dashes) sesame oil over medium-low heat.
  3. Add the minced garlic and cook GENTLY until the garlic is browned, turning the heat down as necessary so it doesn’t burn. If you are using the dried chili flakes, add them to the oil and cook them for about 30 seconds to bloom the flavor. Add the mustard powder and stir out any lumps.
  4. Add the tofu cubes, cook until starting to brown a little on the edges.
  5. Add the roasted peppers pieces and the kale to the pot and stir to coat with the seasonings. It’s ok if the kale is a little wet; the moisture will help it steam and cook down. The kale probably won’t fit all at once if using fresh kale, so cook it for a few minutes until it cooks down and then add the remainder. You can cover the kale to assist the steaming process; just make sure to stir it often enough so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  6. When the kale is tender but still green, add 1 tbs soy sauce and the chili sauce, if using. Stir and taste for seasoning, adding the remainder of the soy sauce per taste if desired. You may also want to add a dash or two more sesame oil, chilis, or more mustard powder to taste. Optional - add a small splash of rice wine or Shaoxing as well, increasing the heat for a moment to cook off the alcohol. (I did not add this)
Serve over brown rice for a complete meal, however, we might also have some fruit such as our homemade applesauce, either plain or our "fire-in-the-belly" style for a little more zing.
This recipe makes enough for 2 hearty eaters or 3 people if you are serving other items with it. Enjoy your kale and along with the health benefits from the mustard, another Brassica veggie! This dish certainly fits with my sign-off. :-)

Where kale (and other Brassicas) are more than decoration on my plate!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD