Monday, March 30, 2009

Kale on the Radio! - Podcast is finally up

Remember back in February when I was invited to talk about the health benefits of eating kale on the radio show 101 Foods to Save Your Life? The podcast for that show also featured my friend Maggie Green, RD of The Green Apron Co. as a guest. Here is the link to hear the show (scroll down to February 28), and it is also listed on the side of the blog under "Blog Publicity".

Enjoy listening to our enthusiasm for eating kale!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Scenes of Spring!

The season of dirty hands, knees, and paws has officially begun. These are some of the seeds I got at our local seed exchange yesterday (the brassica vegetables kohlrabi, watercress, and Chinese Broccoli or Candlestick Gai Lan, and endive, pictured plus green soybeans called edamame, Cherokee Cornfield dried beans, and black-seeded Blue Lake green beans, not pictured). So, since directions for planting kohlrabi say that seeds can go in the ground as soon as the dirt can be worked, I planted 2 short rows this afternoon in our community garden with more to be planted in a couple of weeks.

It seems I did not take a photo of my rows of kohlrabi after I planted them (not that it would look like much!), but I did take several other photos of our community garden today to give you an idea of the little plot of land that we love and care for. There were several other gardeners with perennial plots who were out to do some clean-up, planting, rejoicing and enjoying the sunshine plus the (relatively) warm temperature, while remembering that we set a record for the amount of snow during the month of March last year in 2008.

Baby turnips and greens from Brines Farm, Dexter MI, purchased at the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market yesterday 3/21/09

Purchasing the little turnips and greens from Brines yesterday inspired me to look in my own garden for any possible overwintered turnips that were planted last fall. Well, ours are not as beautiful as Shannon's, and we have no real greens attached to them, but I was pleasantly surprised to actually find some small turnips in the ground that are intact and edible. We'll mix them with Shannon's for a yummy brassica veggie with tonight's supper.

Kaya, Garden Dog, surveying the garden from the one shady spot this afternoon. Once planting really begins, her 'indiscretion' about where to step with her heavy paws will mean that she'll either need to be on a "short leash" or left at home.

Earthworm quickly looking for a path back underground in the raised bed where the kohlrabi will be planted!

Garlic, two of our 309 cloves planted last fall, is peeking up! What little garlic we have left from last year clearly knows that it is spring as tiny green shoots are starting to form inside the heads we have stored in our basement.

Our bee box (no, not a bee hive) which provides shelter and an egg site for many of the other species of bees besides honeybees that are necessary to pollinate our vegetables.

Our overwintered kale (Red Russian curly variety). The kale that we put under a deep layer of straw made it through this long, cold winter. I did not take a pix of the other rows that did not get a blanket, but they are dead, dead, dead. These plants should all start growing soon and will ultimately flower and develop seeds to plant in the fall, starting the cycle over again.

I'm sorry the interesting rock did not look as beautiful in the photo as it did in real life. However, I was also interested in the feather lying next to it. When I began looking around, I saw many of these same feathers within close proximity to this one. Clearly some aspect of the circle of life, i.e., the food chain, happened in our garden or at least very nearby.

My favorite photo, even though it might arguably be the least beautiful. However, those viewing this who "know their birds" will be able to see enough to know that this is a Song sparrow and will also be able to hear its beautiful song in their head and heart. Nothing says spring is back like the beautiful song of the Song sparrow, nearly always sung from the tippy top of a small tree or shrub, right where this one was perching while singing its heart out looking for love just a few feet from me.

Ah, spring! More to come, much more in fact since it is only officially been Spring for 2 days. In Michigan, we savor each and every day that the daylight gets longer, we get more sunshine (and vitamin D), the air gets warmer, we can smell the earth, and more and more life reappears. We just soak it in!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate! It gets me outside to truly feel spring. :-)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Kale

(Photo: Arbor Brewing Company's Vegetarian Stew with Kale)

We got home from vacation Monday night and went out for dinner at Arbor Brewing Co., our favorite local brewery, knowing it might be a little 'crazy' if people were starting to celebrate St. Patrick's Day a wee bit early. Fortunately, it seemed just like a typical low-key Monday night, so we had plenty of time to peruse their menu (made of local ingredients as much as possible) plus chat with the greeter and our server. ABC's chef Nicole had come up with a vegetarian St. Patrick's Day Stew of potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and onions topped with steamed cabbage and KALE (!!) plus some Irish soda bread that actually looked like it might have been made with whole wheat flour. It was a scrumptious supper, perfectly complemented with one of their own beers. The portion served was large enough that I ate only half in the restaurant, taking the rest home for lunch the next day. So the photo above is just the half portion I ate at home on Tuesday.

For our supper on St. Patrick's Day, we bought a tiny piece of corned beef, potatoes, cabbage, and kale, and following the suggestion of one this blog's readers, we mixed the kale in with the potatoes to make green mashed potatoes. We steamed the kale separately from the potatoes, cut the kale into small pieces in the food processor after steaming, and then mixed it in when mashing the potatoes (we add a tiny bit of homemade unflavored yogurt, olive oil, finely chopped fresh onion and fresh garlic to make our mashed potatoes). Yum, yum, yum! I forgot to mention that our home meal was also complemented by a home-brewed beer made by my husband; this glass was called "Mom's Phyto-porter".

(Photo: Green Mashed Potatoes, close-up)

Life doesn't get much better than this, either at Arbor Brewing Co. or our own home cooking and brewing. Green potatoes are perfect for St. Patrick's Day, but don't reserve this unusual combination for just one day per year. This recipe can be enjoyed anytime during the year.

Happy St Patrick's Day (one day late), where kale is a wee bit more than just decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, March 13, 2009

Kale is getting its due respect!

(Photo: Dried tomato risotto with added kale)

In addition to the flurry of kale recipes published in the New York Times last week, I was informed today that my tip "How to use Kale in your cooking, and not as garnish" was chosen for the 'Nutrition Month RD Tip' feature on for their 550k monthly readers. You may see what I had to suggest for both why and how to enjoy eating kale here. Although I did not mention adding kale to risotto in my tips that were published, you can see how easy it was to do in the above photo. In addition to adding a healthy ingredient, the recipe is now even more beautiful! is the largest nutrition web site run by Registered Dietitians. It is voluminous and packed with easy to find and easy to read reliable information that will help you better manage your health through healthy eating, with a focus on preventive health. So check out what I had to say and then browse through their great website. I'll bet you'll find something of interest there that is helpful, healthful, and delicious!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What's in kale? Pesticides

(Photo: Kale 2008, early season in our garden last year)

Oh dear, not good, not good at all! The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has just updated The Pesticide Shopper's Guide, a wallet-size guide that lists the 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest level of pesticide contamination (i.e., the "dirty dozen") and the 15 with the least amount (i.e., "the Clean 15"). EWG has been compiling data and releasing this helpful information for 15 years, and this is the first year that I believe kale has shown up on the "dirty dozen" list.

One kale sample had 10 pesticides (these were rinsed samples). We grow ours organically with no pesticides, and it grows robustly with minimal to no pest damage. I actually recently read an article that showed organically fertilized kale had higher biomass production compared to the plants grown with synthetic fertilizer plus the butterfly larvae (i.e., pests) grew faster on the kale grown with synthetic fertilizers. Soil fertility management and pest responses: a comparison of organic and synthetic fertilization. J Econ Entomol. 2009 Feb;102(1):160-9.

What is particularly helpful about this EWG list is the guidance it gives shoppers who need to prioritize their food dollars (really, who doesn't?) to choose to spend money for organic produce that makes a potential health benefit. This new worrisome information about the pesticide levels on kale, while being one of the healthiest vegetables to really give you "bang for your buck" in terms of nutrients and phytochemicals, is reason to look for kale grown by organic farmers, preferably crops grown locally to really maximize the retention of those nutrients.

Sounds to me like organic kale is the way to grow for numerous reasons!

In addition to printing out the wallet guide to summary of clean and dirty fruits and vegetables, here is the link to the full list of the 47 fruits and vegetables that were tested.

This information will have me thinking twice before I eat kale as decoration on my plate unless I know the kale has been grown organically.

Where organic kale is much more than just decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, March 9, 2009

Recipe: Diana's Spicy Greens with Bulgur and Tofu

I first tasted a recipe called Spicy Greens with Bulgur (Tchicha bel Khoubiz) last summer and was excited to see that the recipe was recently posted on the blog for the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers. My friend Warda (who blogs at 64sqftkitchen and brought this dish for us to try last summer) has used many types of greens for this recipe. However, the original recipe calls for a variety of greens called khoubiz or bakool, found growing wild in the fields of North Africa, that tastes like a cross between arugula (rocket leaves) and watercress with a hint of acidity. Warda says there is no real equivalent for those greens here in the US, so she likes using a combination of spinach and arugula, which is a Brassica green, thus I have included this recipe on my kale blog.

However, I had a big pile of young, tender, and beautiful beet greens to use that I bought at the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market last Saturday, which I certainly wanted to eat while they are still fresh and delicious. So I gave them a try in this recipe. Young beet greens do not add the same “bite” as the original recipe probably has, but the bright green leaves and deeply-colored red stems give the final recipe a gorgeous hue!

Why eat beet greens if they are not a Brassica vegetable, and so do not contain the health-promoting sulfur molecules unique to the greens like kale and its many relatives? Young, tender beet greens are both tasty and a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K (needed for healthy blood clotting and bone-building) along with the phytochemicals beta carotene (pre-vitamin A), lutein, and xeazanthin (all needed for healthy vision).

I made just a few adjustments to Warda’s original recipe.

First, I added some firm tofu to the mixture as a protein source to make it an easy and complete vegetarian (vegan) meal. I’ll bet that adding a small amount of cooked chicken to this dish would be tasty, too, and a tasty way to add a healthy amount of meat that complements a dish instead of being the main attraction. Any type of dried beans could have been added instead of tofu for another healthy, plant protein source, too.

Secondly, I used tomato-vegetable juice instead of broth and tomato paste.

Thus, with full credit to and inspiration from my friend Warda, I’ve changed the name from Warda’s mother's Spicy Greens with Bulgur to Diana’s Spicy Greens with Bulgur and Tofu.

- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tsp cumin, freshly ground
- 1 tsp red chili pepper flakes
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- ½# extra-firm tofu, cut into small pieces ~ ½ inch cubes
- 3 cups tomato juice (low-sodium)
- 3 tbsp fine bulgur
- 1 bunch young, tender beet greens, including stems (roughly chop to equal ~4 cups)
- 1 tbsp cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- Salt, Black Pepper

Wash the beet greens. Drain or shake off the excess water and chop roughly, including the stems. Set aside.

(Photo: 4 cups of chopped fresh, young beet greens)

In a pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and cook on a medium heat until translucent but not brown, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, if you have a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic with turmeric, cumin, and pepper flakes to a paste; if not, chop garlic very fine and mix with spices.
Add the garlic paste or mixture to the onions and stir to incorporate.
Add the tofu pieces, stir to coat with the spices, cook a few minutes until starting to brown on some sides.

(Photo: Onions, spices, and tofu being sauteéd)

Add the tomato juice and bring to a boil.
Add the bulgur and beet greens. Stir again.
Lower the heat to a very gentle simmer and cook covered until the bulgur is tender, and beet greens are wilted but still very bright green, about 15 minutes, depending on the variety of your bulgur.

(Photo: Full recipe simmering with bulgur added)

Uncover the pan and add the fresh herbs to the sauce. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes and then remove from the heat.
Season with salt and pepper if desired. Taste sauce to determine if the “heat” is enough for your taste. If not, add some hot pepper spice of your choice for garnish and kick.

Serves 2 (generously, "cover the plate" servings) to 4 (as more of a side dish or lunch size serving as pictured in this bowl).

Serve with some whole wheat pita bread to mop up any left-over juices, a fresh green salad, and maybe some chilled fruit. The photo of this dish on the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers blog shows it garnished with crushed, hot chili peppers. You can decide it you want or need to add that. For my taste (and I do like spicy hot food) this dish was definitely spicy enough without any added chili powder as a garnish!

Warda says this dish keeps well in the fridge for up to 2 days, although she never recalls keeping it longer than one day. I don’t expect that it will last that long in my refrig either!

From start to finish, this recipe took only 30 minutes to make, which included all the chopping. During the time that the recipe was finishing up on the stove-top after adding the bulgur, I had plenty of time to feed our dog, empty the dishwasher, clean up the prep area of the kitchen, start to load the dishwasher up again, sweep the kitchen floor, sort the mail, and get the table cleared off ready to eat.

This is home fast food, tasty beyond delicious, ultra-healthy, and easy to make. The beet greens were the only ingredient in this recipe that is not part of my standard grocery store list and/or already on my pantry shelves. Pick up some available greens soon at your favorite place to purchase locally-grown fresh produce and enjoy this delicious dish!

Where kale (and also beet greens) are more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Recipe: Kale Chips

(cross posted from my dianadyer blog on August 3, 2008)

In the Dyer home, kale has long been more than just decoration on a plate. In other words, here's what to do with kale that just keeps on growing!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I ate kale chips for the first time at the Ann Arbor Lady Food Bloggers picnic. They were SO delicious that I just knew they would become a regular way that we would be eating kale in the future. I have already made them 3-4 times in the past month since I first tasted them.

I am still using our garden grown kale that was planted this past spring. It's now early August - I thought the kale might be done or bitter by this point in the summer, but it's all still growing with the young leaves very tasty and tender. Our one short row is a mix of the curly green kale that you see most often in the grocery store or as the ubiquitous decoration on a restaurant plate plus some flat varieties like red Russian kale. Fortunately, our resident garden groundhog does not seem to bother the kale (however, it has devoured most of my beans, including all the heirloom seeds I brought back from my trip to Monticello - can you hear me crying?)

Enough intro and/or rambling! On to the recipe and directions.

Kale Chips

Take a large bunch of kale leaves and trim off any tough stems (save the stems to later make soup stock). Wash the leaves, shake off excess water, tear the leaves into "chip size" pieces. A leaf the size of my palm would make 2-3 pieces.

Put all leaves into a large bowl. Sprinkle ~1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar over the leaves then add ~1 Tbsp. olive oil to the leaves. Next sprinkle with dried herbs or spices of your choice. Twice now I have used a few shakes from a bottle of a salad mix called Rocky Mountain Seasoning from The Spice House in Evanston, IL given to us by good friends. Use your hands to thoroughly mix and coat the leaves with the vinegar, oil, and seasoning.

Spread the kale leaves in a single layer on a large cookie sheet. I have used a sheet of parchment paper to make clean up easy, but just a spray or bit of additional olive oil on the cookie sheet also keeps the leaves from sticking to the cookie sheet.

Heat the cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven until the leaves get crisp. They will wilt at first but then start to crisp up. The color of the kale leaves will darken from a bright green to a deeper green. I do carefully turn them with a spatula after about 10 minutes and usually bake them for a total of 20-30 minutes. I check them often at the 15 and 20 minute marks to make sure they do not burn. Serve right away or they are also very very good at room temperature. In each case, a full cookie sheet of kale leaves was eaten in one sitting by two people (either by my husband and me or our younger son and me).

If I ever have any extra kale chips, I will try saving them in an airtight container to eat later as chips or even crumbling them into small pieces to use as an interesting salad addition or topping.

See the empty plate? All gone! Please let me know if you try eating kale this way and if you and your family enjoy it.

Kale is an excellent source of calcium and along with the other plants that belong to the broccoli family is power-packed with phyto-chemicals that promote general good health plus being a terrific cancer "phyter". I actually try to have so many fresh vegetables from this family on hand in my frig that I eat at least 1-2 servings from this power group daily (yep-daily!) as part of my efforts to increase my odds for long-term cancer survivorship. If you plan to always have kale available and you have the oven going for something else, it only takes a few minutes to prepare the kale chips according to this easy recipe to bake at the same time.

To get ready for planting our fall crop of kale, I finally collected the seed pods today that developed on the one plant that wintered over last year. I could see some of them had finally popped, scattering the seeds in the garden and the garden paths, and many more seed pods were also "ready to go".

Did I have anything with me specifically in which to collect the pods so that I could find those itty-bitty seeds again if they popped on the way home? No, of course not. So I simply put them into my garden hat, which worked quite well! By the time I got to the parking lot and the car, many of the pods had popped by themselves with the tiny black seeds now sitting nicely in the bottom of my hat (see photo - thank goodness this was not a straw hat as I am sure these tiny seeds would have fallen through).

When I showed the small seeds to a young woman who was in the parking lot at the community garden, she said it seemed like a miracle that such tiny seeds produced our vegetables. I couldn't help but smile and agree!! and ask if she had read the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which the author Barbara Kingsolver so eloquently describes the many miracles that unfold every day from the hard work of those who grow and produce food either for their own table or for us to eat.

The next time you're at a Farmers' Market, please thank the farmers for their hard work and the many miracles they have brought to market!

Where kale is definitely more than just decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

The following 7 comments were imported from the August 3, 2008 posting:
Kateri said...

I'm making this tomorrow! Thanks for sharing. I have so much kale in my garden right now.August 3, 2008 11:53 PM

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I'm so glad you posted this, Diana - I didn't pay enough attention when Victoria was talking about making them. I'm very excited! August 4, 2008 11:44 AM

kim said...

Hi Diana
I learned about kale chips from Deb at Tantré. They are my most favorite way of eating this incredible vegetable. I might love kale chips even more than potato chips, which, for me, is saying a lot. :) Thank you for posting the recipe - I think everyone should know about kale chips!!!
KimAugust 5, 2008 1:35 PM

TeacherPatti said...

Victoria's kale chips were awesome! (So were Kim's fried sage leaves,come to think of it). Something I'd never think to do on my own, and oh so good!!!, August 5, 2008 6:42 PM

anne said...

I am now sold on kale chips. Thanks for the post and recipe.
Anne, Charlotte, NC, August 20, 2008 1:12 PM

Faye said...

Yum - just made my first batch - thank you, Diana! August 24, 2008 6:36 PM

Dunrie said...

Kale is my new favorite, and Ed pointed me to your blog.
I tried this kale chips recipe from Bon Appetit, but I like your idea to add herbs/spices.
Definitely trying this. March 7, 2009 9:25 AM

Saturday, March 7, 2009

How should I eat my kale, raw or cooked?

How should I eat kale (and other brassicas)? Which way is best, raw or cooked? Is there any advantage or reason to eat it one way versus the other? As with all questions, there is rarely only one right answer. Life consists mostly of shades of grey, and the answer to this question is the same (only maybe it is shades of green and purple).

Several months ago, I signed up to receive all research articles published each week about Brassica vegetables in peer-reviewed journals. I have to say that I am rather surprised (pleasantly so) to see that 5-10 articles are published nearly every single week, thus I have accumulated a little stockpile of interesting articles to summarize on this blog that are relevant to eating these health-promoting greens. With 5-10 articles being published weekly, I don't think I'll run out of information to share!

In spite of my backlogged articles, I am choosing to summarize one I saw today, because it gets right to the heart of responding to the very practical question I posed at the top of this post. Raw versus cooked. That is an appropriate beginning. In subsequent posts, I'll explore what is known about the effects of different types of cooking on these vegetables, but for today, let's start at the very beginning.

Steam cooking significantly improves in vitro bile acid binding of collard greens, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, green bell pepper, and cabbage.
Nutr Res. 2008 Jun;28(6):351-7., Kahlon TS, Chiu MC, Chapman MH.

This study compared the vegetables listed above (which includes several Brassica vegetables) when raw versus when lightly steamed for their ability to bind to bile acids in a simulated human situation. Using a pharmaceutical drug to bind the bile acids after they are secreted by our gall bladder into our digestive tract is a strategy that has been used to lower serum cholesterol levels, reducing risk of heart disease.

Thus this study evaluated the effects of these various vegetables' ability to bind bile acids when prepared under different conditions (raw versus steamed) compared to the drug often used (cholestyramine). This study is of importance because bile acid binding potential has been related to lowering the risk of heart disease and that of some cancer. If we know which foods are able to lead to similar favorable outcomes as medications, a practical and easily achievable alternative strategy to the use of costly medications with potential side effects could be recommended.

Compared to the drug to cholestyramine, the bile acid binding was: for the collard greens, kale, and mustard greens, 13%; broccoli, 10%; Brussels sprouts and spinach, 8%; green bell pepper, 7%; and cabbage, 5%. Steam cooking significantly improved the bile acid binding of all the vegetables tested except the spinach and Brussels sprouts when compared with previously observed bile acid binding values by the same authors for these vegetables when raw.

Thus, while not as powerful as a drug (food rarely is when only looking at one isolated food or molecule within food versus a total diet and lifestyle), it is clear that including steam-cooked collard greens, kale, mustard greens (these three being the highest of those tested), broccoli, green bell pepper, and cabbage in our daily diet as health-promoting vegetables should be emphasized. These green/leafy vegetables, when consumed regularly after steam cooking, would lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, increased binding of bile acids in our digestive tract may also be associated with reduced risk of various cancers, thus recommending consumption of lightly steamed Brassica greens and other vegetables is certainly recommended for optimizing overall health.

I will continue to look for articles or information that can help answer the practical questions such as 'raw versus cooked'. At this point, my bottom line is still variety, variety, variety for both types of foods eaten and how they are prepared. Some methods may clearly be "out" (i.e., I remember a study a couple of years ago that microwaved broccoli in 2 cups of water ?? and found a dramatic reduction in nutrients, not an unexpected result with such a poor cooking technique, but of course that study got lots of press), however, my guess is that more ways will be in than out.

Enjoy your kale and other Brassica vegetables both raw and also lightly steamed. I always use a steamer basket, and I always save the small amount of water I used for steaming, putting it in the freezer to use for future vegetable stock. Hopefully, the majority of healthful nutrients that may have been leached out during the cooking process will still be unchanged and available when consumed at some point in the future.

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Recipe: Apple and Kale Muffins

(Apple and Kale Spice Muffins, cooling)


* 1-1/2 C organic whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
* 1 tsp. each baking soda and baking powder
* ½ teaspoon salt
* ½ tsp. cinnamon
* ¼ tsp. nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon grated vanilla bean (or use ½ teaspoon vanilla extract)
* ⅓ C honey
* 1 egg
* ½ C sour milk or plain unflavored yogurt (I used the yogurt)
* ⅓ C canola oil
* ½ tsp. vanilla (see above)
* 1-½ C grated apples or carrots (used cored, unpeeled apples chopped in my food processor)
* 1 C finely chopped kale or raw leafy green vegetable (I took off the stems and then chopped the leaves fine in my food processor)
* ½ C each any dried fruit and chopped nuts (optional, but adds a crunch and is also nutritious and yummy enough for a dessert muffin, too!)

Preheat oven to 400.

In a mixing bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.

In another bowl, mix honey, egg, yogurt, oil, vanilla, apples, kale, dried fruit and nuts.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring just till moistened. Fill 12 typical size greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Made 12 very full muffins.

(Muffins cooling on top of the refrigerator - if our dog, Kaya, aka "food stealer", can get these, nothing is safe!)

Yet another way to add kale (or other Brassica greens) to an otherwise unsuspecting recipe! You and your family will be curious about these "green specks" but will not have any possible objections to the taste of these delicious, colorful, and ultra-healthy muffins. Serve for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks. :-)

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Recipe: Kale Lasagna (vegan)

(Lasagna with kale, all ready to cover with foil and bake)

Kale in my lasagna? You bet! I've put spinach in my lasagna for years (even decades), and I'll bet you have, too. So the next logical step for me was to substitute kale where my recipe says spinach. I made this lasagna recipe last December, and it gave me a chance to finally use up the remaining frozen fresh kale being held in my garage that I picked from our garden just before our first big snowfall.

This lasagna recipe is vegan and was inspired by a recipe in the cookbook Eating for Lower Cholesterol by Catherine Jones and Elaine Trujillo. I made it before Christmas, put it in the freezer, and then pulled it out to bake during the holidays. Easy!

Kale Lasagna

• 8-ounce package whole wheat lasagna noodles (uncooked)
• 16 ounces extra firm tofu
• 7-ounce package soy shredded mozzarella cheese
• 24-ounce jar of marinara sauce (look for one made with no added sweetener, one that uses olive oil, and is relatively low in sodium)
• 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes (do not drain)
• 1/2 teaspoon dried basil (can use fresh if available – to taste, 1/3-1/2 cup thinly sliced)
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
• 1 small onion, finely diced
• 8-ounce package sliced mushrooms (I used baby portabella for their hearty flavor)
• 1 medium zucchini, washed, cut lengthwise in quarters and slice thinly (or shred with a grater)
• 1 large carrot, wash, and chop to small pieces in food processor or shred with grater
• 4-6 cups of chopped fresh kale (I remove the large stems and then chop the kale in a food processor)
• 14.5 ounce can of cooked small red beans (rinse and drain well)

Step 1
Mix together in a bowl and set aside:
16 ounces extra firm tofu, drain well, mash with fork
2/3 of the 7-ounce package soy shredded mozzarella cheese (save about 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese for the final top layer)

Step 2
Mix together in another bowl and set aside:
One 24-ounce jar of marinara sauce
One 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or fresh)
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Step 3
Add oil to a non-stick pan, heat, and then add all chopped veggies to pan and cook 3-5 minutes until slightly cooked.
Add 1-2 tbsp. of water if necessary to keep veggies from sticking on the pan.
Then add red beans to veggies and mix together.
Season with a bit of salt and pepper.

(Veggies cooked and ready to layer with the noodles and tofu mixture)

Step 4
Preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 if using a glass baking dish).

Using a 9x13 inch-baking pan, start with 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish. Place 3-4 uncooked noodles on bottom of dish. Spread half of veggies including juices, half of tofu and cheese mixture, and 1 cup of sauce over the noodles. Then repeat these layers ending with noodles, remaining sauce, and the soy-mozzarella cheese set-aside in the beginning.

(Building the layers)

Step 5
Add 1 cup of water to the dish (next time I'm going to try adding only 1/2 cup of water).
Cover with foil. Place on a cookie sheet and cook for approximately one hour. (Make sure noodles are soft by cutting through with a knife.) Take off foil to cook for another 5-10 minutes. Let sit for ~10 minutes before eating.

(Yum, yum, yum, however, next time I'll add only 1/2 cup water!)

Serve with a fresh green salad, whole grain bread spread with roasted garlic cloves, and a bit of fresh fruit or dark chocolate for dessert.

This recipe can be quickly put together using a food processor to chop or grate the vegetables. It is easy to assemble and can be held for a day or two in the refrigerator before cooking, freeze to cook later, or even cook ahead of time and then reheat when needed. It serves 8-12 depending on how large you cut the pieces and is a great dish to have ready to eat when you are feeding a crowd during the holidays or other times of the year you have a house full of people. It is also a great-tasting dish to take to a family that needs help with their meals for any reason.

Next time, even try making the recipe with any other type of healthy and delicious greens such as collards.

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Kale makes the New York Times! (again and again)

(Photo: Winterbor kale from Goetz Farm, Riga, MI, purchased at the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market on February 28, 2009)

I detect a new wave! Dare I say that kale is not only becoming popular but even 'sexy'?

First I get emails today from some of my friends who are also Michigan Lady Food Bloggers saying they recently saw cars with an "EatMoreKale" bumper sticker (and at first thought they were following me!). Then I see an article in the New York Times this morning whetting everyone's appetite for kale, how to prepare it, a recipe for Potato and Kale Soup and letting people know that even in the (often) dreary month of March, it can be found at your local Farmers' Markets in the northern sections of the country. Yes, indeedy! In fact, I bought it last Saturday at the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market, grown by Goetz Farm of Riga, MI (above photo). Having kale available at the end of February is getting pretty close to 4-season gardening for those of us who live in the frozen north.

• (Addendum: Barley Soup with Mushrooms and Kale - yet another kale recipe in the New York Times this week on March 5th.)
• (Second addendum: Buckwheat Pasta with Kale - even another kale recipe in the New York Times on March 6)
• (Third addendum: Provencal Kale and Cabbage Gratin - here we go again with another recipe in the New York Times on March 6)
Perhaps it is National Kale Week and I don't know about it!? :->

I think it is time I get my own logo, bumper sticker, buttons, etc, etc, to help promote this "queen of greens". :-) If anyone has ideas about this, please share in the comments!

Meanwhile, head down to your local Farmers' Market. I'll bet someone there has some kale (or other healthy, delicious greens) to tempt your appetite, too. Check 'em out. Let me know what you find and how you use it.

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD