Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Recipe: Eggs with Kale

There is no real shopping list for this recipe. If you have some kale and eggs in the house (or backyard), I am sure you also have enough other vegetables to fill up a pan and whip up this supper, breakfast, lunch, or snack in a jiffy!

I love just looking in the refrigerator, the pantry, the freezer, or even the backyard (or our community garden) to see what I have available to make a quick meal. Although I do enjoy eating "fancy food" and do regularly try new recipes from cookbooks, I don't often cook gourmet recipes from cookbooks, magazines, or TV shows. I guess I prefer eating what are called "rustic" dishes, but I also do have a fully stocked pantry of staples such as brown rice both on the shelf ready to cook but usually also in the freezer already cooked and ready to quickly thaw to complete my own "fast food" meals.

In this case, I had been recently thinking about the recipes I remembered that were included in the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. One of my favorites was a quick and easy one called something like "eggs in a nest" (that may be correct or simply paraphrasing). In any case, it was easy, delicious, and fast, and apparently memorable!

Here are my ingredients as pictured:

• large handful of kale (about 5-6 medium leaves), washed, large tough stems removed, and then cut into strips
• two handfuls of fingerling potatoes, washed, steamed, and then diced
• 1 roasted red pepper, cut into big chunks
• medium handful of flat parley leaves, washed, dried, and chopped coarsely
• very large handful of green onions, whites and greens chopped (probably 2-3 bunches)
• 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
• 4 eggs (use more if desired)
• Olive oil, enough only to coat the pan (I used my large cast-iron skillet)
• Smoked paprika for shaking over eggs when done

• Pour small amount of olive oil into skillet, heat over medium high
• Add garlic and white part of onions, cook until just starting to sizzle and the aroma in the room is intoxicating (just a few minutes)
• Add all other vegetables, stir around in oil, cook for a few minutes until kale is just starting to wilt
• Spread vegetables out evenly into pan, make little depressions in the vegetable medley for the number of eggs you are using
• Break one egg into each depression
• Cover and turn down heat to medium and cook until eggs whites and yolks are done as you like them (this might take 10-15 minutes)
• Sprinkle the eggs with smoked paprika for a lovely smoky, bacon-like flavor and a beautiful color
• If your cast-iron pan is well seasoned, the servings will just slip out with a spatula onto a plate.
• Serve with cooked brown rice or toast, fresh green salad, or fresh fruit for a filling meal.

(Photo: Kale vegetable medley with eggs in their "nests")

(Photo: lid on to help steam the vegetables and eggs)

(Photo: Eggs with Kale, sprinkled with smoked paprika, all ready to serve and eat!)

With kale and eggs in your refrigerator or out your back door, cooking does not get much easier than this. Enjoy - yum, yum!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, September 21, 2009

Recipe: Brassica "Tri-fecta" Stir Fry

(Photo: Brassica "Tri-fecta" Stir Fry)

Remember in a previous post that I mentioned I made a stir-fry dish using three different types of Brassica vegetables: red cabbage, baby bok choy, and yellow cauliflower? It was beautiful, easy, and tasty. I think this recipe might be called the Brassica "Tri-fecta" Stir-fry!

Because I always have several Brassica vegetables on hand, this dish really became a way to simply use up what was hanging out in the refrigerator. The baby bok choy had been picked from our garden, and the yellow cauliflower and red cabbage had come from Tantré Farm, one of our area's local organic farms. Thus chopping up those vegetables, adding some onion, garlic, and whatever else might be available to throw in the wok or skillet is an easy supper. I added some firm tofu and served over the mixture rice. Any seasoning could be added, and I chose some sweet curry.

I'm sorry that the yellow cauliflower does not really show up well in the stir-fry photo. It is shaped like regular white cauliflower but is a beautiful soft shade of yellow. The flavor is milder than white cauliflower, but an advantage is the higher level of health-promoting molecules called carotenoids, of which beta-carotene (pre-vitamin A) is just one. Here is what it will look like at your local farmers' market or grocery store. Buy it the next time you are shopping for a new way to include your Brassica vegetables.

All Brassica vegetables are "winners", no need to think about which are the top three for a true "tri-fecta". So choose any from the list on the right side of my blog for your next easy, healthy, and delicious stir-fry dinner! Be sure to make enough to have for lunch the next day, too. Stir-fry recipes may seem time-consuming due to the amount of chopping, but here is the perfect place to enlist the help of your family members. Start your evening "catch-up" conversation at the counter-top instead of waiting for the table-top!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Research: Eat your broccoli and eat some raw

Mom Was Right: Eat Your Broccoli and eat at least some of it raw. Why?

HealthDay news imageTwo studies published this year help us both understand how one of the important molecules we obtain from broccoli (and other Brassica vegetables like kale and all those listed on the right side of this blog) helps optimize our health and also how to maximize the level in our body.

(1) The first study (Oral sulforaphane increases Phase II antioxidant enzymes in the human upper airway. Clin Immunol. 2009 Mar;130(3):244-51. Riedl MA, Saxon A, Diaz-Sanchez D) found that the molecule sulforaphane increases enzymes that cut inflammation in our respiratory system that have been linked to increased risk of allergic rhinits, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This was a human study that used varying doses of broccoli sprouts or alfalfa sprouts to test responses of various enzymes involved in these processes. The broccoli sprouts showed significant increase (~2-3 fold increase over baseline levels) in these detoxifying enzymes while the alfalfa sprouts showed no response.

(2) The second study (Bioavailability and kinetics of sulforaphane in humans after consumption of cooked versus raw broccoli, J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Nov 26;56(22):10505-9. Vermeulen M, Klöpping-Ketelaars IW, van den Berg R, Vaes WH) aimed to determine the bio-availability and kinetics (how fast it is metabolized) of sulforaphane from raw and cooked broccoli.

When consuming 200 grams of raw or cooked broccoli (approx 1/2 pound) with a warm meal, this study shows that consumption of raw broccoli results in faster absorption, higher bio-availability (37% versus 3.4%), and higher peak plasma amounts of sulforaphane, compared to cooked broccoli.

I will still consume some cooked broccoli (quickly stir-fried or very lightly steamed, in each case so the broccoli is still crunchy), but these studies add to data from other studies that at least some of these vegetables that we consume should be raw (and chewed well since that is a necessary step in the release of the sulforaphane molecule, thus developing maximum levels of sulforaphane to be absorbed into our body).

However, variety, variety, variety are still key for both types of foods to eat and preparation methods. It is well accepted that some nutrients or phytochemicals are better absorbed after cooking (lycopene from tomatoes is one example) because the cooking process breaks down the plant's cell walls, thus releasing the intra-cellular molecules to be more available for absorption.

At the very least, be sure to eat the decorative kale leaves that may come on your plate in a restaurant!

Where kale (along with broccoli and all other Brassica vegetables) are more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, September 7, 2009

What's in kale? Sulforaphane

(Photo: Curly kale varieties from Tantré Farms at the Ann Arbor, MI Farmers' Market)

This post could also be entitled "Research: Kale and other brassica vegetables may protect against heart disease, too!"

A new study has shown that a compound called sulforaphane, from brassica vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale, may protect arteries from disease by boosting a natural defense mechanism. (Arteriosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, Sept 2009, “Activation of Nrf2 in Endothelial Cells Protects Arteries From Exhibiting a Pro-inflammatory State”, M. Zakkar, et al.)

Sulforaphane ia a compound most widely associated with broccoli. Highest levels of sulforaphane are found in commercially available broccoli sprouts, but are also present in all brassica vegetables. In this recently published research, sulforaphane as an individual molecule (not from a whole food), was shown to activate a protein called Nrf2 in arteries. While the protein is normally present and active in the inner lining of arteries, in areas of arteries that are susceptible to disease, i.e., the bends and branches of arteries, the researchers found that Nrf2 is inactive, which may explain why those areas are sights for inflammation, an early stage in the development of heart disease such as atherosclerosis.

Both cell studies and animal studies showed that sulforaphane could reduce inflammation at these high risk areas by turning on the activity of the Nrf2 protein. The researchers next steps are to test whether eating a vegetable such as broccoli (or kale or other brassicas) will have the same protective effect for both prevention and reducing progression in already diseased arteries.

Cruciferous vegetables, like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, contain high levels of the active plant chemicals called glucosinolates (see one of my previous blog postings about glucosinolates). The glucosinlates are metabolized in our body into another group of molecules called isothiocyanates, which are known to be powerful anti-carcinogens. The main isothiocyanate from broccoli is sulforaphane.

Considerable previous research regarding the potential benefits of broccoli and sulforaphane have focused on the anti-cancer effects. Epidemiological (population data) and animal studies have shown that diets high in cruciferous vegetables result in fewer instances of certain cancers, especially lung, colon, breast, ovarian and bladder cancer.

This study clearly adds to growing research that including kale and other brassica vegetables in the diet on a frequent, even daily, basis may have multiple health benefits, however, the portion size needed to experience these benefits will likely be much larger than just nibbling around the edges of the decorative kale on your plate once in a while!

As a tip, in addition to all the other brassica vegetables I grow or purchase, I do enjoy eating broccoli sprouts by adding them in salads. I also use them in place of lettuce in sandwiches or wraps especially during the winter if I cannot find lettuce to purchase grown by our local farmers in their hoop houses, which permit nearly year-round production of fresh greens even as far north as Michigan. (Note: I highly recommend obtaining all the various healthful molecules available in our food (many of which have not yet been studied) instead of purchasing a bottle of just one molecule as a dietary supplement.)

Last night I made a stir-fry dish using three different types of brassica vegetables: red cabbage, baby bok choy, and yellow cauliflower. It was beautiful and tasty. I finished it for lunch today. I think that easy recipe might be called the Brassica Tri-fecta Stir-fry! I'll post that recipe and a photo separately.

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD