Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kale Blog Shout-out

Michigan has many women food bloggers, and when some of us first actually met face to face instead of just via the internet, we created a common name for ourselves, The MIchigan Lady Food Bloggers (MLFB for short). We also slightly changed Michigan's state motto "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you" to create our group's own motto "If you seek a pleasant recipe, look about you..."

We do have a group blog, but primarily we each post on our individual blogs. Currently I believe there are 106 members from all over Michigan. I have met many of them (not all) and have many of their blogs (again, not all) listed with links on the left side of my blog at www.dianadyer.com.  I enjoy reading what many of my Michigan blogging friends are cooking up and writing about (it is just amazing how completely different we all are!), and I'll just bet that the group blog has the links to each of our members listed for you to explore. Someday, I'll have to dedicate an afternoon to finally visiting each and every one of our MLFB group's blogs. 

In the meantime however, I am honored to have this blog given a "shout-out" in an article written for the Washtenaw Community College faculty, staff, and students entitled "Swapping Sugar". I don't use a lot of sugar in recipes on my kale blog, but I sure like the title and agree with the concept.

I learn a lot from these new friends through-out Michigan, and yes, I really did use my connections in this way to help my new daughter-in-law's family find a caterer in their part of Michigan who was both enthusiastic and experienced with a wide array of outstanding vegan options for my son's wedding reception this past August. Currently, I am using this same network of friends to help with the planning of the cake and food for my older son's wedding in 2011, too. 

I'll just bet that you will be able to find food bloggers (men and women) who live in your state, too, many of whom are highlighting locally-grown foods and recipes that are traditional for your locality. If you cannot, then maybe you'll be the first to start one and you can pick your own food and topic(s), a narrow focus like this kale blog or a very wide variety of interests like my www.dianadyer.com blog! 

Happy reading, cooking, and eating to all my readers, and maybe happy writing, too. Please let me know if you have a blog! And if you are a lady food blogger from Michigan but not yet on our list, the group's main blog has instructions for joining. 

Thanks for including my blog in your article, Brian!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, December 13, 2010

Micro-kale to Macro-kale

Shopping at the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market last Saturday (brrrrrr), we stopped by the table for the farm called Garden Works where we are long-time purchasers of their delicious sunflower shoots, which we first ate when we lived in Madison, WI way back in the mid-70's. Earlier this year, we tried their pea shoots and were just 'wowed' with how delicious they are and how much these shoots really taste like fresh young spring peas! The link will show you a large sample of the many beautiful and delicious vegetables they sell throughout the seasons.

Last Saturday, something new caught my eye, a plastic container with a tiny hand-written tag on top of it that said "micro-kale". In essence this is the kale-sprout equivalent of broccoli or alfalfa sprouts that you might see for sale in the grocery store.

(Photo: Micro-kale purchased from Garden Works, Ann Arbor, MI)

They are the Red Russian variety, as you can just see a hint of their red stems. They are delicious, tender, and sweet with just a touch of the kale taste. I have added them to a salad and used them as a green layer in a tofu (marinated and then baked with Ann Arbor's own Clancy's Fancy hot sauce) sandwich.

(Photo: Micro-kale sprouts, close-up. You can easily see their red stems. Most just have their first round leaves, but a few have tiny little lobed leaves that you would expect to see in the Red Russian variety of kale.)  

Now, contrasting the term "micro-kale" with the term "macro-kale", which admittedly a group of friends just made up as we sat around a table talking and laughing about a wide variety of big issues in life at a birthday celebration last Saturday night. So every time I do a post in the future that is of an "extraneous nature" but somehow connected to kale, I'll think of the term "macro-kale"! The term gives me a new perspective and lots to think about and mull over, one of my favorite things to do, besides growing, cooking, and eating kale. :-)

Where kale (both micro- and macro-) are much more fun than just being decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sweet Potato-Kale Patties - version 2

I see that I already have one example of sweet potato-kale patties on this blog, using lentils as a base. Those are so scrumptious that I actually entered the recipe in a sweet potato contest! (No, it didn't win or even get mentioned with the finalists.) However, because I so seldom actually "follow recipes" and love simply using what ingredients I have available, here is another similar recipe that is a delicious variation using what was on my pantry shelf and refrigerator and counter-top.

• 1 cup of dry whole-wheat cous-cous - add 2 cups boiling water to cous-cous and let sit ~15 minutes to absorb all liquid while preparing other ingredients, drain if necessary before adding to final mixture
• 1 small bunch fresh lacinato kale - remove stiff stems and then finely chop leaves (may use food processor - I ended up with a rounded cup of chopped leaves, but the amount is flexible)
• 2 medium size sweet potatoes - cooked and peeled and mashed with a fork
• 1/4 onion, finely chopped
• 1/4 sweet red pepper, finely chopped
• 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (may chop onion, garlic, and pepper together in food processor)
• 2-3 eggs (I used 3 medium size eggs)
• olive oil - smallest amount needed for pan frying

1) Mix all ingredients except olive oil and mix thoroughly
2) This amount of mixture made 20 patties for me, using a large heaping tablespoon of mixture for each patty. They could be made using teaspoons, too, for many more appetizer-size patties.
3) Heat in skillet over medium high for a few minutes, until brown on one side, then flip to cook on the other side, flattening slightly with spatula.
4) Brown on the other side, then set aside in low temperature oven until all are cooked.
5) Can be frozen and then reheated best in a toaster oven so they don't get soggy. 

These are delicious and all the vegetables could definitely be both seen and tasted. If you wish to add any seasonings, just experiment with small amounts of your favorites such as curry, hot pepper flakes, chopped fennel seed, etc etc. I actually prefer to complement these patties with a bit of applesauce, mustard, chutney, or even unflavored yogurt if additional flavoring is desired.

Serve with any main dish, soup, or even as a sandwich filling. They taste great heated on a toasted whole grain bun or in pita bread with a bit of lettuce or sprouts!

I used locally-grown kale, sweet potatoes, onion, garlic, and eggs!

(Photo: Sweet Potato-Kale Patties - version 2)

(Photo: Sweet Potato-Kale Patties - closeup - can you see the sweet potato chunks, the diced red pepper and red onions in addition to the kale?)

Yum - wow these are good - cooking them makes the house smell wonderful! Enjoy this treat yourself from mostly locally grown vegetables still available at many late fall farmers' markets. Yes, in spite of our recent frigid cold and snow, it is still Fall! Please go and support your local farmers who are still coming (and shivering) at your local market!

Where kale continues to be more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What's New? The 2011 Cancer Victory Garden™ Calendar

I am member of the The Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group of The American Dietetic Association, which has created a gorgeous 2011 calendar inspired by my blog at www.cancervictorygardens.com called the Cancer Victory Garden calendar. These calendars will make delightful holiday gifts for almost everyone you know, including cancer survivors, gardeners, friends, family members, teachers, day care providers, and professional colleagues.

Each month features a beautiful picture of a different cancer fighting vegetable or fruit, along with text that discusses its health benefits and strategies for growing the produce in a home garden.

One or more calendars can be shipped to your home or work address.

Each calendar costs $10.00, plus a flat rate shipping charge of $5.00 (for 1 or more calendars).

To order calendars, make your check out to: ON DPG #20
(Check total = no. of calendars x $10/each + $5.00 shipping)

Mail the check to:
Maureen Leser
56 Boston Drive
Berlin, MD, 21811

Calendars will be mailed to the address on your check, or to another address as requested.

Funds from the sale of these calendars will be used to defray member costs of educational programs. In addition, ON DPG is making a donation to the Diana Dyer Cancer Survivors’ Nutrition Research Endowment at the American Institute of Cancer Research, which has provided research funds from proceeds of the sale of my book A Dietitian's Cancer Story (also a great gift!) since 2001 for AICR funded research projects that focus on defining nutritional strategies for cancer survivors to optimize the odds of long-term survival and increased quality of life.

If you have questions about the calendars, please contact my friend Maureen Leser, MS, RD, CSO, LD, at mgoreleser@gmail.com or call her at 240-994-0533.

If you are a member of the ON DPG you can preview the calendar at the ON DPG website: http://www.oncologynutrition.org/

If you are not a member of the ON DPG but are interested in previewing the calendar, please contact Maureen at mgoreleser@gmail.com. She will email a pdf that previews the calendar.

I have already seen these calendars, was given several complimentary copies, and also purchased several additional copies to give away. I hope you consider purchasing one or more - you will love them!

I'll end with how the calendar begins!

"Life begins the day you plant a garden"

~~ Chinese Proverb

Truer words could not be spoken!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, November 1, 2010

Eating raw broccoli helps bladder cancer survivors

Just across my desk (i.e. computer) is research (Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Jul;19(7):1806-11) showing a significant increase in survival after bladder cancer diagnosis when consuming a modest amount of raw broccoli.

In a study examining dietary intakes of people when first diagnosed with bladder cancer at a major cancer center in New York, researchers found that the patients who ate 1 or more servings/month of raw broccoli versus less than one serving/month had a 43% reduction in death from all causes and a remarkable 57% reduction in death from bladder cancer when looking at data after 8 years of follow-up. Intakes of total vegetables, total fruits, and other cruciferous vegetables did not show any benefits on either overall survival or bladder cancer survival.

Prior animal and in vitro (cell studies) data have shown potent antiproliferative effects of dietary isothiocyanates from cruciferous vegetables on bladder cancer cells. This study was unique because it looked at both raw and cooked food consumption since cooking (especially cooking greens for hours!) can substantially reduce or destroy isothiocyanates contained in cruciferous or Brassica vegetables. 

Further follow-up studies with human subjects are clearly warranted but in the meantime, eat your broccoli and other Brassica vegetables, some of them raw, and the rest only very lightly steamed or stir-fried, and save any steaming liquid to use for future soup stock. Of note, although intake of kale and collard greens was evaluated and found to offer no survival benefit in this study, my comment above about the usual cooking technique (i.e., boiling for hours on end) for these vegetables may have rendered their intake inconsequential in this type of study.

Cruciferous vegetables do have a wide variety of glucosinolates, which are metabolized to a wide variety of isothiocyanates that could have different levels of protection against different types of cancers. Eat them all, enjoy them all, in a variety of different ways! And I'm just taking a wild guess, but I'll bet that most regular readers of this blog eat kale, broccoli, and other Brassica vegetables, raw or cooked, more than once a month. :-)

Photo: Garlic Scape-Kale Pesto - this is not raw broccoli, but a delicious way to eat another raw cruciferous vegetable. Believe it or not (actually I'm embarrassed to admit this), I still have some garlic scapes in my refrigerator (the tops are dried out but the stems are in great shape!), so I'm going to try making this pesto using raw broccoli florets instead of kale. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Where kale (and broccoli) is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Eating Brassica vegetables can lead to lower breast cancer risk

A recent 12-year prospective longitudinal study of 59,000 African American women has shown that those who consumed more vegetables per day and per week are less likely to develop estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer than women with low vegetable intake.  The incidence of ER-negative/PR-negative breast cancer was 43 percent lower among those women who were consuming at least two (of any kind) vegetables per day compared with women who ate fewer than four vegetables per week. These results are important because African American women are more likely than white women to be diagnosed with estrogen receptor-negative tumors, which have a poorer prognosis than estrogen receptor-positive tumors.

However, what caught my eye was the following information. While looking for some more detailed information within the food frequency data, researchers also found that higher intake of cruciferous vegetables (Brassicas) in particular showed a reduced risk of breast cancer overall in this group of women (all types of breast cancer - some good news!). Cruciferous vegetables, which include kale, mustard, and collard greens, broccoli, along with cabbage, cauliflower and the rest of the vegetables on the list found on the right side of this blog, are sources of the group of phytochemicals called glucosinolates, which may play a role in preventing the development of breast cancer through their effects on both estrogen metabolism and detoxification enzymes.

Very simply, estrogen (estradiol) is converted to two metabolites: 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone, which acts as a breast tumor promoter or the alternative product of estrogen metabolism, 2-hydroxyestrone, which does not exhibit estrogenic properties in breast tissue. Very simply you can use the analogy of  these two estrogen metabolite levels in your blood as 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone = LDL or bad cholesterol and 2-hydroxyestrone = HDL or good cholesterol.

Again, very simply, our body has two sets of liver enzymes involved in detoxification. Brassica vegetables have been shown to decrease some Phase 1 enzymes, which can actually create a carcinogen, and have also been shown to increase Phase ll enzymes, which work to convert toxic or carcinogenic molecules into less potent molecules that can be less toxic and also excreted quickly into urine.

These are just two ways that eating Brassica vegetables can potentially decrease the risk of developing breast cancer. The amount to eat of these vegetables to consume on a daily or weekly basis is not clearly defined, but clearly this study shows that consuming even modest amounts of vegetables of any kind (two servings per day) can significantly reduce risk of a type of breast cancer that has a poor prognosis when diagnosed in African American women, and other researchers have shown that 3-5 servings per week of Brassica vegetables can reduce cancer risk.

We're lucky that locally-grown Brassica vegetables are available nearly year round, especially since many farmers in northern areas are erecting hoop houses (passive green houses) in which greens like kale can be grown even when it is cold and snowy outside. In addition, kale and many other Brassica vegetables survive and even love that first frost, turning just a tad bit sweeter. Head down to your local farmers' markets to purchase kale and Brussels sprouts as just two examples of breast-cancer fighting Brassicas!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate (a minimum of 3-5 days per week)!

Diana Dyer,  MS, RD

Monday, October 25, 2010

Research Shows that Bacteria Boost a Brassica's Benefits!

BBBB - That is a mouthful!!

In a nutshell, highly regarded scientists at The University of Illinois have shown for the first time (in rats) that sulforaphane, a potent cancer-fighting molecule in broccoli, can be released from within the food matrix by bacteria in the lower gut and then absorbed into the body in quantities large enough to have anti-cancer benefits.

That is great news, to actually demonstrate what had been hoped for but not perfectly clear in the past. We have millions, billions, maybe trillions of good bacteria in our large intestine (colon) that are doing a myriad of jobs as they munch away on remnants and components of our food that have not been absorbed by the small intestine. I have heard a scientist stand up from the audience at a National Cancer Institute-sponsored conference to say that without starting to study the actions of these bacteria in the colon, all other research involving food and nutrients' potential role in cancer prevention/survivorship is vastly incomplete and essentially uninterpretable.

How to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut? Please don't wait for (or pay for) the dietary supplement industry to develop a pill that combines a single molecule like sulphoraphane and some friendly bacteria (probiotics) or some "bioactive food constituent" to feed these friendly bacteria (prebiotics). Eat more foods that contain live and active probiotics (examples being cultured dairy foods, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchee) or prebiotics (foods containing digestive-resistant fiber, inulin, some examples being onions, leeks, apples, oats, barley). This is easy and delicious to do with foods without adding expensive dietary supplements.

The other important point from this research was the comment by the scientist that eating broccoli (or other brassica vegetables like kale) at a frequency of 3-5 times per week is enough to achieve a level of sulphoraphane in the body that has anti-cancer effects. However,  remember that these vegetables have many other molecules that are helping to optimize health and wellness, including an anti-inflammation effect which is important at reducing risk of many of the debilitating chronic diseases. So again, the message is food food food - find different foods to eat, different ways to prepare them, and enjoy cooking and eating them!

The study is the cover story of the November 2010 issue of the new journal Food & Function (Vol. 1, pp. 162-167) and is available online pre-publication at http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Journals/JournalIssues/FO . The research was funded by the USDA.

 (Photo: Pasta with dried cherry tomatoes and broccolini)

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

Monday, October 18, 2010

Another good laugh - a song this time!

I am not sure when or how kale became a "hot item", but I sure am glad it has. Greg Klyma, a singer-songwriter from Buffalo, NY, sent me a video of one of his recent songs "The Kale Store".

I say head down to your farmers' market (or the store) to get some great kale. If you live in an area that has already had its first frost, then definitely sprint to your farmers' market for the best-tasting kale you can imagine as the frost helps to give it a hint of sweetness.

Yum, yum, yum - watching this short video will have you also wearing a t-shirt that says "Eat More Kale" and singing along with Greg about "The Kale Store"!!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate - it's fun and a song, too!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A new use for kale and a good laugh!

At yesterday's Ypsilanti-Downtown Farmers' Market, a young girl and her mother walked by our garlic table, with the girl proudly carrying a bag of beautiful kale. I asked if she needed some garlic to cook with her kale when she got home. She looked a bit confused, then looked up at her mother, at which point her mom responded that they did not actually eat kale themselves, but the kale was to feed her daughter's lizard! Well, my boys had all kinds of pets while growing up, but somehow I don't remember that we ever had lizards, so that was a new one for me! I laughed and laughed and asked if I could share this story on my kale blog while my husband handed the daughter a small (baby size) head of garlic just in case her lizard wanted to try some great tasting kale with garlic like we eat. He added the caveat that the lizard should not be eating better than they were, so they should try kale with garlic, too! This time the mom laughed and laughed, the daughter looked pleased instead of confused, and I think they went home with a new appreciation for kale and maybe garlic, too. :-)

Where kale is much more than decoration (or lizard-food) on our plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, September 10, 2010

Kale and Garlic - Garlic and Kale

I'm so sorry that farming and selling our multiple varieties of organically-grown garlic at 3 local farmers' markets has reduced my kale blogging time to zero! Of course I have had a few other good things taking up my time, too, like my younger son's wedding in early August and all the continuous work of repairing and remodeling the house at our farm so we can eventually move in.

So it was such GREAT pleasure to hear one of our customers who has purchased garlic from us at Ann Arbor's Westside Farmers' Market tell me that she could eat stir-fried kale with garlic (or was that garlic with kale?) every night of the year and never (never!) get tired of it. Oh, such music to my ears.........I couldn't agree more! :-)

In addition, Amy Heath, farmer at Living Stones Community Farm in Ann Arbor now recommends my kale blog to all her customers who purchase her beautiful kale at the Ypsi-Downtown Farmers' Market and the Dearborn, MI Farmers' Market and then ask her for recipe ideas. Again, music to my ears. I always look forward to taking home a large bunch of LSC's kale each Tuesday night after the market closes. Our Tuesday night supper usually consists of, guess what, garlic and kale! So easy and so delicious. Add some whole grain bread, some cheese or eggs (cook on top of the kale), some other steamed or fresh vegetables, and fruit from your local market and supper is simple and done!

Then it's off to bed for us so we can get up before dawn (seriously!) in order to set up at the Wednesday Ann Arbor Farmers' Market that starts at 7 am.

Thanks to all the kale lovers out there who are enjoying the recipes already on my blog and not badgering me to get posting again. Don't worry.  I miss blogging. I never stop thinking about cooking and will be back at it (both cooking and blogging) as soon as possible. I promise!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate and hopefully yours, too!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Kale Blog Publicity - and another great pesto recipe

What a nice article about Ann Arbor's Westside Farmers' Market that includes a mention of us selling our garlic scapes plus my 365DaysofKale blog!

Be sure to read the article, which includes a wonderful recipe for pesto that includes garlic scapes with fresh peas. I'm just sure you could also throw one kale leaf in the food processor to make a different and still delicious variation. I can say that I have included fresh peas with avocado when making guacamole and found the mixture both delicious and beautiful, with the bonus of left-overs (rare to have any!) staying bright green for several days in the refrigerator.

Thanks, Mary, for including a mention of my kale (and all things brassica) blog!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Recipe: Garlic Scape - Kale Pesto

Here is it - finally - the recipe and photos for my Garlic Scape-Kale Pesto recipe. We are still using what this recipe made earlier in the week; tonight I added a teaspoon to each serving of my stand-by red lentil soup along with serving more pasta tossed with the garlic scape-kale pesto (hard to get enough of that!) and some chopped red peppers from the freezer.
Garlic Scape - Kale Pesto


1 cup garlic scapes (about 8 or 9 scapes) cut into ¼-inch slices

3-5 leaves lacinato (dinosaur) kale, tough stems removed and then slice into sideways strips
1/3 cup walnuts, pecans, or pine nuts (toasting these adds a nice twist)
3/4 cup olive oil

approx. 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese 

1/2 teaspoon salt
 (I omitted since there is enough salt from the cheese for me)
black pepper to taste (I did not add any)


Place scapes, kale, and nuts in the bowl of a food processor and grind until well combined and somewhat smooth but not purely pureed. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated but there is still some "chunkiness". Transfer mix to a mixing bowl.  Add parmesan, salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 1-1/2 cups of pesto. Keeps for up to one week in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Or transfer to an ice-cube tray and freeze to be defrosted and used one cube at a time at your leisure.  The latter approach makes scape pesto available even in mid-winter, when it’s use can make a scrumptious dish.

This pesto is bright green in contrast to the beautiful light green pesto made just from the garlic scapes.

 (Photo: Variety of garlic scapes and lacinato kale leaves, with stems removed)

(Photo: Garlic Scape - Kale Pesto on a toasted bagel, showing it is still a bit "chunky" rather than blended smooth)

Enjoy, enjoy - there is no shortage of ways to use any pesto, let alone a pesto made with kale and garlic scapes, two of my favorite vegetables.
Where kale continues to be more than decoration on my plate! 

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, June 14, 2010

Garlic - not kale this time!

I could not resist cross-posting from my dianadyer.com blog, just in case there are some of my kale readers who do not follow my other blogs. The non-stop activities to get our garlic farm up and running (let alone the house remodeled in order to someday, hopefully this summer,  actually move there!) is why I don't have time to post on my kale blog as often as I would like. Here is what we are up to these days. Someday we will also have kale to sell but right now it is garlic, garlic, garlic!

My husband and I grinning like little kids on Christmas morning on our debut day as vendors selling our garlic scapes (7 varieties this week - 15 varieties will be ready for week #2) at the Ypsilanti Downtown Farmers' Market June 8, 2010 - photo taken by Cara Rosaen, Marketing Director for the brand new website RealTimeFarms.com.  

Please check out the RealTimeFarms.com website - it is designed to connect people to fresh, local sources of food by providing "real time" information (including beautiful photographs) about the location of farmers' markets around the country along with what is available to purchase today, right now, , i.e. "real time". It is an interactive site that you (yes, you!) can also use to load up information about what you see available at farmers' markets where you live.

Help promote locally grown food by your local farmers! Your local farmers (like us!) thank you from the bottom of their hearts. :-)

Unlike grinning kids who have the pleasure of having gifts just appear on Christmas morning, my husband and I fully appreciate every aspect of both the years of hard work leading up to this moment and our extreme good fortune to have arrived at this moment. I just turned down a cancer survivorship speaking invitation because I am too busy farming, but that does not mean I have forgotten "where I have come from" to get here. I am a very grateful cancer survivor every single day, hoping that I can still help others plant and cultivate their own seeds leading to a successful survivorship journey, too.

Where kale (and garlic, too) are more than decoration on our plates!

Diana (and Dick) Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"The dose is the poison"

Yes it always possible to eat too much of a good thing. A case report in this week's New England Journal of Medicine and reported in today's New York Times mirrors a question I recently received on this blog about the safety of consumption of raw Brassica vegetables related to thyroid gland dysfunction.

Even before this incidence was reported, I have already been making inquiries into the medical literature and to three researchers I know that have extensive knowledge of the effect of Brassica vegetables (raw and cooked) in humans to try to sort out "myth from reality" about the recommendations on various websites to not eat any raw Brassica vegetables due to possible suppression of thyroid function.

I am relying on the guidance from these 3 researchers (and those to whom they refer me for even more information) to try to come up with a "bottom line" recommendation regarding how much raw and fermented Brassica consumption is indeed both safe and/or beneficial that is based on evidence (in addition to taking into consideration, but by no means relying exclusively, on how someone's mother traditionally cooked and ate and felt in the "old country").

Stay tuned, but in the meantime, please don't eat 2-3 #'s of anything for months on end, raw or cooked. I remember the early hey-day of "soy is a wonder food" when I routinely was contacted by people trying to eat a pound of tofu a day or drink a liter of soy milk daily. Gosh, how boring, boring, boring let alone remembering that no population has a healthy dietary pattern of such rigidity and exclusion of so many other foods.

I'm sorry, I know it's not very "sexy", but I will predict that the bottom line will be variety, variety, variety of types, amounts, and ways of production (raw, cooked, fermented). As I said, stay tuned!

Where kale is still more than decoration on my plate but I have NEVER eaten 1# of kale (let alone 2-3#!), raw or cooked, on any one day in my life and nor would I ever professionally recommend doing so! :-)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, May 7, 2010

Top 10 Ways to Use Kale!

I was not clever enough (or quick enough) to write this list myself, so I am sending you to a fellow ("sister" really) Michigan Lady Food Blogger who just wrote an article with this title for her blog called The Local Cook. Check it out - all her recipes sounds great.

In addition, I love the idea of a cooking class just on greens, what they are, which are which, how to prepare and use various ones. I would suggest also including instruction on how to freeze kale and other hardy greens for future use during the weeks (and weeks) when you are overwhelmed with the amount of various fresh greens in your CSA box. Yes, I've been there myself, so much so that is when I first started feeding kale to my dog (yep, she loves kale, too!). I have never given it away to friends (or worse, composted it) because I am pretty vigilant about freezing our extra greens. Here is the link to my post about freezing kale.

Enjoy reading another bloggers growing enthusiasm for kale!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate, 

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, April 23, 2010

Finding Gardening Space

Cross-posted from my blog www.CancerVictoryGardens.com.

Want to garden but have no space of your own? Want to move beyond just the pots or hanging plants on your balcony or sneaking your kale into the landscaping around your apartment complex (yes, I know someone who does that!)? Here's a new free match-making website to help you find that special space where you can garden on someone-else's land!

SharedEarth connects land owners with gardeners and farmers.

Austin – SharedEarth (www.sharedearth.com) launches as the world celebrates Earth Day.

SharedEarth.com is a free match-making website that connects land owners with gardeners and farmers.   Land owners share their land with someone they trust and get free fruits, vegetables and flowers.  Gardeners and farmers get free access to land and the opportunity to grow what they love.  The produce is shared between the two parties as they see fit.  The result is a more efficient use of land and a greener planet.

“Community gardens exist in every major city in the United States, yet virtually all have waiting lists.  With over 25 million square feet of shared space on the system, SharedEarth.com has created an alternative with the largest community of private land owners and gardeners on the planet.  We are making more efficient use of land and a greener planet, one garden at a time,” said SharedEarth.com Chairman and Founder, Adam Dell.

Much like online dating sites, SharedEarth.com users create their own profile and find matches based on criteria such as location, years of gardening experience and the type of produce to be grown.  Gardeners and farmers find the service useful because they are able to gain free access to land.  Land owners find the service useful because they often lack the time, experience or commitment needed to cultivate a productive garden on their property.

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of the best-selling books The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers, had this to say about Shared Earth: “Whoa! What a grand idea.”

Shared Earth was born out of Dell’s own experience looking for help growing a garden on his property.  He turned to the Internet to find a qualified match.  And now he reaps the rewards of this partnership through the fruits and vegetables he eats every day.  SharedEarth.com was established as a not for profit sustainable corporation to help facilitate this process for others. 

Please visit www.sharedearth.com for more information and to register for FREE today.


Gosh, what an opportunity! Good luck and have fun finding gardening space for your own special kale garden and for everything else, too!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What is a Superfood?

I don't really know - at least I don't think there is an agreed upon definition for this commonly used term in the media. But how about a super group of foods? Looking at the newly developed food rating score that Whole Foods Market has begun using (called the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index of ANDI), it is apparent that Brassica vegetables are a group that is collectively the top-dog for providing a wide variety of health-producing nutrients and additional molecules like the wide variety of phytochemicals. In fact, 8 of the top 10 foods in this new index are Brassicas:
  1. Kale (whoo - hoo! I do not know what variety was used, but use it as a collective spot for this vegetable on this index!), 
  2. Collards,
  3. Bok choy
  4. Spinach (not a Brassica)
  5. Brussels sprouts
  6. Arugula
  7. Cabbage
  8. Romaine (not a Brassica)
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cauliflower
Please don't use this whole index as a means of completely avoiding any of the whole foods listed on it that have low scores (like olive oil). In fact, I am not sure that the list itself is very useful if you are sticking to whole foods as the main source of foods consumed (and enjoyed) in your diet versus processed foods or food-like substances. For instance, this list does not show you how a box of just-add-water bean burgers will actually stack up to compare with a soft drink. 

I hope the day actually comes when WFM finally removes (or greatly reduces) the abundant junk food available to purchase in their stores. I agree with other bloggers who have commented that even organic junk food is still junk food (and designed to "hook you" so you can't eat just one, whatever it is). And I also agree with Michael Pollan who recommends that (paraphrasing here I am sure) you consume only junk food that you have made yourself. I think the example he used was french fries.

Well, I am veering off topic. :-) Let's use this post to celebrate kale and all other Brassica vegetables. I still intentionally enjoy eat a serving a day of kale or other Brassicas, yes, that would qualify as "365 Days of Kale", I believe!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate, 365 days of the year!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cooking Methods - again

Or - what's left after cooking by various methods? I'm always disappointed by various research studies that don't really simulate real cooking methods. Remember the broccoli and microwave study a few years ago in which the sound bites in the news never bothered to tell you that the study used a quart of water to microwave the broccoli? I actually wonder why that study was funded, let alone published.

However, this study actually tried to simulate various types of institutional cooking methods, whether food is being prepared to serve to large numbers of hospital patients at one time or to be held on a buffet table for a large crowd. Vegetables chosen were cut green beans or the brassica vegetable called swede rods or rutabaga (this study was conducted in Norway where rutabaga is a more commonly consumed vegetable). 

 (Photo: Rutabagas, photo from Wikipedia)

In the present study, vegetables were industrially blanched/frozen and then cooked in water or by pouch technology (boil-in-bag) with comparisons of their ability to retain vitamin C, total phenolics and antioxidative activity (DPPH and FRAP).

RESULTS: After conventional cooking, 50.4% total ascorbic acid, 76.7% total phenolics, 55.7% DPPH and 59.0% FRAP were recovered in the drained beans. After boil-in-bag cooking, significantly (P < 0.05) higher recoveries were obtained, i.e. 80.5% total ascorbic acid, 89.2% total phenolics, 94.8% DPPH and 92.9% FRAP.  By conventional cooking, 13.5-42.8% of the nutrients leaked into the cooking water; while no leakage occurred by boil-in-bag cooking. Warm-holding beans after cooking reduced recoveries in all components. Recoveries in swede rods were comparable but overall slightly lower.

CONCLUSION: Industrially blanched/frozen vegetables should preferably be cooked by pouch technology, rather than conventional cooking in water. Including cooking water or exuded liquid into the final dish will increase the level of nutrients in a meal. Warm-holding of vegetables after cooking should be avoided.

Take home points: 
(1) If you purchase frozen vegetables (or freeze at home), look for bags that let you simply "boil in the bag" to prepare for serving.
(2) Use any liquid from cooking vegetables (in soup broth, cooking rice, add to your simmering pasta sauce, or just drink it like my mother has always done!)
(3) Serve vegetables hot, right away. Be at the front of the line at a buffet table or wait at a cafeteria line for a freshly prepared pan of vegetables. Ask if they were prepared in a pouch or water.
(4) I save all left-over liquid from preparing vegetables (even a few tablespoons) by placing into a container I keep in the freezer. When full, I have a quart of delicious vegetable soup stock filled with nutrients ready to thaw and use.

My husband would actually say that rutabagas are his favorite vegetable.  He got an urgent phone call 30 years ago from my older son's daycare where they did not know what my son had brought as his contribution for that day's activity, making "stone soup"; yes, it was a rutabaga. My husband is also picky about pasties; only those that contain rutabagas and enough of them to actually taste "cut the mustard" for him. You can enjoy his delicious recipe (yes!) for Glazed Rutabagas right on this blog. 

Where kale (and other Brassicas, like rutabaga) are more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I'll be watching Dirt: The Movie

Calling all kale and other vegetable lovers! I'm cross-posting this blog posting from my dianadyer blog - my first time to do so - to make sure that all my blog readers know about the upcoming showing of the documentary Dirt: The Movie on PBS stations next week.


If you haven't picked up on this yet, my blog has a pretty wide range of topics, all related to my far-reaching range of interests. I am putting the date and time on my calendar for watching the following show: Dirt: The Movie, airing next week on PBS TV channels. I honestly cannot remember the last time I did that for something on TV (oops yes I can - I do love to watch the Wimbledon tennis women's finals so I always make sure I know when that is being broadcast), so I highly recommend that you do the same.

Here is the link to the movie info. You will also see a link on that page to find the day/time of showing according to where you live.

The movie is about how we care for (or don't) our soil, the very foundation of our food production and thus life on this planet. The word 'dirt' is just a catchier word. In fact, I have heard that the author of the book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations took flak from his professional colleagues (other geologists and soil scientists) for the title of his book, but that is what big publishing houses do to try to catch the public's attention in order to increase sales (most authors lose control over such details as the title and the cover image when their book is published by one of the main book publishing companies, just one reason I have turned down offers from two big publishing companies to take over publishing my book).

Two images I have kept in mind after reading Dirt are the following:

Modern agricultural practices are "soil mining", 
meaning we are rapidly outstripping the Earth's natural rate of restoring topsoil.

The world loses 83 billion tons of soil each year.

I actually feel that reading Dirt a few years ago was nearly as life-changing, i.e., expanding for my view of the world, as when I read Diet for a Small Planet in the early 1970's. Both books permanently shaped my opinions as a nutrition professional by understanding that our choices of food to eat have social consequences to economic consequences. I find it terribly disheartening that I learned none of this during my professional nutrition education. The next book on the top of my "to read pile" (very large) is The Soil and Health: A Study of Organic Agriculture by Sir Albert Howard, originally published in 1947, re-published in 2006 with a new introduction by the farmer-poet-activist Wendell Berry. I am only musing at this point, but when reading it, I will pondering if this book should be the first book read by all nutrition professionals in training.

This movie is being shown in celebration of next week's 40th anniversary of Earth Day, but make no mistake, if we don't change our agriculture systems to focus on practices that preserve and rebuild the health of our soils around the world, it is not the earth that will be the loser, but humanity itself (i.e., no soil, no food). I would hope that the movie makes this point clearly.

Ending with another of my favorite quotations about the soil, here is one that is especially apropos:

The farther we get away from the land, the greater our insecurity.
  ~~ Henry Ford
Where kale (which needs healthy soil to grow) is more than decoration on my plate!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Recipe: Kale and Cabbage Gratin

Serve this hearty gratin as a main dish or at a potluck. It’s good hot or at room temperature. The recipe is inspired by one I saw in the New York Times. I am using fresh kale right now, but you could also use frozen kale, collards, turnip greens, or others. Feel free to use what you have available in season and on hand. The hardest part of this recipe is remembering to start the rice cooking about 2 hours before you want to eat (unless you have some cooked and on hand ready to use!).


• 1/2 to 1 pound kale, preferably cavolo nero, stemmed only if stems are thick and tough, washed thoroughly and cut in slivers (use the larger amount if you have it - I only had 1/2# and that amount looked "skimpy" after being combined with the cabbage)

• 1 pound cabbage, preferably savoy cabbage, quartered, cored and cut in slivers

• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

• 1 medium onion, finely chopped

• 2-4 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed

• 6 leaves fresh sage, chopped

• 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

• Optional - Salt, preferably kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste

• 2 eggs

• 2 cups rice, preferably a short grain rice like Arborio, or brown rice, cooked

• 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (3/4 cup, loosely packed)

• 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, preferably whole wheat


Cook rice before chopping vegetables, or use some previously cooked rice that may be in your refrigerator or freezer.

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a two-quart casserole baking dish.

2. Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender and translucent, about five minutes.

3. Stir in the garlic, sage and thyme, and cook for another minute until fragrant.

4. Stir in the kale. Cook in the liquid left on the leaves after washing until the kale begins to wilt. Stir often, and when most of the kale has wilted, add the cabbage and salt.

5. Add 1/2 cup water, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes until the water has evaporated; the kale and cabbage should be wilted and fragrant but still have some texture and color.

5. Add pepper, taste and adjust salt.

6. Beat the eggs in a bowl, and stir in the cooked vegetables, the rice and cheese.

7. Stir together well, and scrape into the baking dish.

8. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top, and drizzle on the remaining olive oil.

9. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, until firm and browned on the top. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Serve hot or warm.

Yield: Serves 6 as a main dish but many more at a potluck.

Advance preparation: This can be made a day ahead and reheated or simply brought to room temperature. Or prepare the vegetables through step 1 a day ahead, and assemble the dish the next day.

(Photo: Kale and Cabbage Gratin ingredients)

(Photo: Fresh sage, lemon thyme, marjoram)

(Photo: kale, cabbage, farm-fresh eggs)

(Photo: Garlic and cippolini onions - our last onions from 2009 growing season)

(Photo: Cabbage, kale, onions, garlic, and herbs in cast iron skillet)

(Photo: Eggs, rice, and feta cheese mixture)

(Photo: Egg mixture with cooked kale and cabbage and seasonings added)

(Photo: Kale and Cabbage Gratin in the baking dish almost ready to put in the oven)

(Photo: Last step - topping with bread crumbs and remaining olive oil drizzled on top)

(Photo: Kale and Cabbage Gratin - done, cooling, and smelling too good to wait to eat!)

Serve with a hearty whole grain bread, some other cooked vegetable (something colorful like carrots or beets or stewed/fresh tomatoes) and some fruit in season.

Yum, yum - the sage seasoning makes the house smell faintly of Thanksgiving while cooking, but the lemon thyme makes your hands and kitchen smell like a summer herb garden. Enjoy!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD