Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Re-elect Kale!

A friend sent this to me, sent to her by her mother. I have no idea where this campaign sign is proudly stuck into someone's yard.

I remember when I first signed up for 'kale alerts', I was surprised to see many of the articles picked up were because someone's last name was Kale, a new awareness to me. Most of these articles were from India, but certainly not all. I have also seen articles where a person's first name is Kale, again something new for me.

So good luck to Kale. I hope you're promoting 'Eat More Kale!' plus advocating for the many benefits to your community from locally-grown organic foods. :)

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate - it's a re-election campaign!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Don't have spinach? Use kale!

I love sharing recipes with my sons and daughters in law. Here is one that is now a 'go to' recipe for my younger son and his wife. However, the recipe calls for spinach (don't have), chickpeas (don't have), tomato sauce (don't have), and red wine vinegar (don't have). Does that stop me from trying a great sounding recipe when a friend is coming over for dinner? LOL - no, not at all.

So here is how I took the actual recipe for espinacas con garbanzos and made my own substitutions:


• 2 - 15 ounce cans of chickpeas, drain, rinse (I substituted pre-cooked cannellini beans I had in the freezer - use any beans you have on hand)
• 6 Tbsp. olive oil (I am sure I used less than this amount)
• 1 pound spinach, washed (I used one large 'bunch' of kale from our garden, a mixture of varieties, wash, shake dry, strip away tough stems, and then cut into smallish pieces)
• 1 smallish onion, peeled, cut into wedges
• 2 slices whole grain bread, cut away crusts (I didn't do this) and cut into small cubes (the original recipes calls for 2.5 ounces or 75 grams - I did not weigh my bread)
• 1/2 cup tomato sauce (use it if you have it - I used 3 slices of dried tomatoes and ~1/2 vegetable broth)
• 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (I didn't have this either but I had some already toasted cumin seeds so I used these instead)
• Pinch red pepper flakes
• 1-1/2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar (I am out of that so I used balsamic vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (no options here - this ingredient is a must!)
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper (I used a little bit of each)
• Lemon juice to taste (I didn't bother with this)

Well, now that I can see all that I didn't do (highlighted in blue), I realize that I probably created a totally new recipe. However, my hope is that you see how flexible most recipes are, and that with a few things on hand for reasonable substitutions, dinner can be created from what you have available.


1) Place a large saucepan (I used a soup pot) over medium heat and add 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil.
2) Add the onion and let sizzle for a few minutes
3) Add the kale and stir well, remove kale and onions when leaves are cooked but still bright green, I transferred the kale to a large bowl so I could add back any liquid at the end
4) Add ~1 Tbsp. olive oil to a small frying pan (next time I will just use the big soup pot I cooked the kale in) and fry the bread cubes for ~5 minutes until it is golden brown.
5) Then add the garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Cook for only ~1 minute more until the garlic is toasted but not dark brown.
6) Transfer the bread and spices to a small food processor (or you may use a mortar and pestle to smash all this together), add the dried tomatoes and the vinegar and grind until like a paste. Add a little of the 1/2 cup of vegetable broth if necessary to mix it all together.
7) Return this mixture to the large pot and add the drained beans (or chickpeas) and remaining broth (or tomato sauce). Stir until the beans have absorbed the flavors and are hot.
8) Season with a bit of salt and pepper.
9) If the consistency is still a little thick, add a bit of water (or more broth if you have some on-hand).
10) Finally add back the kale and heat everything over medium heat until it is all hot again.

I served this delicious, beautiful, easy, one-pot meal over some rice I had cooked the day before along with some home-made tomato soup (using up many of our now ripening tomatoes that were picked green before our killing frost a week ago or so), and some whole grain bread made by a friend.

Both my husband and a friend eating with us that night thought this was a great dinner. I did too and will definitely make this recipe again, maybe even getting around to using chickpeas and spinach!

The chopped kale and garlic, cooked and set aside

The beans with the bread/herb/tomato mixture before adding back the kale and reheating. 

I repeat, the smoked paprika is a 'must'. Find a store that sells it in bulk for the best price of this amazing spice, as you will find yourself using is a lot!

This meal is filled with health-promoting molecules, but I'll make this recipe again because it is so delicious. Yum, yum, yum!!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Yep, there it is!

500,086 visits as of this morning. :) Thank you everyone for both coming to this blog and coming back. You inspire me to keep eating, thinking, and writing about kale (and its healthy cousins).

Here are a few photos I took yesterday and had time to download while watching the Detroit Tigers get their clock cleaned last night - yikes - well it is only Game 1.

I know this is difficult to see, but there is a major !! gap in the electric fence. Yes the deer crashed through it, which led to the photo below.

Hmmm, I was actually looking at the celery (not pictured) when I saw - yikes! - deer hoof prints in the garden. I looked up to see that open fence (above) and then looked to my left to see - yes, oh darn - my beautiful Lacinato kale plant 'topped'! The regular curly kale to its left has had about 20 of its succulent top leaves eaten, but the Red Russian kale variety was ignored entirely. You can also see we still have a lot of work to do to clean up our garden, both from this year, and admittedly from last year. There is always next year to get things done. :)

We did get a kitchen herb garden installed this year right outside the back of the house by the garage. This is a photo of the mostly dead nasturium in the lower left corner (even covering it up the night of the hard frost was not enough) and then curly and flat parsley and lettuces by the stone walk with my little hedge of baby kale and bok choy and spinach behind them. I do cover them up, too, when we have frosts and they keep chugging away. The basil is completely dead, but the mint keeps going without being covered up so far. 

Hard to see, but there are two rows of rutabagas surrounded by the straw mulch. I have mentioned before that rutabagas are my husband's favorite vegetable (he also loves spinach and beets and has been like this since childhood!). They will continue to grow slowly and will be harvested for our Thanksgiving dinner. 

Now back to garlic planting. Today is a perfect day, clear, no wind, in the 70's, so we had better make hay while the sun shines so to speak, and try to get at least another 1000 in the ground, hopefully more! If you are interested in following our garlic farm's updates, they can be seen on Facebook. Facebook posts can also be seen on the homepage of our farm's website where you can also sign up for our farm's newsletter (done for the season, but you'll know when we get started up again early next year). 

Thanks again for coming to my kale blog. Maybe next year we'll get organized enough to sell kale at the farmers' markets along with our amazing 40 varieties of garlic!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate - it is also a deer delicacy!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Today is Food Day - Eat Kale!

I rarely pay attention to my blog stats, but I happened to notice that this blog is very close to reaching the 1/2 million mark (500,000) of viewers. With the count right now being ~499,400 (I have already forgotten the actual count and don't want to take the time to go back to look at it), and knowing this blog averages 1,000 viewers each day, I expect today is the day that it will go over 1/2 million.

Who would have guessed? Not I. I was already blogging about food and other topics at my dianadyer blog. However, knowing my love for 'all things kale', my friends from the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers group nudged me to start a blog just for kale. I had my 'tag line' already but felt 'stuck' with the rest. In just a moment of brainstorming during a Christmas cookie exchange in 2008, one of them came up with my blog title and another with the calendar logo, so then the rest was up to me.  In other words, they told me "No more excuses, start writing!"

I wish I had more time to write. I don't even have time anymore (farming comes first and is never done!) to read all the 'alerts' I get from the internet for articles published world-wide that include the words 'kale', 'brassica', and 'cruciferous. I also have an alert set for 'garlic', and I don't read that either!

I won't know which one of you will be the viewer who puts this blog over that mark (which is not a finish line - and is probably 'nothing' compared to enormously popular blogs - but is just a marker along the way for the many more years to come when I plan to keep writing here), but I thank you, and I also thank all my viewers for checking in here and continuing to come back to see what is new.

'Tis the season to enjoy kale and all other Brassica vegetables. I hope you do just that on Food Day and lots of other days of the year, too!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Baby brassicas

Here is the abstract from a study evaluating the content of various phytochemicals thought to have health-promoting activity in a variety of newly sprouted Brassica greens. Eight days after sprouting seems to be when this study found the highest quantity of these molecules, but no testing was done for taste acceptance at eight days versus any other time. There is always a next step in research and knowledge.

My bed of 'baby brassicas' is WAY over the 8-day mark but that does not mean these plants are not worth eating. I snack on them every time I pass by, yes they are getting big and crowded, and they are still growing well even as we head into the colder and darker days of Fall here in the upper Midwest.

We also have a salad nearly every night made from a mix of various lettuces, spinach, and the baby (maybe now teen-age) Brassica mix!

With kale being so 'sexy' now here in the US, I am surprised that no kale varieties were part of this experiment.

I'll be asking my local farmer friends who sell baby salad greens (including kale) at the farmers markets how many days past germination they target harvesting and what factors come into play to make this decision. Just out of curiosity, not as a discriminator in my decision if or not to purchase.

The 'taste test' really should be done next. :) I'll sign up! Hmmm, I'm also thinking of more possibilities than signing up. Ok, now I really need an intern!!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Here is the abstract:

 2012 Oct 12. [Epub ahead of print]

Selecting sprouts of Brassicaceae for optimum phytochemical composition.


Cruciferous foods (Brassicaceae spp.) are rich in nutrients and bioactive compounds. Edible sprouts are becoming popular fresh foods and therefore, the phytochemical profiling of 9 varieties of Brassicaceae (broccoli, kohlrabi, red cabbage, rutabaga, turnip, turnip greens, radish, garden cress and white mustard) was evaluated for this purpose. The glucosinolates in seeds were significantly higher than in sprouts and the day 8 of germination was considered the optimum for consumption. The sprouts with higher concentrations of glucosinolates in 8-day old sprouts were white mustard, turnip and kohlrabi (~815 mg100 g-1 F.W., ~766 mg100 g-1 F.W. and ~653 mg100 g-1 F.W., respectively). Red cabbage and radish presented great total glucosinolates content (~516 mg100 g-1 F.W. and ~297 mg100 g-1 F.W., respectively in 8 day-old sprouts) and also higher total phenolic contents, biomass and antioxidant capacity. The selection of the best performers in terms of germination quality and phytochemical composition is the key to optimize new fresh and rich foods, enriched in health bioactive compounds. Further research of bioavailability of the bioactive compounds in Brassica foods will allow to backed recommendations for dietary effective dosages for nutrition and health.

Friday, October 5, 2012

"Kale to the Victors"

Another moment when you can picture me slapping my forehead saying "Why didn't I think of that?". Sigh.......really, I wish I was clever with words, but I guess I need to depend on others and then enjoy pointing out their creativity.

Here is the slogan and the great logo (below) for the University of Michigan's new Sustainable Food Program along with the link to the article about its upcoming Harvest Festival being held at the new University of Michigan Student Farm.
Just in case you need a little clue about why I think the use of the term "Kale to the Victors" is so clever, the first line of the chorus to the University of Michigan's fight song is "Hail! to the victors valiant". 

Admittedly, the University of Michigan is playing 'catch up' compared to many other academic institutions across the country (large and small), but coming in late in the game is better than never playing and may even provide an opportunity for the UofM to lessen the learning curve when introducing and building a program this innovative and important within the university and health care system. 

Over the years, I have highlighted other clever uses of the word kale under the tag 'Just for fun', which I did for this post also. I do love how people come up with these phrases as much (maybe more) than the next person. However, this logo and the efforts at the University of Michigan (and other universities and colleges) for which this logo was designed are really far more important than 'just for fun'. 

I haven't done much blogging at all for the past 6 months during 'garlic season', but if you comb through my blog, you will see many of my posts address the urgent need for and the multiple benefits that come from local sustainable agriculture and food systems. 

So, thank you Liz Dengate (logo designer), for creating this logo that will help 'catch' people's attention (at least in Michigan and among UofM alumni world-wide) and interest in learning more about and participating in and advocating for the multiple efforts needed to make the switch to an agriculture and food system that will lead to healthier communities. 

Full disclosure: I live in Ann Arbor, but I am not a UofMichigan alum. However, as a citizen living in Michigan, I do support these new programs at the UofM. I also support the long-standing Student Organic Farm at Michigan State University, the CS Mott Center for Sustainable Food Systems at MSU, and all other efforts across Michigan that are providing education and 'hands in the soil' experience about food and sustainability that are necessary to create and nourish healthy communities. 

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate - it's now part of a logo! Gotta love it :)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD