Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bring on the sprouts (Brussels, that is)

Move on over, Kale. I think Brussels sprouts (another healthful Brassica vegetable) are starting to move into your circle as being a 'sexy' vegetable. Here is an article touting their foibles and virtues on the NPR website.

I confess that I also grew up only knowing Brussels sprouts as a vegetable 'cooked to death' and just darn awful tasting. I think I have mentioned before on this blog that my husband had to kindly 'shame me' into trying them again after we were first married. Well, I'm here to tell you that his tactics worked, and I'm glad they did. Brussels sprouts are now one of my favorite vegetables, year after year after year. They are fun to grow, and we always wait until after there has been a frost to harvest them (or buy more at our local farmers' markets) so they are sweeter tasting (like kale).

I'll have to keep paying attention for more Brussels sprouts recipes. Do you have a favorite way of eating them?

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Recipe: Lentil, Sweet Potato, and Kale Whole Wheat Pocket

I forget now where I first saw a recipe that inspired me to make these delicious pocket sandwiches. This pocket sandwich can be a hand-held lunch (i.e. 'fast food') if needed, once you make up a batch of course. It is not a pie crust, which would be traditional for a 'pastry pie' like the delicious pasties that we are familiar with here in Michigan, but instead it is a very good bread dough surrounding the filling.

Everything is easy to make. The recipe made 6. Two were eaten right away, which means we now have 4 in the freezer, ready to thaw and quickly heat up in the toaster oven for a filling lunch or part of a supper on those days when we don't have time or energy to cook.

This dough was so easy to work with that it could be used with any type of savory filling that is not too wet.


For the dough:
1 cup warm water (~110 degrees is perfect. If you don't have a thermometer, the warm water should not feel hot or cool when dropped on the inside of your wrist.)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I needed to add ~1/2 cup more flour to keep the dough from being sticky - this will be very individualized based on the moisture in your flour and the humidity of the day)
1-1/2 teaspoon salt

For the filling:
2 small sweet potatoes (you want about 1-1/2 cup mashed)
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided, plus more for brushing at the end
1 small onion
3-4 cloves garlic (or more to taste), peeled and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup French green lentils (pick over), rinse and cook ahead of time in some water, at least get them softened a bit first - brown lentils could be used also and will soften quicker
2 cups water
1/2 bunch kale, remove thick stems, chop (want ~4 cups chopped)
1/2 teaspoon salt


Combine the warm water and yeast in a small bowl and let sit until yeast dissolves.

Combine the two flours and salt in a mixer bowl with a dough hook.

Add 2 Tbps. olive oil to the flour mixture, followed by the yeast mixture and mix together on low speed until a shaggy dough forms.

Knead for 7-10 minutes (here is where you add more flour as needed) until dough is smooth and springy, not sticky. 

Place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1-2 hours depending on the temperature of your room.

Bake sweet potatoes in oven, microwave, or even in a crockpot the day ahead of time. Cool, peel, and mash, adding a touch of salt. Set aside.

Dice the onion. Warm 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a medium saucepan and saute the diced onion and garlic until onion is translucent, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the spices and cook about 1 minute until fragrant.  

Add the lentils and water, bring to boil, lower heat and simmer about 10 minutes uncovered. You want the lentils to be soft not mushy but definitely not under-cooked (pre-cooking may help a bit here if using green versus brown lentils). 

Add the chopped kale and a bit more salt to the water. Cover and simmer 5-10 minutes. 

Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. 

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lentil and kale mixture to a clean bowl.

Preheat oven at this point to 450 degrees F. 

Divide the dough into 6 pieces and let rest about 20 minutes, loosely wrapped with plastic wrap. 

On a well-floured board, roll out a piece of dough into a 8-9 inch oval. Spread about 1/4 cup of the mashed sweet potato over the dough, leaving room at the edges all around to seal the dough when folded in half. 

Cover one half of the dough with the lentil-kale mixture, folding the top half of the dough over, pinch, and fold or crimp edges to seal completely. Transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment paper. 

Cut a few slits into the top of the dough. Brush with olive oil. 

Repeat with remaining dough and fillings. 

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until browned. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. To freeze, cool completely before placing pockets into a freezer container. If stacking, place two layers of freezer paper between the individual pockets so they do not freezer to each other. 

Photo: Already baked, golden brown - you can still see the slits where the steam can escape while cooking

Photo: Lentil, Sweet Potato, Kale Whole Wheat Pockets

Yum, yum! This will become a 'go-to' recipe for taking many types of left-over bits of food, combining them, wrapping them, and then having them ready to go for our own fast-food. :)

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate. It is in my fast-food hand pie filling, too!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Calling All Cauliflower!

You may have heard that you should only eat fruits and vegetables with deep, dark colors, i.e. "eat a rainbow", but please don't let that good advice steer you away from several white vegetables like cauliflower (also onions, garlic, fennel, and I am sure there are more), a delicious and healthy member of the large Brassica vegetable family.

Here are five great-sounding recipes from the New York Times using cauliflower in dishes inspired by Sicilian cuisine and its aromatic spices. I want to try them all (tonight!), but I think I will start with the one without a recipe per se, which is sliced cauliflower, tossed with olive oil and a little salt and then roasted, as described in the introduction to this article.

Sicilian Pasta With Cauliflower: Raisins or currants and saffron introduce a sweet element into the savory and salty mix.

Baked Ziti With Cauliflower: A delicious baked macaroni dish that has a lot more going for it nutritionally than mac and cheese.

Cauliflower and Tuna Salad: Tuna adds a new element to a classic Italian antipasto of cauliflower and capers dressed with vinegar and olive oil.

Tunisian Style Baked Cauliflower Frittata: A lighter and simpler version of an authentic Tunisian frittata.

Sicilian Cauliflower and Black Olive Gratin: A simple gratin that is traditionally made with green cauliflower, but is equally delicious with the easier-to-obtain white variety.

Which one will you try first? Of course, any one of them could also incorporate some kale, too! 
Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Front yard gardeners - guard your kale!

A true story from a friend in town, complete with photo. Warning to all front yard gardeners on the west side of Ann Arbor, MI - guard your kale and other veggies!

"My dog is begging to go outside so she can finish off this frozen kale plant. She runs for it every time we go outside. She has learned to harvest her own food. Our gardens are no longer safe. She loves raw kale. And collards. And asparagus. And is wild about tomatoes. She has even grabbed them from front yard gardens we've walked by before I could stop her.

Front yard kale, ready for the last harvest, bark, bark, mine, yum, yum! 

My friend is Linda Diane Feldt who wrote the terrific book Spinach and Beyond: Loving Life and Dark Green Vegetables in 2003. It is still the best cookbook I've seen out there devoted to this wide array of delicious and healthy vegetables. Who knows, perhaps it was Linda Diane who actually started the "kale kraze" that has swept the country (and beyond since this blog gets visitors from all around the world each and every day). 

However, point taken here with Linda Diane's anecdote about her dog's taste in vegetables is variety, variety, variety rules the day. I have been called the 'queen of kale',  but today at our farmers' market, I bought broccoli leaves, red cabbage, lettuce, and swiss chard. I'll get some kale next week, but I also love variety both for taste and for the uncountable different health-promoting phytochemicals that come all packaged up in each type of vegetable. 

So to the increasing crowd of front-yard gardeners, you can't say you haven't been warned. There are dogs out there who know what's great to eat, but I do agree with my friend that a dog eating asparagus is a major crime!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Recipes: Garlic-kale Soup and Cinnamon Kale

Two recipes for one today! I lost track of the number of times my husband said "This is great!" while eating the soup, and he even said that about the fresh kale leaves sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar as a shout-out to Denmark's traditional food eaten for good luck on New Year's Day.

So here is what I did for the soup recipe (inspired by a recipe using garlic and spinach recently published in the New York Times).

Recipe #1 - Garlic - Kale Soup


6 cups stock (I used 4 cups chicken stock with bits of chicken plus 2 cups garlic broth but any combination of vegetable, fish, or other stock can be used - I am going to try this next using some of our frozen fish/seafood stock)

1 bay leaf with a couple of sprigs of fresh parsley and thyme (I used about 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme)

1 pint stewed tomatoes

1 - 15 ounce can (2 cups drained) cooked chick peas

Salt and pepper to taste

2-3 large garlic cloves, minced (I used 2 VERY large cloves of a variety of garlic called Music, which was probably about 1/4 cup of minced garlic)

1 cup elbow macaroni or other small pasta (I cooked this separately until al dente before draining and then adding to the soup)

2 eggs

1/4 freshly grated parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)

1 small bunch fresh kale (wash, shake dry, remove stems if large, chop coarsely) - about 3 cups of chopped kale (may use spinach or other greens)


1) I used my crockpot to make this soup by first thawing all the frozen broth in the crockpot, adding the bay leaf, parsley and thyme after the broth had come to a slight simmer.

2) Then add the chopped garlic, turn to high and simmer for 30 minutes or so.

3) Add the tomatoes and chick peas, heat up to a slight simmer on high, about another 30 minutes or so.

4) Add the cooked al dente pasta, remove the bay leaf (do it now before adding the kale or spinach)

5) Beat the eggs in a bowl with a whisk, stir in ~1/3 cup broth (make sure it is not boiling hot), and then stir in the cheese.

6) Remove the bay leaf. Stir the chopped kale into the soup in the crockpot, simmer for a few minutes, then slowly add in the egg mixture, making sure you get all of it into the soup. Turn heat down to low or 'keep warm' on the crockpot and stir slowly until the eggs have set.

7) Taste for any additional salt or pepper needed and serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 large servings.

Chopped kale ready to add to soup

Eggs, cheese, and broth stirred together ready to add to soup

Soup in crockpot before the egg mixture is added

Garlic-kale soup, pears, crackers, and kale sprinkled with sugar/cinnamon mixture - a great New Year's Day dinner. A new tradition is started!

Recipe #2 - Cinnamon Kale

There are many recipes on the web for kale chips sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar plus at least once source that says kale is cooked with cinnamon and sugar and then served with a white sauce on New Year's Day in Denmark, but to be honest, I didn't want to turn on the oven nor did I want to bother making a white sauce, so I took the easy way out and just took small kale leaves, washed them, shook off the excess water, and then sprinkled them with a cinnamon-sugar combination to serve as an admittedly very unusual side salad along with the soup above.

The kale leaves were not excessively sweet, in fact they tasted as if a few pieces of fruit were added to a green salad, a complement of flavors that were just right.

Fresh kale leaves washed and then sprinkled lightly with a cinnamon/sugar mixture

This Garlic-Kale Soup recipe will become part of our typical rotation of preferred meals. It was simply scrumptious using both chicken broth mixed with garlic broth. However, I am also looking forward to making it with some of our frozen fish/seafood broth and some cooked diced potatoes instead of pasta. The variations are endless and certainly all delicious. 

Enjoy, enjoy and Happy New Year!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate.

Diana Dyer, MS, RD