Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Eat more Kale (and please don't sue me)

Kale has become my new favorite cool weather veggie. It's very versatile like spinach, and I find myself adding it to everything. Kale in my eggs, kale sauteed with garlic, kale in soup, kale in my salad, and even making kale chips. Kale is gaining such popularity that everyone wants to jump on the kale bandwagon. Even Chick-Fil-A is suing a guy who made a shirt that says "Eat More Kale" for copyright infringement on their "Eat Mor Chikin" ad campaign.

The best thing about kale, is that it's really good for you! Here's what has to say about Kale.

Kale is a Nutritional Powerhouse

One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

Kale’s health benefits are primarily linked to the high concentration and excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K -- and sulphur-containing phytonutrients.

Carotenoids and flavonoids are the specific types of antioxidants associated with many of the anti-cancer health benefits. Kale is also rich in the eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds.

Beyond antioxidants, the fiber content of cruciferous kale binds bile acids and helps lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, especially when kale is cooked instead of raw.

Kale is, however, on the "dirty dozen" list, so I make sure to only buy organic kale. With all the health problems I have, I don't need to add to my problems by eating harmful pesticides as well. My plants have not done very well in my garden this year because bugs have feasted on my poor kale leaves, leaving behind nothing but the tough stems, so I do understand why growers feel the need to heavily spray their plants.

The other night I was looking for a new kale recipe to make for dinner and ran across this recipe. But since I didn't have all the ingredients, I made up my own recipe with things I actually had in my house. It was so yummy and I'm eating some leftovers for lunch as I type this. If you have never cut a butternut squash, here is a good tutorial.

Kale and Butternut Squash Soup-Stew


2 tablespoons organic coconut oil
2 organic yellow onions, diced
5 cloves organic garlic, minced
1 small organic butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 quart organic low sodium beef broth
1 (15 ounce) can Muir Glen Fire Roasted diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 bunch organic kale, stems removed, chopped
1 pound cubed cooked ham
Salt and pepper to taste


Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Cook onion until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add diced pumpkin and cook for another 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for about 90 seconds, stirring often so it does not burn. Stir in the beef broth, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to a simmer until the squash is tender, about 20-25 minutes.

After vegetables are softened, add the kale and the ham; simmer for another 5 minutes until the ham is heated completely. Season to taste.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Our free range, bacon wrapped, applewood smoked turkey. It was amazing!

This was my first year hosting Thanksgiving for my mom's entire family at my house. Grandma just turned 80 and it's time for the younger generation to start taking over and let her relax on the holidays. I was a little nervous because I wanted it to be perfect, but I was also so excited because there is nothing I love more than cooking and entertaining.

When I was planning the menu, I asked my friends and family what was the one dish you have to have at Thanksgiving dinner that just makes your dinner complete. Overwhelmingly, the answer was stuffing. Since I have to eat gluten free, this was obviously a challenge. But thanks to gluten free blogger Stephanie O'Dea and her obsession with her crockpot, I found the most amazing stuffing recipe ever that is not only delicious, but frees up tons of space in the oven.

Dave said that his favorite was cranberry sauce. I refuse to serve gunky gelatinous blobs of cranberry flavored HFCS in my home to my family. My friend Carol, over at Uncovering Food, has a super yummy recipe for Clementine Cuties Cranberry Sauce. I really love the juicy sweetness of the clementines with the contrast of the tart cranberries. I changed it up a bit to use ingredients I had on hand, make enough for an army, and to give it my own twist. If you like your cranberry sauce very sweet, I would increase the honey because this was extra tart

Orange Cranberry Sauce

3 lb fresh cranberries (reserve 1/2 cup for cranberry martinis)
Juice and zest of nine clementines
1 cup of local honey
1/4 cup Grand Marnier

Wash berries thoroughly, removing any stems or rotten berries. Combine cranberries with clementine juice and zest, honey, and Grand Marnier in a large pot or dutch oven. Turn stove to medium-high heat and bring contents to a boil, stirring often. After the cranberries begin to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to stir occasionally for approximately twenty to thirty minutes or until berries have burst open.

Remove from heat and store in a covered glass bowl (plastic will stain and metal will give it a funky taste). Refrigerate for a couple days before serving to let the flavors fully develop.

Other recipes I made for Thanksgiving:

Pumpkin Mousse I added two layers of a gluten free pumpkin cake.

Pecan Pie I used a gf pie crust.

One of my new favorite mixing bowl sets! I picked it up on sale at Costco last month. I love the freezer, fride, oven, microwave, dishwasher versatility of the the bowls. Pyrex doesn't pay me to say this, I just adore their products (and broke lots of them in chemistry lab in college).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Going once, going twice, going chicken soup with rice.

When I was 5, I caught a horrible cold, which turned into bronchitis and left me with a horrible cough. I ended up missing MONTHS of kindergarten. Then again when I was 7, I came down with a horrible case of croup while we were on a family vacation, and was again left with a lingering cough for months. Now, even as an adult, every time I get a cold, I end up with bronchitis and a cough that lingers for weeks making me sound like I smoke a couple packs a day.

When I finally succumbed to the "creeping crud" circulating my office a couple weeks ago, I was home sick in bed for what seemed like years (5 days). I felt just like I did back when I was so sick when I was 5 and 7, and was really wishing my mommy would come take care of me, just like she did all those years ago. Instead I laid in bed with my dogs by my side, sleeping 18 hours a day and spending the remaining 6 hours watching Netflix, blowing my nose, and trying not to cough up a lung. I was so thankful that my Keurig gives me hot tea at the push of a button in less than a minute.

But what I was really craving was some homemade chicken soup, just like mom used to make when we were sick. This recipe is based off of my mom's soup and one of my favorite books as a kid, Chicken Soup with Rice.

Homemade Chicken Soup with Rice

8 cups of Homemade Chicken stock, or 2 cartons of Organic low sodium chicken stock
1tbl olive oil
2 organic carrots, diced
2 organic stalks of celery, chopped
1 organic onion, chopped
1/2 c. of uncooked organic white rice
1 cup of cooked chicken, shredded
1 can of organic green beans, drained and rinsed
1/2-1 tsp of poultry seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 tbl of olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven. Saute carrots, celery, and onions until soft. Add 6 cups of chicken broth, rice, chicken, green beans, and poultry seasoning. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked, stirring often and adding additional 2 cups of stock as needed. Adjust seasoning as needed. Serve hot.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Jumbo Artichokes with Sage Salt

When I planned out my herb garden, I chose to plant the things that I am constantly buying: mint, basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. To round out the garden, I decided I also wanted lemongrass and sage because I love food with those flavors. I bought and planted two tiny sage plants, not realizing how big they get and how fast they grow. All summer long, I was constantly pruning back the sage so it wouldn't overtake the rest of the garden. One day I was surfing the 'net, trying to find new ways to use the abundant sage I had harvested. The only times I have really used sage was in butternut squash soup and Thanksgiving stuffing, so I needed to find some new ways to use it to save it from the compost. I finally came up with a sage salt recipe from Vegetable Matter. I love it so much that I keep a small jar in my pantry at all times.

Last night when I was preparing fresh, jumbo artichokes for dinner, my eyes wandered over to my prized jar of sage salt. Could this be the most amazing combination ever to come out of my kitchen? I decided to give it a try and was delighted with the results.

Jumbo Artichokes with Sage Salt

2 jumbo artichokes
1 lemon
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons sage salt
1/2 cup water or vegetable stock

Wash and trim the artichokes, removing the prickly ends on each leaf. Cut in half and scoop out the choke. Squeeze lemon juice all over the cut areas to prevent them from turning brown. Drizzle each artichoke half with olive oil and sprinkle evenly with sage salt. pour 1/2 cup of water into a glass baking dish and place artichokes cut side up. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until the heart is fork-tender. Serve immediately.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Needs or Wants
The past few months have been a lesson in learning to prioritize our priorities.  When Dave was furloughed from his job at the beginning of the summer, he was told that it was going to be for a few days until they could get the next project started.  Then it turned into a month, then two, three.  The company he has been working for finally called him back to work after an almost 4 month furlough.  Because we didn’t anticipate such a long time of unemployment, we weren’t prepared like we should have been.  As the weeks dragged on, we started to have to make some choices we normally don't make.  At first they were easy choices…canceling that scheduled vacation.  No more buying that new {insert magical sparkly item full of whimsy and wonder}.  Skipping going out to eat on Saturday night and eating in.  All those thing were just wants and it's not like we were suffering.  We know that 99% of this country is experiencing some effect of this bad economy.  At least we still have a roof over our head. 

Then the choices started to get harder.  Do we pay the car payment and I call in sick to work because I can’t afford the gas get there or do we risk getting behind on the car payment and I get gas and go into work because I am one of the lucky ones to have a good job and I don’t want to jeopardize it?  Do we pay credit card bills or buy groceries?    Which bill should we pay first?  The 60 day late credit card or the water bill because we just got a 48 hour shut off notice.  Questions that you never want to answer, because no matter what the answer, you are always left with a knot your stomach and tears in your eyes.  Dave always reminds me that "It's only money, we can make more."  Money is one of the main thing that destroys marriages.  We have always vowed that money would never be a source of conflict in our relationship.  As long as we love each other, that's all that matters.  We will figure the rest out together.  

When we were making those difficult decisions, one thing we decided that we would not compromise on is our food.  Because of various health problems I have, including being gluten intolerant, we have learned the importance of eating a healthy diet.  Since we have embraced a healthier way of eating, including eating almost strictly organic produce, we have noticed a dramatic improvement in our health, and many of the problems that have been plaguing me for years have begun to vanish.  Just because we were facing financial hardships, we will not eat 10-cent ramen packets full of MSG and sodium.  We will not eat frozen 2 for $1 pot pies full of half a days calories and ingredient lists full of artificial preservatives and additives.  We will not eat cheap food void of any nutritional value just because it’s cheap and we are hungry.  We will eat food because it’s wholesome and nourishing to our bodies.  We will choose to make the investment in our health today and improve our risks of developing health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even cancer leading to astronomical medical bills in the future. 

One of my new favorite ways to make sure I’m getting plenty of nutrients found in fruits and vegetables is juicing.  One glass of juice gives me more energy than a Rockstar, and I feel great, which for me is a rarity.  I use my Jack LaLanne Juicer.  If that guy lived to be almost 100, juice must be pretty good for you.   Lately, this is my favorite juice combo. 

  •         Carrots
  •     Apples
  •     Spinach
  •         Red Grapes
  •     Cucumber

 Place washed, but not peeled ingredients in the juicer.  Serve immediately, or chill and drink within a few hours of juicing. 


Thursday, October 20, 2011

New Beginnings

Every morning before work and every evening when I arrive home, I check on my garden. On the weekends, I find myself checking up on it a few times a day or just standing at the back door staring at the plants. It’s kind of an obsession. Since I’ve become a homeowner, I’ve come to resent the time and money spent in yard care. For what? Green grass that I’m very allergic to and can’t enjoy? Trees that make me sneeze uncontrollably? We should get something in return, darn it. Make our plants work for us.

When we decided to move to a new house last winter, I begged Dave to have a garden. He was very skeptical at first because I tend to have grandiose ideas and abandon them after a couple weeks when I get bored or distracted by a new, shinier idea. But now that we had a home with full sunlight all day long, I decided it was time to start our garden (and for him to do most of the hard work).
Dave hard at work...see how happy he is?!?!

Luckily Sasha is great supervisor/inspector.

We had to take out all the ugly bushes that came with the house.
But we had some good helpers.

This is our second year having a vegetable garden, but our first fall/winter garden. We’ve had so much fun with our summer gardens, we decided to take on the challenge of cool weather gardening. We are very lucky to live in Northern California where we have very mild winters that rarely dip below freezing, allowing us to grow a variety of cool weather crops.
After doing some reading and chatting with some “experts”, I discovered that many of the winter veggies are best planted from seed. So different from going to the nursery in the springtime, picking out the right plants, and sticking it in the ground, and immediately watching it grow. Seeds are so blah. You stick it in the dirt and wait. And wait. And wait. And then you wait some more. And I'm the least patient people in the world, I want to see results NOW. So for the first week after planting, I went out there morning and night and looked at dirt. And bare dirt makes me sad. Then one day, in the early morning, I saw a tiny little sprout, barely sticking up out of the ground. I really hoped it wasn’t a weed. By the time, I got home from work, there were dozens of tiny sprouts popping up all over the place.

Now a couple weeks later, the sprouts are turning into tiny little plants, growing bigger every day. In a couple weeks, we will be harvesting our first radishes of the season. I'm so very excited!

And I'm very glad that Sheriff Daisy will be there to guard them.