A Quick, Easy Kale Recipe

Kale is so in it’s almost out.  Kale, the vegetable I used to avoid in the grocery aisle 10 years ago is now regularly eaten in our house.   I use it in so many dishes, it’s hard to believe I once was frightened to cook with it.  Actually a few times I’d buy it and end up throwing it out because I just didn’t know how to use it.  Until we got our CSA that is. But since I’ve found how diverse it is- how many different recipes it can be used in.  And in the past couple of years the varieties available are much greater.  

I have several recipes on my site that include Kale, but I’ve come up with this new side dish that my kids love!  It’s simple, it’s quick and it’s delicious.Kale

Kale Sautéed with Garlic

3 cups kale leaves de-stemmed and chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup stock (vegetable or chicken)
2 tsp olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil and add garlic.  Sauté over medium high heat for a couple of minutes, careful not to brown or burn.   Add kale and stock.  Stir then cover.  Continue to cook for about 7 minutes until kale is slightly wilted but hasn’t lost color.  Add salt and pepper– careful if stock is salty. Strain and serve.  

A Little Sneakiness Sometimes Necessary

Not usually one to sneak vegetables into my kids food, except maybe throwing some kale or spinach into smoothies, every once in a while I feel it necessary.  My youngest two are the picky ones and if we’ve been out and about a lot, I realize they aren’t getting enough greens.  Unfortunately, my youngest isn’t getting it at school either, since he doesn’t like how they cook the vegetables and only picks carrots for the raw ones.  So, I made a green sauce as a way to combat this.  Luckily my kids aren’t afraid of or avoid green sauces: they like pesto and green Thai curries.  Since my middle son complains when too many items are mixed together- say in one pot meals, it prompted me. Instead of having lots of greens they may pick out and mushrooms, which all three eschew, I blended them all together with herbs and garlic to make the sauce. IMG_1483

Green Vegetable & Herb Pasta Sauce
Blend together in food processor or blender:
2-4 garlic cloves (depending on size and desired intensity)
2 good handfuls of basil, parsley, and/or cilantro
6-8 baby crimini or white button mushrooms 
2 cups kale, spinach or swiss chard (or similar green vegetable)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
(Optional: add 1/4 tsp cayenne for extra spice)

Using thighs or breast, cut chicken into bite sized pieces and add to 1 Tbsp Olive oil over medium-high heat sautéing until slightly browned. Lower heat and continue to cook chicken until nearly cooked through.  Add cup of sauce to the chicken. IMG_1485IMG_1488Add 1/4 cup of cream.  Add any extra vegetables you wish (or don’t add any if your kids won’t eat the dish with them in it).  I put in baby kale and spinach. Cook another 5-7 minutes until sauce is heated through and vegetables slightly wilted.  Serve tossed with pasta.  Finish with Parmesan if wanted. I also added tomatoes at the end (although I knew the youngest two wouldn’t eat the tomatoes).  

At least I knew my kids got a meal they found delicious and one I didn’t care if they pushed aside the greens. 

But I hate eggplant!

My husband made some yummy beef kalbi (Korean short ribs) that are marinated in all sorts of yumminess including mirin, kiwifruit and 7up (yes, 7up!).  He grilled the beef  along with some gorgeous striped eggplant, and served with brown rice and a plain salad.  My eldest cried out when he saw his plate, “I hate eggplant!” and so I told him to give it one taste which he did then made a disgusted look.  So, I said to just give it to me (it was so delicious).  I reminded him of other times he’s had eggplant and liked it

“No I didn’t” was his reply. My middle son echoed it. Whatever.  

So two nights later I made a summer stew with eggplant, kale, baby potatoes (some from our “garden”— pathetic effort this year), sweet potatoes, chicken, chickpeas, tomatoes, garlic, fresh ginger, onion, Middle Eastern spices and cilantro.  It was so good and we were in a rush to get places so I even packed up my middle son’s in a thermos flask to eat on the road. 

Funny thing is they both devoured the dish and when I mentioned that there was eggplant in it, my middle son denied that it was even there.  I had to physically point it out to him.  He then tasted one piece and said, “Oh, Ok.”

So… sometimes it’s just how you serve it.  Alone, grilled, in a dish with many other items, raw, steamed, baked, with certain spices, etc… It may not be received well one way, but they may actually like it done differently.  

I find with many kids it can be the texture that puts them off with certain vegetables, that’s why raw over cooked or vice versa may be preferred. 

But I hate eggplant!

My husband made some yummy beef kalbi (Korean short ribs) that are marinated in all sorts of yumminess including mirin, kiwifruit and 7up (yes, 7up!).  He grilled the beef  along with some gorgeous striped eggplant, and served with brown rice and a plain salad.   Continue reading

Class Moms Asked for Green Juice… Don’t Think They Expect This

My seven year old’s class is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in school today with a potato bar.  The class moms sent out a list of things they’d like parents to volunteer making/bringing in.  One of those was “green juice”.  When I saw that I jumped all over it!

Green juice… I know from past experiences with blue punch and other frightful (to me) concoctions that that meant my most dreaded food dyes.  Yes, I’ve used them, but I try not to, so if there’s a good alternative, I will choose it.  

The other day while making the kids smoothies with kale I noticed how green it was before I added the blueberries and other dark berries.  So, I figured I would make green juice with yummy veggies and fruits.  I made one batch before the kids left for school and it was vibrant in its verdant glory and really yummy.  I gave them all a taste and they asked for more.  I didn’t tell them the full ingredient list this time around, figured it might spoil their enthusiasm.  After my eldest missed the bus by about 2 seconds and was so upset I soothed him with a glass of the juice.  My youngest, who’s been home sick all week, also gratefully received a glass of the nectar.

They loved it! Now to make some more for the 2nd grade class!

Green Juice
3 oz fresh baby spinach
1 banana
3 cups water
1 cup apple juice
2 packets Yuzu Tisane drink mix (from Trader Joe’s)

Blend it all together until spinach is completely pulverized. (I prefer using blender over juicer as all the fiber is still there.)  Serve chilled. 

Next batch was also with kale.

FYI- No disrespect to the class moms.  They’re wonderful people— it’s the over use of artificial colors that I’m against.

Asian Style Kale Chips and Singapore Spiced Haddock

I was so excited to share these recipes I couldn’t wait to have the time to sit down and write.  On our first real warm day, after my kids had a fun and muddy playdate with some friends’ children, I had one boy wanting to stay for dinner.  He seemed especially keen when I said I was making fish.  He said he loves fish and seafood and got so excited to not only to stay to eat, but continuing to play with my sons.  I’d bought some Haddock and decided to make a variation of a recipe I’d created a month or so ago.  He loved it! But besides that I knew I had to make the kale chips.  So many people I follow (SC, FER, SK) have been blogging about them lately and I’d never made them before.  But I thought I’d change it up a bit by making it similarly to the roasted seaweed chips my sons adore. Sort of more Asian-style.  And, it not only worked, it far exceeded my expectations!  Woo-hoo! When my friend came to pick up her son she tried them and although she was full, she couldn’t stop eating them and took home what I had remaining for her husband.   I love that.  I love to see kids and people I care about eat well, enjoy food that I’ve served them.  It’s such a great gift to give them pleasure.

Roasted Kale Chips

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • sea salt to taste

Strip the leaves of the kale off the stems and tear them into smaller pieces.  Put them in a mixing bowl and add the oils and salt.  Toss well then place on cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven at 350º F* for about 10 minutes until crisp. You might want to turn them halfway through. They are so light and crisy, you’d be surprised how thin they become.    *I found recipes that had higher temps but I found this worked well.

 

Roasted Haddock with Singaporean Spices

  • 1 pound Haddock
  • 1 large handful cilantro, chopped
  • 2 spring onions (scallions), chopped
  • 1-2 tsp Penzy’s Singapore Spice blend
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp grape seed oil (or canola)
  • juice from ½ lemon
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350º F Cut haddock into serving-sized portions.  Put 1 Tbsp oil into bottom of oven-proof pan. Place haddock in pan, skin side down and sprinkle spices over tops of fish.  Pour oil, wine and lemon juice over fish.  Cover with herbs and put in oven.

Bake for 10-15 minutes (depends on thickness of fish) until flaky but not dry. 

Now, my friend’s son wasn’t as into the kale as the fish, he did eat all his broccoli and most of his coleslaw.  All my sons liked the kale chips but funnily enough my eldest was the only one who didn’t care for the fish..   Friend’s son’s plate after he’d devoured the fish!

The coleslaw I made was very simple with just Savoy and red cabbage, carrots, lemon juice, mayonnaise, sugar, salt and pepper.   The whole dinner was perfect for a warm spring-like day that started with shirtless mud making and ended with sharing good food.  

Soup– stealthy vegetable vehicle

A way of sneaking in those pesky vegetables that some picky eaters refuse to eat on their own is to put them in soup.  My kids are pretty good at eating most vegetables so I don’t need to puree the veggies but anyone with ultra picky kids can choose to do that.  Even without pureeing it, since the vegetables get cooked in the broth they’ll get many of the nutrients even if they’re not eating the actual vegetable from the soup.   And with all the wonderful organic stocks and broths readily available to buy, making soups can be fast and painless.  It’s quick, easy, tasty and healthful— what more can you ask for?  And, don’t have enough of something for a full meal or want to use up left-overs; soup is a great medium. 

Here’s one soup I made in less than a half hour last night.  I decided last minute to make it a dinner and movie night, but not with pizza.  I had a little of this and that.  I mixed vegetable and chicken broth to give it a rich flavor.  I had some left over chicken breast (but not enough for much, so I thawed some tenders too). I decided to add some small meatballs (frozen, from IKEA— yes, Ikea, the furniture-in-box place) that made it into a sort of Italian Wedding Soup. I didn’t feel the need to add onions or celery since I used the prepared broths.  The chicken is very tender not only because of the cut, but also since it’s poached in the broth.

 

Chicken, Kale, Bean and Meatball Soup

1 quart organic chicken broth

1 quart organic vegetable broth

4 chicken tenders, cut in 1 inch pieces

1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped

2-3 organic carrots, sliced

3/4 pound mini star-shaped pasta

1 can beans (pinto, cannellini, kidney)

2 tsp dried oregano

10-15 small meatballs

1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

In a stock pot pour the two broths and bring to a low boil.  Add kale, carrots and chicken.  Stir and cook for 5 minutes before adding pasta, meatballs, oregano and beans.  Cook 10 minutes then add cilantro and cook one more minute. Adjust seasoning (salt and pepper). My two eldest sons loved the soup and my youngest ate it but didn’t want the kale, even though he likes kale on its own.  I didn’t push and just let him try to eat it without (a tough task!).  I loved it too and both my eldest son and I had it for lunch today.

Curried Chickpeas, Kale, Potatoes & Lentils

Not only am I on a curry kick but I am loving chickpeas (garbanzo beans) lately.  Luckily my kids like them too.  Hummus is one of their favorite snack foods and they won’t object to falafel or chickpeas in any dish I make.  I don’t think I started eating them until I got to university and tried falafel for the first time from the cart in the Octagon. (Dunedin’s town ‘square’ is actually octagonal.)

The other night I made a different version of my Spiced Chickpeas and Potatoes from the other week.  This time I added a bunch of kale from our shared harvest (CSA), lentils and fennel seeds, which added a nice flavor dimension.  It was perfect for warming little ones up on these chillier autumn nights.  My eldest son declared it “delicious” and that he “loved it” and not surprisingly my middle son said he didn’t like it because it was too spicy but he ate more than half of it before he gave up on it.  My youngest son missed out on it because he fell asleep before dinner after a busy day of play dates and running around. 

It’s fairly easy to make especially since I used canned chickpeas and precooked belgua lentils from Trader Joe’s. 

Curried Chickpeas, Potatoes, Kale and Lentils

  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 shallots, diced (or med onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (adjust if needed)
  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 5 sm/med potatoes cut into bite sized pieces (with skins on)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (vegetable stock if vegetarian)
  • bunch kale, remove large stems and cut into strips
  • lentils (I used the beluga lentils- 1 cup)
  • 3 large tomatoes, peeled and crushed
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thai basil, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • sea salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice (had no lemon)

Sauté shallot and garlic. Add spices and stir for a minute or two.  Stir in chickpeas, potatoes, tomatoes, kale and stock, salt and pepper to taste. (I think I should have added it later, but it was fine).   

Cook for 20 minutes then add the lentils, basil and parsley. 

Cook for another 10-20 minutes.  This can be made in crock pot but I suggest sautéing onion/shallot and garlic and then heating the spices over the stove first then adding it all to slow cooker.  Cook on low for 5 hours or high for 3.

I loved the additional flavor that the fennel seeds added and the kale really went well with the other ingredients.  Of course you can tailor this to suit your tastes and what’s in your pantry/refrigerator.  I find that eating less meat is not only healthful and good for the environment but less expensive.  Not that I ever break the food down into it’s nutritional parts; still it was interesting to find out that not only is there plenty of protein (even vegetarian version) and fiber in this dish, it also is fairly high in folate and other vitamins and minerals.  Meaning it is really good for you and your kids, as well as tasting fabulous.

My eldest son and I had the leftovers for lunch the following 2 days. 

Another quick, last minute meal

I have way too many tomatoes right now so I keep using them in recipes.  One  confession to make: sometimes I end up throwing them into the compost.  It’s not my preferred method of using them, but I just have too many for me to get to.  So, today after putting in some time at the farm where we get our CSA I learnt that you can freeze tomatoes to use in sauce (ok, I just have never done it, nor thought that it would be that great) but I decided to go the other route— canning.  I have bought some mason jars and other supplies. I remember making jam as a kid and preserving it, so if I could do it then, I’ll try it now. 

In the meantime (I just bought the stuff today, give me a day or two), I made some salsa on one day and pizza with the tomatoes as base another. I also used some cherry tomatoes in a killer I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-making-for-dinner-now-because-I spent-too-much-time-chatting-on-the-playground-oh-yea-I-can-make-THIS-pasta.  (I was going to make chicken gumbo, but that keeps getting pushed back due to time). I used to throw together these great chicken and pasta dishes that are like my version of stir-fry…whatever vegetables I have in stock that actually go together will go into the dish with chicken, garlic, basil and tomatoes.  I try to make it with mushrooms, because they’re perfect here, but I had none.

I used a bit of kale, corn, broccoli, onions, zucchini, orange bell pepper, and carrots.  Fussili pasta is perfect, but ziti or farfale will go nicely too.   It takes 10 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to cook (using chicken breast)— if you don’t have to interrupt for looking over kids’ homework or refereeing a squabble.

Chicken and Vegetable Pasta with Garlic and Tomatoes

  • Approx 1 pound chicken breast (or thighs), deboned, skinned and cut into 1-2 inch pieces (thighs take longer to cook)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 med onion or 2 shallots
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes, quartered or 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4-1/3 cup white wine
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • choice of fresh vegetables, chopped  (spinach, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, peppers, carrots, corn, kale, chard, snow or snap peas, asparagus and/or mushrooms) 

Put pasta on to cook according to instructions. While that’s cooking: sauté onions then garlic in pan.  Add chicken and lightly brown on all sides, careful not to burn garlic.  Add wine and stock.  Cook for few minutes and add vegetables that take longest first (kale, carrots, peppers) then others (mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, corn).  While stirring, cook another couple of minutes then add herbs and tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Mix gently and cook for 2 minutes until tomatoes are warm but not disintegrated.  Toss pasta so well coated with sauce and veggies.  Serve.

This is always a winner with my kids.  Not everyone will like every vegetable each time, but it hardly ever elicits a protest because there’s pasta.  It’s great to get rid of left over vegetables and perfect for lunch the following day. And, it uses up some of those tomatoes. 

The tomatoes give it a fresh sweetness that goes so nicely with garlic, basil and pasta.  You can also substitute shrimp for the chicken.

Tall Tales

I was so happy last night when I served the kids dinner and there were no complaints or whines.  Actually there were exclamations of delight from my youngest son, “Snow peas!” and “Mushrooms!” — music to my ears.  They all dug into their bowls of stir-fried vegetables with rice noodles with true pleasure and bit of hunger.  “No snacks, it’s nearly dinner time.” really worked.   Maybe the late afternoon hike helped.

The glee that my three year old exhibited reminded me of how I got my eldest son to try mushrooms when he first refused.  He was in preschool and loved Power Rangers;  even though he’d never seen an episode of the TV show, he knew how they moved, their names, etc.  It’s almost like osmosis how they learn about superheroes before they’re old enough to see them in action.  Anyway, I just told my son that mushrooms were Power Rangers’ favorite food.  Wide-eyed with joy and holding in his fork the food that his heroes liked, the previously distrusted fungus, he eagerly tried it.  And he liked it.  I know mushrooms can be tough for adults let alone kids, especially those who grow up with canned ones on pizzas, the texture can be a turnoff.  And, yes I lied to get him to try it.  But to me it was worth it.  There were no pleadings of “Just try it, I really think you’ll like it.” or “Please?  Just one tiny bite.”  He just thought if it’s the Power Rangers favorite food it must be good.  I mean, Popeye the Sailor loves spinach, so why not Power Rangers liking mushrooms?   Funny, I don’t want to hide the vegetables so the kids don’t learn to like them for their own flavors, textures and colors, but I have no qualms about spinning a yarn to get them to eat them.

Our dinner last night had some frozen vegetables and a side from Trader Joe’s.  I was down to just a couple of skinny pieces of kale, very little beet greens, a pepper, carrots and lots of tomatoes (which I was kind of sick of) from our CSA bin.  We did also have leeks, but I am saving those to make scalloped potatoes with leeks and shiitake mushrooms tonight.  So I pulled out a Trader Joe’s stir-fry package— mushrooms, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, carrots and soy beans.  I steamed the beet greens I’d stripped off the stems and cut across a few times, then repeated with the kale.  I didn’t want any bitterness from them to change the flavor of the stir-fry, that’s why I did them separately.  I then put the rice noodles in to cook while I chopped half an onion, 2 garlic cloves, fresh ginger, a greenish-reddish bell pepper and a couple of carrots.  So in my pan I heated the sunflower oil, sautéed the onions, then garlic, carrots and peppers. Added the ginger, stir-fry package, kale and beet greens.  To this I combined with 2 Tbsp tamari soy sauce, 1 tsp fish sauce and 2 tsp sesame oil.  I cooked stirring the whole time for a few minutes while the frozen vegetables softened and heated.  At this point I added the cooked and drained noodles and stirred it all up until it was well mixed.  It was ready to serve. I’ve served similar dishes lately, but each one is a bit different, depending what we have in stock.  The vital part was that it was healthful and delicious.  

While I was cooking this I had steamed in the microwave some Trader Joe’s frozen Gyoza dumplings.  I served them as an appetizer and alongside the stir-fry with a side of tamari and sesame oil (6 parts soy, 1 part sesame oil).  Easy and quick,  plus they all ate it eagerly.  No tales necessary.