But I HATE Kale! (Full Disclosure, I Don’t)

This is a refrain I hear all the time. The most “egregious” (according to its detractors) is kale. You know I’m a kale fan, but I can understand how this fibrous, unfamiliar vegetable can be challenging for some people. It doesn’t taste like peas, beans, or carrots. It can be earthy. It looks funny. And it can be tough if not prepared correctly.

So what can you do with kale? Here are some ways we like it in our house:

In smoothies. You need to pair it with something very flavourful and colourful. Try a banana, a beet, and some ginger and cinnamon, in addition to plant milk. The beet will keep it from looking green (or worse, brown). Cocoa powder is another addition that can really make a difference. Or go full-on green and instead of the beets, add an avocado.

In a delicious soup with onions, chickpeas, a little potato, and chorizo. Basically chop it and sweat it with a lot of onion (three or more, diced), then add a chopped potato, a diced chorizo, a couple of cups of cooked chickpeas, and enough water to fill a large pot (like a French or Dutch oven). Simmer until everything is tender. Thanks to the onion and chorizo it will make its own broth.

Kale chips – fans swear by these but I will fully admit I’ve eaten them but never made them at home.

In a stir-fry. Much like cabbage, sliced thinly, it will take on the flavours of the other ingredients.

Last but not least, in a salad. Chop it relatively finely. Don’t use the stems or tough ribs. And mix it with a tender lettuce (like cos or Bibb) and a watery, juicy one (like iceberg or romaine).

I hope you’ll at least give it a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Here are some menu plans for next week! You can see we are still using up the gallons of turkey soup I made. If you don’t have turkey soup, that’s okay – but make a homemade soup. It’ll have far less salt and be better for you, and a large pot will make several lunches worth, that you can freeze and reheat when you’re ready.

Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Sunday January 21st Leftover quiche EatingWell Tomato Basil Zoodle Salad Weight Watchers Barley Chicken Casserole
Monday January 22nd Beet and Kale Smoothie Cooking Light Roasted Sweet Potato and Orange Salad Jamie Oliver Sicilian Spaghetti Alla Norma
Tuesday January 23rd Granola with 1/2 banana Homemade Turkey Soup with 1 whole grain bread and 5ml butter Weight Watchers Zucchini Risotto with Sundried Tomatoes
Wednesday January 24th Banana Kale Smoothie Apple Kale Salad Weight Watchers Orange Couscous with Chicken (substituting turkey) – served with green beans
Thursday January 25th Apple Nut Oatmeal Homemade Turkey Soup with 1 whole grain bread and 5ml butter Weight Watchers Spaghetti with Kale and Garlic
Friday January 26th Carrot Cake Smoothie Cooking Light Fall Vegetable and Lentil Salad Weight Watchers Cod with Parsley Sauce served with steamed green beans and carrots
Saturday January 27th Granola with 1/2 banana Homemade Turkey Soup with 1 whole grain bread and 5ml butter Artichoke Pizza

There’s Nothing Like Hot Soup on a Cold Day

Soup, it’s delicious, right? And a fantastic way to use up whatever has been hovering around your kitchen. There’s a scary side to soup, though, especially if you’re starting with a powdered or canned variety. It can hide a LOT of sodium. A good rule-of-thumb is to keep the milligrams of sodium equal or less than the calories. Check out any soup in your grocery store, even the “healthy menu” types, and you’ll find there’s four (or more) times the sodium in most varieties. Not so healthy, after all. Sure, in a pinch, they can work. But with an hour or two while you’re working on something else or even sitting in front of the tube, you can cook up one or two huge pots of soup, and freeze the results to last for months.

So if you’re stuck inside in the cold, and you’ve got some vegetables, an onion or two, and beans, or meat, rice, pasta, or potatoes, you can make soup. Your body will thank you. Here’s one to get you started.

Turkey Soup, Two Ways

Turkey Chickpea Curry Rice SoupSoup season has arrived! (Okay, to be fair, it is always soup season at our house). Each time we have a bag of parings, ends, and leftover veg bits, we make stock. And the same goes with something like the Thanksgiving turkey. We don’t eat much meat these days, but when we do, we are conscious of using every bit.

This starts with putting some sliced onion (skin and all) or other vegetable parings underneath the bird as it cooks. These will add flavour to the stock. We like to use a large roaster with a lid, and cook the stock right in the same pan, or otherwise put some parchment underneath so every bit can be transferred to the stock pot. We always keep stock on hand, and we love to make traditional soups, like Traditional Turkey, or new ones, like Turkey Chickpea Curry Rice soup.

What’s your favourite soup?

No Fish Were Harmed in the Making of this Chowder

  
One of the great things about this time of year is the fantastic selection of vegetables. Although it isn’t tomato season quite yet on the coast, everything else on this tray came from our garden: red onions, pattypan squash, and turnip. Diced with our own oregano and a splash of olive oil and vinegar, we roasted this tray for 30 minutes at 400F, then let them rest in the oven 30 minutes or so while we boiled water and made pasta. Half the batch formed our pasta topping, so then today…what to do with the leftovers?

  

We diced a potato and cooked it in 2c water until tender (about 6 minutes). To this we added the 2c roasted veg, and an equal amount of 1% milk (plant milk would work just as well). Heat until piping hot and serve with a sprinkle of smoked paprika and basil on top.

Soup Season has Arrived

The cold weather is here. Soup season has definitely arrived. After church today we wanted something to warm us up before heading out to rake the leaves (again) that the blustery day has loosed on our yard.

We had some leftover chicken broth, pureed pumpkin, and bacon (yes, leftover bacon). Along with some potatoes, beets, a shallot, and some chili powder, we had the makings of a warm, delicious soup.

Spicy Squash Soup is Hot!

This sumptuous soup started with some spicy roasted squash, adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe. We took a hubbard squash and cut it into wedges, rubbing them with a mixture of olive oil and some delicious spicy peppers (pureed) from the farmer’s market and a bit of ground fennel and coriander. Roasted for about an hour at 400F, or until soft, we used some of them for dinner and chilled the leftovers in the fridge.

The next day, we took some of our homemade veggie broth from the fridge, and blanched half an onion and a carrot. Then we tipped in the remaining squash and let it simmer til the veg were tender, about 10 minutes. A quick blend with an immersion blender (or a potato masher will do, not quite as smoothly, in a pinch) and it was nearly ready. A cup or so of milk (we used 1% – choose your fat according to your preference) lent a creamier colour. Then we drizzled with a little fat-free Greek yogurt, and decorated with some chopped garlic chives from the urban farm. It warmed us through and through.

It's Not Just Leftover Chicken!

We had the carcass of the chicken, a leg, and a cob of corn left in the fridge from the other night’s dinner. What to do? Make soup!

While we watched t.v., we put the carcass in a large Dutch oven with a sliced onion and set it to boil. We turned it down and let it simmer for a couple of hours, then cooled it down until we could handle it.

After that, we removed the meat from the bones. We set the strained broth to boiling again. We added some sliced radish, green and yellow beans, and yellow bell pepper. We also put in a few sliced garlic cloves and a diced onion. For herbs, whatever we had (in this case, summer savory, and a grind of salt).

When the onion seemed to be soft, we threw in about half a cup (125ml) each of red rice and Puy lentils. After about half an hour, we removed the corn from the cob, and diced the remaining chicken. This, plus the original chicken, were added back in. What a great meal, all from leftovers. Add some bread and wine, and it’s even good enough for guests.

Next Day Soup

If you made our Slow-Braised Turkey Legs you probably had some delicious-looking gravy in the bottom. (More than you could eat with the mashed potatoes!)

If so, add about 4 cups of water, and simmer in the same casserole. Then cool overnight and use for Next Day Soup.

Bring the broth to a boil. Add 1 chopped onion, two chopped carrots, 3 or 4 stalks of diced celery, and a diced bell pepper (I used a yellow one). Add 5ml or a teaspoon of cumin and a dash of hot sauce or cayenne. To this, stir in 25oml or 1 cup each of green lentils (dried) and brown rice (uncooked). Let simmer for about half an hour.

Recycled food – better than it sounds!

Taking Stock

If you really want to save money and eat healthier foods, make your own stock! Most bouillon cubes or even organic pre-packaged stocks contain a lot of salt, as a preservative. If you use the rule-of-thumb that a packaged food shouldn’t have more milligrams of sodium than it does calories, you might be disappointed when you read the label of your favourite prepared stock.

Stock-making is simple. One trick I learned from Ken Kostick. He suggested that as you peel carrots, onions, take the stems off aromatic herbs, and so on, that you should put them in a zipper bag in the freezer. (Give them a rinse first!) When the bag is full, it’s time to make stock. Sometimes I roast this mixture, other times I just use it “as is”. I like to use one of those pasta pots with the strainer-type liner, just to make it extra easy.

Put the vegetables in the bottom of the pot. Cover with cold water. If you haven’t used too many herbs during the week (really?) add some dried herbs – tarragon is nice, or savory, bay leaves…or some minced ginger is good, too. Bring this mixture to the boil on top of the stove and then turn down to a simmer, so it’s just slowly bubbling along. Let it simmer while you watch a favourite television show, or do a load of laundry, whatever. Check now and then so it doesn’t boil over.

Let it cool, and strain or if you use a pot like I do, lift out the liner. Package it up in convenient sized containers and store in the freezer. If you make some up in ice-cube trays, you can use those for times when you just need a tiny amount.

More on meat and fish stocks, another day. If you don’t feel like using this stock today…save it til tomorrow, throw in some cooked beans or chickpeas, onions, and whatever vegetables take your fancy. Simmer for half an hour or so, add a handful of whole-wheat pasta and simmer til tender and voila…delicious vegetable soup!

Friday Fish Chowder

Whether you’re abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent, or just looking for an easy fish recipe for a busy night, this chowder is simple to make. Whenever we cook a large whole fish we use the bones to make a batch of fish broth, but if you don’t have fish broth on hand, use vegetable broth, it’ll still taste great.

This soup is a family staple for us – it’s great on a cold night, and it’s a go-to recipe made from ingredients that we always have around the house.