How to Eat Raw Kale

How to eat raw kale

Since it’s the start of a new year, something that’s on my list of resolutions (and probably a few more out there as well) is to start eating healthier. One of the healthiest foods out there is kale. The problem with kale, especially if you’re not too familiar with it, is the question of what to do with it. Obviously it can be cooked in any way, but raw kale is a different story.

When I first starting buying kale, I expected to throw it into my salads like any other green. I’d seen and tried the “baby kale greens” at the grocery store which are tender and young, and naturally just figured that mature kale would be just as easy to work with. But if you’ve tried kale greens, you’ll know that if you eat one raw, you need to chew… and chew… and chew…

  How to eat raw kale

I wanted to find a way to get the texture and nutrition from kale without always having to cook with though. I tried adding lightly steamed and cooled kale at times, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. It wasn’t until one day, by accident; I came across the best way to eat kale! It takes very little prep work, and the kale lasts for well over a week. And it’s so easy!

Here’s how to eat raw kale:

Buy a head of kale. Bring it home, wash it, remove the stems and let it dry somewhat (it doesn’t need to be completely dried). Tear the head up into pieces (large, small – whatever you like) and put the kale into a bowl.

Grab a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil and drizzle a little bit over the kale, depending on how much kale you have. It doesn’t need to be saturated, so start light! With clean hands, mix the olive oil into the kale, coating all the leaves lightly. Again, you don’t have to be precise about it, just a basic mixing will do.

Take the bowl of kale, cover it, and put it in the refrigerator for several hours. I usually let it sit for a good day, sometimes two. When you unwrap the kale, it will be crispy and chewable – perfect for salads or eating raw.

  How to eat raw kale

One of the best things about this technique is that it livens up wilted kale pieces, too. And I’ve noticed that for me, at least, the kale lasts for up to two weeks without any noticeable change in texture.

I’ve been eating kale like crazy since I started doing this, and even my kids have been enjoying it. It will definitely be a part of our menu this new year!

~Mellie ★

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

It’s officially fall, and therefore, time to start making all the hearty soups and stews that warm the soul.  I’m a little late in jumping on the sriracha bandwagon.  I bought a bottle on the insistence of a friend several months ago who assured me that I would absolutely love it.  Now to explain my hesitance, when I was growing up, even mild salsa would break me out into a sweat.  I don’t know if it’s just getting older, or if my chips and salsa addiction gradually led me to spicier and spicier preferences, but nowadays I find myself wanting a little zip in everything I eat.  So when I finally got around to trying out sriracha sauce on some of my meals, I was in love.  It’s got the perfect balance of heat without the “on fire” feeling that so many other hot chilies can leave me with. 

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

I’ve been adding a bit of sriracha here and there to different tastes and textures, trying to find out what it blends well with.  This stew was one of the first ones I made once the cooler weather started hitting here (yes, it’s already been in the 30s at night!).  It turned out to be so delicious, even my kids ate it – and liked it!  That’s saying a lot, since they’re at that picky phase where they won’t touch anything besides pizza and PBJs.  I didn’t add quite as much sriracha knowing they would be eating it, but if your taste likes, add a little extra for some zing.  And if you’re worried about it being too spicy, start with the lower amount and then add more once it’s been cooked  – it will taste just as good, I promise!

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

This recipe for Sriracha Lentil Stew is vegetarian and can be made vegan if you omit the cheese and mayo at the end.  It is also gluten-free.  This is is another crockpot recipe, as well.  If I haven’t mentioned it before (which I’m sure I have), I love having my crockpot going most days.  The kids love how wonderful our home always smells and I like the ease of not having to stand over a stove.  Because there’s no meat in this, you have a bit more flexibility on the cooking time too.  If you cook it for 6 hours, the taste and texture won’t be much different than if you cooked it 10 hours. 

I used Chana dal, a split pulse in this recipe.  You can find this in the grocery store among Indian food or among the dried beans.  They add a nutty flavor and a great texture to the dish.  If your supermarket has a Bob’s Red Mill section like mine does, you may be able to find it there (or here, if you look on Amazon).  If you absolutely cannot find any, you can substitute with another dal, yellow split peas or pigeon peas.

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

Purists take heart, I mixed all sorts of cuisines for this stew.  But I promise, it turns out wonderful.  The toppings at the end are optional.  Without the mayo and cheese, this would count as a dairy-free dish.  But I must say that they add an extra touch to the recipe.  I am a mayo lover (especially when combined with sriracha!) but you can also use a Greek yogurt or sour cream. 

Finally, I always encourage creativity with my recipes!  Please don’t feel like you have to follow it exactly – as I always say, baking is chemistry, but cooking is an art.  If you want less onion or more garlic, go ahead!  If you want to add peppers or omit the carrots, or add a ton more sriracha, or use BBQ sauce instead or whatever, go right ahead!  Experimenting in the kitchen is great fun and only makes you a better cook in the long run.

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

And finally, if you find yourself consistently making more than you or your family can eat before the food starts to go bad, remember that crockpot meals like this freeze very well.  I usually put mine into 1-1/2 cup portions in freezer bags (once they’ve reached room temperature), label them, and store them in the back of the freezer for up to 6 months for an instant, healthy TV-dinner on days when I’m feeling too lazy or busy to cook!

Now, without any more of my blabbering on, here’s my recipe for Sriracha Lentil Stew.  Enjoy!

~Mellie ★

 

Sriracha Lentil Stew
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 1/2 cup chopped onion
  3. 3 minced garlic cloves
  4. 1 c diced carrots
  5. 1/2 c chopped celery
  6. 1 c dal, rinsed and drained
  7. 2 c red lentils, rinsed and drained
  8. 1 can (14 oz) stewed tomatoes, undrained
  9. 1 can (4 oz) chopped green chilies, drained
  10. 1 can (4 oz) chopped mushrooms, drained
  11. 1 1/2 c marinara sauce or pasta sauce
  12. 1 c vegetable broth or water
  13. 1 t cumin
  14. salt and pepper
  15. 1/4 - 1/3 cup Sriracha sauce (depending on how spicy you like it)
Optional Toppings
  1. shredded cheddar cheese
  2. dallop of mayonnaise
Instructions
  1. Saute onion, garlic, carrots, and celery in olive oil with salt and pepper. If you're in a hurry, you can do this on a stovetop and then place into the slow cooker. If you're not in a hurry, just add the olive oil to the crockpot with the vegetables and heat over low heat for a half hour or so, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add remaining ingredients through the Sriracha sauce. Cover and let cook for 6-8 hours on low.
  3. Top with shredded cheese and mayonnaise if desired.
Nutritional Analysis
  1. (without cheese or mayonnaise and with homemade, rather than store-bought vegetable broth)
Per Serving
  1. Calories - 168
  2. Fat - 5.1g
  3. Cholesterol - 0mg
  4. Sodium - 387.3mg
  5. Potassium - 250.3mg
  6. Carbohydrates - 24.3g
  7. Protein - 6.7g
  8. Vitamin A - 38.4%
  9. Vitamin C - 18.6%
  10. Iron 15%
mellie blossom http://www.mellieblossom.com/

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

Green Quinoa Salad Recipe

Green Quinoa Salad Recipe

I became a vegetarian over 20 years ago (and sheesh, I’m really showing my age when I say that!).  But when I did, I pored over all the cookbooks I took out of the library (using the card catalog! eek!) and took home every vegetarian cookbook I could get my hands on.  One of the most frustrating things for me is that, a new vegetarian with very little cooking experience, I was not only confronted with a new diet, but was absolutely clueless as to half of the ingredients that these cookbooks called for.  What was soya?  What was millet?  Or bulgher?  Or quinoa?  I came from a very midwestern, meat-and-potatoes kind of family and I was confounded with all this new information.

But, I’m a good student, and I made my way, twice a month, to the only health food store in town, a little place leftover from the hippie days that featured all sorts of strange things like bulk bins, ethnic ingredients and strange vegetables I had never heard of, much less tried before.  And so I dutifully picked one or two new grains to try every month, one or two new vegetables, and the unusual-named ingredients became a part of my cooking repertoire.  My sister followed in my vegetarian footsteps a few years later, and we had great fun making each other new and interesting dishes for our family get togethers. 

Fast-forward a couple decades and all these “unusual” ingredients are found in the aisles of every mainstream grocery store.  Health food stores are popping up in every city.  And there are still fun and exciting new foods to try!  I’m so grateful for the abundance and availability of things that were once so difficult to find.  Especially quinoa!

  Green Quinoa Salad Recipe

Quinoa is one of my favorite grain-type foods.  I love the nutty flavor, the texture, everything about it.  We’ve eaten it hot in casseroles and under stir-fries; we’ve eaten it cold in salads.  We’ve sweetened it for breakfast cereals and we’ve eaten it savory in frittatas and other egg dishes.  We’ve eaten golden quinoa and red quinoa – and even black quinoa!  It’s so incredibly versatile and delicious that it’s become a staple part of our diets. So when my sister called me a few weeks ago to tell me about her newest quinoa creation, I had to try it right away.

Now my sister’s tastes and mine are quiet different.  She likes things… bland (my word, not hers!) and I prefer food that is much more seasoned and flavorful.  So I took her basic salad and tweaked it just a little and came up with this winner – a perfectly refreshing, and very healthy salad that’s great for summer days. 

Green Quinoa Salad Recipe

This green quinoa salad recipe was the star of several picnics we had over the past couple of days.  It just tastes green!  The spinach, arugula and cucumbers can be garden fresh, and the feta cheese gives it just the right amount of tang, balancing out the vegetables and blending with the quinoa.  I love the added lemon flavor, but if you prefer a more basic salad like my sister, you can use a good quality olive oil alone.  It still is a wonderful salad and I hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

~Mellie ★

Green Quinoa Salad
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  2. 1-1/2 cup vegetable broth
  3. 1/2 t cumin (optional)
  4. 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  5. 1/2 cup chopped fresh arugula
  6. 1 cucumber, chopped into large chunks
  7. 3 sliced scallions
  8. 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  9. 1 lemon, juiced (or about 2-3 Tablespoons)
  10. lemon zest, optional
  11. 1/2 t coriander seed (optional, but adds great flavor)
  12. sea salt
  13. black pepper
  14. feta cheese
Instructions
  1. Rinse the quinoa and agitate with your hands to remove any residue that could cause it to be bitter. Place the quinoa in a saucepan with the vegetable broth. Add 1/2 t cumin for extra flavor if desired. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Let simmer 10-15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  2. Chop the spinach and arugula. Chop scallions and cucumbers. Place the cooled quinoa in a large bowl and add the vegetables. Stir to coat.
  3. For the dressing, combine olive oil with the juice of the lemon. Add lemon zest and coriander. Season with salt and pepper. Stir into quinoa and vegetables, mixing well.
  4. Serve topped with feta cheese.
mellie blossom http://www.mellieblossom.com/

Recipe: Brown Sugar Dumplings with Vanilla Cream

Brown Sugar Dumplings with Vanilla Cream

 

My Nana’s cooking was a central part of my childhood and surrounds almost every memory of growing up. From holidays to Sunday dinners, to the soups and stocks that would simmer all day long to the ethnic Slovak cuisine she would (try to) educate me on, Nana had a story and a reason for everything she did in the kitchen. Like so many other women of her time, she never really worked off of a recipe. Everything was done with a pinch of this, a handful of that, knead until it feels like *this* and so on. That’s why I was surprised (and thrilled), after she passed away, to find a small box of recipes among her belongings. What a great treasure! Even though it’s only a tiny repertoire of her great cooking, I’ve been enjoying  cooking and baking them up, cherishing the connection that ties us together through these tiny cards.

Brown Sugar Dumplings with Vanilla Cream

One of the recipes that she had written out were for these Brown Sugar Dumplings. My grandfather loved dumplings, so my grandmother made them often, both sweet and savory. I updated her version just a little, making a few small tweaks here and there, the same way she would with so many of her favorite dishes.  I also used vanilla beans instead of vanilla extract. I rarely have vanilla beans on hand, but I had one stashed away far back in the cabinet leftover from Christmas baking. I love how fresh vanilla gives these dumplings and the cream a fragrant, subtle flavor, but using vanilla extract is a fine substitute if you don’t happen to have any vanilla beans on hand.

Brown Sugar Dumplings with Vanilla Cream

Old Fashioned Brown Sugar Dumplings with Vanilla Cream

These are so ooey-gooey delicious!  I could eat them all day long.  The dumplings are crisp on the top and soft and gooey on the underside. The syrup has just the right amount of sweetness without becoming overly sugary, and the cream perfectly balances out the bread and the warm syrup with a light, frosty texture.  They’re great as both a brunch dish or as a dessert.  And by the next day (if there are any left), the dumplings are still delicious, yet a bit softer, and the vanilla cream is a bit thicker – simply heavenly with a big cup of hot coffee and lots of sunlight streaming into the kitchen.  Oh, and my kids are so silly – they saw me making up the vanilla cream, and by the time I was finished whipping it up, they were both their in the kitchen holding a spoon.  They love the vanilla cream – I think if I let them, they would eat the entire bowl of it. 

Brown Sugar Dumplings with Vanilla Cream

Old Fashioned Brown Sugar Dumplings with Vanilla Cream

To add a little bit of a contemporary spin to my grandmother’s handwritten notes, I downloaded a recipe card plugin to make printing it out easier.  Forgive me if it’s not quite perfect yet!  I think I’ve got the hang of it, my first draft of this came out as taking 40 hours to cook and making only 3 dumplings.  Eeek!  Anyway, now you can review the recipes I post and save them, and I’ll be updating my other recipes soon as well.  I like to think of this as the modern day style of hand-copying recipes from index card to index card – from my kitchen to yours; from my Nana’s old recipes to your stovetop. I can only imagine, 30 or 40 years ago when she was writing these down, what she would have thought if I told her that in a half century her handwritten recipes would be available for the world to see.  The thought never ceases to amaze me.

Anyway, I’m hoping you’ll love these dumplings as much as my family does!  Please stop back and review them if you make them, I’d love to hear your feedback!

~Mellie ★ 

Old Fashioned Brown Sugar Dumplings with Vanilla Cream
Yields 42
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Cook Time
40 min
Cook Time
40 min
For the Syrup
  1. - 1 cup brown sugar
  2. - 2 cups water
  3. - 1 T butter
  4. - pinch salt
  5. - pinch vanilla beans (or 1/8 t vanilla extract)
For the Dumplings
  1. - 1/2 cup brown sugar
  2. - 3/4 cup milk
  3. - 1/4 vanilla bean ( or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  4. - 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  5. - 1 T butter
  6. - 2 cups flour
  7. - 1 c chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts)
For the Vanilla Cream
  1. - 1/2 pint heavy whipping cream (should be cold)
  2. - 1/4 vanilla bean ( or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  3. - 2 T white sugar
  4. - nutmeg for dusting
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. To prepare vanilla, carefully cut half of a vanilla bean open lengthwise. Using a small spoon, carefully scrape out the vanilla beans. Place in a small dish for use. Save the empty vanilla pod for making your own vanilla extract or by sticking it in your sugar bowl to give your sugar a slight vanilla flavor.
  3. Start by toasting the chopped nuts: on a stovetop in a dry pan, heat the nuts over medium heat for a few minutes until the nuts are fragrant. Remove from heat onto a ceramic plate to cool.
  4. Bring syrup ingredients to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook and stir for a 5 minutes or so until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  5. Combine all dumpling ingredients, including cooled nuts and mix. Mixture will be very crumbly. Use your hands to knead the dough together, and then roll into small balls, around 3/4”. Grease a 9x13” pan and carefully pour syrup mixture in. Gently drop the dough balls into pan in syrup.
  6. Cook for 40 minutes until dumplings begin to turn golden.
  7. While cooking, prepare the whipped cream: Empty heavy whipping cream into a large bowl. With an immersion blender, beat cream for 5 minutes or so until it thickens. Add vanilla and sugar and beat until combined.
  8. Remove dumplings from oven after 40 minutes and dust gently with nutmeg. Spoon dumplings into serving dish and top with vanilla cream.
mellie blossom http://www.mellieblossom.com/