for the love of kale

For some strange reason, I could not get the idea of eating kale out of my head.

Maybe this stems from the past weekend, having been filled with pies and burgers and sweet, heavenly pancakes.  Or maybe its the warmer spring weather.  The long pre-dinner walks.  The feeling of a summer-to-be and all the freshness that comes along with.  Maybe it’s a subconscious craving for the extra dose of nutrients.  Maybe.

Or maybe I just wanted something green and curly and surprisingly delicious.

Kale has long been one of my favorite foods, but it didn’t really start out that way.

There was, for example, the one time that I decided a kale smoothie sounded about right.  Zwirrrpp…in the blender.   With milk and a carrot and a packet of Amazing Meal.  It was as delicious as it sounds, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

And then there was the time that I thought eating it plain and raw with olive oil and parmesan sounded nice. It really wasn’t.

So the road has been a bumpy one.  But the end results were worth it, as I finally fell in love with the bright green vegetable.  I learned that:

(1) There are several varieties of kale, some being more suiting for soups and stews, and some being more suiting for sauteeing, stir frying, baking.  Some even do indeed taste good raw, but I wouldn’t personally recommend the curly kale in this approach.
(2)  Kale can be bitter and the ingredients that are added need to counteract this somehow.  I find that even a sweet, grated carrot acts as a beautiful counterbalance.  As does a little lemon juice, a little soy sauce, some diced tomatoes, et cetera.
(3) Kale needs to cook and soften.  Let it wilt as you would let spinach wilt.

Last night I finally had my fill of kale for dinner.  It was ridiculously simple.  Which is just one more thing I love about a curly bunch of kale.

Kale and Tofu Saute

(Serves 1)

This is a simple, satisfying meal that is perfect for a busy weeknight.  Pair with a slice of your favorite bread and dinner is on.  Enjoy!

  • 1/2 bunch of kale, shredded into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 carrot, grated
  • splash of lemon juice
  • garlic powder
  • 1/4 block of tofu
  • 1/4 avocado
  1. Heat oil in dutch oven over medium heat.  Add kale and cook until beginning to wilt.  Reduce heat to medium-low.
  2. Add carrot and lemon juice, and garlic powder.  Stir well and cook for another minute or so.
  3. Meanwhile, spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray.  Cut tofu into 1/2 inch blocks and cook until browned on each side.
  4. Transfer kale to a bowl, topping with cooked tofu and avocado.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: What is your favorite kind of leafy green?  Swiss chard?  Lettuce?  Kale?  Spinach?

to tofu, with love

I once marched around the house with a picketing sign that read “I. Hate. Tofu.” in big, bold letters, while my sister who was making a tofu lasagna, pretended not to notice. 

I took one bite of the dreaded sauce & cheese imposter.  And then I declared it the best lasagna that I had ever tasted, while my brother went off to contemplate how he might disown me.

Let it never be said that I’m afraid to speak my mind.  Or afraid to change my mind as needed, for that matter. 

 

4 

Tofu is no light topic of discussion.  In fact, I wouldn’t really recommend discussing soy or tofu at the family dinner table, unless of course you’re looking for a good debate.  Everyone feels something about the little white blocks of soy.  Everyone has something to say about it.

“Ugh, it makes me gag.”

“Oh my word, I practically live on the stuff!”

“Well.  It’s kind of complicated.”

 

2

 

The lasagna was my very first delightful encounter with tofu.  And then I decided to experiment—just a little.  Gradually crossing the boundaries from being a McDonalds loving, cheeseball consuming, soda addicted kid to *gasp* a tofu eater.  I blame that on discovering good sauces and smart preparation techniques. 

And the rest is history.

 4

3

 

(p.s. The best part of this story is when my brother—the one who was planning on how he could disown me for going to the “dark side”—became the vegetarian of the family.  Go figure!)

 

2

 

The moral of the story is (a) don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself and others.  Tastebuds change.  And so do we as individuals.  If you love a juicy hamburger now and then, admit it, and don’t feel shame or guilt.  If you’d much rather not eat meat at all, and stick mostly to vegetarian fare, that’s great too.  Be yourself.  Be you!  And find what works best for your own individual needs.  A healthy diet can be formed around either of the aforementioned.  Really!

(b) Try something new!  If you’re feeling like you’re somewhere in the “it’s complicated” category of tofu, then branch out and try a new recipe.  Different techniques yield different flavors and textures.

(c) This isn’t really a moral, but—as your friend—I feel I should offer the advice of always making enough of this BBQ tofu for seconds.  It is *fabulous* as a sandwich filler. :D 

 

1

BBQ’d Tofu

Both of these recipes stem from the Veganomicon cookbook.  I made just a few subtle changes to make the cooking process a tad bit easier, while also basing the ingredients on what I happened to have on hand (I didn’t have the called for smoke seasoning!)  The BBQ sauce makes quite a bit—about 4 cups worth.  It is incredibly easy to make, and it’s nice having the extra sauce for future sandwiches or tofu/chicken creations. 

Serve this tangy sweet tofu with rice or mashed, garlic potatoes and your favorite roasted veggie.  Enjoy! :D

BBQ sauce:

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/3 c. molasses
  • 1/3 c. white vinegar
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 T. yellow mustard
  1. Saute onions in oil in medium pan over medium heat, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic through sugar and cook for 1 hr. over low heat.  Add mustard and adjust flavors as needed. 
  2. Puree in a food processor and store in refrigerator.

Baked Tofu with BBQ sauce:

  • 1 lb. tofu, pressed for 30 minutes (I recommend freezing the tofu ahead of time and dethawing/pressing before using…this produces a much “meatier” texture)
  • 1/2 of above recipe
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  In a 9×18 inch pan, place 1/4 of the above recipe on bottom of pan.  Place tofu on top.  Cover in 1/4 more of the above recipe. 
  2. Bake for 20 minutes.  Flip.  Bake an additional 20-25 minutes.  Serve immediately and ENJOY!

Question: Tofu Feelings?  Love?  Hate?  It’s kind of complicated?

a plate of cabbage and kale

We are officially snowed in!!!

In case you were wondering, yoga in the living room was my workout choice this morning, vs. going out for a walk.  I decided that listening to the radio while doing downward dogs and sun salutations in my pajamas sounded just about right for such a morning. ;)

But I still pulled on my boots and went outside to enjoy a bit of snow.  Which, by the way, is already up to my knees—and still climbing.  There’s at least 18 inches out there.  Maybe more! 

All I can say is, thank goodness today was my day off.

And thank goodness Dad didn’t mind going out and snowblowing the driveway in order to bury us out of the driveway for tomorrow’s commute (thanks dad!)

Yoga + shoveling + plowing my way through snow = fabulous workout.

I decided that today was a good day to clean out the fridge, while putting any and all of those lingering ingredients to good use. 

I bought a head of organic purple kale last week at the supermarket, just because I thought it looked too pretty to turn down.  It’s absolutely brimming with antioxidants and nutrients.  I couldn’t bare to walk past it, and so it ended up in my cart.  And in my fridge.  Until today, of course.

Also in the fridge, I had a couple of carrots and some onions (there are always onions!), along with a thick slab of tofu and a lemon.  Off to the side—on the kitchen counter—there were some tomatoes.  I’m pretty sure that if kitchens could talk, mine would have been screaming—demanding?—at me to make a warm kale salad. 

It was very much meant to be.

I’m pretty sure that people get the wrong idea when it comes to things like kale and tofu.  If it sounds a little hippy—a little too “far out” for both your mind and your kitchen—then you simply must rethink these things and move on.  Daring to try something new.

Kale, when it’s made just right, is earthy and sweet.  Tender but firm.  It will take on a whole new dimension, as it soaks up the olive oil that is lightly drizzled on top.  And in the end, it will practically beg you to add just a splash or two of lemon juice.  Finally—at last—the warmed kale salad will reward your tastebuds with a delicious flavor that’s both simple and complex, making you forget all of those silly little things that you ever had to say about kale.

Tofu is another thing altogether.

Thankfully, just like kale, tofu has the possibility of rewarding you with a depth of flavor and a delightful texture as well. 

The preparation of tofu is key, I think.  More specifically, the pressing

Getting rid of every last bit of liquid that you possibly can, so that the texture becomes nice and firm.  So that it can soak up every bit of sauce or liquid that you decide to add to it.  So that it can brown and crisp at the touch of a hot nonstick pan.  Yes.  The art of tofu is in the pressing.

Side Dish: Roasted Cabbage

A delightfully warm meal to warm up with after trudging through the snow. :D

I hope you’re all staying warm and safe today!!!

Warm Kale Salad

This makes for a delightful side dish to any entree, but it can also serve as a main dish in and of itself.  Pine nuts, walnuts, and beans would make for a nice addition as well.  This dish is simple but satisfying, perfect for a chilly winter afternoon. 

  • 1 head of kale
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1-2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • garlic powder
  • lemon juice
  1. In a medium sized pan, heat 1 T. olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until onions are tender, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add kale, stir, and lower heat to medium low.  Continue cooking until kale is tender but still slightly firm.  Add tomatoes, carrot, garlic powder to taste, and a few liberal splashes of lemon juice.  Lower heat to low and continue cooking until heated thorough.
  3. ENJOY! :D

Simply Pan Fried Tofu

This is as simple as simple gets.  You can use any sauce that suits your fancy.  I’ve used peanut sauces, bbq sauce, and homemade thai sauces as well.  I’ve got to say though, soy sauce and garlic are one of my most favorite of combinations.  Sometimes you can’t mess with simple.

  • 1/4 a block of extra firm tofu, drained and pressed well
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • garlic powder
  • red pepper flakes
  1. Blot tofu well with paper towels to remove any lingering liquids. 
  2. In a small bowl, mix together soy sauce, garlic powder and red pepper flakes.  Place tofu in bowl, flip over and let it sit in fridge at least 1 hr.
  3. Heat a nonstick cooking pan over medium heat.  Spray with cooking spray, place tofu in pan, and cook until browned and crisp.  Flip and continue cooking until browned on other side as well.
  4. Serve and ENJOY! :D

Roasted Cabbage

This is one of my favorite ways to prepare any and all of my vegetables.  Cabbage is no exception.  Enjoy!

  • 1/2 a head of cabbage
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat oven to 425. 
  2. Spray baking sheet with spray and set aside.  Slice cabbage into 1/2 inch slices and place in single layers on baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping once halfway through.  ENJOY!

Question: Do you eat anything now that you never in a million years would have thought you would *ever* enjoy?

Tempting Tofu

Growing up, my sister was the experimental one of the family when it came to food.  She convinced my family to try whole wheat pasta.  She got me started on the obsession known as peanut butter.  And she introduced our house to tofu

My brother and I were less than happy about this intruder.  We conspired together to come up with a plan, which involved walking around the house with picket signs “we hate tofu.”  My mom, trying to be supportive and understanding for my sister’s sake, helped my sister make a batch of vegetarian stuffed shells made with silken tofu.  My brother and I still complained.  It was a trying time for my family. ;)

However, much to my brother’s horror and disgust, I sneaked in a bite of the stuffed shell.  And I liked it.  A lot. 

Over the years, tofu has quickly become a weekly meal in my house.  I love how versatile it is.  It’s a great lean protein choice, and goes well with everything from spring rolls to stirfries to sandwiches.  And now that there’s a TofuXPress in my life (thanks Richard!), pressing it doesn’t requjre a gajillion paper towels or messy plates or heavy cans. ;)

Pressed overnight and ready to go!

I sliced the block in half, and then cut it again, which formed 4 slices.  Followed by a pop in the freezer for a good 4 hours in order to give it a firmer texture.

After freezing, I dethawed it in the microwave.  Time to marinade!

I chose a Thai peanut sauce and my dad went with the Bone Suckin’ sauce.  We ended up taking one of each flavor, and I honestly have to say that the Bone Suckin’ Sauce was my favorite.  It was spicy, but only mildly.  And I could pronounce the ingredients (that’s always a good thing ;) ).  We also cooked up a portobello mushroom with some balsamic and olive oil.  Plus brown rice and a broccoli dish which deserves a name of its own (so good!)

Grilled Tofu

  1. Follow procedures of pressing, freezing and dethawing tofu (freezing is optional, but it does give a wonderful texture!)
  2. Marinade for an hour or so in your favorite sauce/marinade.
  3. Spray a sheet of foil with cooking spray.  Throw tofu on the foil and cook over medium grill heat until browned (about 5 minutes). 
  4. Flip and cook until browned on other side (about 5 more minutes

The Broccoli Dish That Deserves A Name

  • 1 head broccoli, chopped
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 tomato
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon juice (a splash or so)
  1. Heat oven to 425.
  2. Mix broccoli with olive oil and a liberal amount of garlic powder.  Pour on cookie sheet and cook for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  3. Meanwhile, mash together avocado, tomato, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and more garlic powder if desired. 
  4. When broccoli is browned to liking, combine with avocado mixture and serve.

“I never thought I would be grilling tofu on my Weber grill.”  —Dad

Me neither.

And yet we both found ourselves mmm’ing over a delicious meal of grilled tofu.  Twas a perfect meal.

Vacation is calling!  I’m off to finish up with this…

Question: Have you ever tried tofu?  Do you enjoy it?  What is your favorite way to eat it?

(as an aside, my brother is now vegetarian and doesn’t think twice about ordering tofu when he goes out to eat :mrgreen: )

Sunny Sunday

I always plan for Sunday mornings to be hectic, crazy, and “oh my goodness, where did I put my other shoe?” kind of busy.  Which is why I usually plan my breakfast ahead of time.  At least one thing has to remain calm.  Cool.  Collected.  It may as well be breakfast. ;)

The Chocolate Lover’s Breakfast Cookie

  • 1/2 c. uncooked oatmeal
  • 2 T. wheat bran
  • 1 T. Teddy Peanut Butter
  • 2 T. cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 banana, mashed (saving 1/4 for the top)

Mash, mash, mash everything together.  Don’t hold back.  The more you mash, the better it will taste.  Add in a splash of milk (or soymilk) if it’s too dry and needs the extra liquid.  Then mash some more.  Spread out on a plate and chill in the fridge overnight. 

This is best served with a cold glass of milk.  :D

So yes.  Going back to my busy Sunday morning.  I found my shoe and made it to church in one piece.  Success. ;)

Lunch

Last week, I experienced tofu in a whole new light.  I’ve always enjoyed tempeh (a fermented, cake form of tofu which has a firm, nutty texture.)  But tofu?  After one horrible, tasteless, spongy experience, I quickly turned up my nose and called it quits.  It wasn’t meant to be.  But then I tasted it after my Dad had cooked it on the grill.  *Gasp*  It was head over heels kind of love, my friends. 

I do believe that part of the secret to its firm, chewy bite and crusty exterior is in the freezing method.  I first drain the tofu, press it until most of the liquid is excreted and then pop the block (which is now cut into 4 pieces) into the freezer.  Once it dethaws for use, I press it again which leaves it much drier then before the freezing.  The dryness is what allows it to seep up all that delicious flavor from a marinade (in this case, a peanut sauce.)  Trust me on this one.  It really works.

Needless to say, lunch was Ah-mazing.  Kudos to Dad.  There was sauteed green beans and a slice of wholegrain boule with butter on the side.  Eaten at Peperes, out on the deck, while listening to stories of his childhood in Canada.  Perfect.  Everything was perfect.

Afternoon Snack!

I live the perfect distance from an icecream barn.  Close enough that I can walk there when the mood strikes, but not too close that I take advantage of it too often. ;)

We were all in the mood for an afternoon sweet today and went out for a 4-mile, round-trip stroll.  I was determined to try something new.  Break the mold!  And so I did.  Instead of ordering the usual (i.e., Oatmeal Cookie, which is is as good as it sounds) I opted for the Peanut Butter Caramel Swirl Delight.  Which was also as good as it sounds.  There were chunks of peanut butter and swirls of deep, rich caramel.  I’m still more a fan of the Oatmeal Cookie flavor, but this one ranks high on the list too. ;)

Dinner

Sunday nights are “fend for yourself” nights when we all basically scurry through the kitchen and find whatever we’re in the mood for.  But tonight was a bit different.  Our brains were all in sync and we came up with a quick and delicious taco salad creation.  Basic salad mix topped with 1/3 a can of Vegetarian Refried Beans (slightly heated), feta cheese, onions, scoop of spicy salsa, and a dollop of Voskos Organic Greek Yogurt (which, by the way, tastes very similair to sour cream.)

+ kashis for crushing on top (or you could use tortilla chips if you prefer!)

It was a delicious way to end a warm, sunny Sunday. :D

Question: What was the highlight of your Sunday?  For me, it was simply sitting out on my Pepere’s deck and talking about Canada, moose and gardening. :D

Great Grillin’!

Can I just say how much I loved hearing about your cooking memories from the last post???  They totally made me smile—each and every one.  Thanks so much for sharing those wonderful memories with everyone! :D

I’ve been on such a cold cereal kick lately!

  • 1-1/2 c. Nature’s Path Blueberry Cinnamon
  • 6-oz. plain yogurt with 2 T. crushed flax
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • scoop of Teddy peanut butter

This was so crunchy and fun to eat. :D

I’m glad my breakfast was hearty and filling, because my expected 30 minute morning bike ride turned into a 1-1/2 hr. ride around town. ;)

Dad became my biking partner, and we both were quickly sucked in to the many yard sales going on around town.  I have no idea how far we actually rode our bikes, but let’s just say that I saw more of my town then I’ve seen in a long time. ;)  When I came back, I was so thirsty and hungry, and quickly broke into the almonds and watermelon.

Lots and lots of watermelon.  I’m pretty sure that I ate my weight in watermelon today. ;)  It’s such a great (tasty!) way to rehydrate in the summer!

By the time lunch rolled around, I only wanted a cold and crunchy salad full of fresh produce.

  • mesculin greens
  • black olives
  • tomato
  • cucumber
  • carrots
  • onions, chopped
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 mushroom
  • 1/2 c. garbanzo beans

Salads are so satisfying in the summer.  When the temperature rises above 80 degrees, they’re pretty much my one and only craving.

On the side, I had some kashis, a slice of reduced fat sargento swiss, and a few large green olives, sliced.

+ an iced coffee! 

Nicole bought me this adorable reuseable iced coffee cup last week.  I brewed up some starbucks beans, and once the coffee was chilled, I added in about 1/2 tsp sugar and 1/2 c. plain soymilk (which adds a bit of sweetness by itself even without any added sugar.)

Afternoon Snack: 6-oz. plain yogurt + 2 T. crushed flax + 2 T. Nature’s Path Pumpkin Flax Granola

Cold + Crunchy!

For dinner, Dad was once again put to work on the grill.  He totally enjoys cooking on the family Weber.  And my mom & I totally enjoy eating whatever he cooks up.  It works.

Dad made himself and my mom a Rib Eye steak.  Not being much of a steak fan, I decided to put the tofu block that was sitting in my freezer to good use (freezing tofu gives it a whole new, chewy texture which I love!)

I marinated 1/2 of the block of tofu in a peanut sauce.  You’ll want to check the labels on store-bought peanut sauces, by the way, as many of them have MSG and other funky additives.  Look for the ingredients that you can read. ;)

Tofu is surprisingly easy to cook on the grill.  I sprayed a peice of foil with cooking spray and plopped the marinated tofu on there.  Dad flipped it once the undersides were lightly crisp and browning, about 6 minutes into the cooking. 

On the side, I had sauteed cabbage with mustard, a slice of whole wheat sourdough bread, some grilled peppers & onions and a grilled portobello mushroom smeared with deglazed balsamic vinegar and a bit of EVOO. 

Best meal of the week.  Hands down.

The tofu was so flavorful and so full of texture.  I will be making this again soon. :D  It would make an awesome wrap filling.

+ a small peice of a new dark chocolate find at whole foods (favorite dark chocolate yet…it’s full of tiny little crystals and snaps when you bite into it.) 

My sister kidnapped me for the next hour or so, and I’m so glad she did.  I always find myself laughing and smiling when we’re hanging out. :mrgreen:

Off to wrap some Father’s Day gifts and relax for the rest of the night!

Question: What is your favorite food to cook (or eat) on the grill?  Tofu is now up there on the list for me.  But I also like chicken sausages, grilled peppers and grilled peaches with a bit of balsamic vinegar!