Kale and Quinoa Salad


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This salad is loosely based off of my kale and walnut pesto recipe. But with a few revisions, I’ve come up with a salad that’s light, yet hearty enough for a main course! And as always, there’s room for plenty of versions – substitute your favorite nuts and dried fruits to make it your own. You can swap out the quinoa for bulger wheat or another of your favorite grains or seeds. Just remember, the key is in the blanching of the kale which brightens up the leaf and softens its texture.

The best thing about this is it combines several “super” foods:  kale, quinoa, cranberries and walnut oil which has 1.77g of Omega 3’s per serving! So feel free to indulge!

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Kale and Walnut Pesto


Kale is such a super food… add walnuts, olive oil and lemon zest and this little gem is unstoppable.  I’ve struggled to find ways to prepare kale that I enjoy. It can be bitter and a little tough. But I could eat this pesto by the spoonful!  I’m currently enjoying it on a Triscuit® but you can put it on just about anything. I’m thinking about smothering a chicken breast with it for dinner – but my favorite way to use it is to dollop it onto a crostini that has been pan-sauteed in butter.

So run , don’t walk, to your nearest grocery (or better yet, Farmer’s Market)… buy a large batch of kale (curly, flat, rainbow – it doesn’t matter)… a good size lemon (Meyer lemons if you can find them!) and some fresh garlic and make enough to eat all week!  Keep in mind that the shelf-life for this pesto is about a week. Read the Perfect Health section below below to see why you want to incorporate kale into as many meals as you can.

Ingredients
4-6 cups (about 6.5 ounces) kale leaves, ribs removed, coarsely chopped
2-3 large fresh garlic cloves, smashed and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts (raw is fine but toasting brings out their nuttiness)
3/4 cup Parmesan (or Vegan Parmesan)
1/3 cup olive oil (for extra walnut taste mix with 1 part walnut oil)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon course sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation
Remove ribs from kale and give it a rough chop. In a large pot, bring water to a boil with a couple of pinches of salt. Prepare a large boil of ice water and set aside. Once water in boiling, add kale for about 1 minute. Your kale will start to turn a brighter green. Remove from kale pot and immediately put in ice water. This is called blanching and is what helps give (and keep) your kale a bright green. Remove kale from ice water after 1 minute and pat dry.

Peel and roughly chop two large bulbs of garlic. If you are using pre-minced garlic, this is roughly 2 tablespoons.

If you are roasting your walnuts, place then in a dry saute pan over medium heat. Continue moving them in the pan until you begin to smell their nuttiness. It should take about 2 minutes.  Keep an eye on them – they burn easily (which is why I don’t put them in the oven anymore – I always forget them!).

Ready to Make?
In a food processor, add the kale, garlic, Parmesan and walnuts. Pulse 6-7  times until it’s well-combined. Slowly, through the feed tube, drizzle the oil until mixture is moist and holds together. Remove lid and zest your lemon directly into mixture. Zest, and not juice, makes all the difference here. It’s sweet and tangy and every once in a while you’ll get a burst of it in your mouth. So delish.  But feel free to add a little juice for extra lemony flavor. Now add salt and pepper, return lid and pulse a couple of more times. NOTE: It’s important to use the pulse feature and not let your processor run… you want to retain some of the leafy texture of the kale and not make mush. I may or may not be speaking from experience.

Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. And presto you have pesto!

The Perfect Bite
Whenever making a dip or spread or something that is not meant to be eaten on its own… it’s important to taste-test it once just with a spoon and then again with what you plan on having it with. On it’s own it may taste like it needs more salt, but if you plan on eating it with salty chips or crackers… it may be fine as it is once combined with it’s dipping partner.

The Perfect Pairing
Since this is a new item to me… I may discover more and more pairing as I go.. so check back regularly.  I’m certain this will be delightful on a crostini and absolutely divine mixed into some whole wheat pasta. Let me know if you try it on something yummy! Enjoy this with a crisp pinot grigio.

The Perfect Health
Kale’s risk-lowering benefits for cancer have recently been extended to at least five different types of cancer. These types include cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, ovary, and prostate. Isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from glucosinolates in kale play a primary role in achieving these risk-lowering benefits. Read more about the benefits of here.

Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup


This recipe is adapted from something I saw in Cooking Light Magazine (March 2011).  Winter is STILL alive and well in Nashville, but I’m growing tired of heavy cold-weather soups. So I was searching for something light and healthy but substantial enough for a main course. With 4-5 modifications (though still keeping the health benefits in tact) I came up with a very satisfying meal. Enjoy!

Ingredients
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup sweet onion – chopped
1/2 cup fennel bulb – julienned
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 links sweet Italian turkey sausage
2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup homemade garlic vegetable broth (hopefully you’ve made a batch before and froze some!)
1 (15oz) can Cannellini Beans or Great Northern Beans – rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups kale leaves – torn (you can substitute escarole or swiss chard if you prefer)
3 tablespoons shaved Parmesan cheese

Preparation
Start by getting your Mise en Place together. This is crucial because once the meat is browned, everything moves quickly. Dice your onion (you’ll probably use 1/2 of a medium onion). Julienne your fennel. Be sure to peel off the outer layer which can be pretty tough and bitter. Mince garlic fine if not using pre-minced from a jar. After rinsing your kale, fold leaves lengthwise so that the spine shows. Pull away from spine and tear leaves into one inch pieces. Discard spines. Rinse and drain your canned beans. Okay – everything in place?

Ready to Cook?
Start by browning the sausage. Peel casings off sausage links and break into one inch pieces while stirring and browning. If you have an enamel cast iron pot, you can do this all in one vessel. But if not, use a frying pan or a pan that browns meat well. Turkey sausage doesn’t render a lot of fat so you may need to give it a splash of olive oil while browning. Once meat is browned and almost thoroughly cooked, add olive oil, onion, garlic and fennel and saute until tender, probably 5-7 minutes on medium heat.

Once the veggies are tender, add the chicken and garlic vegetables broths. [By the way, you can make this with just chicken broth, but I promise you – it won’t taste as amazing.] Add the beans, cover and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. About 5 minutes. Then add the kale and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the kale wilts.

Sprinkle the Parmesan shavings on top right before serving. Tip: I pre-shaved extra Parm and have it ready for leftover soup!

The Perfect Bite
Now this is one of my favorite “perfect bite” moments… when you can load your spoon with a little bit of everything. Seriously, scoop up a chunky piece of sausage, a couple of white beans, some leafy kale and some garlicky broth. And be sure to get some Parmesan on there! It’s like they were created to go together. You will hear poetry in your head.

The Perfect Pairing
Pairing wines with soup recipes can be tricky. If you breakdown your soup ingredients and view them as you would a pasta sauce or something of similar status then your task will be less intimidating. If your soup is a tomato base then you’d want a wine with a little less acidity and lighter on the tannin content. If your soup (or stew or chili) is heavy on beans or meat then you could also get away with a wine that has a bit more body and strength. Which is why I chose a 2007 Malbec from Pannotia Vineyards for this soup. With a hint of clove and cinnamon and full tannins, it will play nicely off the sweetness Italian sausage and hold up against the slightly bitter kale.

The Perfect Health
Thanks to Cooking Light Magazine who provided all the health specs for this soup.
Calories:230 Fat: 4.6g Protein: 179g Carbs: 15.5g Fiber: 4.7g Chol: 49mg Iron:1.3mg Sodium: 624mg Calc: 87mg