Ginger Apple Kale Salad

It’s funny to me that one of my more recent recipes on this blog is for kale salad, and that I’m posting about it again today, because I’ve had it exactly one other time since December, and it kind of ruined it for me until… today, really. It might have had a bit to do with being somewhat hungover, and having an idiotic yet strong craving for a cold kale salad with lentils and lemon vinaigrette, which is quite possibly the most absurd “craving” and subsequent hungover meal I’ve had. About halfway through I succumbed to overwhelming nausea, pushed away my plate, and vowed that kale should be cooked, always. I both remember enjoying kale salads and being nauseated by them, so I waffled on whether this idea for a ginger-spiced kale salad, sort of autumnal in quality, would be a point for delicious or never-ever-again.

Thankfully, it turns out it was delicious! As I mentioned in my last post, I’m one week into whole 30, so this salad meets those restrictions. I probably owe a bit of justification for following this trendy plan for a month, and to do so I’ll say I’m much more interested in the psychological motivation of whole 30 than the dietary changes. I’ve never had issues with food in the past, but I do understand the willingness to try to change food behavior, and for that, I complete this experiment. If I do end up “feeling” differently on this diet, then, I suppose, I’ll have to decide what that means. For now, though, I’m doing what I can to still eat as much delicious food as possible. Even if it’s mostly veggies.

The biggest drawback to whole 30, to me, (besides no bread) is how meat-centric meals can become. As most of my meals are vegetarian, I sometimes just grow tired of eating meat. It’s just a little too much, occasionally. This salad follows a day of turkey bacon and taco salad, and I was more than ready for something lighter and crisp. And, if I’m getting points for appeasing people, this salad is actually raw, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, grain-free, paleo, and whole 30 approved. Everyone can eat it! Except maybe some people on Coumadin… Ha.

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Ginger Apple Kale Salad

Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as a side

1 large bunch kale, sliced into ribbons

2 apples (I used Gala), diced

1/4 cup roasted pecans

Ginger Apple Vinaigrette

  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp. apple juice or cider
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 in. knob of ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • S&P, liberally

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients. Add the kale and massage the dressing into the leaves, using your hands, for several minutes, until the kale has softened and is coated in dressing. Separate into bowls then top with diced apples and pecans. Enjoy!

The dressed kale keeps well in the fridge overnight, so feel free to make that part ahead and add the toppings when serving!

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Thai Dumpling Kale Salad

It may be a week until Christmas, but I’m already kind of done with the cookies. Maybe it’s because everyone’s Christmas parties start back into the beginning of December, or maybe it’s because I joined some friends in a cookie-baking-bonanza that resulted in a whole tin of cookies to myself. I kind of don’t want at all mashed potatoes or stuffing or ham or holiday comfort food. I’ve been jamming on avocados and goat cheese, and I got into my mind that I could really go for an Asian salad. You know the kind, the Americanized version with ginger and wontons.

Well, of course, I didn’t have the ingredients for the giant salad of my imagination (which mirrored that of California Pizza Kitchen fairly precisely), but I did recognize I had a bunch of kale, a threatening-to-die carrot, and maybe some impromptu dressing ingredients. Out of a basic pantry and sad representation of a refrigerator… I created the best dinner I have had in months.

No, really. Admittedly, I freaking love the dumplings from Trader Joe’s. I used to buy the pork gyoza all the time, but somehow hadn’t in awhile… maybe it was a grad school thing. But I don’t eat pork or pigs anymore, and the frozen isle caught my eye (I’ve been excessively lazy recently). I saw Thai gyoza and thought I’d give it a try. The dumplings, while absolutely important, sit atop a salad so flavorful and balanced, that the whole (giant) bowl just satisfies every salty, tangy, savory craving you didn’t even know you had. I was not at all a believer in kale salads; I usually sauté my kale or put it in soups (read: why I had kale in the first place… soup season). But by massaging in the dressing, the kale becomes perfectly crunchy with just the right bite to offset the soft, fluffy little dumplings. I must say, the fresh ginger makes it. Which I totally would not have had if Thanksgiving had not been so recent, but please buy some if you’re making this salad tomorrow (as you should).

And, so long as you have this, or just a normal bottle of Sriracha, you are totally ready to go.

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Thai Dumpling Kale Salad

Serves 1 hungry person (per usual); easily multiplied

Thai Peanut Dressing

½ tbsp. canola (or other mild-flavored) oil

½ tbsp. tamari or soy sauce

1 tsp. natural peanut butter (peanuts and salt)

1 tsp brown sugar

½ tsp. sriracha

2 inch ginger knob, peeled and grated finely, juice included, stringy remnants discarded

Dash crushed red pepper flake

Salad and Dumplings

2 cups organic curly kale, chopped finely

1 golden carrot, peeled and minced/ chopped finely

½ tbsp. canola oil

5 Thai vegetable (or shrimp) gyoza/ dumplings (from Trader Joe’s)

2 tbsp. roasted and salted peanuts

Sriracha to serve

In a large serving bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Add the kale and toss, with your hands, massaging the dressing into the kale leaves. Set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients (time is your friend).

Use a food processor to finely chop the carrot (or your own determination and knife) and add to the greens. Toss.

In a small, non-stick sauté pan, prepare the gyoza according to package directions, which I’ll include here. Heat the oil over medium high heat and add the gyoza to the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the bottom is browning. Add ¼ cup of water to the pan and quickly cover with a lid. Steam for 4-5 minutes until the gyoza are softened and cooked through.

Sprinkle the peanuts over the top of the salad and place the gyoza on top. Drizzle Sriracha over everything.

Absolutely dig in.

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Real question: should this blog be titled “Sriracha to serve”? Seems that’s at the end of every recipe. Also, I hate how dinner time in the winter means it’s pitch black outside. Try taking a good photo in your dark, poorly lit living room… sigh. At least dinner is good.

Gnocchi with Balsamic Reduction and Garlic Kale

Ah! It’s been a whole week, and I haven’t had one moment to talk about dinner. Sunny, warmed up, Spring- and Summer-time Chicago is a demanding experience. People are always doing everything, preferably outdoors, at any and all hours, and yes, of course, you should go also. You should take your dogs on epic 2-hour walks down the lakefront, stopping to sprint and roll and tackle in the middle of dandelion-spotted verdant grass inherent only to the Midwest in late Spring. You should stare longingly at Lake Michigan, willing it with your mind to be warmer, knowing that regardless you can’t really swim in that bacteria-laden pool. You should run outside, in the morning, afternoon, or night, relishing the angles of the sun on the skyline and the dusted rooftops as the sun sets. You should certainly eat tacos on the sidewalks, with at least one margarita on the side. And yes, absolutely enjoy a happy hour flight down the street. You can feel the depths of winter siphoning out of your veins, and you can almost, almost forget it happened (maybe not this year entirely). But on those rare nights in, probably on Wednesday, you still need to eat dinner.

Gnocchi is responsible for the best meal of my life, hands down. Traveling Florence with my best friend way-too-many years ago, we stopped for lunch at a small restaurant off the main streets. We had a carafe of water and a glass of wine; I ordered gnocchi with tomato cream sauce and she ravioli. I’m certain she enjoyed her meal immensely, but I will never ever forget the pillowy, unbelievably cloud-like texture of the gnocchi I had that day. The tomato cream sauce was light but flavorful, just enough to coat the little dumplings of joy. I haven’t tried homemade gnocchi (yet), so returning to the US I’ve been accepting but somewhat disappointed in the gnocchi offerings. It doesn’t stop me from enjoying this Italian classic, but I should definitely try my hand at my own version.

Regardless, this gnocchi is really most about the accompaniments. The gnocchi is still, of course, soft and flavorful, but the balsamic reduction and vegetables and kale are perfect for an almost-summer dinner that still warms you up. It’s absurdly easy, also, so don’t let the word “reduction” fool you. It really just means “heat for awhile then serve.”

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Gnocchi with Balsamic Reduction and Garlic Kale

Serves 3-4

1 lb. gnocchi

1 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 yellow onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

6 cups kale, washed and chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flake

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly (chiffonade)

Salt & pepper, to taste

In a small sauce pan, heat the balsamic vinegar over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half. It should be reduced in about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water, salted, to boil.

In a large pan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and peppers and sauté until just softening, about 5 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms have softened, browned, and just releasing their juices. Season with salt and pepper.

While the vegetables are cooking, in a separate pan add 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the kale and stir. Cook the kale until just softening, about 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flake to the kale and stir.

In the large pot of water, add the gnocchi and cook for about 3 minutes, or according to package directions.

Add the balsamic reduction to the vegetables and mix. Once the gnocchi has cooked, add the gnocchi to the pan as well. Stir thoroughly so all of the gnocchi and vegetables are coated.

To your serving plate, add a serving of garlic kale. Top with the balsamic-coated gnocchi and vegetables. Enjoy.

 

 

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Kale and Parmesan Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

More sweet potatoes! When I’m at the grocery store, I always grab a couple of sweet potatoes. To use in soup, to cube up for a hash with eggs, to make sweet potato fries; there’s a never-ending number of ways to use them up. So, naturally, I had a few left in the cabinet this week, and I decided to try something new. My dad loves to make twice baked potatoes. Loaded with cheese, bacon, sour cream, and salt, they’re far from healthy, but they’re a delicious component to his occasional dinner spread, which he puts out once or twice a year. This option is a bit on the healthier side, swapping white potatoes for sweet potatoes, cutting the cheese and butter count, and nixing the bacon for crunchy kale (I think I also have a kale problem; I love it so much). But these twice baked sweet potatoes still have the delectably crunchy skin, and they serve as a unique change of pace for dinner. They’re also fairly quick to come together if you’ve already baked the sweet potatoes ahead of time; however, I rarely think that far ahead, so an easier way to prepare these is to get them fully baked and ready, slide them into the fridge, and twice bake them the next day or on the day of eating. This arrangement makes them great for potluck parties or really any sort of celebration where it’s nice to have things almost fully done ahead of time. Or it’s good for your lonely plate with a side of salad; we can’t all have dinner parties all the time. I’m looking forward to the leftovers today.

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Kale and Parmesan Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Serves 2-4

2 large sweet potatoes

3 cups kale, chopped into ribbons

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup milk or cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Poke a few holes in the side of the sweet potatoes (I used a fork and poked along the midline so the holes would “disappear” once the potatoes were cut in half). Place the sweet potatoes in the oven directly on the rack, with a sheet pan a rack below to catch any drippings. Bake the sweet potatoes for approximately 1 hour, or until completely fork tender.

Allow the sweet potatoes to cool slightly, then, using a sharp knife, slice the sweet potatoes length-wise into two halves. Scoop out the sweet potato filling into a large bowl, careful not to rip the skin too much. Place the skins in a baking dish and set aside. Mash the sweet potatoes with a fork or potato masher. Add the cream and butter and mix thoroughly until the sweet potatoes are smooth and creamy.  Add 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese and mix.

In a sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add kale ribbons and sauté until softened and bright green, maintaining their crunch slightly. To the bowl of sweet potatoes, add sautéed kale and mix together. Scoop the sweet potato and kale mixture into the cooled potato skins, forming a heaping mound in each. Top each sweet potato half with the remaining 1/4 cup of shredded parmesan cheese. At this point, the sweet potatoes can be refrigerated for a day or two until use.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the baking dish of sweet potatoes into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until the edges of the skin are just crisping. After 30 minutes, turn off the oven and turn on the broiler. Broil the sweet potatoes for 2-5 minutes, until the parmesan cheese on top is melting and browned. Remove the pan from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and serve. These can be picked up and eaten by hand, or sliced easily with a fork. A side of salad rounds out the meal nicely- the one below just mixed greens dressed with a squeeze of lemon juice and roasted pecans. Or, serve these up at a party and watch them disappear!

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Sharp Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese with Mushrooms and Kale

Ah, who in the midwest isn’t craving hearty, cheesy, warm, melty macaroni and cheese? As the temperature drops palettes change to demand warm, heavy dinners; there’s an inverse relationship between weather and healthy eating, I think. Except maybe if you can squeeze a couple vegetables into even the most indulgent of dishes. Not that were shooting for pale diet food; rather, let’s just eat something that tastes good and satisfies that ever-demanding need for pasta in December.  I’m at it again with the vegetarian menu, although this is anything but a side dish. The mushrooms are meaty and hearty, in an appealing vegetable way (not a gross this-is-fake-meat way). And the kale is there to substantiate the plate and give an occasional deep crunch (also you probably have a bit left over, I’d think?). This comes together pretty quickly, if you’re a multi-tasker. Otherwise you may leave things to simmer as you move onto the next task. Either way, this cooks warm, stays warm, goes down warm, and leaves you somewhat sleepy.

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Sharp Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese with Mushrooms and Kale

Serves 2-3

4 oz. (1 cup) gemelli pasta* (or your preferred pasta shape)

2 tsp. olive oil

8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced

Large bunch kale, rinsed and chopped

1 tbsp. butter

2 cups milk, anything but skim

2 tbsp. flour

3 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (by hand from a block, for freshness, preferably)

Salt & pepper, to taste

Bring a large pasta pot to boil with water and a heavy pinch (or pinches) of salt. Add pasta and cook according to package directions, preferably undercooking by a minute or two to keep al dente (italics for pretension, thanks).

(If you’re a multi-tasker, while water is coming to a boil, slice mushrooms, wash and chop kale, and shred your cheese).

As the pasta is cooking, add 2 tsp. olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Saute mushrooms until softened, browning, and releasing their juices, approximately 5-8 minutes. Add kale and saute until wilted, about 2-3 minutes longer. Season and pour into a bowl on the side, to be added back in later.

In the same skillet, after vegetables are done and pasta is ideally still boiling away, melt 1 tbsp. of butter over low heat. In a large ball jar, add 2 tbsp. flour and 2 cups of milk. Shake, shake, shake until the mixture is smooth and creamy without discernible flour lumps. Pour the flour-milk mixture into the skillet with melted butter and whisk over low heat until it is melded and smooth.** Increase the heat to medium low, bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, and let reduce until thickened to an admirable consistency, approximately 5 minutes or so.

(If you’re a multi-tasker, your pasta finished cooking while the milk-butter-flour mixture was simmering. Drain your pasta, toss with a touch of olive oil in the strainer, and set aside).

Once the milk mixture has reduced, add grated sharp cheddar cheese and whisk over low heat until it melts into the sauce. Once the sauce has come together, toss pasta with the sauce in the pan over low heat, until mixed thoroughly. Cook pasta in the sauce for 1-2 minutes to bring to an al dente (eh hem) texture. Add vegetables back into the pan and fold into the pasta. Remove from heat and serve.

I ate this with a side of steamed broccoli, but, rest assured, this meal suffices on its own (with enough nutritional value to boot).

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* I love gemelli pasta. I don’t know what it is about the texture or the way it adheres to sauce so well or the way I can grab just the perfect amount of noodles on my fork; to me, it is perfect.

** The sauce technically being created here is a béchamel (autocorrected accent), and, with the addition of cheese, a mornay sauce. Traditionally, this is prepared by heating together butter and flour over low heat to create a roux, which then is used to thicken the later-added warm milk. By preparing this sauce with milk shaken with flour, you end up using less butter and less flour, which lowers the calorie count of the recipe. Nonetheless, the sauce is delicious, and I scarcely can tell the difference (especially once there’s cheese).

Coconut Curried Potatoes, Peas, and Kale

It’s time to jump out of your comfort zone a bit, Brian. But don’t be scared; curry is warm and spicy and comforting and adventurous all at the same time. And if the coconut milk and curry spice don’t make you bat your eyes longingly, begging to pull the food right from the screen, this dinner is also predominantly potatoes, the classic comfort food of America. A mix of easy and new, which is all we can really ask for on a Monday evening. This dinner takes a bit longer to pull together than say, your average throw-it-in-a-pot-and-heat soup, but the flavors are well worth the time.

Coconut curried potatoes 1

Coconut curried potatoes 2

 

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Coconut Curried Potatoes, Peas, and Kale

Serves 4

2 tbsp. coconut oil

1/2 medium yellow onion, diced

6 medium yukon gold potatoes, diced into 1 in. cubes

Large bunch of kale, washed and chopped or torn

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup vegetable broth

1 15 oz. can light coconut milk

1 tbsp. curry powder

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika or chili powder

1/4 tsp. cumin

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Salt & pepper to taste

Brown rice, cooked, to serve

Heat a large, deep sauce pan over medium heat and melt coconut oil. Saute yellow onion until translucent and lightly browning, approximately 5-7 minutes. (If cooking brown rice as well, this would be a good time to start it). Add diced potatoes and cook, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes. Add spices and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with 1 cup of vegetable stock, using a rubber spatula to ease the browning pieces from the bottom of the pan. Add full can of light coconut milk and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are soft and fork-tender.

Once potatoes are softened, add chopped kale and mix. The kale should begin to wilt after 2-3 minutes. Add peas and toss, cooking approximately 1 minute longer. Scoop a pile of brown rice onto your plate and top with several scoops of curried potato mixture. Serve and enjoy piping hot.

Kale for delicious nutrition, potatoes for warm sustenance, peas for their bright green pop- this dinner’s got all the right moves, Brian; give it a shot.