Sunday, August 25, 2013

Swiss Chard Scrambler

A few days ago, I posted a recipe for Tarragon Swiss Chard to put on top of scrambled eggs. I did a variation of it yesterday morning by sauteing green peppers (picked from our garden) with the Swiss chard and tarragon, and then put all of those ingredients with the egg whites into the Magic Bullet before I cooked them.  It worked remarkably well!   

Swiss chard (also called just chard) is a often declared a "vegetable valedictorian"!  It is a rich source of beta-carotene, fiber, potassium, manganese, and magnesium.  It also supplies vitamins C, E, and high levels of K. But it is also contains oxalates, which can lead to kidney stones if you are prone to them. Thankfully, that is one health issue I don't have, so I get to eat Swiss chard daily if I want to, and I often do!  We have abandoned planting any spinach in the past few years, in favor of planting more chard instead.  The spinach always seemed to bolt too early and didn't yield very much. Chard, in contrast, just keeps pumping away all summer and into the fall in our garden.  And the colorful stalks make it much more attractive than spinach. I often substitute chard for spinach in most recipes in the summer when it is so abundant in our garden.

Our garden chard
It made me curious about the differences between the two vegetables.  My quick search showed that chard is a member of the same family as spinach and beets. No wonder I could easily swap out the spinach for chard. And did chard come from Switzerland?   No, the plant did not originate in Switzerland as the name implies. It originated in Sicily and it is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine.  But a Swiss botanist determined the scientific name for the plant and his homeland has been honored since the 19th century for his contribution.   

Both chard stems and leaves are tasty, but it is the leaves that are the powerhouse of nutrition  while the stems don't contain nearly as much.  There are several varieties of chard, based on the color of the stem, including green, white, yellow, and red stems.  The white stems tend to be the most tender, but I love the color of the red stems.  Tom plants "Rainbow chard" which is a collection of all of the colors.  No matter what color you use, this recipe is dynamite!             

Garden pepper

Sauteed chard, peppers, and tarragon

2 teaspoons coconut oil
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems and leaves,chopped (Separate the chopped stems from the chopped leaves)
(about 2 cups total chopped)
About 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, or more if desired
1/8 teaspoon Nature's Seasons
6 egg whites

Heat oil over medium heat.  Add chopped green pepper and chopped stems from the chard.  Saute until tender, adding a bit of water if needed.  Add the chopped chard leaves and fresh tarragon.  Saute until tender, again adding a bit of water if needed.  Let cool slightly.  Pour into Magic Bullet (or similar device), add the uncooked egg whites and Nature's Seasons. Process until desired consistency is achieved.  Pour contents into a fry pan lightly coated with coconut oil, and cook on medium heat until egg whites are fully cooked.  If there is too much liquid from adding too much water to the vegetables, simply drain it off and cook all of it a bit longer. Divide into two portions and share with a friend or save it for yourself for another day!  Or your partner could use half of the sauteed vegetables and half of the egg whites to put into an omelet or frittata if they don't need pureed food. Either way, a garnish of fresh tarragon adds visual Pzazz!

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 2
Served with whole wheat bread spread with coconut oil
Serving Size:
Calories: 97
Total Fat: 5 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg                          
Sodium: 326 mg
Total Carbs: 2 g
Dietary Fiber: 1 g
Protein: 12 g

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Kale Blueberry Kefir Smoothie

Our niece Emma and her family from Boston were visiting us on Monday and Tuesday.  As she looked at the abundance of kale growing in Tom's vegetable bins, she told me how she has been making kale and kefir smoothies for breakfast. It made me wonder why I haven't made one recently.  Last summer I posted my Mud Slide smoothie, using kale, blueberries, a frozen banana and soy milk and how much I loved it. So I decided to whip up a kale and blueberry kefir smoothie yesterday morning.  Pzazz for sure!  And so simple!  

If you aren't familiar with kefir, (properly pronounced keh-FEER)  it is a close cousin to yogurt, in that they are both cultured dairy products.  But kefir it is a fermented milk drink with curds that are much smaller than those found in yogurt,  therefore it is easier to digest for those whom are lactose intolerant. Like good quality yogurts, kefir contains probiotics(I provided a link to the Mayo Clinic Health website for a discussion on the possible benefits of probiotics and prebiotics.) 

A difference between yogurt and kefir is that yogurt has bacteria that act as food for the beneficial bacteria already residing in a healthy digestive system.  But kefir, on the other hand, can actually repopulate the digestive system with the healthy bacteria required for good digestion.  

In this smoothie, I used blueberry flavored kefir, which also has some sugars in it, so that is probably not as healthy as my Mud Slide Smoothie.  However, it was quick and easy, and I barely have any blueberries from our garden this year, so this was a good substitute.

The combination of probiotics and kale was a divinely healthy way to start a gorgeous summer day in Duluth. When I went out to the garden early in the morning to harvest some kale, I was awed by the beauty of the morning dew still clinging to the leaves.

Sorry for my digression from food to beauty.  Back to the smoothie.  If you are new to "green smoothies",  you might want to increase the amount of blueberry kefir to 1 cup or something similar to gain the right amount of sweetness.  Also, I like Nancy's Organic Kefir, but Lifeway Kefir is also good and usually substantially cheaper.  I'll try it with a different flavor of kefir another day.  And maybe add half of a frozen banana, which always makes smoothies so creamy and velvety.  Yum!

1 cup lightly packed finely chopped fresh kale, stems removed first
1/2 cup blueberry kefir

Put the kale and kefir into a Magic Bullet or similar device and process until all kale is finely pulverized.  I put a small amount into a covered Mason jar to see how well it would keep in the refrigerator and it was still very fresh looking and tasting at noon. Now I wish I had made more.

Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: About 3/4 cup
Calories: 116
Total Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 5 mg
Sodium: 92 mg
Total Carbs: 20 g
Dietary Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 8 g

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tarragon Swiss Chard

Starting my morning with a healthy dose of vegetables for breakfast helps put me on the right track. I have posted other recipes for filled egg white omelets using a variety of vegetables.  But laziness prevailed this morning and I took the easy route and made a simple puree of Swiss chard and tarragon and plopped it on my scrambled egg whites.  Easy and much less work than an omelet.   Maybe not as pretty, but my taste buds were just as happy.  I haven't figured out what to call it yet, though.  Any ideas?   I even spread a bit of it on a piece of toast and loved that, too. 

The pairing of tarragon and chard was inspired by my friend, Tahirih.  I had shared some tarragon from my herb garden with her and she had stir fried it with beet greens and raved about it.  If you aren't familiar with tarragon, it has a flavor similar to anise.  I have had it in my perennial herb garden for several years,  but hadn't used it for anything other than with a vinegar/oil dressing for potato salad. So I was pleasantly surprised at how well it complimented the chard. You could certainly substitute dried tarragon for the fresh if you don't have any fresh tarragon available.  Do taste the fresh herb before you decide how much you want to use, as it can be overpowering if anise isn't your favorite herb.  

The Swiss chard, kale, beets, peppers and tomatoes in Tom's raised vegetable bins are vibrant and hearty. This photo gives you an idea those bins.  Yes, we already have a few ripe tomatoes in the bin on the left.  

1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 large bunch Swiss chard
(yields about 1/2 cup chopped stems and 4 cups chopped leaves)
1 small sprig fresh tarragon, minced
1/4 teaspoon Nature's Seasons
1/4 - 1/2 cup water, approximately

Heat the coconut oil over medium heat and saute the chopped chard stems until tender.  Add the chopped leaves, and fresh tarragon, and saute until wilted.  You may need to add about 1 -2 Tablespoons of the water to make them tender.   Transfer to a Magic Bullet or similar device and add just enough water to make the Bullet do its job and get the desired consistency you want. Put it on top of scrambled egg whites, or in an omelet, or spread it on toast. Any of those ways, you are certain to have Summer Garden Pzazz!

Servings per recipe: 1 cup
Serving Size: About 1/2 - 3/4 cup              
Calories: 68
Total Fat: 4 g
Cholesterol:0  mg
Sodium: 698 mg
Total Carbs:  4 g
Dietary Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 4 g

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Currant Kale Soup

Garden Kale

This is an adaptation of Dark Leafy Greens with Caramelized Onions, Raisins, and Pine Nuts from Rebecca Katz's cookbook, One Bite At a Time.  When I turned this into a pureed soup, Tom thought it was even better than its original form.  Maybe it was the melding of the flavors in the pureed form that made it so delectable.

I used kale as the greens both times I made it.  Swiss chard or beet greens or any other type of dark leafy greens would work well.  
Remember, kale is a natural cancer "phyter" with all of it's phytonutrients.  And it is abundant in Tom's vegetable garden right now, as you can see in the photo.  Its rumply green leaves are simply beautiful! I am adding a label of "kale" to my recipes that include it, to make it easier for you to find more of these healthy possibilities.  

Just a quick note about preparing kale:  a quick and easy way to de-stem kale is to rip the leaves from the stem by holding the bottom of the stem in one hand and pulling the leaves up from the bottom with your other hand.  Quick and efficient. The stems can be tough, so it is definitely best to remove them unless the kale is still very tender and young.  

6 cups destemmed and chopped kale
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 small red onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
pinch of sea salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup currants (or raisins)
1 Tablespoon toasted pine nuts (optional)
1- 2 cups water to achieve desired consistency

Cover the chopped kale with cold water and set aside until ready to use.

In a large, deep saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt.  Saute for 3 - 5 minutes. Decrease the heat to low and cook slowly until the onions are caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds, just until aromatic. Add the currants and stir for about 30 seconds. Deglaze the pan with 2 Tablespoons of water to loosen all the flavorful bits from the bottom.

Drain the kale.  Begin adding the kale to the pan with a pinch of salt, continuing to add as many greens as will fit in the pan. Add the water and cover and simmer until the greens are tender, 5 - 7 minutes. Add the pine nuts.

Puree in a blender, Magic Bullet or VitaMix or with an immersion stick, adding  vegetable broth or water to get the desired consistency.  I made a small batch so I used the Magic Bullet.  Next time I think I will make a large batch and use the VitaMix.  The velvety texture created by the VitaMix is uniquely wonderful and full of Pzazz!

Currant Kale Soup

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 2
Serving Size: About 1 1/2 cups depending on
how thick or thin you make it
Calories: 283
Total Fat: 11 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 361 mg
Total Carbs: 25 g
Dietary Fiber: 6
Protein: 8 g