16 Wed, 2011 § 6 Comments

There is kale galore at our house.

Well, maybe not galore, but after buying a bunch at the store, we got another bundle in our CSA share.

Because Dave does not especially enjoy it, I try to [openly]sneak it in with foods he does love.  I am pretty sure potatoes are one of his favorite vegetables.

I used to be scared of potatoes — ok, I still am a little — even now, I consider them sort of an indulgence.  [I know, it’s weird.]  We don’t have them often, but when we do I am reminded how divine a nicely roasted ‘tater is.  [I kind of hate the word “tater”.]  They may not hit our plates often, but hopefully they turn out yummy enough to fill Dave’s needs…at least to some extent.

Technically, this wouldn’t be a gratin because it doesn’t have a “browned crust” from bread crumbs, cheese or a lot more butter, but the nice crisp skin of the potatoes is enough for me!

Red Potato & Dinosaur [Kale] Gratin

4 small servings

  • 8 – 10 small red potatoes, sliced into ~1/2″ thick rounds
  • 1 leek, sliced thinly into half moons
  • small bunch of kale, stemmed & roughly chopped into bite-sized pieces [~2 cups?]
  • Earth Balance butter
  • mirin or other white cooking wine
  • red pepper flakes
  • lavender salt [optional]
  • chives [optional]
  • Greek yogurt [optional]

Preheat oven to 375*.

Parboil potatoes 5 – 10 minutes until just tender.  Strain & set aside.

In a cast-iron or other oven-safe skillet, heat a small amount of Earth Balance.  Add leeks & saute until tender & translucent, ~ 2 minutes.  Remove & set aside.  Add chopped kale to skillet, adding a splash of mirin & pinch of red pepper flakes crushed between fingers; toss & saute until slightly wilted.  Remove & set aside.

Using the same skillet, coat lightly with the Earth Balance & place one-third of the potatoes in a single layer in the bottom of the pan.  Continue layering as follows: half the kale & leek; half the remaining potatoes [adding a couple tiny dabs of butter if desired]; the rest of the kale & leek; top with final layer of potatoes & more butter if desired.  Cover skillet with foil & place in oven ~30 minutes.  Remove foil & bake 5 – 15 minutes longer, watching closely, until potatoes are lightly browned & crisp. [I turned the broiler on for a couple minutes to crisp them a bit more — watch closely!]

Serve with yogurt, chives & lavender salt.

This was tasty even though it was simple as far as seasonings, so add more or other herbs to suit your taste.  Dave topped his with cheese, which you could even add into the layers for a more indulgent meal.  I loved the slightly crispy potatoes with the occasional bursts of heat from the pepper flakes.  I think Greek yogurt is my favorite potato condiment, plus I needed some protein.  The gratin even kept nicely for lunch/leftovers the next day.  I will play around with the oven temperature & time in the future to perfect the browning/crisping of the potatoes.  I am pretty pleased this worked!


How can I sneak the rest of this kale into Dave? 😉

Does anyone else have a difficult time seeing potatoes as “healthy” food?

After Dark

15 Mon, 2010 § 9 Comments

Remember when you were a kid & the sun going down was a lame excuse to stop playing?

Especially when it is only 6:30pm — seriously, how does it get this dark so early?!

On our last trip to Priest’s Draw, there were no excuses & no parents to beg.  After the sun went down, we pulled out the lantern & Dave threw himself at this beast of a problem in the dark.

It actually triggered a bit of homesickness as I though about hunting/camping trips with my family; we would always get up before the sun & set out while it was still dark.  I always froze amidst the predawn frost, but the thought of being left behind at camp was unbearable.  This is one of my most cherished memories, & I deeply wish to relive it.  There is something raw, mysterious & beautiful about experiencing nature in the dark through action, rather than just the usual sitting around a campfire.

I wish I had brought a few more layers to bundle up in & not left my gloves in the car :(.  It wasn’t the dark that got to me — it was the cold!  Though I was freezing by the time we hiked out, walking beneath the stars was amazing.  I love being in a place that I can actually see the stars at night.

My hometown is drenched in stars.  This is something I had missed since moving away from home.  Now we have stars again.  🙂

As promised: more bouldering photos of Priest Draw so you can see the style of climbing by daylight.

Triangle Boulder is a good warm up just off the road.

Slopey, but fun slopey. 😉

I dig the roofs at the Draw & am determined to master this problem.

I am also counting on quite a few more late-night sessions.  🙂


Now for a dish I am super excited to share with you!  Even though we didn’t have this dish the night we stayed out, it would be perfect for those after-dark-bouldering-sessions…or whatever keeps you out…or those busy days that almost get away from you…

You can throw it together before hand, keep it in the fridge & pop it in the oven to warm through when you get home.  Heck, this might even freeze well if that’s your style.

The ingredients are simple — I even feared the plain tomato sauce would be bland.  Boy was I wrong; these flavors were beyond delicious & the texture was absolutely amazing — very reminiscent of ricotta — the whole household loved it.

Tofu-Kale Baked Penne with Mushrooms

Adapted from Baked Stuffed Shells in Clean Food

~4 servings

  • ~8 oz penne pasta

Cook according to directions in a pot of boiling water.

Strain & set aside.

  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 4 large cloves Garlic, minced

Saute in EVOO in large pan over medium heat until soft, ~5 minutes.

  • ~10 Button Mushrooms, quartered

Add to pan & brown slightly.

  • ¼ C Mirin [Japanese rice cooking wine]
  • 2 tsp dried Basil

Add to pan & stir.

  • 1 block [14-oz] Firm Tofu [I found this really great Wild Wood Organics “sprouted” tofu I love]

Wrap in paper towel [or kitchen towel], sandwich between two plates & press ~10 minutes by setting something heavy like a kettle full of water on top of the top plate to remove excess liquid.

Crumble tofu into pan, stir to combine with other ingredients & cook ~5 minutes.

  • 2 bunches Kale, torn into [bite-sized] pieces

Fold kale into tofu mixture & continue cooking until soft & wilted.

Season with salt & pepper.

  • 1 [15-oz ]can organic Tomato Sauce, divided into 3 parts

In a baking dish, layer

tomato sauce


tofu mixture


tomato sauce

tofu mixture


tomato sauce

Top with cheese if desired.

Cover with foil & bake at 375*F for 15 – 20 minutes.

Remove foil, bake 5 – 10 minutes longer.


Have I mentioned we are only able to bake in a toaster-oven right now?  I forgot to measure the baking dish before I made the beautiful layers…& it didn’t fit into the toaster-oven…so…everything just ended up completely mixed together as it was transferred to another pan…

& it was still amazing.


This is one of the tastiest dishes I have had.


Do you ever play after dark? [I mean outside.]

What are your favorite pasta dish combinations?  [This was my first time “baking” pasta — I don’t think it’s possible to screw it up even when winging it.]

Over-the-Top Sweet & Savory Shepherd’s Pie

30 Thu, 2010 § 3 Comments

As promised,

one nutrient-dense dish.

Traditionally “Cottage” or “Shepherd’s” Pie was made with minced [also known as ground] beef or lamb with a crust of mashed potatoes.  Throw in a few veggies, ample amounts of cream, sour cream & butter, & you have a simple & rich greasy modern version.

Nothing about traditional shepherd’s pie appeals to me, but after my grandma passed along a version using lentils, I knew I could make it even tastier & healthier.

By using lentils instead of the traditional ground meat, we still get a good dose of protein but without all the disease-causing, saturated fat.  The fat that is present in my pie is primarily “healthy fats” from sauteing the vegetables in olive oil.

Swapping out white potato for sweet potato means your blood sugar will rise about 30 percent less during digestion.  Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin A & have more vitamin C, calcium & soluble fiber [& they taste better].

I was given two different caloric totals per serving when I tried calculating the nutritional information on two different online sources.  252 or 450.  Honestly, when you are eating whole foods & listening to your body, you really don’t have to count calories like a mad person.  Eat slowly & mindfully until you are satisfied.

This pie packs nearly 8g of protein per serving.

18.4% DV Iron

Nearly 9% DV Calcium

Loads of Vitamin A & Potassium

Vitamins C, E & B6

Zinc, Manganese & several other key nutrients

Over-the-Top Sweet & Savory Shepherd’s Pie

Preheat oven to 350*F

  • ½ C dried whole French Lentils
  • 3 medium Sweet Potatoes, washed & cut into small cubes [I left the skins on, but feel free to peel.]
  • 3 large sections of Shallot, peeled & chopped
  • 3 small Carrots, I found it easier to cut length-wise slices [rather than rounds] to chopchopped
  • 1 large Tomato, chopped
  • 1 C Kale, chopped
  • ½ tsp dried Basil
  • ½ tsp Sea Salt
  • ½ T Braggs Liquid Aminos or Soy Sauce
  • ¼ C Rice or Almond Milk
  • 1T Earth Balance Butter
  • ½ tsp Sea Salt

Simmer Lentils in a pot with 1 C of water until liquid cooks out, ~45-50 min.

Mash with a fork.

Meanwhile, boil Sweet Potatoes in a pot of water until they can be easily pierced with a fork, ~30 min.

Once Lentils are cooked,

  • On medium heat, saute Shallots in 2T EVOO until soft & translucent, 1-2 min.
  • Add Carrots & Tomato, cooking until carrots are almost tender.
  • Add Kale.
  • Once Carrots are tender, add the mashed Lentils, salt, basil & Braggs.
  • Stir & simmer, uncovered, until the liquid cooks off.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mash [or food process] the cooked Sweet Potatoes, salt, milk & butter with a fork or potato masher.

Pour the vegetable-lentil mixture into a lightly-oiled pie pan.

Layer mashed Sweet Potatoes over the top.

Bake 15-20 minutes until heated through & slightly browned on top.


*Our pie was a bit “over-the-top” because the sweet potatoes were larger than medium & really towered over the lentils [see first photo].  No complaints here; we love our sweet potatoes.  I may use more lentils in the future.

*This is a great recipe for “late” work days, because it can be prepared & assembled beforehand & kept in the refrigerate until you are ready to bake it.

*I like the simplicity of the basil, but next time I will try substituting cumin, coriander — maybe even red pepper flakes.  Use whatever you have on hand or suits your taste — including other vegetables!

*Not a fan of Kale?  This is a great way to “hide” it from Dave ;).  He really enjoys this dish.  I started with ½ cup, then added more & still would have liked more.  Feel free to add even more kale or use spinach instead.

*This dish nearly has it all: ample vegetables, a protein; the only thing missing is a whole grain.  You could add cooked brown rice or another grain to the “filling”; or do like I sometimes do & enjoy an evening snack made up of whole grains.


What are your favorite make-ahead dishes?  What nutrient-dense meals do you love?

Make Your Monsters GREEN

4 Wed, 2010 § 10 Comments

I have had such great responses after sharing one of my favorite cooling, summer delights [VOO Parfaits], I must share another one that is even more nourishing:

Green Monsters

Do not be afraid.  What exactly is a Green Monster?  This is what Angela over at OhSheGlows deemed her green smoothies when she first started making them.  It has caught on, because, well, it is simply fun to refer to that smoothie in your hand as a Monster.  Try it.  “Hey, would you like some of my Green Monster?”  See?  It’s fun.  😉

Are you still scared?  Are you afraid of hearing what makes my monster green?  Again, don’t be. 

While Kale is my green of choice, many people opt for Spinach which has a milder flavor; I have even tried Radish Greens which was surprisingly quite delightful.  Start small by adding just a little green to your smoothies, then gradually increase the amount.  Next thing you know, you will be gulping down full-fledged Green Monsters.  Once you amp up your monster with other flavors, the color will be the only reminder of the green nourishment — oh, & how great you feel!  I like the “green” flavor though, so I keep mine simple.

Once you eliminate a lot of “unclean” foods from your diet & provide your body with nourishing whole foods, you will be amazed at how your tastes adjust to what your body actually needs to thrive.  I crave Kale in the morning! Dave thinks this is nuts, but then again, he has never given it a chance.  His poor body does not even know what it is missing.  😉

I LOVE my Magic Bullet &, because clean up is a breeze, I have been making some form of these regularly since I got it.  Obviously, any blender will do though.

The trick to not “chewing” your smoothie?  First add your washed & torn pieces of Kale to your blender with enough liquid to cover; blend until smooth.  THEN add the rest of your ingredients.  I once read if you freeze the pieces of Kale before pureeing it with liquid, it blends better.  However, this was not the case for me; I get fewer chunks by using fresh, non-frozen greens.

My simple Green Monster:

  • Kale
  • *Coconut Water [Most use almond or rice milk; I prefer electrolyte-rich coconut water as my pre/post activity replenishment.  Use whatever you like best & matches your goals.]

Blend until Smooth, then Add:

  • ½ – 1 Banana  [I love banana with kale — fantastic!]
  • *Hemp Protein Powder
  • *Chia Seeds
  • more liquid if needed

Blend to desired consistency.

I told you mine is simple.  Lately I have been adding a couple fresh strawberries as well or fresh mango & raspberries.  The fruit makes it sweet enough for me.  Nourish your body & eventually you will not want all the fillers, sugar, empty calories, etc.

Now make it yours!

Experiment with other fruit — or even veggies!  I think cucumber would be especially refreshing.  Sometimes it is fun to add nut butter — even tahini is delicious & bumps up calcium content.  What about ice?  Maybe you like yogurt in yours?  Amp it up with cinnamon.  Go crazy!

Have I told you why I love these so much?

  • It provides me with immense increases in energy.
  • It reduces my cravings for sweets.
  • It even nourishes my skin & hair.
  • It is a great way to add more protein in my diet by using the hemp powder.
  • It is refreshing in this summer heat.
  • Just one more serving of vegetables to tack onto my day.

*Are you wondering why I use…

Coconut Water?

This is the clear liquid inside young [green] coconuts; as they mature, this water is replaced by coconut meat & air.  Coconut water has long been a popular drink in the tropics — Dave & I were thrilled to sip it straight from the coconut, fresh from the trees while in Thailand —  it is a natural isotonic beverage, with the same electrolytic balance as our blood. [source]

Chia Seeds?

You mean, like Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia!?  Yep, those same little seeds that sprout to cover those crazy Chia Pets are actually chock full of nutritional value.  Packed with calcium, fiber, Omega 3’s & 6’s, the seeds have a neutral taste & are great for athletes because they are highly hydrophilic [meaning they absorb large amounts of water, making them a great enhancer in hydrating our bodies].  You can even add a few seeds to your bottled water during workouts.  Thanks for sharing these mom!

Hemp Protein?

Quality — not quantity — is most important when talking protein.  You will actually need to consume less protein if you choose high-quality [whole food] sources.  Complete — containing all 10 essential amino acids — Hemp boosts the immune system, hastens recovery & balances pH with its abundance of chorophyll.  Because hemp foods are raw, they maintain naturally high levels of vitamins, minerals…& enzymes which allow the body to absorb & digest it easily, utilizing its benefits with ease.  Can I tell a difference?  Yes,  & I prefer the sweet, nutty taste to that of isolated [processed] soy & whey.  [This is fairly condensed, but I could write an entire post on why Hemp is a superior protein source nutritionally & concerning its environmental impact if there is any interest ??]

I focus on keeping my Green Monsters simple & nutrient dense, but for those looking for a little more excitement or at least a few more ideas, check these out:

The Green Monster Movement

Smoothie Handbook

I am really excited to try Kathryn’s Breakfast Shake, sans Stevia [I am just not a fan.  Sorry.]


Have you been making Green Monsters & not even realized it?  What are your favorite blends?

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