one bag of kale, part 3; vegetable barley soup

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For those of you who just joined, this week I am posting recipes using one bag of kale.  Everyone who shops in a grocery store has encountered the large, pillow sized bags of greens and probably most of us thing out loud, “I could never cook all of that before it goes bad…”  Well, worry no more, you can use that bag of kale before it turns to slime and you will wonder why you didn’t try this before.  Of course, you have to like cooked greens or this will not work for you!  To see the first two recipes, follow the links at the end of this post.

With the change in season, soups are appearing on the table often at our house.  Lunch or dinner, either will work, I enjoy a soup that is full of vegetables and beans but I really love it when barley is in the mix as well.  To make this soup, you can use whatever vegetables you like but to end up with a hearty vegan soup that is full of flavor, you do have to add some things to replace the flavor that meats and salts provide.  The kale will impart some flavor and contribute to the hearty profile, the beets will add an earthy quality along with color but the ingredient that really does it is the mushrooms.  They will take the flavor profile in a direction that is full flavored and satisfying without needing a single bit of meat or poultry.   Mushrooms and mushroom powders are the secret ingredient I reach for whenever I am making a soup or sauce that is meatless because they give it a similar flavor profile and add a richness that meateaters (and some former meateaters) often find lacking in a vegan recipe.

Vegetable Barley Soup with Kale

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serves 2-4

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 large onion, diced small, about 3/4 cup

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 carrot, diced small, about 1/3 cup

1 celery stalk, diced small, about 1/3 cup

1 fresh beet, peeled and diced into small cubes, about 1/3 cup

1 1/2 cups diced mushrooms

6 cups vegetable broth, more as needed

1/3 cup pearled barley

2 cups chopped kale

salt and pepper

In a large pot over medium heat, saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent, 3-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for an additional minute.  Add the carrots, celery, beet and mushrooms and saute for a couple minutes to get the mushrooms to release their juices.  Pour in the broth and the barley and bring the mixture to a boil.  Immediately reduce the heat so that the soup simmers slowly.  Continue at the simmer until the barley is soft.  The cooking time will depend completely on the barley and it can take from 30-45 minutes to soften completely.  As the soup liquid reduces, you can add additional broth or water.  Stir in the kale and cook until the it turns bright green and wilts a bit.  Season with the salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread or crackers.

One Bag of Kale Recipes

Autumn Kale Salad with Butternut Squash

Potato-Kale Hash with Chickpeas

amaretti; a tuesdays with dorie post

Amaretti, even the name sounds delicious.  These little cookies are so simple to make, it is almost a crime not to whip up a batch.  Of course, you have to be a fan of the bitter almond flavor the almond paste contributes to the cookie.

Traditionally, these cookies are served with a cup of coffee or bit of wine or liqueur.  In our house, they are consumed by themselves, two or three at a time, every time we pass by the box they are stored in.  Needless to say, I will not be making these again for a while-my clothes are getting tight…

Way back when, in my days of working at the World Trade Center in New York City, I was a pastry cook in the hotel that sat between the two towers.  Our pastry chef, who was from France, had us make these all the time but he called them macaroons or maybe macarons, it was a long time ago and I cannot remember.  The recipe was nearly identical to the one we used at the hotel.  This I do remember because I still have the recipe and I make them from time to time.

The crazy thing about all of this, I was probably toiling away, below the plaza while Nick Malgieri, the contributor of this recipe to Baking with Julia, was working away at the top of the towers in the world famous restaurant, Windows on the World.  Small world, isn’t it?

To see what the other Tuesdays with Dorie-Baking with Julia bakers came up with, be sure to check the homepage.  Consider baking along with us if you have the book, or buy/borrow one and join in on the fun.  We are also baking our way through Dorie’s new book, Baking Chez Moi.

One bag of kale, part 2: Potato-Kale Hash with Chickpeas

Hash browns, real true hash browns have always been a favorite of mine.  Chunks of potatoes, slabs of onions, maybe a few pieces of bell peppers all fried up together so that they get a little color and a little crispy around the edges.  Add a couple eggs, over easy and that could easily be one of the best meals to eat if you ask me.  Actually, I can live without the eggs, but the rest of it, I could eat it every day.  Unfortunately, it isn’t good for healthy diet to eat like that daily.

Rather than eliminate this from the menu, I try to make it so that it is a little less unhealthy.  Using kale to bulk up the dish is a great way to add nutrients and fiber without adding the extra starch that a larger quantity of white potatoes contains.  The chickpeas also add lots of fiber and give the dish a nice flavor.  My favorite addition to the dish is a sprinkle of Nanami Togarashi, a Japanese red pepper blend that adds a little bite and a ton of flavor.

This is a quick dish to put together and it is good for anytime of day, not just breakfast.  The next time you bake a potato, put a couple extra in the oven so that you can mix up a batch of this hash.  If you have read the previous post, Autumn Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, this recipe uses on of the small portions of kale as explained in how to divide the 1 pound bag, it is approximately 1/8 of the bag.

Potato-Kale Hash
serves 2-4
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onions
2-3 medium baked potatoes, cold and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup chickpeas, canned or cooked dry
2-3 cups kale leaves
salt and pepper
nanami togarashi
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook the onions until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the potatoes and let them cook on one side for a couple minutes.  Turn the potatoes to allow the other sides to color.  Give each side 2-3 minutes, the idea is to add a little color and crisp, not to char the potatoes.  If they are getting dark, lower the heat.  If the pan is dry, add additional oil, a few drops at a time or give it a spritz with spray oil.  When the potatoes are almost completely browned, add the garlic, chickpeas and kale and continue to saute, turning the mixture as you go, until the kale is wilted and the chickpeas have gained a little color.  Season with the salt and pepper before serving.  Sprinkle a little of the Japanese pepper blend over the top if desired.
One bag of kale recipes:

one bag of kale, part 1: autumn kale salad with butternut squash

The butternut squash with it’s coating of spices and oil before going into the oven

Kale, it’s everywhere, it’s added to every dish you can think of including sweet breakfast smoothies.  Get over it already.  Kale isn’t meant to be added to a smoothie.  Honestly, have you ever listened to someone go on and on and on as they list the ingredients in the 24 ounce smoothie they just whipped up at home?  Seems to me that if you are going to eat an apple, a banana, a tub of Greek yogurt, a scoop of peanut butter a handful of kale, a scoop of…and so on, you are probably slurping down way more than you really need and that could explain why you haven’t lost much weight.  Ranting a bit, aren’t I.  Well, can you blame me?  As a gardener and a trained chef, it irritates me to see something as nutritionally packed and tasty as kale is being so over used.

So let me start this all over again.  Kale is one of those plants that loves cold weather and is so easy to grow that it is almost impossible not to have a few plants in your garden.  As a matter of fact, kale is a plant that you can grow 3 out of 4 seasons simply by harvesting just the outer leaves and if it sends out a flower stalk, cut it out and add that to the pile of leaves you are going to cook!  One simple rule of thumb, kale should not be grown in the hotter months and for most of us, that means between May and August; not only will it bolt(go to seed) it will attract all sorts of undesirable insects to your garden.  To keep it interesting, search seed catalogs for the different varieties available; we generally grow 2 or 3 types in our garden for variety.

But what if you do not have a garden or do not want to grow your own kale?  Head to the grocery store and buy a bag of kale.  Most grocery stores offer large bags of cut cooking greens, usually kale or collard greens and they weigh a pound.  While most stores offer the traditional curly kale, some carry Tuscan kale in large bags too.

The bag is almost big enough to be a pillow and I can hear you now:  “that’s a lot of kale, I won’t be able to eat all of that!”  Well guess what?  You can eat all of that, you will not waste any of it and you will not get tired of eating it.  Why buy it in a bag instead of by the bunch even though it is a smaller amount?  Because the bag is cheaper, the kale is already cleaned and the larger, woody stems are removed making every bit in the bag usable.  This is the first of 4 posts on the blog showing you how to use the entire bag.

For the first recipe, I have decided to make a salad.  The only thing that gets cooked is the butternut squash and while the squash is in the oven, you can prep the rest of the recipe.  This salad tastes a lot better if it is allowed to sit for a few hours in the fridge and if you make it a day ahead, it will be just fine.  It actually holds up pretty well in the fridge for a couple days but it will not be as crunchy by the second day.

To get started, first divide the contents of the bag in two.  Place on half in a large mixing bowl and set it aside for the salad.  Take the remaining kale and divide it in half as well.  Place one half into the bag it came in and then divide the last portion in half again and bag each of these separately; one will be used in a hash recipe and one will be used in a soup recipe.  Store the other portions of kale in the fridge until you are ready to make the other recipes.

The recipe for the salad comes to me from a fellow blogger, Angela Roberts of The Spinach Tiger.  My husband came with me to a potluck and Angela made the salad for the party.  He liked it so much that he actually looked her recipe up and he has been using it ever since.  We both enjoy it and often use the recipe as a starting point.  For this version, I used a butternut squash instead of the sweet potatoes and I subbed dried apricots and smoked pecans for the dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds.

This is also one of those dishes that you can serve as a vegetarian entree or serve it on the side with grilled poultry or fish-you choose.  As a matter of fact, the recipe is so flexible that you can get creative with what you add to it.  You could easily swap out the kale for another green, arugula comes to mind, just be mindful that a softer green will not hold up as well as kale in the long run.

The addition of nuts adds protein so if you are keeping this vegetarian or vegan, feel free to add more than the recipe calls for.

Autumn Kale Salad with Butternut Squash
Adapted from The Spinach Tiger
Makes enough salad for 2 large entree sized portions or 4 side salads
8 ounces chopped kale, half of a bag
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Vinaigrette dressing, recipe follows
1/4 cup diced dried apricots
1/4 cup chopped smoked pecans
additional dried fruit and nuts for garnishing the salad if desired
Preheat the oven to 400.  Place the kale in a large bowl and set aside.  Toss the butternut squash with the olive oil, maple syrup, salt and the spices, place it on a baking tray and roast until soft, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let it cool.  While the squash cools, make the vinaigrette dressing.
To make the salad, add the squash, apricots, pecans and the vinaigrette to the kale in the bowl and toss to combine.  Place the salad in the fridge and let it sit for a few hours to soften.
Vinaigrette Dressing
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil
6 tablespoons olive oil (or all olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Place the vinegar, garlic, maple syrup and mustard into the canister of a blender.  Turn the machine on to a low speed and with it running, pour the oils in in a steady stream to emulsify.  Add the salt and pepper while it is still running.
One bag of kale recipes:
Potato-Kale Hash with Chickpeas

Leaf Peeping at Waller Mill Park

 Since moving to Williamsburg in September, I have spent a bit of time exploring the trail system around the city.  It has become a way to occupy my time; without a large garden to tend to I have the opportunity to wander trails.  On a recent Sunday, I took my husband out to Waller Mill Park to hike the Lookout Tower Trail.  To learn more about the trail system in the park, the City of Williamsburg has a page on their website that offers a pdf file that I recommend downloading.  It is called Great City Walks and the trails in Waller Mill Park are included.

Waller Mill Park is home to the reservoir system that provides water to the City of Williamsburg and James City County and with that in mind, it is not a free park.  However, the $2 entry fee is well worth the money.  The park has limited hours and it closes by 5pm each day but if you have an hour or two, you can get a lot of exploring in.  For those of you not interested in hiking, you can play disc golf, rent a paddle boat or canoe or bring your own non-gasoline powered boat, fish, picnic or bring the dog to the dog park.  To learn all of the rules and restrictions, visit the homepage for the park.

We arrived at about 2pm and figured we would be finished with the nearly 3 mile hike in about an hour and 15 minutes.  However, there was so much to see on the trail it took us two hours!  The close up photo of the moss and lichen growth on the rock in the photo above is just one example of the distractions we encountered.  To see more of our discoveries, you will have to explore the cellphone photos I posted on my Instagram feed, I did not take photos of every mushroom we found using my camera because we may not have made it out of the park before closing time!

 The views of the foliage were beautiful.  The day was overcast and that was a good thing.  We took our time and just enjoyed the surroundings.  This area is just beginning to put on a display of color, the cold snap we are expecting should change that.

 On this afternoon, there were a few boaters paddling around and hikers with dogs but for the most part, we were on our own.  It was truly a peaceful place to be and I plan to make this a regular destination.

 The boat launch near the parking area had one of the best views of foliage in the park!  It was hard not to pull camera out and I could easily have spent an hour or more on the dock.

 The reflections were every bit as enchanting as the view itself.  To my husbands surprise, and possibly his dismay, I actually laid down on my stomach to take these shots.

 The ripples in the water distorted the reflection and the random leaves floating on the surface of the water caught my attention.

 There was a pair of ducks swimming near by but I never even thought to get them in the photo

The clouds in the sky look even angrier due to the distortion of the reflection.  
Go on out to Waller Mill and hike the trails, you will not regret it.  Keep in mind that this is one of the rootiest trail systems I have been on.  Watch your footing, something tough to do on a leaf covered pathway.  If you have bad knees or ankles, this may not be the place for you since it is guaranteed that you will trip over at least a couple roots along the way.  For those with limited mobility, you may want to stick to the Paved Bike Path, a two mile walkway, look for it on the map.

palets de dames, lille style: a tuesdays with dorie post

Can you believe that it has been more than two years since we began working our way through Baking With Julia?  Twice a month we prepare a recipe from the book and it has been a lot of fun to try all the different techniques.  When the Tuesdays With Dorie gals announced that we would also be baking from Dorie’s new book, Baking Chez Moi, I did not hesitate to order a copy of the book.
For our first recipe, we chose palets de dames, lille style.  To see the recipe, I always encourage folks to support the author by purchasing a copy or borrowing the book from a library, but the recipe has been available on the amazon.com page for the book.
Let me first say that not only do I love the simple but elegant look of the cookies, I really love the fact that the recipe is an easy one!  The directions were easy to follow and the results were exactly as described.  While it may not seem like much to rave about, I am baking in a new kitchen with an electric range and it is almost like learning all over again.  

 Follow Dorie’s advice and use a scoop to portion the cookies.  Trust me, not only will it be much quicker and less messy than rolling the dough into little balls but the cookies will be much more consistent in size.  That little hint will keep you from having overbaked and underbaked cookies on the same tray.

To dip the cookies in white glaze was too easy, almost boring if you ask me.  So just to make them a little more colorful, I tinted the glaze with a bit of purple hoping for a nice lavender shade.  Let me just say that no matter how hard you try, it almost always ends up looking a little too much like grey. To prevent that from happening, I also added a tiny amount of red to the mix.   A little sprinkle of clear sugar crystals on top gives them a bit of sparkle too!

If you add sugar crystals, let the glaze set a bit until it is just a little tacky.  If you put it on immediately, it sinks in and doesn’t sparkle.  To see what I mean, compare the cookies at the top of the photo to the ones on the bottom.

So, this is all fine and dandy but the true test is tasting them.  Drum roll…Yeah, well, not my favorite cookie.  Hard to say but I really wanted these cookies to be incredibly good but all I tasted was sweet.  The texture is nice, almost cakey but to be honest, I just do not see how a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla could have added any flavor to the dough.  Usually, I tend to change or add flavors but this time, I followed the recipe exactly as written.  If I make these again, and I probably will because they are great for gift giving, I would pump up the flavor to a teaspoon of vanilla or even rosewater or add some freshly grated lemon zest.

The only part of the recipe that did not work out for me was the glaze.  The 1 1/2 tablespoon of milk called for was something I did not have so I subbed half and half.  The glaze required more like 2 tablespoons and even so, I still had about a dozen cookies without glaze.  Since the cookies reminded me of a childhood favorite, New York Black and Whites, I decided to mix up white and chocolate glazes to finish the batch; a perfect solution to my dilemma!

Not sure what a black and white is?  You can read about the history of them in this article by Robert Sietsema.  To make a batch of your own, use the palet de dames cookie recipe and mix up some chocolate and vanilla glazes or try this recipe from the New York Times.

In the meantime, be sure to visit the Tuesdays with Dorie page to see what the other bakers came up with!

shepherd’s pot pie with chicken

The drop in temperatures outside has made it perfect for turning on the oven.  One of my favorite cold weather, comfort food meals is a pot pie.  Who doesn’t have memories of them from childhood?  Little boxes pulled from the freezer, mini pies baking on a tray and a bowl of gravy to dunk biscuits in?  Certainly not a healthy meal when you stop to think about it and that is precisely why you should make your own.  While a pie crust is the traditional topping for a pot pie, the use of a mashed potato topping has less fat and more fiber but even so, this isn’t something you should eat regularly.

To keep it a little healthier, try to put a rainbow in the mix; use lots of hard vegetables of many colors in the filling.  To help keep vegetables such as broccoli from turning to mush, add them to the filling raw and allow them to cook as the pie bakes.

Boil the potatoes and mash them with a small amount of butter and use lowfat milk or even soy milk to keep it lean.  My mixture contained a single egg yolk which I am thinking could probably be omitted without consequence.

This is one of those dishes that can be cobbled together with leftovers.  We had a previously roasted chicken in the fridge and I simply chopped the breast meat from half of it to make the filling.  However, you could easily make this with turkey or any other meat, even a steak or a loin roast and for those of you who prefer it to be meat free, just double the veggies.

The filling was made with vegetable broth because that is what I had handy and to thicken it, I added a small amount of flour.  Mix and match to your heart’s content, I know I will be making this again, and who knows what will end up in it-depends on what is in the fridge!

Shepherd’s Pot Pie
Makes 1 (10″) or 2 (6″) pies
serves 4
Potato topping
1 1/4-1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1/4-1/3 cup lowfat milk or unsweetened/unflavored soy milk, warm
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper to taste
Place the potatoes in a sauce pot and cover with water.  Bring to a gentle boil and cook until very soft, about 10-15 minutes.  Drain the water from the potatoes, mash them by hand or with a mixer.  Add the milk and butter and mix until creamy.  Add the egg yolk and seasoning, combine thoroughly and set aside while you make the filling.
Filling
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sliced leeks
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup corn-thawed if frozen
1/2 cup mushrooms, quartered
1-2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups broth-vegetable or other low fat broth
1 cup cooked poultry or meat cut into cubes, omit if this is vegetarian and just add extra veggies
1/2 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup cauliflower florets
Preheat the oven to 375.  In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil.  Saute the leeks, carrots, celery and mushrooms until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, poultry seasoning, thyme and the spices and saute for an additional minute.  Add the flour and stir to coat the vegetables then pour the broth in while you stir the contents in the pan.  Bring to a gentle boil, stir in the meat and then scrape the mixture into a deep-dish pie pan.  Sprinkle the broccoli and cauliflower over the top of the mixture.  Starting at the edge of the dish and working towards the middle, carefully spread the potato topping over the vegetables.  Place the dish on a heavy duty baking tray that will not warp in the oven and bake until the topping is golden brown around the edge and the filling is bubbly, about 30-40 minutes.  Allow the pie to sit for about 15 minutes before serving.