09 August 2013

Green Recipes: Avocado & Kale

At the request of my Aunt LaDeanna I've put together some easy to make, healthy, and tasty recipes using avocados, kale, and one simple salad including both!

First let's talk a little bit about avocados.  I have certain friends who avoid them because they do contain a goodly amount of fat and for their small size are rich in calories.  Don't fear the fat!  While a diet low in fat is healthful there are good fats and bad fats.  Your body still needs some some dietary fat (along with protein and carbohydrates) to create energy.  Energy = good.

In a nutshell:

Dietary fats to avoid:
  • saturated fat (found mainly in animal-based foods)
  • trans fat (occurs naturally in some foods, mostly animal-based, but most often from food processing)
Saturated and trans fats are usually solid at room temperature.

Healthier dietary fats:
  • monounsaturated fat (found in a variety of foods & oils)
  • polyunsaturated fat (mostly found in plant-based foods & oils, as well as fatty fish)
Unsaturated fats are generally liquid at room temperature.

So... where to avocados fall in the realm of dietary fats?  One avocado (while being around 300 calories, depending on the size) contains about 30 grams unsaturated fat and only approximately 4 grams of saturated fats.  Avocados also contain fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, and high levels of vitamins C and K.  Avocados = Good.

Wow... I didn't intend this post to be a lesson about good versus bad fats, but there you go.  Bonus lecture.

Moving on...

KALE.  I'll try to keep this short and sweet.  Kale is awesome.  I probably eat it 5 days a week (I also love chard, spinach, collards, etc.) and I make a point of eating something leafy & green daily.

Kale is one of the most nutritious vegetables on the planet.  One cup of kale is only 33 calories (yay!) and has a boatload of vitamins & minerals.  It contains well over 100% of the recommended daily amounts of vitamins A, C, and K in addition to being a good source of minerals copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium PLUS it has a lot of calcium!  Yes, not only can you get about 9% of your daily calcium from a vegetable but it's also full of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.

Kale is extremely awesome.  I could write an endless number of haikus about it (but I most likely won't).  Just make sure to remove the stems; they're bitter and yucky.

On to the recipes!

AVOCADO & KALE SALAD (four servings)
  • 2 bunches of kale, stems removed, *bruised & chopped
  • 2 avocados, peeled & cubed
  • 1/2 head of red cabbage, chopped or sliced thinly (your choice)
Honey Mustard Dressing
  • 3 T. Dijon or stone ground mustard
  • 3 T. honey (I prefer raw honey)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 T. poppyseeds, if you happen to like them
  • splash of apple cider vinegar (I use the organic & unfiltered kind)
  • 1-2 T. fresh lemon juice

Prepare leafy veggies as directed above.  Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl/dish/whatever and briskly whisk with a fork.  Or a tiny whisk if you have one (I don't).  I use a vintage Corelle creamer because it's small, has high sides, and a nifty spout to easily pour the dressing.  Add the spices/season last and whisk again.  Drizzle over salad and toss to evenly distribute dressing.  Add more salt and/or pepper if desired.  Or if you're like me, add enough hot sauce that almost no one else wants to eat it.

*Bruising greens basically involves taking handfuls of greens and rolling them between your palms to soften their texture.  It's employed to soften tough greens and to increase the flavour/fragrance of fresh herbs.  For best results stems should be removed from both green veggies and herbs prior to bruising.  Rosemary and thyme stems will gently stab you.  Ow.

  • *2 pieces of whole grain bread or 1 whole grain English muffin, halved
  • 1 egg or egg substitute
  • 1 T. olive oil or Earth Balance (I use Earth Balance most of the time)
  • 1/2 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 think slice **organic tomato
  • 2 t. Dijon or stone ground mustard (I like Annie's Naturals, but there are a lot of great brands available!)
  • salt & pepper
  • Optional: 1 t. hot sauce (I use sriracha or Tapatio)
  • Halve the avocado and using a sharp knife cut slices into one half without removing the peel.  This is usually 5 or 6 slices.  Using a tablespoon, scoop out slices and set aside.  Wash & dry tomato and using a serrated (or very sharp) knife slice until you get the size you'd like.  Optional: slice and eat the rest of the tomato.
  • Heat a skillet to medium-high; when hot add olive oil or Earth balance, swirl around, then throw in your egg/egg substitute.  I don't have to tell you to remove the shell (I hope).  
  • While keeping an eye on your egg, toast the bread/English muffin/whatever.  Spread each with with mustard.  Place tomato slice on one half; sprinkle with salt & pepper, if desired.  Smash/smush avocado slices onto the other half (otherwise they will slip around and try to escape from the sandwich with every bite you take); sprinkle with salt & pepper, if desired.  If, like me, you love hot sauce I highly recommend adding it to the avocado side of your sandwich components.
  • Placed cooked egg onto one half and top with the remaining half.  Voila, you have created a breakfast sandwich!

*You can also use healthy, whole grain frozen waffles.  I recommend Kashi or Van's.  Their caloric content and nutritional attributes are very similar to whole grain bread or English muffins.  Whichever bread-item you choose be sure to avoid ones that contain bleached flour and multiple sugars/sweeteners in the list of ingredients.  Especially avoid corn-based sweeteners like corn syrup solids, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, high maltose corn syrup, etc. but even if food is organic it can still have multiple sweeteners like brown rice syrup, honey, turbinado, agave nectar, etc.

**I prefer organic, vine ripened tomatoes for two reasons: #1, traditionally grown tomatoes were sprayed with a LOT of pesticides; #2, traditionally grown tomatoes are picked unripe and sprayed with ethylene to appear red & ripe but tend to be rather tasteless unless you consider "watery and bland" a legitimate "taste."  I don't.  If food doesn't taste good it's not worth purchasing at all, even if the price is lower than its organic cousin.

(So much better than your run-of-the-mill breakfast 'taters, I promise!)
  • 1 medium sweet potato or yam, scrubbed, skin on, quartered then sliced
  • 2 medium red potatoes, scrubbed, skin on, quartered then sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, scrubbed, skin on, sliced
  • 2 smallish or 1 largeish parsnip, scrubbed, skin on, sliced (halved & sliced, if largeish)
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (red, yellow, orange, green... doesn't matter)
  • 1 or 2 jalapenos, halved, de-seeded, sliced (optional)
  • 2 T. olive oil or Earth Balance, separated
  • 2 T. olive oil or Earth Balance, separated
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • smoked paprika, to taste (maybe around 1 teaspoon?)
  • cumin, to taste (roughly 1/2-1 teaspoon?)
  • fresh or dried thyme (*1 sprig, de-stemmed, if using fresh; about 1 heaping teaspoon if using dried)
  • 2 cups kale, stems removed, chopped
  • About 2 T. of water

  • Clean and slice root veggies, onion, & peppers.  Heat up a **large skillet (medium-high) then add 1 tablespoon of olive oil or Earth Balance.  Wait until the pan is hot!  Trust me on this one.  Add veggies and keep an eye on them.  Toss or stir when they start to stick and add the second tablespoon of olive oil or Earth Balance, if needed (usually this is needed).  You want them to be a little brown and mostly cooked before you add kale.  
  • While the veggies are cooking, remove the stems form the kale and roughly chop.  
  • When veggies are about halfway cooked (test their tenderness with a fork), add spices and herbs.  I usually add pepper toward the very end so that it doesn't burn.  Toss/stir veggies to evenly distribute spices & herbs.
  • Add chopped kale to veggies, toss in a couple tablespoons of water, quickly place lid over skillet, and reduce heat to low so that the kale can steam.  Wait a few minutes before checking to see how wilted the kale gets.  How long you cook the kale is entirely a matter of preference.  I like mine to have a little bite to it, but some people like it to be cooked until softened.  
  • Once the kale is a vibrant green, stir around to incorporate into your veggies and place the lid back onto the skillet.
  • Test your veggies to ensure that they are "fork tender" and you are done!  You can add more salt & pepper at this point, if desired (I usually add more pepper and some hot sauce before serving).
*Tip for using fresh herbs with woody stems (thyme, rosemary, marjoram, etc.).  Pluck/remove leaves into a small dish (I used a ramekin) prior to adding to a pan or pot of cooking ingredients.  Otherwise you could still be picking leaves off while the food overcooks or burns.  If you've done this before you know how time consuming it can

**Make sure that you are using a large skillet or pan that has a lid!  You will be using it.

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