Skip to content

Kale: From Garnish to Grandeur!

April 12, 2012

I will admit it and I am not ashamed, I eat a lot of kale.  Typically I can be found buying fresh baby kale in bulk.  I prepare kale salads for lunch on a regular basis or hide kale under whatever dinner dish we may be enjoying.  I love kale for its versatility, great texture, and the vibrant color it adds to my meals and (not to mention) all the nutritious benefits of this super green!

The other night I wasn’t sure what to prepare but knew I wanted to create something that included kale. Baby kale was not available at my local supermarket so I opted for its adult, full-grown cruciferous counterpart – which I also adore.  As I cruised the supermarket aisles trying to decide what ingredients would pull this dish together I kept repeating my mantra – color & flavor, color & flavor. What I came up with turned out to be a tasty and healthy dinner.  (My husband can vouch for this… he even went back for a second helping!)

Kale Saute with Chickpeas, Feta and Fresh Herbs

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

2 large shallots, finely chopped

4 large garlic cloves, minced

4 tablespoons dry white wine, I used a chardonnay

1 red pepper, chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

12 large mushrooms, sliced

1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 large bunch of kale, cleaned and ripped into bite-size pieces

1 8 oz. can of chickpeas

1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese

1/3 cup of fresh basil, chopped

1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

1/4 cup or ricotta, optional

In a large saute pan combine the shallots, garlic and olive oil and cook over medium to high heat for 4 minutes.

Pour in the wine, let it absorb into the mix about 1 minute and then add in the mushrooms, red peppers, crushed red pepper, black pepper and salt and cook for about 4 more minutes.

Add in the asparagus and half the kale, let it cook down a minute or two then add in the rest of the kale. Cook for about 2-3 more minutes or until the asparagus finishes cooking. (Asparagus should be tender to bite.)

Toss in the chickpeas, feta, basil, parsley and ricotta, and stir for about 30 seconds.  Remove from heat and serve immediately. -Enjoy


Helping Others Get on the Whole Grain Train (via a Duck Boat!)

April 10, 2012

Working at Oldways is a wonderful way to spend my days, but it isn’t every day I have the opportunity to reach people on an individual basis, person to person. Last week was one of those rare occasions when it felt even better (than usual) to be working here and educating people about healthier living.

For those of you who don’t know, April 4th marked our first ever National Whole Grain Sampling Day, with events across the nation. This initiative was created here at Oldways and The Whole Grains Council as a fun and interactive way to team up with supermarkets, manufacturers, food service outlets and restaurants and create sampling opportunities to introduce people to whole grains.  In Boston, where we are headquartered, we were able to commandeer an amphibious “Duck Boat” for the day and ride around the city passing out whole grain treats to Bostonians. (You can see more photos on our Whole Grains Council blog.)

BUT Whole Grain Sampling Day was not just about standing there and handing out tasty free snacks to passersby, (although we did hand out plenty of them!) it was a day to take advantage of a special opportunity to engage with strangers and impart even just a little piece of what we know, in hopes of helping them and their families become healthier.

Throughout the day we spoke with people of all ages and backgrounds, and we found that, with many folks, the knowledge gap about whole grains is wide.  Many are aware of the health benefits of whole grains, some spoke about how much they love them for their variety of tastes and textures, but many others have never tried them. The good news is that people seemed curious and open to changing their habits.

I had people asking plenty of questions and one woman even came up to me and pointed to the word “quinoa” and asked “what is that?”  A few years ago, I admit it, I did not know what quinoa was either and I sure did not know how to pronounce it!  On Whole Grain Sampling Day I was glad that I could talk to her about how great quinoa is, that it’s a gluten free grain that’s packed with protein and cooks in just 12 minutes!  Knowledge that we take for granted, if we share it, can be used to help others adopt healthier lifestyles.  It is through small steps that we can create big change.  I am happy to help and to be a part of this movement to inspire better health in others.


Tales of Our Own Turkish Delights

April 5, 2012

It has been little more than a week since Sara and I returned from our time in Turkey on the Oldways Culinaria to Gaziantep and Istanbul, and my mind and stomach are still reeling (in the most positive ways!) from the unbelievable food and culture we were able to witness and consume. Since my weight loss and lifestyle change, I have developed a strong appreciation for the health and taste benefits of the “old ways,” but it wasn’t until I traveled with Oldways and Oleana to Turkey, that I was able to see this firsthand. The flavors, history, culture, and lifestyle, and the fact that all these things are intertwined with the cuisine is truly remarkable and worthy of emulation. Ayfer Unsal, a food journalist and cookbook author who has been a friend to Oldways for over twenty years, organized a potluck in Gaziantep with over 29 dishes cooked by home cooks from the local community. Of course I felt full, but it was unbelievable to me that I never felt the lethargic, sick, about to explode feeling, and I actually lost weight after a full week focused on food.

While researching for the trip, I found a quote in Turquoise, Greg and Lucy Malouf’s book, that has stuck with me and illuminates the significant role that cuisine plays in Turkish culture. They refer to Turkish cooking as an “interweaving” of many different strands that “create a gorgeous and vibrant culinary tapestry.” I now know the metaphor to art is spot on.  All the fresh vegetables and ingredients – eggplant, peppers, lemons, chickpeas, lentils, tomatoes, cucumbers, nuts, olives, bulgur, cheese, grape leaves, yogurt – and the passion and pride that the Turkish people feel about their creations, truly elicits the same response as a beautiful work of art. The fresh ingredients and strong flavors that have been part of the Turkish culinary roadmap for decades demonstrate an old way of eating that we can bring home with us and share with others.

Our friend Ilona (on the left) and Shaun in Turkey

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the courage, inspiration, and determination of one of our culinaria participants, Zoe Ilona Baughman. Ilona focused her thesis on cuisine and the Ottoman Empire and earned her Masters in Gastronomy at Boston University, and it was clear from when I first met Ilona at the welcome dinner at Oleana that she was extremely passionate about the food and culture of the region. Scheduling her chemo sessions around the trip, Ilona willed herself to be able to join us. She passed away five days after returning to Boston from Istanbul, but the memory of her perseverance, positive attitude and joyful appetite will never leave all of us.


Squash, Not Spaghetti. Surprise!

April 3, 2012

I was always an adventurous eater. As a child the idea of eating a vegetable in place of noodles never derailed my appetite, so I am no stranger to spaghetti squash.

This vegetable is so versatile, walking the line between a squash and spaghetti.  The flesh, full of healthy fiber and folic acid, resembles spaghetti and is the perfect alternative to many noodle dishes.  I often whip up a quick red sauce and use the squash as my base in place of spaghetti, sometimes even adding in some turkey meatballs for a heartier dinner.

On this particular evening I was looking for a lighter meal, so I turned to a dish I have made many times over the past few years, but have not yet blogged about:  Spaghetti squash sautéed with shallots and garlic and then at the last minute tossed with fresh herbs, feta and grape tomatoes. This is a simple dish to prepare and, the best part, you can mix and match ingredients depending on what you have in your refrigerator. No feta, don’t fret; use goat cheese.  No basil, no bother; use cilantro.  No shallots, don’t cry; use onions. (You get the picture!)

1 medium spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup feta cheese
1 pint grape tomatoes
1/3 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise.  Remove seeds and place face down in 9×13 baking dish with 2 1/2 cups of water.  Bake for approximately 35 minutes.  Take out of oven, remove from water and allow to cool.  Once cool, using a fork, scoop out the flesh of the squash into a bowl.

In a large sauté pan cook the shallots and garlic in the olive oil, until golden.

Add the squash to the pan and heat for about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, add the remaining ingredients (feta, tomatoes, parsley and basil) toss to combine and serve over a bed of greens.  Enjoy!


Timing is Everything – in Life and with Avocados

March 29, 2012

As you know, neither an under-ripe or an over-ripe avocado is ever good.  So I had a bit of anxiety with several avocados at home that were all ripening at the same pace and no new real recipe to prepare them.  As luck would have it, a friend sent me a link for a blog the very day my avocados were ready.  The recipe was for an avocado salad sandwich – talk about timing!

The concept is so simple, as is the recipe, and this avocado and chickpea smash can even double as a dip for veggies.

I literally whipped this dinner up in under 20 minutes.  Eureka!

1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas

1 large ripe avocado (I actually used 1 ½ avocados)

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped green onion

Juice from 1 lime

Salt and pepper, to taste

Bread of your choice (I chose to make wraps)

Greens of your choice and any other toppings you like (I went with arugula, yellow grape tomatoes and sprouts)


Rinse and drain the chickpeas

In a medium bowl, mash the chickpeas and avocado together with a fork.

Add in cilantro, green onion, and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spread salad on bread/wrap and top with your favorite accompaniments.  Enjoy!


A Cookbook Will do the Trick!

March 27, 2012

My gift ‘getting’ motto: When in doubt, buy me a cookbook.  My latest and greatest being Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater, and it is lovely.  Twenty nine chapters, each dedicated to a different vegetable, and although it is not a vegetarian cookbook I love that it is the vegetable that inspires each dish.

Typically, recipes I choose for the blog must be suitable for the time constraints of a weeknight meal.  No one wants to feel overwhelmed walking in the door after work, so I look for recipes that I can personally make for myself and my husband and find to be weeknight-doable.  When I happened upon this recipe in Tender I knew it would do the trick.  Peppers filled with tiny tomatoes, roasted to perfection, and finished with a fresh basil sauce: does that not scream spring?!?  Simple preparation, fresh ingredients and packed with flavor.

*Notes: As usual, I made a few adjustments.  I bought a variety of peppers and tomatoes.  For the basil sauce I added in some fresh parsley as well as a few garlic cloves.  We served the peppers over a bed of baby spinach and after a few bites decided to add a bit of fresh Parmesan on top.

Adapted From Tender by Nigel Slater


Nonstick spray
4 large peppers (I used 2 orange and 2 red)
16 tiny tomatoes, such as grape or cherry tomatoes  (I actually used close to 2 pints, 1 pint of red grape tomatoes and 1 pint yellow grape tomatoes which is approx. 10-15 halves per half pepper)
Olive oil for drizzling

For the basil sauce:
1/3 cup olive oil
Fresh basil to taste (I used about 2-3 cups of basil as I wanted a thicker sauce with more basil punch)
3 garlic cloves
Handful of fresh parsley (about a half cup)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Spray a large roasting pan with nonstick spray.  Slice the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and white membranes but leave the stems intact.  Place peppers in the pan cut side up.

Halve the tomatoes and divide between the peppers.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil over each half.

Roast the peppers for about an hour, until the peppers are soft and the tomatoes are collapsing.

In a food processor combine the basil, oil, garlic, parsley and puree.  Sprinkle a bit of salt in the sauce (to taste).

Drizzle the basil sauce over the peppers once you take them out of the oven so it mingles with the warm peppers and tomatoes.  Serve over a bed of greens.  Enjoy!


Spring has “Sprouted”

March 22, 2012

Spring has arrived – happy spring! To celebrate, my roommate and I thought we would ring in the new season with a fabulous meal. Basking in the 80º weather, we decided it was time to break out the grill. Now, for those of you who aren’t from the New England area let me explain. We’ve been experiencing somewhat of a, what shall I call it…summer tease. With our beautiful striped bass marinating in a light wine, garlic, and lemon marinade we realized we needed something green to finish out the meal—it is spring after all! Upon further fridge inspection we found a plethora of kale, red and green lettuce, beautiful squash, but alas, none of it was doing the trick for me. I sat pondering for five perplexed minutes: what do I want? What do I want?? And then it came to me: Brussels sprouts!

Brussels sprouts, you ask? Those little green balls of cabbage that your mother used to make you eat before you could have any pie at Thanksgiving? Those mushy little balls of greenery that everyone (even your stoic, vegetable loving grandmother) stuck her nose up at? Yes, those Brussels sprouts. Now, I’ve been going through somewhat of a cabbage craving. Maybe I was inspired by the many boiled dinners I enjoyed during my St. Patrick’s Day escapades; maybe it’s the bitter little crunch that cabbage has, but whatever it was, I needed my Brussels fix – and stat.

Before you write me off as crazy, let me just say that Brussels sprouts have gotten a bad rap. First of all, they’re pretty much the cutest vegetable out there… like a teeny, tiny little head of lettuce, and second of all, they couldn’t be easier to cook. No steaming for this girl. I started with a twirl of olive oil around the sauté pan and a couple of hearty-sized garlic cloves, minced. I heated the olive oil and garlic and then tossed in the halved Brussels. I let them brown and then drizzled in a tablespoon of lemon juice and of course, a healthy pour of white wine. Sauté until the Brussels brown, and voila! The smell was enough to bring my roommate running into the kitchen for a taste…and then another and another. Needless to say, we were lucky to have any left by the time the rest of dinner was ready.

So you know what I say to all of you Brussels sprout pessimists out there? Bring on the Brussels (you’ll love them, I promise)!

–Mallory (The newest member of the Oldways family!)