Massaged Raw Kale Salad with Apple, Avocado & Feta

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This morning, I went on one of my favorite hiking trails — Land’s End — with two old friends.  No matter how many times I walk there, I’m blown away every time by its amazingly rugged beauty.  The three of us — all mothers who have families to cook for —  talked about food while we walked, which is much healthier than the other way around — talking about walking while pigging out.  My friend Jane told me about a kale salad that she loves.  It sounded so easy and delicious that I decided to give it a try as soon as I got home. 

Jane uses feta cheese, dried cranberries and honey roasted almond slivers.  I changed the recipe using what I have in the fridge and the pantry: avocado, apple and chopped almonds.  It turned out to be very delicious.  The sweet Fuji apple complemented the hint of bitterness in raw kale beautifully.  Avocado gave it creaminess while chopped almonds gave it crunchiness.  And I found the combination of lemon and feta so simple and special that it is magical.

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Massaged Raw Kale Salad

Ingredients:

2 bunches lacinato kale, ribs removed and discarded (12 oz total without ribs)

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp kosher salt or to taste

2 tbsp freshly squeeze lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)

1/2 cup reduced fat feta cheese (crumbled)

1 medium Fuji apple (cored and diced)

1 avocado (diced)

1/4 cup chopped dry roasted almonds

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Preparation:

Slice the kale into 1/4-inch thin ribbons. In a large bowl combine the kale with oil and salt. Using your hands, massage the kale for 3 minutes until the kale softens.

Coat diced apple and avocado with lemon juice to prevent yellowing.

Toss kale with the lemon juice, then add apple, avocado and feta cheese.  Sprinkle chopped almonds before serving.  The recipe makes 4 meal size servings.

I made the salad minus the chopped almonds in the afternoon and let it sit in the fridge cover for a two hours. By dinner time, it actually tasted better.  Kale is such a hearty vegetable that the salad doesn’t get soggy.  I have always liked kale, but today was the first time I tried it raw.  It was a great variation in preparing this super food.

  Land's End

When the children were little, they were fascinated by the stories of the ship wrecks that happened in the treacherous waters between Land’s End and the Marin Headlands.  As they looked into the depth of the water they conjured up images of underwater treasures along with skeletons. Many of our walks together was ship wreck themed.  One of the ships that sank was called SS City of Rio de Janeiro that had sailed from Hong Kong to San Francisco. The story was that launching of the lifeboats was difficult because the officers were English speaking Americans, while the seamen were non-English-speaking Chinese. Most of the people on the ship perished.

“They died because they were not bilingual,” I told the girls, trying to stress the importance for them to learn Chinese.  But it didn’t work.  With their brows raised, the girls asked, “So — not being bilingual equals death in a ship wreck — is that what you are trying to say?  Do you even hear how ridiculous you sound?”  I was a typical Chinese mother trying to teach her American children.

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Sautéed Kale with Whole Wheat Penne + Pastel Mint Boutique Review!

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You’ve already rolled your eyes as I waxed poetic about the beauty and grace incarnate that is pasta. Pasta is love, pasta is life, and I hope to one day marry pasta in a small courthouse ceremony with a ring of rigatoni around my finger. Disclaimer: this post was written while coming off a pasta high, in case you couldn’t notice. Forgive my incoherency.

Today we made some 100% whole wheat penne with kale. My mother called it a little naughty and a little nice. She was wrong. Pasta is nice too. A little pasta never hurt nobody. No food in itself can cause diabetes or obesity. But if you’re a little carbophobic you can alter the ratio of pasta to kale or substitute some or all of the pasta with spiralized vegetables, spaghetti squash or shirataki. Personally I find the latter absolutely disgusting and reminiscent of vulcanized worms. Shirataki is made out of an indigestible Japanese root called konjac, so it has zero grams of net carbohydrates and is essentially non-nutritive, although it is a relatively good source of fiber. Do what you want to do. Eat your rubber noodles and be sad.

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Or join the Cult of Carbs and live your life in joy. Your call.

Anyway, this recipe is vegetarian and full of delicious veggies so it’s perfect for Meatless Mondays. It can also be gluten free if you use the subs listed above or use gluten free pasta.

Ingredients:

2 bunches lacinato kale, stemmed
4 oz. (about 1 cup) uncooked 100% whole wheat penne
1/4 cup red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 of a 15 oz. can of white beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon shaved parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons pesto sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice from 1/2 large lemon
Salt & pepper to taste

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Preparation:

Cook the pasta according to package instructions and set aside.

Heat the oil in a pan or wok on medium high. Add the garlic and stir until aromatic. Add the kale and bell pepper and sauté until soft, adding a little water or broth if necessary. Add the beans and give it a few good stir until heated through.

Turn off the stove and add 1/4 cup parmesan, 2 tablespoons pesto sauce, the juice from half a lemon, salt and pepper to taste, mix well.

Dish out and sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon parmesan. Serve immediately.

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I hope you enjoy this recipe! Don’t pigeonhole it into the internet’s list of nasty kale recipes. Honestly I think a lot of people hate kale but pretend to like it since it’s so trendy and has a superfood rep (although the CDC’s Preventing Chronic Disease journal rated vegetables by nutrient density and kale was only #15, probably because it’s more than twice as energy-dense as spinach by mass). A lot of the kale available at supermarkets is really tough and disgusting and inedible especially if you try to make your own raw kale salad. We chose to use kale for this recipe since kale doesn’t cook down as much as spinach so it’s a better foil to the penne. If you hate kale then you can sub some other vegetable, perhaps collard greens, but we recommend trying fresh kale to see how you like it. Some farmers market kale is god-awful but if it’s really fresh then it’s 10/10.

It was shaped like a barn but it was actually quite nice inside.

It was shaped like a barn but it was actually quite nice inside.

Since returning to San Francisco from New England I’ve gotten to appreciate the city more. The autumn isn’t as pleasantly pilgrim-y and I no longer live in a quaint little cottage but at least it isn’t freezing or overrun by squirrels. Also, it’s very hipsterish which a lot of people hate but now I don’t have to turn to Netflix to watch Portlandia. A large hipster population makes for bigger and better artisanal-feeling grocery stores that are even more hardcore than Whole Foods. I’m talking Rainbow Grocery level hipster. For me, there’s nothing more fun than wandering the aisles of a grocery store, even if I don’t end up buying anything. In the dead of winter I used to trek three miles through the ice and snow to ogle at everything in Whole Foods and Stop and Shop, often returning to my dorm empty-handed. I’m starting to realize that that’s kind of weird, but whatever.

I really like cauliflower, ok?

Totally content with my weirdness. I really like cauliflower, ok?

I once dedicated an hour of my life to choosing the best aubergines from the grocery store. Yes, aubergines.

I once dedicated an hour of my life to choosing the best aubergines from the grocery store. Yes, aubergines.

In addition to the cool grocery stores, there are a lot of hipster boutiques and it’s 100% socially acceptable to dress like a hipster in any situation. I don’t really dress like a hipster when I’m not trick-or-treating but many of my friends and family members do pull off the Harry Potter glasses and flannel shirts quite well. It’s great that they have so many options when it comes to buying nice clothes. Pastel Mint Boutique, an online clothing store based in San Francisco, recently sent us a few items to try out and they were great! We received a utility jacket, an infinity scarf, a sundress, and a beanie. My sister and my schoolmates very much enjoyed trying these clothes on. We highly recommend this boutique! If anyone asks, we heard of ‘em first.

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Pastel Mint utility jacket and dress

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GLee rocking the infinity scarf, beanie, and utility jacket

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Glower sold separately

Glower sold separately

End of Splurge – Back to Broccoli and Kale

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We have been eating incessantly over the holidays.  There were boxes of Belgium chocolate and Panettone from Peter’s patients.  There were the dinner parties with extended family and friends.  And this morning, Peter’s mother served us leftover chocolate mousse cake for breakfast.  I must say it felt wonderfully decadent with a cup of coffee in the Southern Californian morning sun.  But the splurge ends today.  It must or else.

In Alexander Dumas’ Dictionary Of Cuisine, he named three sorts of appetites:

1. Appetite that comes from hunger. It makes no fuss over the food that satisfies it. If it is great enough, a piece of raw meat will appease it as easily as a roasted pheasant or woodcock.

2. Appetite aroused, hunger or no hunger, by a succulent dish appearing at the right moment, illustrating the proverb that hunger comes with eating.

3. The third type of appetite is that roused at the end of a meal when, after normal hunger has been satisfied by the main courses, and the guest is truly ready to rise without regret, a delicious dish holds him to the table with a final tempting of his sensuality.

The third type was all we indulged in during the past 10 days.  I declared it over by making the Broccoli Kale White Bean Soup for dinner tonight.  Eating the soup felt like a cleansing ritual after the holiday transgression. 

I used the roasted garlic from a few days ago and made some garlic Parmesan toast with Ciabatta bread.  They made a satisfying meal together with the soup.

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Ingredients:

1 large Onion (chopped)

4 cloves garlic (chopped)

4 heads of Broccoli (florets chopped; stems peeled and chopped)

7 cups Vegetable Stock

1 bunch Kale ( stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch ribbons)

2 15 .5-ounce Canneloni Beans (drained and rinsed)

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparation:

Place a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then toss in the garlic, stir for 1 minute, then add onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until just translucent. Add the broccoli and again season with salt and pepper.

Pour the vegetable stock over the broccoli and bring up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is fork tender.

Let cool slightly and then transfer, working in batches, to a blender. Cover the blender with a towel to ensure it doesn’t splatter, and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Place another heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the kale. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the beans and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.

Pour the broccoli soup in kale and stir to combine. Let cook for one to two more minutes to let the flavors meld. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve while hot.

Orange Milk Shake & Broccoli Kale and White Bean Soup

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Peter’s brother brought us two large bags of oranges grown from my in-laws’ garden.  They were the largest, juiciest and sweetest oranges that I have ever tasted.  Peter’s mother loves gardening.  In her small yard there is an orange tree, a persimmon tree and a guava tree.  There are also tomatoes and chili peppers.  Already in her 80s, my mother-in-law still tends the garden herself. 

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Two-year-old Angela in Grandma’s garden

Audrey made the most refreshing orange milk shake with Grandma’s oranges, while I made the  healthiest sweet vegetable muffins for breakfast.  

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Orange Milk Shake Ingredients:

3 oranges

1 1/2 cup milk of choice (dairy is best)

1/12 cup ice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoon xylitol or sugar

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When I first heard about the recipe, I was skeptical. Oranges and dairy? Might there be some kind of crazy acid-base explosion? Chemistry isn’t my strong suit but the idea seemed a little gross. So I was shocked when it actually turned out great. Even if you usually can’t tolerate the acidity of citrus, you’ll be able to enjoy this drink. Not only is it delicious, it’s also healthy. Gotta love those antioxidants and polyphenols! Those pesky free radicals won’t even have a chance.

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San Francisco had another glorious day after weeks of rain and we set out for a long stroll in the afternoon.  Living in this amazing city has made us a family of walkers. We believe not only in the pleasure of it but also the spiritual and restorative power it generates.  It is the best antidote for the daily stresses from work or the distractions from the internet.

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Showing off in front of the girls

One of Peter’s patients gave him a gift of four slabs of Rendezvous Ribs.  They arrived yesterday from Memphis via FedEx, vacuum sealed and packed in dry ice.  We had one slab for dinner and they were quite delicious, very smoky and tender.  All I had to do was to warm it up in the oven with the barbecue sauce that came with it. 

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For the vegetarians in the house, I made a hearty soup that was so delicious and satisfying you wouldn’t believe that it was so healthy.

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I adapted the recipe from the STACY LONDON’S BROCCOLI, WHITE BEAN, AND SAUSAGE SOUP, and made a vegetarian version.

Ingredients:

1 large Onion (chopped)

4 cloves garlic (chopped)

4 heads of Broccoli (florets chopped; stems peeled and chopped)

7 cups Vegetable Stock

1 bunch Kale (stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch ribbons)

2 15 .5-ounce Canneloni Beans (drained and rinsed)

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparation:

Place a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then toss in the garlic, stir for 1 minute, then add onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until just translucent. Add the broccoli and again season with salt and pepper.

Pour the vegetable stock over the broccoli and bring up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is fork tender.

Let cool slightly and then transfer, working in batches, to a blender. Cover the blender with a towel to ensure it doesn’t splatter, and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Place another heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the kale. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the beans and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.

Pour the broccoli soup in kale and stir to combine. Let cook for one to two more minutes to let the flavors meld. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve while hot.

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All about Nutritional Yeast! +Kale

A few days ago, Lisa Lillien, AKA “Hungry Girl,” asked a million-dollar humdinger of a question:

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“If someone offered you a MILLION DOLLARS to never eat CHEESE (in any form) again, would you do it??? WEIGH IN!!!!”

Until today my answer would have been “Not for a BILLION dollars!” but now I’m not so sure… because today, I went to my local hoity toity yuppie grocery store (which we can’t help but love) and bought something called nutritional yeast. It’s made out of some organism from the fungi family, so it’s vegan-friendly if you’re into that. But that’s not the best part. This stuff is freakin’ delicious! It tastes really savory, I guess what you’d call “umami,” just like cheese but without the sodium and cholesterol and saturated fat. It’s also high in micronutrients, but personally I care more about the YUM factor.

I used the nutritional yeast to top my homemade kale chips. Yes, kale, which according to the CDC is the fifteenth healthiest vegetable in the entire world. I’ve made a real 180, healthwise: from Ben and Jerry’s to banana ice cream, from starch and trans fat-laden Chinese snackies to crispy chips made out of green leafy vegetables. And I’m not depriving myself one bit.

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Okay, sorry, back to the food. Kale chips. Dirt’s gift to mankind. I swear they taste infinitely better than they look in my photo! All it takes is to bake ’em at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-12 min. There are lots of different variations – just Google kale chips! – but this is how I make mine:

Super Umami (with Nutritional Yeast)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Put about 100 g (or however much you want) washed, chopped and dried kale on a baking sheet (I used parchment paper so we wouldn’t have to use too much oil).
  3. Spray lightly with oil. I used my favorite EVOO (extra virgin olive oil, for future reference) and a Misto oil sprayer but you can use any cooking spray you want!
  4. Season evenly with about 3 tbsp of nutritional yeast, and salt and pepper if you want.
  5. Bake for 10-12 min or until crispy!

Hot ‘n Spicy

  1. (same as steps 1-3 above)
  2. Season with salt, pepper, cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, and red pepper.
  3. Bake!

Italian

  1. (same as step 1 in “Hot ‘n Spicy”)
  2. Season with garlic powder, dried basil, dried oregano, Italian seasoning, and thyme.
  3. Bake!

There are so many variations out there but these are my three favorites!