Luisa Rios' Kitchen Notebook

For the Love of Kale

You, me and almost everyone else has fallen deeply in love with kale. For many, however, the reasons behind the sudden love-affair with this spectacular superfood remain something of a mystery.

If you’re one of those few who have yet to succumb to the charms of the Queen of Green, here are a few facts from Dr. Drew Ramsey’s book 50 Shades of Kale that just might change your mind:

  • Kale has more vitamin C than an orange;
  • It’s a great source of “good” fats (like alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), the omega-3 fatty acid that’s essential for boosting brain health, heart health and reducing type 2 diabetes);
  • It has more vitamin A than any other leafy green;
  • It has more calcium than a container of milk;
  • It’s full of iron (which can be made even more bioavailable with a splash of lemon juice); and
  • It has multiple nutrients and cancer-fighting compounds that are great at combating inflammation and preventing the formation of arterial plaque (especially when dressed up with fats like avocado, olive oil or parmesan cheese, which can make fat-soluble carotenoids more available to the body).

Still not convinced? The following recipe is a delicious and easy way to enjoy all the bounty of nutrition that kale has to offer, as either a side or a light and lovely lunch.

Kale Salad with Raisins and Almonds

Kale Salad with Raisins and Almonds

Kale Salad with Raisins & Almonds

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

½ cup (125 mL) golden raisins

2 tablespoons (30 mL) red or white balsamic vinegar, divided

1 tablespoon (15 mL) apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon (15 mL) liquid honey (preferably Manuka)

1 tablespoon (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon (2 mL) garlic salt (preferibly organic)

¼ teaspoon (1 mL) red pepper flakes

1 lb. (500 g) Tuscan kale, stems and centre ribs removed and sliced crosswise

2 tablespoons (30 mL) sliced almonds, lightly toasted

¼ cup (60 mL) shaved Parmesan or nutritional yeast for garnish (optional)

 

Method:
1. In a small bowl, combine raisins with the white balsamic vinegar. Let soak for 15 min to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Drain raisins, reserving the liquid.

2. Whisk the soaking liquid together with cider vinegar, honey, oil, garlic salt and red pepper flakes. Toss with kale and raisins to coat. Let marinate at room temperature, tossing occasionally, for 15 minutes.

3. Transfer to platter and sprinkle with toasted almonds (and shaved Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast if desired).

Cook’s Notes:
Golden raisins maintain their flavour, shape and texture, making them ideal for dressings and preserves. Sometimes referred to as “muscats,” they’re made from white grapes that are seeded and oven-dried. Choose sulphur dioxide-free raisins if you can.

Raw Kale? There are a couple of tricks to enjoying this hearty green uncooked. Removing the stems and centre ribs eliminates the bitterness, and allowing them to marinate for 10 to 15 minutes softens the leaves to the perfect tenderness for eating.

A Few of our Favourite Squash

Butternut, Delicata, Spaghetti, Kabocha, Etc. Etc.

Butternut, Delicata, Spaghetti, Kabocha, Etc. Etc.

We’re crazy about winter squash. They’re gnarly, they’re curvy, they’re bulbous, lumpy and bumpy, and they are beautiful! They’ve got a ton of character, both in appearance and on your plate. Because there are so many different kinds, each with their own unique texture and flavour, we never get tired of them. Here is a list of our current favourites to experiment with so that you don’t get stuck in a butternut rut!

1. Kabocha – These dark green, hearty looking little beasts are as sweet as candy with a very dense flesh. Slice in half, take out the seeds and place halves cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast until tender, scoop out the flesh and mash with a generous slab of butter and a few good pinches of salt. This divine side dish makes a great alternative to mashed potatoes.

2. Delicata – This small, oblong squash has an edible, striped rind and a distinctive flavour reminiscent of sweet corn. Halve, remove seeds, cube, toss with rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until just tender. Add to a grain or green salad with toasted almonds.

3. Turban Squash – It looks like it sounds. This unique-looking squash has a floury texture that is great in soups. Halve and roast like the kabocha, then scoop out flesh and puree with sautéed onions, garlic, sage and maple syrup.

4. Butternut – This popular squash deserves a mention as it is incredibly versatile. Our favourite way to use it is to make it into noodles! Use a Japanese mandolin or vegetable peeler to create very thin strands and toss with your favourite pasta sauce. Or, try again our beta-carotene rich Roasted Butternut Squash and Yam soup

5. Sugar Pumpkin – These sweet little pumpkins aren’t just for decoration, they are great in pumpkin spiced smoothies! Check out our favourite recipe for this yummy fall breakfast: An Autumn Smoothie 

What is your favourite squash and how do you use it in your kitchen?

Five Quick Cooking Tips & Tricks from our Kitchen to Yours

Personal Chef cooking galore

Personal Chef cooking galore

Cooking every day gives us plenty of opportunities to come up with nifty little tips and tricks to be efficient and successful in the kitchen. Here are five of our tried and true practices that we encourage you to implement while cooking at home.

1. Grease your meat, not your pan. To decrease oil splattering when searing meat on the stovetop, rub the meat with oil rather than adding it to the pan before you sear. Let your pan get good and hot while you season your meat and lightly coat it in oil. When the pan is hot, sear away without having to shield yourself from splattering grease.

2. Lightly cook your garlic before adding it to a recipe. Raw garlic can be pretty pungent and can develop a bitter taste as it sits. Lightly sautéing it before adding it to a recipe that calls for raw garlic that will remain raw (ie. salad dressings, salsas, etc.) will mellow out the flavour.

3. Peel your celery. Celery’s stringy fibers are tough to chew and can get stuck in your teeth and throat. To prevent this from happening, peel the back of the celery rib (where the toughest fibers are) with a vegetable peeler before snacking or chopping to use in a recipe.

4. Set timers. Whenever you are cooking – oven roasting, steaming, or searing on the stovetop – setting a timer to remind you to check on what you’ve got cooking is key to avoiding many a kitchen disaster. No more burnt pies, mushy broccoli or tough steak!

5. Don’t follow recipes blindly. Use your culinary common sense. If a recipe’s method seems inefficient, do what makes the most sense to you. Likewise if the end result lacks pizzaz, add your own personal flair to it. Make notes on what you changed so that the next time you make it, it will be just as good!

What are some of your favourite kitchen tips and tricks? We would love for you to share them with us!

 

Thanksgiving – A Time to Try Something New!

Roasted Squash & Beet Salad with Hazelnut Gremolata

Roasted Squash & Beet Salad with Hazelnut Gremolata

Thanksgiving is almost here and our tummies are already grumbling at the thought of a juicy turkey with crispy, golden skin and a rich, creamy pumpkin pie.

We all look forward to these comforting holiday classics, but why not spice up your Thanksgiving spread a bit by trying a new side dish?

This recipe highlights gorgeous local fall produce and is sure to add new colours and flavours to your Thanksgiving spread. We love how the sweet, earthy flavours of the squash and beets intensify as they roast in the oven. The toasty hazelnuts in the citrus-scented gremolata add a nice crunch while the parsley and orange zest lend bright, herby notes to the dish, making it simply irresistible.

We are fairly confident that if you try it this year, this may just become one of your go-to holiday dishes.

From our kitchen to yours, have a happy (and delicious) Thanksgiving!

Roasted Squash & Beet Salad with Hazelnut Gremolata

Celebrate the sweet flavours of the British Columbia’s harvest with this comforting and festive side dish.

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

For the roasted veggies:

1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into a 1” dice

3 large beets, peeled and cut into a 1” dice

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

¼ cup olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

For the gremolata:

½ cup hazelnuts, toasted, skin removed and coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons orange zest, finely chopped

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375?F and line a 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Place chopped squash in a large bowl and add toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and half of the rosemary. Season with salt and pepper and arrange on a baking sheet. Repeat with the beets and arrange the other sheet so they don’t discolour the squash.

3. Roast veggies for 40-55 minutes, or until tender and nicely caramelized.

4. Meanwhile, make the gremolata. Lightly cook the chopped garlic in a bit of olive oil to remove a bit of its sharpness. Combine all ingredients for the gremolata in a small bowl and mix well.

5. To serve, arrange veggies side by side in two rows on a platter and top with spoonfuls of gremolata. Alternately, serve the gremolata alongside.

 

*Note: The gremolata is a great condiment for a variety of seasonal vegetables and even meats or fish. Try swapping the orange zest for lemon or grapefruit zest and experiment with different nuts!

 

Vitamin A Autumn Soup

Guest Blog by Cooking Journeys sous-chef (soon to be R.H.N.) Courtney Schwegel

I’m in week two of my holistic nutrition course and we are delving into the vast world of vitamins. As part of a recent project, I created a recipe inspired by the amazing Vitamin A.

Orange and yellow pigmented veggies like the yams and butternut squash in this recipe are rich in beta-carotene, a form of Vitamin A found in plant foods. Butter made from the cream of grass-fed cows gives this soup unctuousness as well as an extra powerful Vitamin A kick! The pumpkin seeds, high in zinc and protein, aid in the absorption and storage of all those gorgeous carotenoids.

This soup (well, the Vitamin A in it anyways) has been known to enhance overall eye-health, promote healing from infection and illness, encourage normal menstruation, help combat skin problems like psoriasis and acne, and even assist in preventing cancer. Consume and enjoy at your own benefit!

 

Beta-Carotene Rich Roasted Butternut Squash and Yam Soup

Beta-Carotene Rich Roasted Butternut Squash and Yam Soup

Beta-Carotene Rich Roasted Butternut Squash and Yam Soup

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into ½-inch cubes

1 medium yam, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes

1 medium onion, sliced into wedges

1.5 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped

1.5 tablespoons fresh thyme

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

¼ cup coconut oil, melted

Water, as needed

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons grass-fed, organic butter (or olive oil)

½ cup pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Toss together the chopped squash, yam and onion in a large bowl and dress with herbs, sea salt and black pepper and coconut oil. Transfer to baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Give the veggies a toss and pop them back into the oven for another 20 minutes, or until they are very tender and nicely caramelized.

3. Transfer the cooked veggies to a large pot and add just enough water to cover. Add cayenne pepper and blend (either using an immersion hand blender or an upright blender) until very smooth. Add more water until desired consistency is reached. Taste and toss in some more herbs if you’d like.

4. Before serving, bring soup to a boil. Incorporate the butter or olive oil to achieve a velvety texture (you may want to add more) and season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Serve heaping helpings topped with pumpkin seeds. For even more of a carotenoid boost this soup can be accompanied by a spinach salad jewelled with orange segments.

*Courtney Schwegel is my holistic cooking companion – A firm believer that food is the best medicine for both our bodies and our souls, Courtney is  following her passion for delicious, healthy meals by pursuing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion as a Reg­is­tered Holistic Nutritionist.