Swiss chard, Kale and Apple Saute aka “Yes, you can eat Kale and like it too”

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Stick with me, it really is good!

Spring and summer here in Michigan means leafy greens as far as the eye can see.  Greens are amazing for you.  They are nutritional workhorses that are low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.  But am I the only one that thinks they taste kind of like grass?  I know that I need to eat these amazing things, so I need to make it tasty.

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We have been getting lots of kale and Swiss chard lately so I have been mixing them together.  In my opinion, chard is pretty “tame” and a much more delicate flavor.  Kale is the much “grassier” of the two.  I started throwing them together in this quick 10 minute side dish.

Ingredients:

  • Kale and chard – washed and torn into pieces
  • onion – about half a medium fresh onion or some sprinkles of dried
  • garlic – fresh, minced, dried (dealers choice)  I use about 3-4 cloves fresh
  • one medium apple, diced.  (I always leave peel on, fiber is our friend!)
  • oil of choice – I use coconut oil, just enough so things don’t stick, maybe a teaspoon or so

Directions:

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil.  When onions become translucent add the kale.  Saute until the kale begins to wilt.  Add the apple and the chard.  Saute until the apples are tender and the greens have wilted completely.  Sometimes if the greens are really stubborn I add a few teaspoons of water and cover the pan for a few minutes.  The steam will help break down the greens.

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Enjoy and pat yourself on the back for eating your greens!  The apple really helps break through the bitter taste that greens have, so it is a great way to introduce things like kale to your palate.

My recipe tasters give the following reviews:

Local Toddler – some days he eats it, some days he picks out and eats only the apples

Local Hubby – enjoys it (man of few words)

Local Dad – asks for more, encourages me to come over and make it more often

Local Mom – eats it, declares it tastes healthy

Real Food Kelly – besides kale chips, the only way I will eat kale!

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Crisis Cooking: Veggie Lo mein

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Happy Meatless Monday real foodies!

Today I’m sharing a “recipe” that I use quite often on my crazy days.  I affectionately refer to those crazy days meals as “crisis cooking.”  Crisis cooking is when I realize we need to eat dinner in half an hour and I haven’t even thought about dinner yet.  I don’t know that I would call this a recipe per se; perhaps better terminology would be a guideline.

Veggie Lo-mein

pasta of choice, angel hair or other thin pasta works well but I used linguine noodles and my boys loved it.

contents of your vegetable drawer.  Really, you can add anything!  Dice/slice your veggies to be relatively the same size.  For the example pictured I used carrots, zucchini, green bell pepper and green beans

teriyaki sauce (or preferred sauce)  You can make your own teriyaki sauce by beefing up your soy sauce with some sugar, garlic and ginger but honestly I usually buy mine.  We really enjoy the Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce.

Directions:

Cook your pasta according to package directions.

While pasta is boiling, slice and dice your veggies.

Drain pasta in colander

Using the pot that cooked the pasta (I hate dishes), add a small amount of oil (enough to keep the veggies from sticking) and begin to saute the veggies at a medium-high heat.  Add teriyaki sauce to taste.  When veggies are tender, toss in pasta and serve.

Told you it wasn’t a recipe!  This is a great way to use up random veggies you have sitting around.  Even cabbage is great, just dice into small pieces!

I know this wasn’t a detailed “recipe” but as part of Real Food in a Real World my aim is to show how an average family eats.  This is a very typical Meatless Monday dinner around our house right now!

All About Asparagus

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I do love asparagus.  Here in Michigan, it is the first vegetable that hits the Farmers Market.  It’s usually the only vegetable being sold when the Farmers markets open for the season.

Storage

I’ve heard previously that one should store asparagus as you would flowers, as they are actually a derivative of the Lily family.  I have the best luck with my asparagus stored in a mug or jar with about in inch of water in the bottom.  Place the asparagus in the jar and cover with a plastic bag and your asparagus should stay nice and fresh.

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Selecting Asparagus

Asparagus is expensive.  It’s somewhat difficult to grow and has a very short season.  You will probably only see it at the farmers market for one or two weeks.  Look for nice firm green stalks.  The size actually has no bearing on taste, fat and thin stalks are equally tasty.  There are purple and white varieties as well, but they aren’t seen very often.

Preparation

I know spring has officially began when I make that first batch of fresh local asparagus.  My absolute favorite way to eat asparagus is roasted.  Either on the grill or in a hot oven (400-450 degrees)  Snap your ends off (the flat end, opposite the nice “flowered” end), wash carefully and dry.  Pour some sesame oil and sea salt over the spears and roast for 10 minutes or so, until your desired tenderness is achieved.  Any oil will get the job done, but toasted sesame oil is absolutely amazing for it.

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I would be remiss to talk about asparagus without discussing the smell. You know what smell I’m talking about, the infamous “asparagus pee” smell.

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I’m sure most of us know what I am talking about.  In short time after ingesting asparagus, many people will begin to excrete a very distinct aroma in their urine.  Here is where scientists aren’t exactly sure what happens next.  There seems to be two schools of thought.  The first is that everybody excretes the scent, but not everybody has the ability to smell it.  The second camp believes that some people are not able to smell, and some do not excrete.  The general consensus is that there is a genetic mutation that causes this difference.  I don’t see a lot of research into this, presumably because there are bigger scientific issues to research.

Asparagus is nutritious and delicious!  Go cook some up today, even if it makes your pee stinky!

Small Space Gardening, for Non-Gardeners

Small Space Gardening, for Non-Gardeners realfoodinarealworld.com

I am not a gardener!  I hope to eventually be one, but we can all safely assume that I am not one right now.  So, take all advice I am about to give you with a grain of salt.  The only real complaints about local and organic food are access and expense.  So, let’s try our hands at growing our own food!  At this very moment, I don’t have much space to grow food.  Fingers crossed, next year I will be a proud owner of a raised bed in this area:

Small Space Gardening, for Non-Gardeners realfoodinarealworld.com

We had a big old dying tree cut down, so we now have some sun in our yard!  We are starting with one raised bed, and will probably add one a year until we run out of sunny areas.

For right now, my only growing space is on the side of my house.  Here is a pic of my fancy garden:

Small Space Gardening, for Non-Gardeners realfoodinarealworld.com

In the pink container (dollar store) is some celery I’m regrowing from the base of an organic celery bunch.  Just cut the bottom off, place in water in a window and watch it grow!  I let it sit in the window (just add water every other day) for 2 or 3 weeks before planting into the container.

Small Space Gardening, for Non-Gardeners realfoodinarealworld.com

In the ground is two strawberry plants surrounded by marigolds.  I think this will eventually need some protection from the critters, so I need to think up something.

Small Space Gardening, for Non-Gardeners realfoodinarealworld.com

The two blue buckets are just five gallon buckets from Lowes.  Local hubby drilled a zillion holes in the bottom, filled them with pea gravel we stole from local toddlers gravel pit, and then planted a tomato and a bell pepper.

Small Space Gardening, for Non-Gardeners realfoodinarealworld.com

Local toddler was a big help this year, he did most of the dirt filling and planting.  He’s also a fantastic waterer.

Things I wanted to plant this year but didn’t get around to it: carrots, potatoes (I heard you can do them in a laundry basket, but you need straw) lettuce and some sort of leafy green (kale, chard, etc).  I ran out of pots and sunny patches.

My hope with this post is to show you that anybody can grow their own food.  You don’t need a lot of space, time or money.  Even if you live in an apartment with no outdoor area, you can at least grow some herbs on your windowsill.  Local toddler is having a blast tending to his plants, and he tells me the names of what he is watering.  I picked up organic garden soil and organic fertilizer at Lowes, and my local hardware store.

Go get your hands dirty!  I can’t wait to pick my first produce and serve it to my family!

Apple Celebration Salad

Apple Celebration Salad realfoodinarealworld.com

I seriously can’t come up with a proper name for this dish.  I serve it as either a side dish or a desert.  It’s a warm, comforting dish with no added sugar.  I can’t find enough information to tell me if it is Paleo or not because of the raisins, so feel free to weigh-in on this my dear Paleo enthusiasts.  Try it, tell me what you think!

Ingredients:

  • 2 apples, diced
  • small handful of raisins, I prefer golden
  • coconut oil, approximately a tablespoon or so
  • cinnamon
  • ginger

In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil over medium heat and add apples.  Stir occasionally for a minute or two and add raisins.  As the raisins warm, they will become slightly syrupy when they mix with the apples.  Add some ginger and cinnamon.  I’d love to give a measurement, but if you are familiar with this blog you know I’m no fan of measuring 😉  Just add more of what you like, and less of things you don’t.  Or leave things out, it’s your kitchen and your rules!  Stir your mixture occasionally until your apples are cooked to your desired tenderness.  Serve warm.  I’m sure it is also good cold, but I can assure you that it will not last that long.  The coconut oil imparts such a good flavor, I highly recommend not substituting that if at all possible.

Lentil Tacos

Lentil Tacos realfoodinarealworld.com

Stay with me, it sounds a little strange, but it is good!  Like, really good.  Hubby pronounced it really good and looks forward to me making it again good.  Cue the angels singing!  It is simple too!  It’s been beautiful outside so local toddler and I have been spending most of our days outdoors.  I was able to fix this meal fairly quickly.

First, you will cook your lentils.  Sort if you haven’t already and rinse well.  Cook your lentils one cup lentils to three cups water.  I kept running in and out of the house, so I actually just brought them to a boil, killed the heat, and let it sit covered on the stove for an hour or so.

Then, drain well and add your taco seasoning.  Are you making your own taco seasoning yet?  Allow me to convince you!  Add some water (half a cup or so) to the seasoned lentils and cook on low until the water is absorbed.  Done!

Enjoy your taco “meat” just as you would any other meat!  We topped ours with some Garden Fresh salsa, Calder Dairy sour cream (Tofutti for me), lettuce, tomato, and avocado.  Happy Meatless Monday!

VegFest, Part Two

Find the first installment of VegFest reviews here

Still thinking about how fun VegFest was!  It was a great mix of people; from full Vegans, to Meatless Monday people like myself and everybody in between.  There were so many great vendors there, I don’t know that I can cover them all.  I do want to make sure I show off a few of my favorites.

First up is The Brinery.

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The Brinery is an Ann Arbor company that creates all sorts of raw fermented foods (pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi etc).  One of their company missions is to use locally sourced produce for all of their products, their tagline is “Our mission is to stimulate peoples inner economy, as well as Michigans economy.”

 I’m showcasing them even though I’m not usually a huge fan of fermented foods.  However, anybody I know that tries their products falls in love instantly.  I made Local Jacky sample one of everything for research!  I tried the carrots, and I liked them!  Their products are carried at local markets, and a few are even carried by Door to Door Organics.

Simply Suzanne

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I had actually tried Simply Suzanne granola previously, through Door to Door Organics.  Simply Suzanne is a granola and trail mix company based out of Detroit.  I really love a good granola to snack on.  I make my own most of the time, but it is good to have a good company out there when you want to buy some.  I really like all of the Simply Suzanne flavors, I’m especially partial to the two chocolate ones.  I have purchased the cherry for my mom as well.  Simply Suzanne products are carried by many grocery stores, I have even seen them at a local Kroger store.

The Spice & Tea Exchange of Birmingham

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I can not wait to go visit The Spice and Tea Exchange!  I seriously sniffed and tasted everything at their table.  For the longest time I have lamented not having a local spice shop.  I do buy bulk spices at Zerbo’s in Livonia, but I am beyond excited to find an entire shop devoted to spices and tea!  I’m really into canning and I’ve been learning more and more about spices to experiment with.  They had a carrot cupcake tea that I must have smelled 847 times.  I’m still kicking myself for not buying it.  (I’m really cheap, if you dear readers haven’t figured that out by now.)

Birmingham Chocolate

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I only have blurry pictures, probably because I was excited about chocolate!  I am definitely a chocolate girl.  Especially good dark chocolate.  Birmingham Chocolate was sampling a dark chocolate peanut cluster and it was really, really good.  The chocolate was dark and velvety.  I fully plan on visiting this shop soon.  I just saw on their website that they had frozen bananas, so I think I can browse around and keep local toddler entertained easily.

I’m going to make a special trip to Birmingham to visit Birmingham Chocolate and The Spice and Tea Exchange.  All in the name of research, dear readers!

VegFest Part One

Yesterday I went to Michigan VegFest, a vegan tastefest and expo.  I had never been before but a girlfriend (hereafter referred to as “Local Jacky”) asked me if I wanted to join her.  I am so glad I said yes!  Neither of us are vegan, but we are both trying to increase the amount of plant-based meals we prepare.  I also have a dairy allergy, so vegan items are perfect for me!

Vegfest realfoodinarealworld.com

Must eat all the tasty treats!

Neither of us was sure what to expect, and we were so surprised at the amount of food to sample!  We ate our way through every table in the name of research!  It’s nearly impossible to pick any favorites of all the amazing things I tried today.  I will give you a few of the standouts, and I will be sure to cover more very soon!

Vegfest realfoodinarealworld.com

Gabby’s Garden Organic

I tried the kale tabouli with quinoa salad and the Moroccan lentil salad.  I really liked them both, but the Morrocan lentil salad was one of the best lentil dishes that I have ever tasted.  The mixture of spices was amazing!  Local Jacky sampled the pure protein salad and loved it as well.

Vegfest realfoodinarealworld.com

Met the lovely ladies of Sweet Magnolias Vegan Cupcakes!  They were on Food Network Cupcake Wars last night!  Their cupcakes are fantastic, one of those “I can’t believe this is vegan” moments.  I now need to try every flavor.  I had the double chocolate and it was as delish as it sounds.

Vegfest realfoodinarealworld.com

Krishna Catering & Restaurant was sampling their Aldo Channa and Biryani rice.  Amazing!!  The Aldo Channa is a potato and garbanzo bean dish mixed with a tomato sauce and spices.  Both dishes were delicious!  The super nice guys working the booth told me to come to the restaurant on Tuesdays for their lunch buffet special, only $5.50!  I’m not well versed in Indian Food, so I think a buffet will be a great intro.  Local toddler and I will go on a lunch date and bring back a full report!

I have so many more companies to talk about and recipes to share, I will be bringing you more in the upcoming weeks!

Why Meatless Monday?

Meatless Monday realfoodinarealworld.com

The history of Meatless Monday actually goes back a lot further than the 2003 rebranding that most of us have heard of.  Meatless Mondays began during World War One as a way to support the war efforts.  Families were asked to decrease the amounts of wheat and meat that they consumed.  The rationing was to help conserve resources for the soldiers and for the people affected by lack of supply.  If you follow this link, you can see a poster from the United States Food Administration that was given to families to post in their homes. The first “meat substitute” I found was cottage cheese.

Meatless Monday realfoodinarealworld.com

During WWII, stricter rations were put in place on families, with the ration books being given out.  The ration books covered a multitude of items, both foodstuffs and things like gasoline.  Families had to learn how to make do with what they had.

Meatless Monday realfoodinarealworld.com

Nowadays, we call this “frugal” but during the World Wars, this was daily survival.

Meatless Monday realfoodinarealworld.com

The World Wars encouraged many families to grow a victory garden, and to preserve produce for the winter.  *Fun fact; the city I live in was originally designated for this purpose.  The original city model had one acre of land for each home so families could have a small farm to provide for themselves.

Meatless Monday realfoodinarealworld.com

American Altruism at it’s finest.

Meatless Monday realfoodinarealworld.com

Meatless Monday as we know it today exists for a multitude of reasons.  Those reasons may vary for each family.  For my family, Meatless Monday is a way to set ourselves up for a healthy week.  We save some money (Your meat should be expensive.  If it isn’t, take a look at why it is cheap).  We get more fruits and vegetables in our systems.  We also expand our palates.  The Standard American Diet (SAD, what a coincidence) is very high in meat and starch.  Now, I love me some meat and starch; but I find that as we eat more meatless meals, I start to appreciate the flavors of all the other good things we eat.  Things taste brighter and sweeter when they aren’t swimming in meat.

Need some meatless inspiration?

Vegan Eggplant Burgers (so much more delicious than they sound)

Mushroom Stroganoff

Lentil Soup

Mushroom Stroganoff

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This is the current favorite meal in our Meatless Monday rotation.  I have mentioned before that my husband is a “meat and potatoes” man, so our meatless meals need to be hearty and filling.  This is my adaptation of the one from Skinny Taste that is all over Pinterest lately.

Gather your ingredients:

  • 1Tbsp oil (or any fat of choice)
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 2Tbsp flour
  • 2 cups broth
  • 1Tbsp Worcestershire
  • 1 tsp ketchup
  • mushrooms, chopped (approximately 16 oz total.  I use baby bellas)
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 2 Tbsp wine or liquid of choice
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (I use Better than Sour Cream by Tofutti, its amazing)
  • 8 oz pasta
  • salt and pepper, to taste
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I’m working really hard on my food iPhoneography, I’m kind of proud of this one.

Cook the noodles to just shy of being done.  They will get thrown in with the sauce later to finish cooking for a minute or so

While the noodles cook, saute the onions in the oil.  Add the flour and stir for thirty seconds.  Gradually add the broth, ketchup and Worcestershire in small doses while stirring constantly.  (you are building a roux, which is what will eventually thicken the sauce)

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I feel so Julia Child when making a roux!

Add the mushrooms, thyme, and season with salt and pepper.

Stir and cook until thickened and bubbly, about 5 minutes

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Add wine (I use whatever is around, even water sometimes) and bring to a boil

Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes

Remove from heat, stir in sour cream and noodles

Enjoy!

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe