Enter…Fall. Roasted Vegetable and Kale Stew

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So here we are…Fall has fallen, so to speak, and October is upon us! (What happened to September??? I don’t have my Fall banner up yet!)

I love Fall, actually, and especially October. I was born in October (today is my birthday, as a matter of fact), and I love the crispness in the air, the changing colors of the leaves and the deep blue of the autumnal sky. And while I do miss all of the summer vegetables, there’s a lot to be said for this season’s variety of fruits and veggies, too.

Even though we still have 80 degree temps this week, here’s a very fall-ish dish for those cooler nights. This roasted vegetable and kale stew is filled to the brim with hearty veggies and earthy greens. Potatoes, carrots, green beans and squash are roasted first to concentrate and caramelize their flavors. Tender leeks are sautéed with a bit of fresh garlic, salt and pepper. Then a little chicken broth (or vegetable broth or all water) is added to the pot along with some tomatoes, herbs, the roasted veggies and fresh kale. Cook until the flavors blend and you have Fall in a bowl! And as with most soups and stews, it gets better each day after you make it, and freezes well. Continue reading

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A is for Apples: A Savory Bread Pudding and an Apple Oat Walnut Bar

Fall isn’t Fall without apple bars, breads, cakes, cookies, crisps, bread puddings, salads and soups!

Do you have seasonal favorite dishes that you like to make? As each year rolls around, I look forward with great anticipation to tasting some favorite dishes once more, and it seems like periodically they are due for a wee makeover. Not that there was anything wrong with them the first time around, but just because I think…’Wow, wouldn’t this be good with this or that added to it?’ Or, ‘What if I tried making that into something else?’ Here are two new dishes, not quite the same as the old dishes—and both involve one of my favorite seasonal ingredients, apples! Continue reading

Falling for Salad: Baby Kale with Fall Fruits, Pecans and Candied Ginger

I’d love to take credit for the simply brilliant idea of using candied (crystallized) ginger in a salad…but I can’t.

I was at The Porter in Atlanta recently meeting some friends and sharing some craft beers, when a salad on their menu caught my eye…it mentioned candied ginger. Candied ginger! What a fabulous addition to a salad with fruit in it…why didn’t I think of that? I didn’t order it because it wasn’t what I wanted to have with beer that night, but the friend sitting next to me did, and kindly offered me a bite. I had just that one bite…and I knew I had to make my own version the moment the leaves touched my lips! It was a baby kale salad with fruits, nuts and ginger, and I told my friend I was absolutely going to try and recreate this fall salad. And I think my version tastes even better than the bite I remember…full of festive flavors.

Baby kale, which is a bit bitter in its raw state, becomes something quite different when tossed with a cooked hard apple cider and shallot vinaigrette. Then add in some sweet toasted local pecans and crisp local Fuji apples, a Bartlett pear, a bit of candied ginger and this salad really comes alive. I’m not usually one to toss my salads because I don’t like for my greens to wilt under the dressing or to be overly dressed. But I have to say that this fall salad must be tossed to really enjoy the full flavor and to achieve a perfect bond between the ingredients. As the slightly warm and tart vinaigrette coats the sturdy kale leaves it begins to permeate them, creating a wonderful balance to the bitterness, turning it into bittersweet. The candied ginger is a perfect foil for the kale and is a spice match with the apple vinaigrette, fresh apple, pear and pecans.

And yes, if you don’t like kale, you can absolutely use your favorite greens in this salad. In fact, I think you’ll find that my hard cider vinaigrette is a wonderful dressing for any green salad that utilizes fresh or dried fruits, root veggies or nuts. We’ve really, well…fallen for for this salad, and I hope you will, too!

Baby Kale Salad with Fall Fruits, Pecans, Candied Ginger and Hard Apple Cider Vinaigrettte
Makes 4 servings

For the Hard Cider Vinaigrette:
2 large shallots, peeled and minced, about 1/2 cup
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup hard apple cider (such as Crispin)
1 teaspoon honey
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:
8 cups fresh raw baby kale leaves, washed and dried, trim off long stems
20 pecan halves, lightly toasted and broken into pieces
1 Tablespoon finely chopped candied (crystallized) ginger
1 fresh Bartlett or other favorite pear, cored and cut into thin slices
1 fresh Fuji or other favorite apple, cored and cut into thin slices

Heat the 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring until they begin to soften and are just about to start turning brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add the hard apple cider and the honey, bring to a simmer and allow to cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring, until the mixture has reduced by about a quarter. Remove from the heat and pour into a medium sized bowl. Whisk in the cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, kosher salt and black pepper. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil until the mixture is emulsified.

In a large bowl, combine the kale leaves, pecans, ginger, pear and apple. Pour over about 1/3 cup of the warm dressing and toss to coat well. Add a bit more dressing if needed to ensure that everything has a light coating of the dressing. Serve alongside your favorite dish or some roasted vegetable soup! The remaining dressing will keep for several days stored in an airtight jar in the fridge.

And now for something completely different…Kale Calzones with Spicy Marinara

It tastes as good as it looks, and is yet another dish you can't feel guilty about eating and enjoying!

Our CSA boxes have been pretty repetitive of late, but they happen to be featuring some of my favorite ingredients to work with and in particular, broccoli and kale. I made some of my Penne with Fresh Broccoli and Garlic last week—always a quick and tasty dish—but wanted to figure out something different to do with the kale other than my usual sauteed side dish or a main pasta dish. After casting about for a while looking for ideas from other recipes, I decided on calzones, and this dish was born: Kale Calzones with Spicy Marinara. Continue reading

Don’t Touch That Dial: It’s a HEALTHY Bread Pudding!

Butternut Squash, Kale and Parmesan Bread Pudding. Very tasty, very satisfying and very vegetarian!

Bread Pudding. The mere mention makes me want some. I love it sweet…the traditional way with whisky sauce (no raisins or pineapple in that please), or chocolatey—I had a chocolate banana bread pudding once that almost made me swoon—or cinnamon caramel-y with pecans and bourbon whipped cream will do nicely, too. I love it savory…that Ham, Fontina and Spinach bread pudding could yet be my downfall. They are all fantastic, and all, alas, rather caloric. In my mind, the words “Healthy” and “Bread Pudding” just don’t go together.

Until now. Continue reading

Veddy Veggie Soup

This is the tree we got for our cats this year…a live cat-sized tree! The angel ornament on top is a gift from a friend and fellow cat lover who brought it back for me from her trip to Paris. The plaque at the bottom is St. Gertrude of Nivelles, the Patron Saint of Cats. The spoiled pussycats themselves are across the room eyeing the tree.

Well now. After a whole weekend of fun and frolic, great artwork and party food, and general misbehavin’, I’m exhausted and feel the need to recharge with something healthy and yet comforting for dinner. It’s time for some homemade veggie soup. Continue reading

Eat Your (Winter) Greens!

Up until a few short years ago, nothing could have convinced me that greens would ever become something that I loved. I’m not speaking of lettuce or spinach, but winter greens like chard, kale and collards. Then one day I decided to be bold and try some kale that had come in our CSA box and I combined it in a saute with other ingredients I knew I liked. Imagine my surprise when the end result was a savory and satisfying dish that brought out the natural sweetness of the kale. Then I tried it with chard and it worked equally well. “Hmmm, maybe I’m on to something here,” I said to myself. The next time I made some greens this way, I had extra and added them to some pasta with roasted tomatoes and sausage, and hence my Penne with Kale, Sausage and Roasted Tomatoes recipe was born and you can see that post here. Now I’ve come to love them so much I grow two kinds of kale in my garden and it’s one of my favorite side dishes to make while winter greens are in season. Fortunately it’s a nice long season where we live! Continue reading

Penne for Your Thoughts?

Tonight’s supper is my Penne with Kale, Sausage and Roasted Tomatoes recipe. In the beginning, I always made this with Sweet Italian Pork Sausage, but now I substitute Chicken Sausage to make a healthier dish. This takes a little effort in prep and cooking time, but it’s worth it, and the result is a somewhat Sicilian-inspired dish. Continue reading