Those of you who know me, know that I LOVE me some sandwiches. Unfortunately, since I’ve cut waaaaaay back on my gluten intake, I rarely eat them anymore. So what’s a girl to do?
Well, on occasion if I’m really in a sandwich mood, I’ll use a gluten-free bread or brown rice wrap, but some days it doesn’t cut the mustard. So I was noodling around on the internet and discovered some amazing recipes for collard green wraps. Now, I have made lettuce wraps before, but they don’t always hold up well if you’re transporting them. So this notion of wrapping my sandwich deliciousness in a dark leafy green rocked my world. I was kicking myself for not having thought of it earlier!
Collard green wraps are a healthy way to jazz up your traditional sandwich or wrap regardless of whether or not you’re gluten-free. You can stuff them with something more conventional like a tuna, chicken or egg salad or you could fill them with your favorite veggie toppings such as red pepper, sweet potato, avocado, fresh herbs and some type of protein such as hummus, quinoa or legumes.
Here is the recipe I made with families at the Washington Youth Garden a few weeks ago:
Collard Green Wraps
Source: Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen
Servings: 4 wraps
- 4 large collard green leaves*
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
- 1 cup of tender greens or micro-greens
- 2 cups of raw or roasted julienned or grated beets, peeled
- small handful of scallions, chopped
- 1 cup of radishes, sliced or julienned
- 1 cup of potatoes, boiled or roasted (red, white, sweet)*
- ½ cup of basil, marjoram or lemon thyme, chopped
- ½ cup goat cheese (optional)
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 TBSP tahini or cashew butter
1. Prepare the collard leaves by cutting off the stems at the base of each leaf, then, using a paring knife, carefully cut the thick bump of stem off the back of the leaf so it becomes flush to the leaf. This will make the collard flatter and easier to roll.
2. Blanch greens, by placing them in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and place in a bowl of ice cold water to cool. Note, you can also use the leaves raw if you don’t mind the texture.
3. Prepare the vegetables as indicated above.
4. In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients and whisk together. Adjust ingredients to taste. Drizzle over prepared veggies and herbs.
5. Layer veggie mixture at the base of the collard green leaf. Fold the collard sides over and roll tightly like a burrito. You can serve it immediately or store in the fridge, wrapped, for about 2 days.
*Notes: For a larger wrap, use 2 leaves at a time, overlap them halfway to create a bigger wrapping surface.
Feel free to add any combination of veggies and herbs, depending on the season. In lieu of potatoes, you could also add 2 cups quinoa, millet or buckwheat, soaked for 7 hours and cooked or beans, soaked for 12 hours and cooked. If you’re in a hurry, stuff with store bought hummus and/or guacamole!
I have pinned a few other collard green wrap ideas on Pinterest. Feel free to check it out. Post your collard green wrap recipe ideas below!
It’s that that time of year when the body kicks its natural cleansing process into overdrive. If you’re like many folks, your body has built up a few extra toxins from the Holiday season. Too much sugar, refined carbs and poor fat sources congest the body leaving our cleansing systems backed-up. When your elimination systems aren’t working optimally, your immune system becomes compromised leaving your body open to colds, flus and other infections.
There are several things you can do right now to keep the “bug” at bay.
Increase your vegetable intake, especially antioxidant rich foods such dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, carrots and winter squash. Dark leafy greens are full of nutrients that support a healthy body and mind. They are also hydrating and full of fiber which supports regular bowel movements. Both dark leafy greens and orange colored veggies like sweet potatoes and winter squash are full of pro-vitamin A/beta-carotene which is a crucial nutrient for the immune system. Vegetables should be the foundation of any diet as they are the most nutrient rich foods out there and won’t congest the body. If you’re not a fan of eating vegetables, consider juicing them, blending them into a smoothie or pureeing them into a soup.
Hydrate with bone broth and fresh vegetable juices. Hydration is key to keeping nutrients moving into your cells and wastes moving out of them. Water also helps to support elimination. Finally, your body has numerous mucus membranes which protect the body including those in the lungs, nasal passages, eyes and digestive tract. To keep the mucus from becoming too thin or too thick and sticky, the body requires adequate hydration. If your mucus membranes aren’t functioning well, you’re leaving yourself open to pathogens.
Eat your sea vegetables. Sea veggies are full of important minerals and omega-3 fatty acids that are crucial co-factors for many processes that the body must accomplish each daily to stay healthy. In particular, sea veggies are full of calcium, iron and iodine which nourishes the thyroid. The thyroid keeps the timing of all of the body’s processes on point. If the body is running too slow, one can become constipated, stagnant and eventually sick. If the body runs too quickly, it can wear out important tissues and organs. Last but not least, sea vegetables help to detoxify and transform toxins in the body so they can be excreted harmlessly.
Dump the sugar. Sugar and other refined carbohydrates are one of the most congesting and acidifying foods for the body. Holistic health practitioners agree that disease does not survive in an alkaline environment. Sea veggies, dark leafy greens, bone broths and other mineral rich foods help to keep the blood’s pH slightly alkaline. Instead of refined carbs, consume complex carbohydrates found in whole grains and vegetables.
Relax and take time to play. One of the biggest toxins attacking our immune systems is in our heads – STRESS. Believe it or not, stress is more toxic than a Big Mac (sorry to pick on you, Big Mac). So, it doesn’t matter how healthy your are if you’re a stress bucket most of the time! Your body is designed to respond to short-term stressors. It doesn’t know the difference between a bear and your boss (although for some of us, our bosses look more like bears every day). As a result, your body produces stress hormones which in time, take their toll and compromise the immune system. The only prescription for this condition is relaxation and play. Relax or play each day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. When you relax, you’re telling your body that the emergency is over so it can go back to doing what it does best – taking care of all your body’s systems, not just the ones involved in an emergency situation.
Pick the thing on this list that resonates with you the most first. Then add one new tip each week over the next month or so. If you can commit to it, I guarantee this works better than any flu shot!
A couple of weeks ago, I did a cooking demo for BioReliance’s employee health fair. I made a few interesting dishes including a kale, white bean and potato soup, a lentil, sausage and swiss chard skillet and a pan roasted butternut squash and goat cheese salad with toasted shallots, sage and pecans. Although people liked all three dishes, the roasted butternut squash salad seemed to be the favorite. I really like this dish because I love salads, but they tend to be too cooling for me during the winter. If I add some roasted veggies and warming spices and herbs, it’s a great combination for my damp constitution!
To create your own, warm winter salad, roast your favorite root vegetable(s) and then mix them with your favorite toasted nuts, herbs and even cheese. Make a tasty homemade salad dressing and toss with fresh greens such as spinach, watercress, arugula, endive and/or radicchio. In just a few moments, you have a scrumptious starter salad for a Holiday menu or even a satisfying mid-week entree salad.
Here are a few ideas for warm winter salad combinations followed by the recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad. Any of these roasted vegetable options would work well with the basic dijon vinaigrette mentioned in this recipe. Have fun experimenting!
winter squash (i.e. butternut, acorn, kabocha, delicata)
shaved Pecorino Romano
Roasted Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese & Arugula Salad
Serves: 4 to 6
- ¼ cup lightly toasted pecan halves
- 2 bunches arugula leaves (about 4 cups)
- 1 ½ cups shredded radicchio
- 1 butternut squash, halved & seeded
- 1 cup of blue cheese or goat cheese, crumbled
- coconut oil, extra virgin unrefined
- 2 TBSP thyme
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 TBSP finely diced shallot or red onion
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
- 1 TBSP dijon mustard
- ½ TBSP maple syrup
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Halve the butternut squash and scoop out the seeds. Peel and cube (~1-inch cubes). Place in a roasting pan greased with extra virgin coconut oil. Bake approximately 30 to 45 minutes.
- In a medium hot skillet (un-oiled), toast pecan pieces, turning every few minutes.
- Wash arugula well and trim stems if necessary. Use whole leaves or tear into bite-size pieces if leaves are too large. Place in a medium-size bowl.
- Add shredded radicchio, crumbled goat cheese and toasted pecans to arugula and toss gently. Set aside while you prepare the dressing.
- In a small skillet, heat 1 TBSP of the coconut oil. Add shallot and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add thyme and sea salt. Add butternut squash and brown. Once browned, drizzle with olive oil.
- Whisk together dressing ingredients. Pour over salad, toss very gently, and add cubes of squash to top. Serve immediately on individual salad plates.
This is the time of year when I can’t wait to get my hands on all of the beautiful, colorful winter squash at the market. There is something so alive and sensual about winter squash this time of year. I enjoy almost all of them in a variety of dishes, but one of my favorite ways to prepare winter squash is to halve it and stuff it with something scrumptious like one of my favorite whole grains, greens, nuts and dried fruit. If I’m feeling frisky, I may even add little bits of ground venison or pastured pork sausage bits for flavor and to make my husband happy.
I was playing in the kitchen the other night and came up with the following recipe. Enjoy!
Stuffed Acorn Squash with Swiss Chard, Pecans, Dried Cherries & Buckwheat
- 1 acorn squash, halved
- 2 sausage links (from pastured, organic animals or wild game)
- 2 cups of cooked buckwheat (sprout overnight, then follow the directions below)
- 2 TBSP maple syrup
- 1 leek
- ¾ cup dried cherries
- ½ cup toasted, chopped pecans
- 1 bunch of Swiss Chard
- 2 TBSP of fresh or dried thyme (may need more if fresh)
- 2 TBSP of marjoram
- olive oil
- sea salt
Note: The ingredient measurements are approximations. Unfortunately for you, I’m a cook that hates to dirty a measuring cup or spoon.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Halve an acorn squash. You could also use Kabocha, Carnival or Delicata squash for this recipe. Place squash flesh side down in a pan with a ¼ inch of water. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes.
- Pre-soak buckwheat in water with a splash of raw apple cider vinegar overnight. Drain and toast in a skillet. Place in a pot and add water until the level is about ½ inch above the buckwheat line. Cook until there is no water left in the pot.
- Saute sausage in a large skillet. Remove and slice into small pieces. Saute leeks in the pan and then add Swiss chard. Add sausage after Swiss chard is tender.
- Once the buckwheat is done, add to to the mixture. In a separate pan, toast pecans. Add the pecans, dried cherries, maple syrup, salt, thyme, olive oil and marjoram. If more moisture is needed, add water or stock.
- Once the squash halves are soft, stuff the mixture inside the halves. You may wish to grate some fresh pecorino cheese on top. Bake in the oven for an additional 15 minutes.
Let me know how you like it. Also, you can exchange buckwheat with any whole grain, pecans with any nut, cherries with any dried fruit and Swiss chard with any green. The possibilities are endless and make for an interesting stuffed squash dish!
Of all the flavors, we are most familiar with sweet and salty. These are the tastes we tend to gravitate towards; however, this limited palate prevents us from experiencing the benefits of the healing properties of spicy/pungent, sour and bitter foods.
So you may be asking yourself, “Kim, what the heck is a bitter food and why should I give a hoot?”
Well, bitters are actually a group of plant compounds that are used by the plant to protect itself against pathogens, predators and oxidative damage. In nature, some bitter compounds are poisonous. Yet many animals, including us, have learned over time to forage for mildly bitter plants and eat them in small amounts, thus building up an immunity to protect them from the highly bitter plants. Plus, if the bitter compounds protect the plant, perhaps they will also protect us.
Now you may be scratching your head and wondering how this benefits you. It turns out that bitters have a variety of health benefits.
Bitters stimulate your digestive system which strengthens your liver, stomach, gall bladder, pancreas and small and large intestines. Many health conditions that we experience today, such as high cholesterol, diabetes, IBS and indigestion may be due to/exacerbated by a lack of bitter foods in our diets.
Bitters increase healthy bile flow which helps your liver get rid of toxins. Bile is secreted into the intestines where it can be used to emulsify fats, alkalize the environment for carbohydrate digesting enzymes and help eliminate waste products. Bile also helps the body use important fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). Bitters can be very helpful for people with hepatitis and other compromised livers conditions.
Bitters are anti-inflammatory! They help to ensure the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach which ensures good protein digestion. Often times, people with indigestion think they have too much acid in the stomach when in reality they don’t have enough hydrochloric acid (stomach pH is too high) to digest protein effectively. Undigested proteins putrefy in the gut and can cause inflammation of the bowels which leads to leaky gut syndrome. Some symptoms of leaky gut syndrome include: food allergies, eczema, skin rashes and other skin disorders, headaches, migraines, joint pain, chronic fatigue and heartburn.
Bitters help to ensure that the pancreas is secreting the appropriate amount of enzymes to break down foods which prevents putrefaction and inflammation of the gut. This means less gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. When your gut lining is healthy, you will be healthy, too, as a healthy gut is strongly correlated with a healthy immune system.
Bitters also help stimulate the pancreas to secrete insulin and glucagon, two hormones that are important to stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Bitters have anti-carciongenic and antioxidant powers. Here is an article that references some of the specific bitter compounds and their benefits.
You’re convinced that you need more bitters in your diet, but what are they and how do you get them?
There are a variety of ways to incorporate bitters into your diet. The most common way is to enjoy a variety of wild and cultivated bitter greens such as dandelion, chicory, arugula, radicchio, escarole, turnip greens, mustard greens, watercress and endive. These greens can be used raw in salads, braised with garlic and olive oil or blended in a soup.
Enjoying a bitter cocktail before a meal is another way to incorporate bitters into your diet. Traditionally, concoctions using Angostura bitters, Amer Picon, Campari, Cynar, Chartreuse, Dubonnet, Fernet Branca, Byrrh, Punt è Mes, Suze, Jägermeister, and Peychaud’s or Fee Brothers bitters were considered health tonics. If you do enjoy a cocktail on occasion, consider a bitter beverage before your eat or add a few drops of a bitters formula to your water.
You can also get your bitters through teas such as dandelion root, milk thistle, red clover, and nettles. Alvita has a great line of herbal teas. In addition bitter, unsweetened chocolate and even certain wines offer some bitter benefits. Finally, you may even consider a Swedish Bitter formula from Gaia Herbs, Herb Pharm or Nature Works. Urban Moonshine makes some fantastic travel bitters sprays.
So the next time you have that sweet or salty craving, reach for something bitter instead. Your body will thank you.
I love gardening, but sometimes your best intentions can go awry. Last fall, I planted greens in my cold frame, but then I kind of…sort of…very much…completely forgot about them over the Holidays. Needless to say, the only drought survivors were a row of mache and a mess of chickweed. Knowing that chickweed (Stellaria media) is chock full of nutrients such as B6, B12, C, D, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, sodium, copper, and silica, I knew that I had to do something with it. So I made a few nutrient recipes that I will share with you today!
Sauteed Chickweed & Cabbage
- 3 TBSP olive oil
- 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
- tsp cayenne pepper
- 6 garlic cloves
- several handfuls of chickweed, chopped
- 2 cups cabbage, chopped
- dash of sea salt and pepper
- 1 tsp of cumin seeds
I sautéed the cabbage and chickweed in a little water for about 10 minutes or until tender and then added the rest of the ingredients and mixed. Joe prepared a side of venison to go along with our “wild” evening, and it was pretty darn tasty except that the chickweed was a little chewy. I should have removed the stems or used “younger” chickweed. Live and learn! The beauty of this dish is that you can use a variety of seasoning combinations. Think about how you like to prepare spinach and substitute chickweed. “Wildman” Steve Brill uses cumin, chiles, Brewer’s yeast and ground cloves in his “Chickweed Delight” recipe. I’ll have to try that next!
My next chickweed experiment this week was delicious! It was inspired by “Wildman” Steve Brill’s Chickweed Bean Spread.
- 2 cups soaked and cooked aduki beans
- 2 TBSP coconut vinegar
- 4 TBSP olive oil
- 2 tsp dried tarragon
- 2 tsp Lydia’s Organic Seasoning (a must have for your pantry!)
- 2 shallots
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 cup chickweed leaves
- small handful of chives
- ¼ cup of red miso
- juice of 1 lime
- sea salt and pepper to taste
I added the lime juice, miso, olive oil, shallot, garlic and seasonings to the food processor and pulsed for a bit. Then I added the aduki beans and processed for a minute or two. After the mixture became smooth, I added the chickweed and chives. Voila!
Unfortunately, according to my Facebook Friends, the picture of the pâté looks more like poop; however, I thought that was appropriate since chickweed is full of fiber which is helpful to elimination. 🙂
This morning, while writing this post, I sipped on fresh chickweed tea. While it tasted refreshing on its own, I added a lavender-lemon-mint tea for some extra kick. Just pour boiling water over a ¼ to ½ cup chickweed, cover and let steep for about 15 minutes. Because it’s so nutrient rich, this would be a wonderful concoction to accompany and detoxification program. In particular, it supports the kidneys. You could add other herbs and drink hot or pour over some ice for a truly refreshing beverage.
Last month I had nine eager young chefs in my kitchen. We gathered to chat about how the health of the soils relates to the nutrient value in the plants that we eat. Bottom Line? Healthy soils = healthy people. After tracing ingredients in our favorite foods back to the soil and discussing the plant parts that we eat, the students headed to the food prep area to practice their knife skills. They learned proper techniques for chopping veggies such as carrots, cucumbers, peppers and onions. These ingredients were combined to create a tasty lentil salad that we shared together on the patio during a beautiful crisp autumn day.
Parents often ask me how to get their kids to eat healthy and my response is to get them involved in a part of the process. For some, it’s growing fresh veggies and fruits. For others kids, its’s creating simple dishes using fun kitchen tools. In my experience working with youth, I have found that they are more likely to eat fresh fruits and veggies if they are involved in the entire process, from seed to plate. I wanted to share some of my tips for getting kids involved!
Give them a space in a kitchen cupboard to keep smaller, kid-friendly pots, pans, cutting board, a salad spinner and their other favorite kitchen utensils.
Give them a small shelf or drawer in the refrigerator with ingredients to make their own snacks. Some healthy snacks that your kids might store in the refrigerator include: cut veggies, grape tomatoes, fruit, nut butters, hummus, yoghurt dip, cottage cheese, black bean bean dip and hard-boiled eggs.
Purchase an inexpensive child’s apron or chef’s hat at your local craft store and let your child decorate it with fabric markers, appliques and puffy paint.
Provide a sturdy stool so that your child can reach the counter and sink. The object of the game is to make them as comfortable as possible. I find that these Kikkerland foldable stools from Bed, Bath and Beyond work very well and they come in fun colors!
If your child is old enough and mature enough to handle the responsibility of a knife, have them help cut fruits and veggies. If you never learned proper knife techniques and safety, consider taking a knife skills class and sharing that information with your child. Also, sign your child up for a cooking class that emphasizes knife skills and safety. This is the first think I teach in my cooking classes. Remember, a dull knife is a dangerous knife. I find it silly to give children tools (this goes for gardening tools, too) that aren’t sturdy or effective because they aren’t safe and it simply frustrates them and turns them off to cooking and gardening. With my kids cooking classes, I use Kuhn Rikon’s 3-inch Mini Prep Knife and Cuisinart’s 5-inch Santoku Knife.
Have them help with the following tasks, especially if they are not old enough to use a knife:
- Measure ingredients.
- Set the table and light candles with assistance from an adult or older sibling.
- Let them choose dinner music.
- Have them make special place mats or place cards for family members and guests.
- Encourage them to help with cleanup.
- Break out the salad spinner and let them wash the lettuce. Kids also enjoy making salad dressing!
During the summer, give them a container in which to grow greens or a few easy herbs such as basil, chives, oregano or parsley (arugula is a great one that can be used as an herb or as a green for salad, sandwiches and pasta).
Get them started in composting indoors or outdoors as it encourages healthier snacks and foods without packaging! Indoor worm composting is a huge hit with kids.
If you have space, create a small veggie and herb garden with your child.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. I’ll be sharing more recipes and tips for cooking with kids in the coming months. In the meantime, enjoy making this lentil salad with your kids!
Source: adapted from The Daily Bean by Suzanne Caciola White
- 4 cups of fresh watercress or spinach
- 4 cups cooked lentils (pre-soak)
- 1 cup chopped yellow pepper
- 1 cup chopped green pepper
- 1 cup chopped red pepper
- 1 cup chopped orange pepper
- 1 cup chopped red onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes (could use more)
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup olive oil
- 4 TBSP balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 splashes of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 TBSP honey
Combine the beans, peppers, lentils, red onion, celery, cherry tomatoes and ¾ of the greens and toss lightly with the dressing.
To make the dressing, whisk together all ingredients and pour over the salad.
Serve on a bed of the leftover greens.