My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Greening Up!

Hey, buds!

Today's predicted to be the first of a three-day stretch of sunny days in the 60's before some rain, cooler temps, and - dare I say it - snow are predicted to settle in through the beginning of next week. I expect that between the warm temps, sunshine and then moisture, things should start greening up around here nicely. But for now we're just seeing a slightly greener cast to our lawn, a few hardy little ground-hugging weeds, and the eager-looking leaf buds on our Linden tree pictured above!

So since the local flora isn't really cooperating yet, I thought I'd share two recent holiday dishes and a favorite snack we've been enjoying that all share the healthy, lively color of spring: green!

Our St. Patrick's Day feast consisted of Tempeh Stuffed Cabbage and copious amounts of mashed potatoes. We've enjoyed this dish every St. Patrick's Day since Mary first posted her recipe and then always wonder why we don't make it more often, especially since it also makes great leftovers. (The reason - too many delicious vegan recipes out there, too little time!) 

Unfortunately I had to take this photo under artificial light since it was snowing and growing dark out, so both the cooking and the lighting made the green cabbage look less-than-green for this photo...

This is a dish that BW and I make as a team - We prepare the tempeh stuffing together (using water in lieu of oil) while I make the sauce and BW preps the cabbage leaves and assembles the rolls (having grown up in Texas, he's a much better burrito roller than I am, too!) :-) Susan at FatFree Vegan Kitchen posted a stuffed cabbage roll recipe this year that uses lentils and grain instead of tempeh and includes a great pictorial on how to prep and roll the cabbage leaves.

In case you haven't noticed, last month was the start of the peak season for asparagus...

Get info about asparagus' history, selection, storage, and preparation here!

We love it, and usually just enjoy it steamed as a side dish. But I'd spied a tantalizing asparagus recipe recently, so when a local grocery store had a great sale on asparagus last Friday I bought three pounds of it and we used two of them in our simple but delicious Easter dinner, Asparagus Pesto Pasta Salad...

We stuck to the recipe except for using organic cherry tomatoes (halved) in lieu of regular sized tomatoes (diced). We skipped the optional oil and used organic whole wheat rotini for the pasta. We really loved this fresh-tasting salad, which we both agreed tastes like summertime. :-) It made a lot, which was good since we each had two big bowls of it for dinner and have been munching on leftovers ever since!

And then there are the kale chips we can't get enough of. I've loved kale chips since first trying some free samples at an arts festival in Boulder a few years ago, but only recently started making them myself. One reason is the recent discovery that oil is not required to get the chips crispy, another is that we have a "dehydrate" feature on our new oven (handy though not required), and the third is that I'll only buy organic kale (here's why) and our sole source in town doesn't always have it, or has it but requires emptying the contents of our 401k and taking out a loan in exchange for one bunch. (A slight exaggeration, but doesn't $5 for one bunch of kale seem a bit steep to you too?) So though we still eat a lot of kale (usually in raw kale salads or steamed with walnut dressing), we've waited till we could get an abundance of it relatively inexpensively before indulging in turning it into kale chips.

There are a ton of kale chips recipes online and a variety of ways to make them crispy. After rinsing and tearing the leaves from the stem into bite-sized pieces and patting them dry, I lay them out on a large, light-colored, non-stick baking pan and spritz them with tamari (I keep a little spray bottle of tamari in the fridge just for this). Then I sprinkle them with a generous amount of nutritional yeast, some garlic powder and a bit of cayenne, and give them a light tamari spritz once more to help hold the seasonings on.

I've been using a variety of methods to turn soggy kale leaves into light and crispy chips.Usually I start with my oven's dehydrate setting at 160º for an hour or two, stir/turn the chips around and dehydrate for another hour or so, by which point I'm impatient to start eating them. :-) So then I switch the oven to bake, the temp to 200º-225ºF, and check and stir them around every 10 minutes or so to make sure they don't burn, until they're crispy. I find it helps to sample several during this process to check their crispiness. ;-)

I've also baked them at the 200º-225º temp the entire time, again checking them frequently and stirring/turning them now and then to prevent burning. There's also Dreena Burton's method for "Oven Dehydrated" Kale Chips (no dehydrator needed!). The trick for baking them is to use low heat (no higher than 300º), check and remove them as they turn crispy while leaving still-soggy ones to cook longer, and keeping an eye on them so they don't burn, while the trick for dehydrating them is patience. :-)

Store any you don't snarf up right away (fat chance) in an air tight container on the counter. I guarantee that container won't be taking up counter space for very long!


  1. Woo Hoo! I'm first!! I don't get to be first too often. Especially since I'm taking a later lunch.

    I got a really cook kitchen thing for Christmas from Michelle. It's a silicone shelf with holes in it that is used in the microwave. It comes with a mandoline and it makes the best sweet potato chips in the world! It makes small batches but only takes 4-5 minutes per batch and they truly are wonderful.

    So now I'm excited about trying kale with it. Kale wasn't in the "recipe" book but if it dries in a dehydrator, it should dry on my gadget. It sounds yummy and so different. I've never heard of dehydrating a green so I'm pretty excited. My "shelf" is packed with the first batch of stuff to be moved (I'm thinking at least three trips before I can move everything in my car) so I should be able to try it soon. That is of course if I can find kale in the UP. My first grocery store stop was pretty awful in the produce dept!!

    The asparagus pesto sounds like a perfect recipe for me eating alone (a half batch). Sounds like a good dinner with enough for lunch the next day so I definitely want to try it. I've e:mailed the recipe to my home address. The stuffed cabbage looks really good too but if I'm honest, more work than I'm willing to do so I'll just have to take your word for it. Tell BW the rolls are very professional looking.

    Wish my lunch had been half as good as these green dishes looked!!

    1. Wow, first commenter, has that EVER happened before? (Maybe once!) Congratulations! :-)

      I've never heard of the silicone microwave dehydrator shelf thingy, but that sounds nifty! And funnily enough, I JUST ordered a mandolin! I want to make dehydrated sweet potatoes for the dogs, and zucchini, sweet potato and potato chips for us (it was finding this potato chip recipe that finally got me to order myself a mandolin!) I'm thinking your gadget should work with kale - the kale shrinks a lot, so you may not end up with much from one batch, but at least patience and burning shouldn't be issues! :-) You've had kale chips before (and liked them), you just don't remember - you were with me in Boulder that time I first tasted them! We both tried the two or three flavors that two women in a food booth had made and were selling. I can't remember what seasonings they used, though. Too bad about the crappy produce department up there, especially since you've been spoiled by Meijer's (sp?), Whole Foods and Randazzo's? Radiccio's? Razzle Dazzle's? :-) I can't remember the name of that awesome product market near your house, the one that's like shopping for food at the UN because of all the different clothes and languages you get to see and hear there. Won't be anything like that in the Youpee, eh?

      A half batch of the asparagus pesto pasta salad should see you through most of a week!

    2. I'm not sure I've ever been the first commenter so it was history in the making.

      I don't at all recall having the kale before but that's nothing to be surprised about and I'm sure it has nothing to do with how good it was or wasn't.

      Randazzo's was the correct name and I LOVED that you likened to shopping at the UN - perfect analogy!! I will definitely miss it. I haven't found everything at the Sault yet so there is some hope!!

  2. That's a nice sounding three day stretch! We're still getting below freezing wind chills with no end in sight. Oh well!

    The cabbage rolls sound great and I can't wait to try the pasta salad. I'm excited that there's a bit more variety in produce lately.

    For some reason, I can't develop a taste for kale chips. I love kale, so I should! I've tried them quite a few times now. Yours look good, though, and Emma & Rowan would definitely snarf them up. They adore kale chips. :)

    1. Man, I thought for sure some of our mellower temps should have reached you by now! I think our friendly neighbor to the north keeps dumping cold yuk on you guys. I'll keep trying to push the warm sunshine eastward though! At least when we implement our "Vegans Invade Wyoming" plan, you'll get to enjoy a lot more sunshine and warmer, dryer temps. ;-)

      You're only the second person I've heard of (though I'm sure there are more) who doesn't care for kale chips. The other is Susan Voisin (FatFree Vegan!) Sounds like you and I would do okay in a life boat together if kale chips were in our survival bag, but I'd Emma, Rowan and I would have serious issues! :-) Willow loves kale chips too, not that I'm very good about sharing them with her!

  3. Yummo. I love asparagus, and make a fine asparagus risotto, with mushrooms and peas added for additional flavour. My recipe isn't quite vegan - I add a little parmesan but I don't see why it couldn't be. And it does use a little olive oil too - am I right in thinking that you don't add any oil? Not certain what the solution would be there but am confident you will know.
    I don't think I have ever had kale chips. I may have to investigage.

    1. Mmmm, I love the idea of the added peas and 'shrooms! The parm can easily be substituted with homemade almond parmesan, store-bought parmesan, or just nutritional yeast. And yes, you're right about the oil, we don't use any added fats, but that's rarely an obstacle to a recipe. So, you gonna share? :-)

  4. Awwwww right. I'd be on board with the asparagus-it is a veggie I actually like, and the asparagus pasta dish-and if there wasn't cabbage, I'd like the cabbage rolls ( I suppose that's not going to work), but I'll let you have all the kale, especially at $5 a bunch. Holy shmoly.
    Sorry about the s word coming your way. Do not, I repeat, not, send any to the north east.

    1. I knew you like asparagus, I remember the photo on your blog of the big steaming pot of it on your stove! It's a real shame you don't seem to like so many cruciferous veggies (cabbage, kale) - they're such nutrient and antioxidant powerhouses. Rabid fans of kale though we are, not even we will pay $5 for it. Especially knowing we can often get it for half that if we wait a bit (and so patience is once again required for kale chips!) :-) If you ever get a chance to try kale chips, I'd suggest it. It just might be a form of kale you'll enjoy. Then again, maybe not - in which case, more for meeeeee!!! :-)

      Hey, talk to the Canadians about any snow you get! It's not coming from me! ;-)

  5. You have featured all the greens I love. Kale chips -- this is a new one with me. Everything is prepared so beautifully!!! Yes. $5.00 is way to much for kale. I think around 2.00 for a large bunch would be more in line for organic kale -- at least that is what I would expect to pay in this part of the country. Great post --- barbara

    1. Thank you bunches, Barbara!

      Hope you'll get a chance to give kale chips a try, we think they're a wonderful snack (I need to make another batch!) Wow, I envy your organic kale prices! I've been told our grocery prices are exceptionally high here. We can usually get beautiful organic kale (in several varieties) at the food co-op in Billings for between $2 and $3/bunch , but we only make that 2 hour drive two or three times a year. Don't know if we'll manage it this year with a 2-week trip planned at the end of June, but we hope to get some raised beds going and grow our own!

  6. Okay, yummy! You've reminded me that I have yet to try kale chips and need to asap! But most of all, I wanted to let you know that the slowest reader image at the bottom of your site put a huge smile on my face and I had to share it all around :) I hope you're doing more than well! P.S. This is Eva from Four Leaf Clover, I couldn't add a comment via my url.

    1. Hi, Eva! (I figured it was you even before you named your blog. :-) I wonder why you couldn't post your comment with your URL??? Do you think it's a Blogger issue?

      I'll be curious to hear what you think of kale chips! Hope you can find or make some soon!

      Thanks for noticing and remarking on the "slowest reader" image. Found that on Pinterest a while back, and given that I've been a very poky reader lately, I knew I had to put it on my blog! I think it's a hoot, and am glad you shared it! :-)

      It's great to hear from you, Eva - I'll be by to visit Four Leaf Clover again as soon as I have some time! (My husband is on vacation and not only are we busy with errands, chores and projects, but I also have to SHARE the computer! Oh, the humanity! LOL)

  7. I like all your spring greens. I've never had asparagus pesto but it does sound intriguing and looks delicious. I love asparagus so might just give this a try. The stuffed cabbage sounds great, too, but I've burned my fingers so many times getting the cabbage leaves cooked that I've switched to collard wraps instead. They taste pretty good and are super easy to do, but seeing your cabbage rolls makes me want to give them another shot.

    1. I'm not sure what it was about that asparagus recipe, it being one of hundreds of tempting recipes I've been finding and stashing away lately, but I couldn't get it out of my mind and knew I had to make it. We just bought more asparagus (not on sale anymore, unfortunately!) and pasta in order to make another batch today or tomorrow. I can't imagine a fellow asparagus lover not enjoying it, so hope you'll be able to give it a try!

      The cabbage leaves are a bit of a hazard, but they sure are good. I have been wanting to make collard wraps for a long time now, but can't get organic collard greens here (and even the conventionally grown ones usually look awful). I love a collard wrap!

  8. Just made Kale chips as a side dish tonight! My girls are loving them - and last night was crispy Brussels sprouts to add to our salads :) Thank you for all the info on going sans oil with the chips! And now you've made me crave cabbage rolls too :)

    1. Oh fun! I'm glad your girls are loving the kale chips! It can be a fun way to stuff kids full of kale if they don't like it any other way. :-) (And you're most welcome for the oil-free kale chips tip!) :-)

      Now you must tell me more about the crispy Brussels sprouts! Did you roast them, fry them, dehydrate them? We always steam them, but I really want to start trying them in different ways, like roasting them, so you've got me intrigued!

  9. Delicious shots!

    1. I know, I wish they were interactive so you could reach in with your fork (or hey, we're casual here - with your fingers!) and grab some samples to try! :-)


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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