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Eat kale, one of natures healthiest foods

This just might be a new item on your family's list of favorite foods
by: SUBMITTED PHOTO Kale is one of the healthiest foods in the world and develops its best flavor and color after a period of cold weather. This variety is called by many names including Lacinato, Tuscan, and black or dinosaur kale.

Just as everything in husband Mark's garden is coming to the end of its season, the kale is coming on strong. I'm told kale develops its best flavor and color only after a period of cold weather so what he is growing should be pretty tasty now.

Kale is one of the lesser-known vegetables. It's a member of the mustard family, same as cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts and originated in the Mediterranean. The taste is a bright, sweet-spicy flavor similar to that of cabbage.

It's probably one of the prettiest vegetables you can grow, too. Some varieties (Lacinto, Tuscan, black or dinosaur kale) have long wrinkled leaves with smooth edges and a blue-green color. The Scotch or curly kale can be red or green with thick, ruffled-edge leaves. The Siberian or Russian kales have frilly leaves that are thinner and more tender than other varieties. These are the perfect leaves for salads or paired with winter squash and root vegetables such as potatoes, parsnips and beets.

The sturdy leaves are perfect to use for wraps, casseroles and in chunky soups and stews. The sturdier leaves are best suited for dishes requiring longer cooking times like braising, or high heats, as when stir-frying.

Kale is a food you can count on to supply some unsurpassed health benefits. Its nutrient richness stands out in three particular areas: antioxidant nutrients, anti-inflammatory nutrients and anti-cancer nutrients. According to www.whfoods.org, it's one of the healthiest foods you can eat. The website recommends that you eat kale on a regular basis if you want to receive the fantastic health benefits provided by the cruciferous vegetable family.

Kale also has a definite role to play in support of the body's detoxification processes. The nutrients in kale give our bodies an edge up in dealing with toxic exposure, whether from the environment or from our food.

When buying kale, look for firm, deeply colored leaves and moist, hardy stems. Kale should be displayed in a cool environment to prevent it from wilting. The leaves should look fresh, not be wilted and free from signs of browning, yellowing or small holes. Look for smaller leaves, as they will be tenderer and have a milder flavor.

It is best to use kale as soon as possible after harvest, but you can store it in a plastic storage bag with as much air as possible removed, in the fridge for up to five days. Don't wash it before storing because water will encourage spoiling.

To prepare kale, wash leaves under cold running water. Remove the center rib or stem and chop the leaf portion into ½ inch slices. You can eat the stems, too. Chop them into ¼ inch lengths for quick and even cooking.

To get the most health benefits from kale, let it sit for a minimum of five minutes before cooking. Sprinkling with lemon juice before letting the greens sit can further enhance its beneficial phytonutrient concentration.

I selected kale recipes today that are easy to prepare and have family friendly tastes. I would encourage you to try kale. You are guaranteed to boost your family's nutrient level and just might add a new item to your list of favorite foods!

Bon Appetit! Eat something wonderful!

Emeril's Kicked Up Kale Soup

Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup sliced red onion

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1½ pounds chorizo sausage, sliced in ½ inch slices

3 quarts chicken or beef stock

4 cups kale, rinsed, stemmed and cut into 1 inch strips

1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (purchased or Emeril's recipe follows)

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound diced new potatoes

6 tablespoons chiffonade fresh mint leaves

Small loaf of crusty bread

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the bay leaves, crushed red pepper flakes and onions. Sauté the mixture for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chorizo, stock and kale and bring the liquid to a boil. Stir in the essence and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the potatoes and cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and skim off any fat. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls and garnish with fresh mint. Serve the soup with crusty bread.

Emeril's Essence Creole Seasoning:

2½ tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon cayenne powder

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine ingredients thoroughly. Makes about 2/3 cup.

Sautéed Kale with Garlic and Vinegar

Serves 4 to 6

This is Alice Water's basic method of cooking greens that works equally well with nearly all the leafy greens.

2 bunches kale (about 2 pounds)

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt

2 cloves garlic

1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Strip the kale leaves off their stems and cut away the tough midribs of any large leaves. Chop coarsely and wash in plenty of water. Drain well, but do not spin dry.

Heat a large sauté pan and add the olive oil and enough kale to cover the bottom of the pan. Allow the greens to wilt down before adding more. When all the kale has been added, season with salt, stir in the garlic and cover the pan. The greens will take anywhere from just a few minutes to 15 minutes to cook, depending on their maturity. When they are tender, remove the lid and allow any excess water to cook away. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar.

Cook's notes: It also makes a simple pasta dish: Put on some pasta to cook while you sauté, and when the noodles are done, toss them together with the greens, moistened with a little more olive oil and a ladle of the pasta cooking water.

Add a couple of chicken apple sausages, either cut into coins or removed entirely from their casings to the pan. Be sure to cook thoroughly.

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I recently was sent packages of Brad's Raw Leafy Kale to try. These are chips are the brainchild of Brad Gruno. He was a typical American guy - overweight, high cholesterol, low energy, didn't sleep well. He decided to go on a predominately raw food diet and lost 40 pounds, dropped his cholesterol to a healthy level and recovered his lost energy. One thing was missing, however: He really missed the crunch of a good snack. So he began making raw chips in his kitchen to satisfy that craving. And now he is sharing his snack with us.

The chips are dehydrated below 115ºF to preserve the nutrients and enzymes that aid digestion and keep you energized. The folks at Brad's Raw Foods sent us kale chips in three flavors, original, Vampire Killer (garlic and vegan cheese) and Nasty Hot (jalapeno and vegan cheese). They also sent Red Bell Pepper chips. The products are all natural, gluten free and vegan.

You can buy them locally at Papa G's, 1023 N. Jarrett in Portland or order online at www.bradsrawchips.com .

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext. 101, or by email at bran

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