Sunday, April 6, 2014

Blogoversary 4: Spicy Lentil Soup

Well, HELLO THERE! Today is my 4th anniversary for The Chef Doc.  Four years.  That's an entire high school career, some people's collegiate career... four years.  A lot has happened in four years.  I remember during those first couple of years I would write my weekly posts sitting in B.C.'s Tavern in-between classes at UCI.  Golly, those were the days. 

Unfortunately, I don't feel like I have that sort of freedom anymore, if that makes sense.  A lot has happened in the last six months, of which you will notice a sad absence on here.  Will you believe it if I told you that school took over my life?  No joke, it did.  However, I am happy to report that I've been receiving straight A's and slowly rediscovering all things not related to academics.  

I am currently in Spring Quarter of my second year of grad school.  I am hoping that it will be fairly easy-peasy and relatively stress-free.  Last quarter was definitely not like that.  It was the most stressful quarter I have ever experienced in my life.  On top of taking 13 units--racked up with projects, presentations, volunteering, group work, and tests galore--I was applying to dietetic internships.  Now that in of itself is a stressful process of sending transcripts, obtaining writers for letters of recommendations, waiting for the letters to be written and uploaded, personal statement writing, supplemental applications, and most importantly--meeting the deadlines!  Add schoolwork to that and you have a nutty quarter.  I'm happy to say that I survived it and today is actually the day that we find out if we have been matched.  I'm crossing my fingers!

Throughout this crazy time I have been cooking some.  Not as much as I would have liked but some, nonetheless.  And lentil soup has become my thing!  I've never been a fan of soups that are straight-up liquid; I need "stuff" in my soups.  And all the lentil soups I have ever had were just liquid or made me go, "Where are the lentils?"  Thus, I created a soup that has chunks of wonderful ingredients and you know that you are eating lentils!  


This lentil soup is so easy to make and it's nutritious, healthy, simple, affordable, and super-duper delicious with a little kick.  I add spicy hot Italian sausage to mine, but you do not have to.  This recipe can be easily made vegetarian by omitting the meat as well as the chicken broth, which can be substituted with vegetable broth or plain water just fine.  I have made a few different versions of this soup, but I think I like this one the best.  In others I have added diced potatoes as well as fresh thyme.  You can't go wrong with any of them ;-)

I'm looking forward to posting more delicious, scrumptious, and chatty posts for you in the near future :-)  In the last six months, lots of birthday cakes have been made (a few of them smash cakes), as well as perfecting recipes.  Ooh, I am so excited to share these with you! 

Spicy Lentil Soup
Ingredients:
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 4 to 5 stalks celery, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 package hot Italian or hot turkey sausage (usually five in a pack)
  • 2 cups (1 pound) green lentils, rinsed
  • 8 cups (2 quarts) chicken broth
  • 3 to 5 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a few shakes of dried basil
  • a few shakes of dried oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Optional:
    • Cayenne pepper
1. In a large pot, add a few swirls of olive oil and turn the heat onto medium-high.  Remove the sausages from their casings and add to the pot.  Break apart the sausage into bite-size pieces and cook until no longer raw.  Remove the sausage and save the oil.

2. Add the onions and carrots along with a large pinch of salt and lots of black pepper.  Cook until the onions are slightly softened.  

3. Next, add your celery and garlic.  Then, add the lentils.  Mix everything around and add your chicken broth and three cups of water.

4. Add the bay leaf, dried basil, and dried oregano.  Bring pot to boil and then reduce to simmer.  Place a lid on top, leaving a little opening, and cook until lentils are fully cooked.  

5. If the soup is getting to thick on you, add another cup or two of water.  *Personally, I prefer it more soupy than stewy.*

6. When the lentils are finished cooking, mix the meat back into the soup.  Taste the soup and add salt and pepper, if necessary.  At this point, if it isn't spicy enough, add a shake or two of cayenne pepper.  Fish out the bay leaf and discard.

7. Serve warm!  

*As the lentil soup sits, it will thicken some more, especially the next day.  I simply add a little water to thin it back down to the consistency that I like.*

Break up the meat into bite-size pieces.
Save this now-seasoned oil for the rest of the cooking.
Onions, carrots, celery, and garlic = DELICIOUS!
I use the regular green lentils that you can find in any store.  I've yet to try the other kinds of lentils but am excited to!
The dried herbs.
I'm not kidding when I say bring it to a boil.
After cooking for awhile, you will notice the soup level has gone down and the lentils have plumped up a little bit.  They shouldn't have any sort of a bite when you try them, i.e., no al dente here!
Do not add any seasonings until after the meat is mixed back in since you want to see what flavors the meat imparts to the soup.
Enjoy this bowl of comforting and delicious spicy lentil soup!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Weekend Recap

'Tis the beginning of another week and I am looking forward to seeing what wonderful things are going to happen.  Hear that optimism?  Ooh, I need it as I've been studying on and off for my first big exam tomorrow afternoon.  

Friday was a major studying day and then Saturday I felt a little burned out so I decided to make some homemade pappardelle pasta.  Here was the dilemma: I had a pound of Sweet Italian Sausage in the refrigerator and had made a turkey and artichoke lasagna during the week.  I didn't want soup and I didn't want pasta again.  However, my feelings about homemade pasta are different.  So, there I stood at the counter kneading away at the pasta dough for some time before I went out to get some other ingredients, like the rapini.  


Rapini is a great green!  It is also known as broccoli rabe and this was the first time I cooked with it.  I'm not sure why it took me this long because it's great!  It's slightly bitter but I think that's one its great qualities.  Chock full of vitamins and minerals, it's healthy for you and is wonderful in sautés, soups, or even purees.  Ooh, now I'm thinking of it stuffed in a ravioli.  Lightbulb moment!  Anyway, doesn't that dish look spectacular?  Nothing beats homemade pasta.


Knowing yesterday was going to be my last full day of studying, I decided to make myself breakfast.  Trader Joe's never fails with their turkey bacon.  I'm not a bacon person but I am a fan of theirs.  So, I cooked up some turkey bacon and had it alongside this ridiculously awesome frittata!  I started with sliced potatoes and then added some caramelized balsamic onions I had made for burgers one night.  Add in large handfuls of arugula and then top the whole mix with goat cheese?  Yeah, you know what I'm having for breakfast in a few minutes!  It's wonderful.  Who doesn't like frittatas?


My friend, Christina, asked me if I'd made pumpkin spice bread before and I have, but I couldn't find the recipe I used.  So, I scoured the internet for recipes that seemed tasty.  After reading so much about them I decided that I wanted to whip something up myself.  I tried the recipe from Taste of Home and what I liked about it was that it was so easy to put together.  It was a two-bowl operation.  You mix everything together, bake the loaves, remove them to cool, and you're done.  It was the first pumpkin-anything of the season that I made and you know it won't be my last.  The result was a dense bread, with lots of pumpkin flavor and the spices that you associate with pumpkin goods--cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and ground cloves.  However, I felt it was a touch on the dry side and a little on the sweet side.  This was me following the recipe to the T except for bumping up the spices.  I'll definitely be experimenting more when I have the time.


Oh, since my weekend begins on Fridays, I can't forget my new neighborhood coffeeshop!  It's an Italian espresso bar in Huntington Beach and it just reminds me of my time in Italy.  It's called Caffe Caldo and I discovered it last weekend.  They serve awesome coffees and I have to say that my favorite one so far has been the pumpkin latte--so smooth and tasty.  Nothing acrid or bitter.  I love it!  They serve some breakfast dishes like lox and bagels, frittatas, and some pastries.  You'll see I had the almond croissant, which was okay... not the best I've ever had.  That honor goes to a bakery that I purchased from at the Palo Alto Farmers Market.  I'm so sad I don't remember their name!

And so, that was my weekend.  Quite tasty, don't you think?  You're wondering how there was studying involved with all these good eats but trust me, there was.  I hope it was a good one for you, too!  Now, bring it on, Week 3!  Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Semi-Sweet Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies with Coconut Flakes

This is my 150th post!  One day shy of three years and six months, I cannot believe that I have written this many posts.  It has been a true pleasure to share my recipes and musings with all of you.  I really appreciate those of you that pop over here to see what scrumdiddlyumptious offerings The Chef Doc has to share.  

School has finally started!  I just completed my first full week of school and well, let's say this--let the studying commence!  It is back to a life of commuting, traffic, early alarms (5:30am equals yucky), paper bag lunches and snacks, textbook reading, desperate wants for naps, fitting in workouts, and trying to make homemade meals as much as I can.  And let me vent about this--the weather blows!  Literally!  For those of you who have never been graced with the presence of Santa Ana winds, consider yourself lucky.  It is super dry out and ridiculously warm for October.  However, I guess for So Cal, it is quite normal.  

I think of nothing cozy or fuzzy.  I think of shorts and tank tops and the beach.  In fact, I was at the beach this morning and it was crowded with beachgoers and especially surfers, who were catching awesome waves due to winds.  Yes, it is basically a dry summer day for us here in So Cal.  For those of you who are currently experiencing it with me this weekend, please stay moisturized and try to keep a positive outlook, okay? 

Now, onto that sweet and long title you see at the top.  These cookies came as an inspiration to one-up Pepperidge Farms' Sausalito cookies.  I hadn't eaten them in a decade or so?  How long have they been out?  I really do not remember but it's been a good long while.  Well, last weekend I was hit with the desire to purchase them because I remembered enjoying them when I was younger.  Now, you know that I do not buy cookies anymore.  I can't recall when I last bought cookies.  Perusing this website, you know I am a fan of homemade cookies and enjoy the homemade flavors, textures, and even the process of making them.  

Well, I had a Sausalito cookie on Sunday night as I was settling into the season premiere of Once Upon A Time.  Oh... my... gosh.  Palates change as you grow older and well, I don't know what mine was thinking of years ago when I liked these cookies.  It was terrible!  They're super-dry, very crispy, and have some sort of artificial flavor going on.  Uh uh, no thank you.  Any of my cookies taste better than this.  I think I am a cookie snob.


So, I set out to create my own version.  One word: scrumptious!  Fabulous!  Amazing!  Okay, three words.  These are packed full of macadamia nuts and accompanied by semi-sweet chocolate chips and the beloved chewiness of shredded coconut flakes.  You know, another thing that bothers me is when some food products are skimpy on the main ingredients.  It feels like a total ripoff.  You know what I am talking about.  These aren't a ripoff at all and the flavors all work together wonderfully--the slightly bitter chocolate with the buttery macadamia nut and the sweetened coconut?  Divine.

These cookies are loaded with the star ingredients and have a crisp exterior and a soft interior.  That's how I like my cookies and usually how I develop my recipes; it's the best of both worlds!  It took me so many years of experimenting over and over to develop a recipe where I could achieve that.  Well, I finally have and applied it to this recipe.  It takes some time to make these because there is a waiting period.  Patience is a virtue, okay?  Yours and others' tastebuds will thank me for it.  The cookie dough must be refrigerated for 36 hours.  This cooling time helps create that beautiful texture!  


Um, yeah... what are you waiting for?  You have to make these now.  

Semi-Sweet Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies with Coconut Flakes
Yield: more than four dozen

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs (large or extra large)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups macadamia nuts, roughly chunked (still fairly large)
  • 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup shredded coconut flakes, sweetened
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, Kosher salt, baking soda and powder, and set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until light in color and fluffy in texture (at least five minutes).  With a rubber or silicone spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom and mix again.

3. Next, add your eggs one at a time to the mixture.  Then, add the pure vanilla extract.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again.

4. On low speed, pour in a third of the dry mix.  Add the coconut flakes.  Pour in another third of the flour mix.  Add the macadamia nuts.  

5. Finally, pour in the last third of dry ingredients as well as the chocolate chips.  Mix until the flour is fully incorporated.  If there are any areas that do not look like the ingredients are evenly distributed, use your spatula to mix through.  

6. Refrigerate the dough for 36 hours.  No less than 36 hours and no more than 48 hours.  *Don't freak out that the dough will become crumbly and a little dry; that is normal.*

7. When ready to bake, remove the cookie dough from refrigerator and preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Using a #40 disher (can be bought at your local restaurant supply shop), scoop 12 balls of cookie dough onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.

8. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, when cookies may be a little white in the middle, which is totally fine because there is carryover baking when you remove them from the oven.

9. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and and let the cookies cool for five minutes as is.  

10. With a flat, heat-proof spatula, transfer the cookies onto a wire rack and cool completely.

11. Store in an airtight container and see how long they will last :-)

The #40 disher makes the perfect-sized cookie!
Who knew cookie images could be so comforting?
Mmm mmm mmm.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Happy Autumn!

Happy Autumn!  I just couldn't help myself and this morning I made a cake to celebrate one of my favorite seasons of the year.  

For this particular banana cake, I made a fairly traditional cream cheese frosting but used much less powdered sugar and the key--cold cream cheese.  The softened butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt were all blended together and then the cold cream cheese was added.  I'm telling you that this made a stiff cream cheese frosting and it was a beauty to work with.  Granted, I did stick the cake in the freezer to set the crumb coat as well as the frosting before doing the piping.  But, I must say I'm fairly proud of myself for figuring this out.  

See, (don't I always have a story?) most of the time when I make cream cheese frosting, I soften my cream cheese first.  I mean, it is sitting out for at least a couple of hours or even overnight.  Then, I will beat the cream cheese and softened butter and then add the powdered sugar last.  You know what I get?  A really soft, goopy frosting that is very hard to use when I want to pipe.  Sure, I can stick it in the refrigerator but that takes time and I'm usually on a schedule.  Thus, I share this tip with you--do not soften your cream cheese!

You know what I'm going to be doing tomorrow morning?  Grabbing myself a Pumpkin Spice Latte :-)  Have a great week!

The Chef Doc's Favorite Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:
  • 16 ounces (two blocks) cream cheese, straight out of the fridge
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1. In a mixer, beat the butter until it is creamy.  Then, add the powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla extract.  Once fully mixed and there are no lumps, beat in your cream cheese until frosting is smooth.

Best Ever Banana Cake

Happy first day of Autumn!  The weather has turned and my brain just swells with happiness when I get a whiff of anything cinnamon, pumpkin, nutmeg, or apple.  I haven't made anything lately with these ingredients but worry not--I will definitely start soon!

In the meantime, I'd like to share with you a delicious cake that I made this weekend for a very special occasion.  My cousins' daughter turned two and I was privileged to be asked to make her birthday cake.  She has a thing for bananas and I knew this was the perfect recipe.  Now, I recently made this cake a few weeks ago because I was jonesing for a banana cake.  I found the recipe and was like, "Ooh, over 1,000 sparkling and raving reviews?  Yeah, I'll make this cake!"  And sure enough, it was absolutely scrumptious.  And... I've made it before.  

Um, what?  I've used this recipe before and I even posted about it!  Um, yeah.  Remember this cake and these cupcakes?  Yes, I used this recipe last year!  When I finally realized this I just shook my head.  It goes to show you how often I make banana cake, doesn't it?  Well, that was twice last year and I can tell you I've already made this five times... in the last three weeks.  Just think of all those lucky people who have been able to eat this cake.


Her party was a bubbles theme and it was a bubbly success!  Lots of bubbles galore and while I knew the color scheme was in the turquoise arena, I didn't imagine that the colors I'd create would perfectly match the decorations!  That was pretty awesome.  Great minds think alike, Emmy!

This cake is also fantastically delicious without any sort of frosting at all.  So... that's one way to cut some calories!  Reducing the amount of sugar is also another way to cut calories; I have made it with 1 3/4 cups of sugar and it is plenty sweet.  Moist, sweet, cake-y, banana-y, here again is the recipe and if you haven't made it yet, you're really behind the curve here.  Get to it :-)

Best Ever Banana Cake

Recipe adapted from Food.com

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) softened butter
  • 2 cups and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 300F.  Grease and flour two nine-inch round cake pans. 

2. Combine mashed bananas and lemon juice in a bowl and set aside.

3. In a bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.

4. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  This point occurs when it is no longer spinning around; it'll stick to the sides of the bowl.  

5. Slowly mix in the eggs, one at a time.  Add the vanilla extract.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix well.

6. On low mixing speed, alternately add the dry mixture and buttermilk into the wet mixture. Stop mixing and using a spatula, scrape up the bottom to make sure you won't get any globs of butter.  Next, fold in your bananas with a spatula.  

7. Split the cake batter evenly between the two pans and bake for an hour and 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, i.e., no batter sticking to it.

8. Remove the cake pans from the oven and cool on wire racks.  When the pans are no longer hot, invert the cakes onto the wire racks and cool completely.

9. Once the cakes are cooled, frost (if frosting) with your favorite cream cheese frosting recipe.  For this particular cake, I used this cream cheese whipped cream frosting recipe.  A simple vanilla frosting would also suffice. 

Emmy bought the aquamarine hard candy gems on Etsy; they are about the size of quarters.
Serving the cake chilled is the best way to eat it.  Placing hard objects on it might be a little difficult as the frosting might cause some slippage.  Well, now you know what to do with your overripe bananas!  Whoever eats this cake will be so happy that you made it because it is just... that... freaking... awesome.  Happy baking and happy eating! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Simple Linguine and Clams

We're halfway through September!  And I am getting really tired of everyone asking me when school is starting or don't I have to go to school tomorrow.  I still have another week and a half until I begin my 6am treks to campus.  Yes, I have to leave at 6am because if I leave at 6:30am, I will hit a boatload of traffic.  And this is all for an 8am class.  If you do not know Los Angeles traffic, you're definitely not missing out!

With what vacation time I have left, I will be enjoying it to the fullest as well as prepping for school by purchasing those ridiculously expensive textbooks.  Golly, do you know how pricey textbooks are?  A recent article came out about the other cost of going to college: textbooks!  I definitely do not want to go down that rant.  I once wrote a post about a new bookcase that I received and shared a photo of my textbook collection up to that point.  It's been two years since that post and I've got more books to add to it.  Gosh, this paragraph is really depressing me.

Well, let's move onto something happy, then, shall we?  This simple linguine and clams recipe.  Over the past couple of years I have noticed that people get to my website by using the search words "burping clams."  I always found that quite fascinating--the fact that they would get to my website.  But, the act itself is very interesting, too.  Two years ago I wrote about my first linguine and clams-making experience.  You can read about it and about burping clams here

What I have realized is that although I shared photos of how to do everything--from burping the clams to finishing the dish--I never actually wrote out the recipe.  So, I set about doing that this evening.  I do not make linguine and clams often but if I do, I always enjoy the simplicity of this recipe I've come up with.  It's always a hit and the flavors are amazing.  I emphasize simplicity because I think that some people think it can be a really difficult dish to make.  

Errrrrrrrrrrr!  That was supposed to be the sound of screeching tires.  Wait!  Rewind.  You understand that by talking about burping clams, I'm talking about fresh clams here, correct?  I cannot fathom using chopped clams FROM A CAN in linguine and clams.  I understand that version is definitely simple but mine goes nowhere near there.  The flavor is just... ahhhh!  No comparison here, dude.  But you are going to encounter recipes for linguine and clams calling for that.  Just a warning. 

Back to my fabulous recipe.  It's simple, yes.  It's also freaking delicious.  And, as I was being incredibly observant of the cooking time, it is not a difficult dish to whip up!  You just need to make sure you have your fresh clams on hand.  I actually buy mine at the Asian market these days.  I have a love for Manila clams which I find to be the Goldilocks of clams: good size, meaty aka plump, and excellent in flavor.  


If you want to impress someone... or someones, this recipe will definitely do it.  I recommend buying Manila clams by the number versus by the pound because golly, well, here goes.  Buying them at the Asian market, they're a little cheaper than when I buy them from Santa Monica Seafood, one of my favorite seafood stores to purchase from.  However, the Manila clams are hanging out in water at the Asian market, as opposed to being on ice at Santa Monica Seafood.  So, I have a feeling I'm buying water weight... but I still think it comes out cheaper.  

Anyway, wherever you buy them, just try to aim for 12 clams a person and everyone will be happy!  Happy as a clam!  I am not sure where that phrase originates from...

Hester's Simple Linguine and Clams

Serving size: 4

Ingredients:
  • 48 Manila clams, cleaned, rinsed, and drained
  • 1/4 cup garlic, minced
  • 1 1/4 cups white wine (Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay both work well)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley + extra for garnish
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons red chili pepper flakes
  • 1 pound linguine
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Clam burping = large bowl + cold water + red chili pepper flakes
1. Burp your clams a few times to get all the sand out.  When finally free of sand, rinse and let sit in a strainer or colander until ready to use.

2. Fill a large pot with water and add lots of salt.  *This is the only time salt will be used in this recipe.*  Get the water boiling and add the pasta.

3. Over medium-high heat, in a large sauté pan add a couple of swirls of olive oil and the garlic.  Cook until garlic becomes fragrant but not colored.  At this point, add the white wine and cook for a few minutes to cook out the alcohol.

4. Gently add the clams into one even layer.  Put a lid on and check every few minutes.  Once they are fully opened, they're cooked and can be removed.  If a clam does not open at all, throw it away.

5. When all the clams are removed, add the chopped parsley, oregano, red chili pepper flakes, and reduce the sauce for a few minutes.

6. In the meantime, pull your pasta early!  Remove your linguine a minute or two before al dente and transfer it straight into the sauce.  The pasta will absorb (and finish cooking) with the delicious wine and clam juice.  This is a beautiful thing.  While the pasta hangs with the liquids in the pan, remove the clam meat from the shells.  Leave a few attached for garnishing.

7. Add the clam meat back into the pan with the pasta and toss around.  Serve immediately with sprinkled parsley and a few clams in the shell.

Burping clams seems a bit bizarre but...
As you can see, it definitely helps get the sand out.
Don't be frightened!  The garlic does not overpower the clam flavor.  I promise.
Add the wine to the pan before the garlic turns golden brown.
It's a lot of clams but well worth it!
I always enjoy watching them go from closed to open!
Yum!  And the pasta is going to absorb this sauce!  Therefore, do not expect lots of sauce from this recipe.
Looking fabulous!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Kale and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I must be honest--I do not consume kale as much as I should.  I do not know why but that happens to be the sad truth.  It is so healthy for you with an abundance of vitamins A, C, and K as well as many minerals.  Although I have made kale dishes in the past, I just haven't been inspired to use it often in my cooking.  Well, last night changed it all.  Well, I think first I must explain how I got to last night.

On Friday night, I decided I wanted to have a light dinner so I made a salad with seared chicken breasts.  There was chopped Tuscan kale, chopped Romaine, and even some red leaf lettuce.  I added tomatoes, artichoke hearts, red kidney beans, and even cooked up some farro to mix into the salad!  Yes, all of these ingredients scream delicious, especially when bound together by a zesty lemon vinaigrette. 

After all the ingredients were mixed together and I sliced some chicken to place on top, I took a bite.  Oh my gosh... this was disgusting!  The Tuscan kale was so bitter!  It was not a tender leaf and it was so bitter!  Did I mention the bitter?  Yuck.  As I combed my way through the rest of the salad, I simply pushed aside the pieces of kale.  I did not understand this because I have had raw kale in salads before and I consumed it just fine.  

I was so happy that I had only used a large handful from the bag.  Yes, I used bagged Tuscan kale from Trader Joe's.  You must be seeing a trend here; yes, I do shop at Trader Joe's a lot.  A couple of times a week.  Do you know anyone like that?  Well, if not, now you do.  Determined not to waste the rest of the bag (because I was so tempted to toss this yucky stuff out), I knew I would cook it as a side for last night's dinner, which was a Crock-Pot pot roast.  

After cooking away all day, in the last three hours I added chunks of carrots, frozen pearl onions, and quartered mushrooms to the Crock-Pot.  I knew I wanted to have potatoes because come on, all that gravy?  You've got to have a vehicle for that gravy!  Well, mashed potatoes are always great with gravy and meat that has been cooking all day.  I knew I wanted to cook up the kale and then it dawned on me: why not mix the kale with the mashed potatoes?!?!?!


So, I made buttermilk and Greek yogurt mashed potatoes and stirred it into Tuscan kale that had been cooking with lots of garlic in another pan.  The result is a tangy mashed potato with a slightly citrusy green mixed throughout.  Yes, I do believe that when the Tuscan kale is cooked, it gives off a slight lemon flavor.  Or, you can just call me weird.  

Now, what's with this Tuscan kale business?  Yes, it's not the regular curly kale that you see at the market, unless it is.  Like I mentioned earlier, I bought it bagged at Trader Joe's.  Speaking of which, I will never buy bagged kale again.  They wash and chop for you, correct?  Well, they also leave the stems in and hack away at the leaves with the stems and ribs in!  So, before I even put the kale in the pan, there I was standing over my cutting board, removing individual pieces of stem from the chopped kale leaves.  Ugh, never again will I buy it like this.  Do yourself a favor and buy it in a bunch and first remove the stems, wash the leaves, and then use them however you'd like. 

Ah, back to the Tuscan kale thing.  It is simply a different variety of kale.  I thought it looked very similar to this stuff I had eaten before called Dinosaur kale and what do you know?  They're the same thing.  I'd say it gets that name because the texture of the leaves resembles the bumpy texture of dinosaurs.  However, it gets the descriptor "Tuscan" because it is very popular in the Tuscany region of Italy.  If you want to call it by another name, it is also known as Lacinato kale.  FYI--I totally thought of the dinosaur skin resemblance before I read the Wikipedia article! 

Enough rambling here.  The recipe is below and it cannot be any simpler.  Unless you buy frozen mashed potatoes which my friend Sonja educated me about last night.  I never knew!  I feel that as far as mashed potatoes go, this version is on the healthier side since I use Greek yogurt and buttermilk to add creaminess and tang, as opposed to heavy cream or half and half and/or sour cream.  Trust me--you'll absolutely love the flavors here!  However, if you add a pat or two of butter, I definitely will not take offense.  I think these kale and garlic mashed potatoes will become a new and delicious side dish at upcoming parties, mine and yours!

Kale and Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Ingredients:
  • 8 to 10 ounces chopped kale leaves (stems removed first)
  • 10 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (ground is fine, too)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Optional:
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Add the potatoes into a large pot and add water till it covers the potatoes.  Add salt to the pot and put it on a high flame.  Cook until the potatoes are fork tender.  Drain and return to pot.  Add the Greek yogurt, buttermilk, and salt and pepper to taste.  If using the cheese, add it now, too.  Mash away until you reach a consistency you like.  If needed, add more buttermilk to help with the consistency.

2. In a large pan, add your extra virgin olive oil and turn the heat on to a high.  Carefully add your chopped kale along with a pinch of salt.  When it has wilted down a little, add your garlic and cook until fragrant.  Turn the heat onto low, add your nutmeg, stir, and cook until the greens are soft and tender.  

3. Finally, add the mashed potatoes to the kale and mix well.  Serve immediately.

Hello, dinosaur skin.
Yes, it's a lot of garlic but that's why "garlic" is in the name of the recipe!
When you add grated nutmeg to dark, leafy greens, there is this note that elevates the dish and many will wonder what your secret weapon is. 
These mashed potatoes are absolutely delicious to consume at this point.  Because of picky eaters, I even reserved some of this before mixing the rest of it with the kale.
This marriage right here?  Absolutely wonderful!
It went scrumptiously well with the pot roast!