Monday, February 9, 2015

Cooking fresh collard greens (vegetarian, vegan)

photo from

Collards (also called collard greens) get a bad rap. They're green and kinda stinky (really only during a long cooking period)... but they are absurdly cheap, incredibly healthy, and super tasty. Collards are part of the cruciferous family (with kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc...) and they have compounds that can cause bloating and gas for some people... however if you're a fan of greens, don't pass up collards! Here are some interesting facts on this healthy green: 

Medical News Today stated in a recent article
"One cup of boiled collard greens contains 63 calories, 5 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, 11 grams of carbohydrate (including 8 grams of fiber and 1 gram of sugar), over 250% of your daily needs for vitamin A, over 50% of your daily needs for vitamin C, 26% of calcium needs, 12% of iron and 10% of both vitamin B-6 and magnesium." 
They also stated: 
"One cup of boiled collard greens provides a whopping 770 micrograms of vitamin K; well over 100% of the daily-recommended need." 
Like many greens, collards are made primarily of water, which means they cook down to barely nothing (like spinach) if you want to make a BIG pot of greens (to last the whole week or for 4-6+ cooked servings) you'll want to buy 2-4 bunches of the fresh greens. 

Collards have tough stalks, which should be removed before cooking. I like collards prepared the old "southern" way, slow cooked and well... (there's really no other good way to say it)... kinda mushy!I know it sounds strange, especially if you're not a fan of southern foods (especially vegetables)... but collards are great when they are braised with a little bit of liquid and seasonings and slow cooked for hours. You can make them in the slow cooker (I actually included a recipe in my cookbook!)... but they are also super easy on the stove. 

I've read that other people like to take whole collard leaves and blanch them briefly to use as a low carb or gluten-free wrap! I haven't tried that, but it's on my to-do list! 

There's no real "recipe" for cooking greens... your measurements don't have to be specific, but basically here's what I used for this very SMALL batch of greens. (For a bigger batch double, triple, or quadruple the recipe!) Take note that I made these greens without any animal products. If you're a fan of meat or pork products this is traditionally made with a ham hock or ham seasoning and they are divine that way too. 

A Small Mess O' Collard Greens
Makes 2-3 large servings.
  • 1 large bunch fresh collard greens, with stems removed and de-veined, and cut into small pieces (cut out the thick, fibrous vein in the center of the leaf -- this makes the collards cook faster and in my opinion makes them more tasty!) 
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large poblano pepper, chopped with seeds and white membrane (ribs) removed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup water or vegetable broth
  1. In a large dutch oven or stock pot saute onions, garlic, and chopped poblanos in olive oil for 2-3 minutes until softened. 
  2. Add greens, red pepper flakes, and water -or- broth to the pot. 
  3. Cook on medium-high heat and stir continuously for 5-6 minutes until collards are bright green and start shrinking in size. 
  4. Cover pot and turn heat down to low. Continue to cook on low heat for 3-4 hours until greens are softened and yeah... kinda mushy! 
  5. We served this with gluten-free, vegan cornbread, sliced tomatoes with fresh ground pepper, and canned pinto beans

Some kitteh pics for you... just because! :-) 

Whiskey Jack, chillin' in the cat tree!

Mollie... doing her best job keeping me from writing or reading... :-) 

Max happened to get rolled up in the
sheets to be washed on "Caturday" :-P

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Monday, February 2, 2015

2015: The Year of Reading...

The 2015 Reading Challenge. I'm starting now!
A 2015 reading challenge shared by Anne of 

I'm not really sure if I've ever had a year where I didn't read, but this year I'm making it a priority. My friend Shannan shared the above challenge from Modern Mrs. Darcy and my interest was immediately piqued. So often I focus on changing my food habits, being mindful of portions and fullness levels, trying to make sure I exercise that I can get overwhelmed with things I feel like I HAVE to do... but reading is such an enjoyable activity for me. 

It's something I love to do, so why not accept a challenge in reading. We started a small little "book club" on face*book to discuss and share about the books we're reading. Each month we're choosing from one of the topics above. So far we've all been choosing different books in each theme and then sharing about what we've learned from them, if we enjoyed them, if we'd read them again, etc... 

For the month of January we chose the topic of "A book that you should have read in high school."  I picked A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. 

One thing I was debating about this challenge was if it mattered whether we read a physical book, an e-book, or listened to an unabridged audio book. As a group we decided that whatever way was easiest and best for us as individuals was perfectly fine. Since I commute to work, I listen to a LOT of books via Audi*ble. I'd even say that 95% of my reading is done through listening. Generally I retain a lot more information that way, and it's easy for me to get involved in a story much more quickly. 

A Tale of Two Cities, however... was a completely different ballgame. First I tried reading a kindle version of the book. That lasted for about 2 chapters. The language is so different from what we're used too in today's times, that I had a really hard time stepping into the story and trying to understand it. Next I found this very old hardback copy from the library I work at. I was able to get through about 100 pages using the hardback copy... but again it was a painful read and I just didn't think I'd ever finish the book reading it in the traditional way. FINALLY, I bought an audio book version on Audi*ble, one that was narrated by Simon Vance (one of my favorite audio book narrators - another book he has read is"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.")  

As much as I love Simon Vance's reading style and voice... I continued to have a very difficult time understanding the varied plot lines, characters, and themes of this book. I can honestly say, I don't think I could have gotten through it in high school. I was determined to finish the book for this challenge though, and by January 29th I had completed listening to it. 

To help me further understand the story I also watched an older movie version on You*Tube, a "Cliffs*notes" cartoon on You*Tube, and I took an online quiz (I got 11 correct... *sigh* lol!) So this book definitely would not have been a great way to start out my high school English semester. 

However, I think if I read a modern day and/or modern English retelling of the story I would probably enjoy it a lot more. The relationship between the father and daughter is sweet and compelling. My favorite characters were the owners of the wine shop, Mr. and Mrs. Defarge just because their personalities were so unique and strong, yet also quite troubled. It would have been much easier to read this book with a teacher's guide to help me understand all of the Christian allegories along with the roles of friendship, loyalty, patriotism, division of classes, etc... There are so many themes rolling together throughout this book it was a challenge for me to try to keep up with them all. 

Have you read a Tale of Two Cities? What are/were your thoughts and feelings on the book? 

Our group decided that for February we could choose a book that's currently on the bestseller list. My personal pick is "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins. I'll share my review and thoughts on that book later this month! I hope you'll join us in challenging yourself to read more this year!

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Book Review: YumUniverse by Heather Crosby

Benbella Publishing contacted me several weeks ago with an offer to share 3 of the their newest publications with me. I was excited because I started a whole-foods, plant-based, vegan-ish dietary change several months ago and let me tell you, it's been a challenge. I think in some ways it's been much harder than going gluten-free was for me. You can replace cookies, cake, muffins, etc... especially with all of the great gluten-free flours available now... but it's not quite as easy to replace a steak. Trust me, there are days I REALLY miss the steak!

But moving on... one of the cookbooks they sent was this beautiful book by Heather Crosby. First of all... can you have a cooler name for a cookbook than "YumUniverse ?" I know...I didn't think so either... it's just way cool!

Beyond the coolness however, it's just a wonderful cookbook. Filled to the brim with great information on how to begin a plant-based diet, how to stock your kitchen, how to shop, and most importantly HOW to cook! This really is a primer on how to learn to eat and cook using plant-based whole foods.

A big bonus for this cookbook? It's also gluten-free!

I've tried out several recipes so far, my favorite being the banana bread muffins. I made these for work this week and they are just simple and delicious. I'm really trying to learn how to bake again without eggs and using as little fats/oils as possible, so these muffins Heather created are a great beginner recipe. She uses whole grain-gluten free flours, along with almond flour and of course bananas.

The muffins are also gum-free, as Heather uses as few processed ingredients as possible. These muffins (despite their appearance) are really light and fluffy and have a wonderful banana flavor.

Heather uses a technique in these muffins that I had not thought of before. She purees the bananas with water and chia seeds (to replace the eggs) to almost create a banana "milk" which is the bulk of the wet ingredients. She also added chopped bananas to the batter to have some texture, but I realized that I really don't like chunks of fruit in my muffins, so I just pureed all the bananas in the water. I LOVE how the muffins turned out this way. They don't have odd, "wet" areas, and they are smooth and have a wonderful texture throughout the whole muffin.

For the recipe you'll have to check out the book, "YumUniverse" but Heather does have an earlier version of the muffins on her website, which I'm sure are just as tasty!

This is a great cookbook to check out if you're both gluten-free AND trying to follow a plant-based or vegan diet. The photography is just stunning throughout the whole book and it's very well written. Great job Heather! I'm a big fan! :)

Now as a bonus, the publisher is providing one book to giveaway , so if you would like a copy, please leave me a comment below! This contest will run through December 19th and end at midnight. I will use to choose a winner.

The Giveaway:
  • BenBella Publishing is providing one paperback copy of YumUniverse to give away.  
  • This giveaway is open to everyone. 
  • One entry per person.
  • Enter by leaving a comment below on this post AND please include a way for me to contact you -- your email address preferably.
  • The giveaway begins December 12, 2015 and ends on December 19, 2015  at 12:00 am eastern daylight savings time.
  • No purchase is necessary.  Odds of winning are based on the number of entries.  
  • The winners will be randomly chosen and will be contacted by email.  The winners will have 24 hours to respond.  If the winner does not respond, a new winner will be randomly chosen.

GLG Disclosure: 
BenBella Publishing provided me with a paper copy of  "YumUniverse" for the purpose of sharing an online review, if I chose to do so. They are also providing a copy to one reader of this blog through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored post and I did not receive compensation. The opinions in this post are completely my own. 

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