Recipe: Irish Colcannon–a Healthier Version

Simple Potatoes, Kale and Onions Make a Beautiful, Super Nutritious and Tasty Dish

STEP 1


  • ½ Tbsp. butter
  • 3 cups green onions sliced about ½” thick (from about 2 bunches, using both white and green parts)

Place a large, lidded skillet over medium heat and add butter. When melted and just lightly sizzling, use a spatula to spread over the bottom of pan, then add green onions and cook just long enough to take off their raw edge, about 2-3 minutes. Remove to a bowl.

STEP 2


  • 6 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into ¾” dice (from about 2 lbs. or 6 medium potatoes)
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 2 cups rich broth, no- or low-sodium
  • 1 cup water

Into the same skillet, put potatoes, salt, broth and water. Cover pan and bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer potatoes about 10 to 15 minutes, until almost soft when stuck with a fork.

STEP 3


  • 4 cups loosely packed kale leaves, stems removed and cut into roughly 1” squares
  • 2-3 Tbsp. salted butter
  • Unrefined salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Grainy mustard–optional condiment

Add kale to potatoes and continue simmering, covered, until potatoes are soft and kale is tender to taste, about 5 to 10 more minutes. Remove lid, turn heat to medium high and boil until most of liquid evaporates. Meanwhile, use a potato masher to mash potatoes roughly, leaving some texture. When desired consistency is reached, remove pan from heat.

Stir in reserved green onions along with butter, salt and pepper, to taste. Serve topped with an additional pat of butter and/or mustard, if desired.

Mashing the Colcannon

Even though the kale is already added, it won’t interfere with mashing the potatoes.

Leftover Fun

Don’t worry if you end up with leftovers.  You’re set for a quick and nutritious breakfast the next day–or two:

Pic of Potato PancakesMake Potato Pancakes  Beat 1 egg + 1/8 tsp. baking soda into about 1½ cups Colcannon, beating with a fork until thoroughly combined. Melt about 2 tsp. butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. When butter sizzles lightly, drop in Colcannon batter to form roughly 3” patties. Fry on both sides until golden brown.

Helpful Hint: If you will have patience and allow the patties to brown thoroughly before flipping, they will cook through nicely, flip easily without breaking, and have nice, golden crusts.

Pic of

Riff on Spanish Tortilla Mix 2 eggs + 1/8 tsp. baking soda into about 2 cups Colcannon, beating with a fork until thoroughly combined. Melt about 1 Tbsp. butter in a 10” heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. When butter sizzles lightly, pour in all of the Colcannon batter to form a large pancake. Cover pan and lower heat to medium-low or low. Allow tortilla to brown all the way across the bottom. Flip onto a plate, then slide back into pan to cook the other side. Tomatoes make a nice serving accompaniment.

Creative Fun

Although not traditional, you can experiment with some fun additions:

  • Bacon, sausage, hamburger (brown and cut or crumble into pieces)
  • Shredded cheese (sprinkle on top)
  • ½ to 1 cup cream or whole milk (mix in while mashing potatoes)
  • Chives, red onion or leek greens instead of green onions
  • Roasted chiles
  • Carrots, beets or parsnips (substitute 1 cup for 1 cup of the potatoes)
  • Other Greens (chard, collards or spinach) or the traditional cabbage

Be sure to read the other posts in this series about information that’s hiding between the lines of a recipe, and how I created this recipe by teasing out between-the-lines-information to meet my tastes and health needs.

Advertisements

Colcannon: Decoding the Missing Information Between the Lines of a Recipe

A traditional Irish dish, Colcannon was reserved for special occasions since “few Irish cottagers grew turnips or cabbages.” (1)  How interesting since those foods are so common nowadays!  Common though they may be, when combined with affordable potatoes you get a lovely dish that is not only budget-minded but also highly nutritious and tasty enough for company.

The following recipe for Colcannon caught my eye, no doubt because I’m part Irish, but also because autumn’s cool weather has finally blown in, making a hearty potato dish sound perfect.  What’s more, it takes good advantage of cool-weather produce:  I have lots of kale and green onions from my garden along with plenty of potatoes in with my CSA share.

Read Between the Line Pic

Reading Between the Lines  While making the recipe, however, I noticed how often I was “reading between the lines,” making additions and substitutions based on my health needs (I’m dairy-free), tastes and experience in the kitchen.  Another post explained how a lot of a recipe can be missing–as if written in invisible ink between the lines.  Read on to see how much and what information can be “missing” from a recipe, and how to begin building your knowledge base of trick and tips to make meals that are ever more satisfying for you.

Mind Your Ingredients  It all starts with good ingredients.  They are especially critical in dishes that have only a few to rely on for flavor, particularly when 1) the main ingredient (potatoes) is on the bland side and 2) when the main flavorings (cream and butter) have to be reduced or eliminated for health reasons. This is where tricks, tips and experimentation come in:

Colcannon RecipesColcannon--Substitutions

Health Boost  Interestingly, the modifications above also had the effect of improving the healthfulness of the dish.

  • Nothing against butter, but with 100 calories per tablespoon, it’s helpful to be moderate–and it’s not so very hard to reduce  5-6 Tablespoons to 2-3 Tablespoons.
  • While I eliminated the cream due to a dairy allergy, it also saves a lot on the calorie count.  Since butter and cream are the traditional  flavor enhancers, however, reducing or eliminating them makes it all the more imperative to use the flavor boosters listed above.
  • Potato skins, besides adding flavor, are loaded with vitamins and minerals, like vitamin B-6, thiamin, niacin and vitamin C, as well as iron, potassium and magnesium (2)-–plenty of reasons to leave them in the dish instead of tossing into the compost bin.
  • Finally, increasing the kale from three cups to four and tripling the green onions also boosts flavor along with nutrients.

My Recipe for Colcannon  See how I used all this information from “reading between the lines” to create my healthier version of Colcannon.

(1)  FoodTimeLine.org

(2)  “Does the Skin of a Potato Really Have All the Vitamins?”

Eating Well–Without Trying So Hard or Worrying So Much

“Healthy eating:”  Two words with the power to spark enormous stress.  Those two words can easily send our minds swirling with confusion–and likely as not, a good measure of guilt as well.  “Am I doing enough?  Am I eating too many carbs?  Should I be juicing more?  Are eggs on the good list or bad?”

Suspended Judgment:  There’s a secret for happy and healthful eating, but can you first even imagine that eating well is a lot easier than you think?  Could you believe that it doesn’t have to be really hard, guilt-laden or worrisome?

 

Autumn Bounty

Seasonal Bounty. Limiting our produce choices to what’s in season has the curious consequence of making it easier to cook meals that are healthy and delicious.

Seasonal Eating:  The key to eating well, happily and easily, without worry or guilt.  Let me make the case, beginning with a definition of “seasonal eating.”  Seasonal eating is really place-based eating, i.e., for the place where you find yourself, eating what the earth provides, when the earth provides it, in the amounts provided by the earth.

“Place” is a critical to seasonal eating.  The term is otherwise meaningless since at any one point in time, a produce item is “in season” somewhere in the world and can be found in the produce aisle of your local grocery store.  Only when eating is tied to place do we reap the many benefits of a true seasonal approach.  In an interesting paradox, it is the limiting aspects of place-based eating that are the source of its many advantages.

Read on to discover the many benefits–health and otherwise–of seasonal eating. . . .  I’ve discovered at least a dozen.

In the meantime, if you’re ready to start the seasonal eating journey, join us for one of our Healthy, Seasonal Meal Making Classes.

Recipe: Sauteed Beet Greens composed with Toasted Walnuts, Bacon Bits, & Chopped Egg

Sauteed Beet GreensThis unusual–but very tasty and super nutritious–dish makes a nice light supper, or breakfast or lunch, especially if you play around with some of the options in the notes below.

Sauteed Beet Greens composed with Toasted Walnuts, Bacon Bits, & Chopped Egg

  • 1-2 slices bacon

Cook Bacon  Lay bacon in a medium-sized, heavy bottomed skillet, turn heat to medium and cook until bacon is browned on both sides.  Remove to a cutting board, gently shaking off excess fat into pan, and cut into ½” dice.  Reserve.

  • 1 med. onion, diced to ¼”
  • 1-2 tsp. freshly grated, loosely packed ginger, to taste

Saute Onion and Ginger  Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. bacon fat (reserving excess in a jar for another use), then reheat over medium heat until fairly hot but not smoking.  Add onion and saute about 5-7 minutes until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  Add ginger and continue cooking and stirring occasionally, just 1-2 more minutes.

  • 4 cups loosely packed beet greens, chopped into roughly 1-2” squares
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Saute Beet Greens   Stir beet greens into onions along with any water clinging to leaves from washing.  Cook over medium heat until wilted and tender, stirring occasionally, about 5-8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

  • 2 large eggs, softly hard-boiled, diced to roughly ½”
  • ¼ cup walnut pieces, toasted

Compose Dish   Arrange beet greens in the bottom of a wide bottomed bowl.  Arrange walnuts in a ring around the outside of greens and eggs in a ring nearer the middle.  Sprinkle with bacon bits.    Serve immediately.   Serves 2

Options

  1. Instead of using hard-boiled eggs, hollow out two “nests” in the sauteed beet greens while they are still in the pan.  Crack an egg into each nest, reduce heat to low, cover and cook until egg sets.  For this version, which is very nice for breakfast, you may prefer to nix the walnuts.
  2. For a savory dish, substitute Herbes de Provence (or Savory Spices’ Cantanzaro Herbs) for the ginger. Substitute crumbled goat chevre for the eggs.
  3. Make this dish vegetarian by using vegetarian bacon, but add 1 Tbsp. safflower oil to saute the onion.  The same goes if using turkey bacon instead of pork.

Best Practice Secrets of Good Every Day Cooks

What Good Everyday Cooks Know that Struggling Cooks Don’t

Picking Up Barbeque Sauce from Honeysuckle

Exploring the Louisville Farmers’ Market at our first Market Morning.  Here, Kristen Hall talks about  she is reformulating all her sauces to use real ingredients–like what you’d have in our own pantry.

For a recent magazine article, Martha Stewart was asked how often she orders take out.  Her response was something like a couple times over the last 15 years.

How many people are in the “0-5” range for takeout during the last 15 years?  Initially, Martha’s response made me wonder whether she is some kind of freak.  But then it struck me:  I haven’t ordered takeout more than a couple times in the last 15 years either!

Fact is, there are people “out there” who make healthy, good-tasting meals night after night like it’s no big deal.  What do they know that most people don’t?

Here’s one big secret:  They know the difference between healthy and unhealthy convenience foods, and they know how to use healthy convenience to make good meals manageable.  Case in point:  The Honeysuckle Gourmet’s Black Jack Barbecue Sauce we discovered at our first Market Morning in Louisville.

Barbecue Sauce

Kristen’s Black Jack Natural uses her homemade ketchup to avoid unhealthful ingredients.

How did we know it was healthy?  At our Market tour, we got to chat with Honeysuckle’s Kristen Hall.  She explained how she is painstakingly reformulating each of her sauces to use all “real” ingredients, i.e., the same stuff you’d find in your own pantry.  If you could replicate a sauce yourself, you’ve got a healthy time saver.  You’re just paying to have someone else mix all the ingredients.

What about the cost?  At $7.00 a jar, it’s tempting to write off the sauce as “too expensive.”  But as FORK owner and class participant Christine pointed out, our group of 8 used only a quarter of the jar!  That means I’ve got at least 4 to 6 more meals in that jar for my husband and I.  Which brings us to the third point:

How do I use the rest of the sauce to make great meals, manageably?  This is the key to making condiments cost effective, i.e., finding ways to use them rather than having them waste away on the refrigerator door.  In addition to using the sauce to top sautéed chicken breasts at our class, I’ve found two other easy ideas:

Fast Recipe 1–Slow Cooker Chicken Legs  In need of a fast meal that could be prepared in advance, I skinned a couple chicken thighs and legs and plopped them into the slow cooker with 1/2 cup of sauce.  Eight hours later, I had melt-in-your mouth pulled chicken and sauce that went perfectly over warmed up leftover rice and broccoli.  Fast food couldn’t be faster!

Fast Recipe 2–Barbeque Chicken Soup  A couple days later, the leftover chicken and sauce became the flavor base for a quick, light summer soup with leftover broccoli, potatoes, new carrots from the garden and onion and garlic, of course.  I used another 1/4 cup of sauce + a little hot sauce for flavor.  Again, faster than fast food–and I still have half a jar of sauce.

So that’s how good every day cooks make good meals manageable–and delicious.  Learn more:  Join one of the everyday meal making classes with The New Kitchen Cooking School.

Imagine Your Way to a Healthy Eating Lifestyle

The next step in the Imagination series . . .

You may have heard of Nutrition Action.  It’s a great newsletter that has really opened my eyes to what is actually inthe processed foods we so merrily munch.  A recent article was particularly interesting.  It  pitted the Top 10 Super Foods against the 10 Worst Processed Foods, providing the nutritional lowdown on each entry.  Here’s an abbreviated version:

Super Foods vs. The Worst Foods

*From Nutrition Action Health Letter: http://www.cspinet.org/nah/10foods_bad.html

As usual, I lapped up the dirt on all the fat, salt, calories and chemicals in foods like Marie Callender’s pot pies, Campbell’s Soups and the Olive Garden trio plate.   But I could only do that because I had imagination, i.e., I can look at the list of 10 Super Foods and imagine a dozen alternatives to the Top 10 Worst that are not only scrumptious but health-giving as well.  I don’t have to depend on Marie, Campbell or Olive for food, flavor and comfort at end of the day.

For a lot of people, however, those foods are a main source of food, flavor and comfort, so it isn’t so fun to read the dirt on processed foods.  Lacking the imagination to free ourselves from that trap, we look at the Super Food list and think, “Oh great, a dinner of salmon with spinach and brown rice plus fat-free milk to drink.  Oh great, crispbreads with oranges for snack.  Oh great, frozen butternut squash steamed with kale for lunch.”  Faced with that kind of lineup, it’s hard to imagine healthful eating as anything but dismal!

But what if the Super Food list were enhanced by a little imagination.  Take a look my Super Food meal list from the past couple weeks:Super Food Imagination List

What you will gather from this list is that we face a  translation problem.  Each of the plain old super foods on the list actually translates into a delightfully delicious dish!  But we often don’t know this–and very often can’t even envision it.

Hence the need for need for revving up the imagination.  If 2012 is your year to begin a healthy eating lifestyle, here’s a good starting point:  Envision the Super Foods as the basis for hundreds of incredible meals that beat the heck out of Marie’s pot pies.  You may not be able to picture those meals, and you may not fully believe that statement, but can you at least:

  • Imagine a world where healthful meals are as good, satisfying and comforting as a bowl of Haagan Daz or Cold Stone.
  • Imagine eating foods and feeling really good–not guilty–about what you’ve eaten.
  • Imagine that you could experience incredible health by eating deliciously delightful meals.

What you need to know is that these imagined scenarios are all true.  I can say this with complete confidence because I’ve been in this wonderful world for many years and it only gets better and better.  I hope you’ll join me this year–starting with just a leap of imagination.

Ready for the next steps:

How to Make Healthy, Whole Grain Breadcrumbs

Transform throw away crusts into kitchen gold

The previous post talked about “breading,” an easy building block cooking technique used to create dozens of different, interesting dishes.  Get ready to start experimenting with this technique by making your own breadcrumbs.  Save money by using up old crusts and stale bread that would otherwise go to waste.  Help the environment by keeping food out of  landfills, where it produces methane, a far worse contributor to global warming than carbon emissions.

Out of the Breadbox Bread

Good News for Gluten Free Eaters: Enjoy breaded dishes by making crumbs from your favorite GF bread, like Out of the Breadbox, at Vitamin Cottage.

Start with Whole Not Half  Healthy breadcrumbs can only come from healthy bread, and that means bread made from 100% whole grains, like whole wheat, oats, brown rice and millet.  In the ingredient listing for a bread, the single word “wheat” is code for “white flour.”  Skip that brand and look for one made entirely from whole grains.  Whole grains are so delicious and nutrition rich; why waste money on breads made with half grains, especially when it’s the halves with all the calories and few of the nutrients that go with them!

Gluten Free  Good news for gluten free eaters:  You can use gluten free bread for crumbs.  Be sure it’s whole grain, like Food for Life’s Millet Bread which makes really flavorful crumbs.

Using Food Processor to Make Crumbs

Act Ahead: Whenver you end up with a couple crusts or stale slices, toss them in the food processor and give them a whir.

Act Ahead  Don’t wait until preparing a breaded dish to make the breadcrumbs.  Then you’ll be saddled with the extra step of a  toasting them in the oven to dry.  Instead, weave the process into your normal kitchen routine.  Here’s an example:

  1. Whenever you end up with a crust or two, simply toss them in the food processor.
  2. Process the crumbs when, e.g., you’re next unloading the dishwasher.  Push the button and unload the glasses.  Once the bread has been transformed into crumbs, dump them on a plate.  Put the plate on top of, e.g, the microwave.
  3. Give the crumbs a stir or two over the next couple days to make sure the bottom ones get exposed to air.
  4. Then, while heating something in the microwave, pour the dried crumbs (make sure they are completely dry)  into a storage container; put the plate in the dishwasher.
Large Breadcrumbs

Large crumbs are great for gratin toppings, meatballs and so on. . .

Now you’ve got large crumbs to use for gratin toppings, in meatloaf and meatballs, etc.  To use crumbs for breading, I recommend one additional step:

The Fine Grind  Breading works best when the crumbs are very fine.  They do a better job of sticking to the food and creating an even, solid coating.  That’s why flour and cornmeal are such good breading ingredients.  Breadcrumbs can be made into a perfect breading ingredient by simply running them through the food processor again, after they are dried the first time.  I wait and do this when I’m making a dish, and only fine grind as much as I need, leaving larger crumbs for other uses.

Small Breadcrumbs

. . . but for breading, process again after they are dried for a small, fine crumb

No Food Processor?  An immersion blender with a chopper attachment is a good, and much less expensive, alternative.  If that option isn’t available, there’s always a rolling pin.  In the days before all our specialized electric appliances, we broke crusts into large pieces, dried them and then crushed with a rolling pin.  Putting them inside paper or plastic bags minimized the mess.

Ready to do experiment with breading?  Check out the next post on Breaded Eggplant with Herbed Tomato Topping,  which makes use of plentiful late summer and early autumn produce.

%d bloggers like this: