All the World is Green: Perfectly healthy, kid-approved recipes

Spring is a very green time, especially in New Orleans. In honor of that, here are my absolute favorite green-hued recipes. These are quick, easy, and healthy for those of us who are great at following instructions, but not so great at devising recipes. Some of them are even kid-approved! 

This Winter Green Smoothie one is recycled from my Post-Mardi Gras Juice-Cleansing post, but it’s way too green to leave out.

greensmoothie

  • Thumbnail-sized piece of ginger
  • 250ml of filtered water or coconut water
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 handful of kale (or try watercress/baby spinach/romaine lettuce)
  • 1 handful of winter fruit such as apple/pear/kiwi/pineapple
  • 1 large sprig of parsley
  • Combos: apple & watercress, pear & baby spinach

okra

Balsamic Vinegar Glazed Okra

I heard this recipe on local radio and am not sure to whom it’s attributed. If you roast the okra until it begins to caramelize, its signature sliminess will cook away. Also, the balsamic vinegar lends a bit of sweetness to a polarizing vegetable – so much so that even my six-year-old adores it.

Ingredients: 

  • Okra (3-4 cups)
  • Balsamic vinegar and olive oil in equal proportion (enough to lightly glaze all of the okra)

Prep: Wash okra and chop into chunks; preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl mix okra, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and black pepper. Transfer doused okra into an oven-safe dish. If you’d prefer to dry the okra until it turns into okra chips, place on cookie sheet. Otherwise, any heavy, oven-safe dish is fine.

Place into oven for approximately 25 min. Stir occasionally. Let cool 5 min before serving.

zuchGreen “Pasta”

I was skeptical when a friend first showed me this one, but it’s surprisingly yummy and versatile – a great option for a light side. And my son gets a kick out of the green pasta.

Ingredients:

  • Zucchini
  • whatever you’d normally toss with pasta – olive oil, pesto, marinara sauce, Parmesan cheese, etc.

Prep:

  • Wash zucchini, remove skin but don’t chop.
  • Using cheese grater (the rough side), grate along the side to create strands. You may have to experiment with your grater to make strands, but you’re aiming for thick strings of zucchini.
  • In a pot, bring water to a boil.
  • Throw in “pasta” for 3 min.
  • Rinse with cold water, squeeze out excess water.
  • Toss as preferred and serve (may need a zap in the microwave if topping is cold).

Two Incarnations of Kale

Raw-Kale-Salad-2Kale Salad

Raw kale is bitter and frequently scares people. Blanching the kale eliminates much of the bite and is a great first step for any kale recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of kale (3 cups)
  • Whatever you’d prefer to turn it into a salad. I love balsamic vinegar and sea salt, though it’s too acidic for some. Throw in some sliced apples, cranberries and almonds. Voila!

Prep:

  • Wash kale and chop into 2 in sections (scissors help). Discard the hardest stems.
  • Bring 1/2-1 cup water to a boil in a large pot or pan
  • Add kale and cover
  • Allow it to boil for 3-5 min (depending on desired softness)
  • Rinse in cold water
  • Toss with preferred dressing

Lemon-Garlic Sautéed Kale

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Prep:

  • Blanch kale as in the salad recipe
  • Heat olive oil in a large pan, add garlic, and fry for 3 min.
  • Add lemon juice and 1/2 cup water.
  • Add blanched kale, stir well, and cover.
  • Sauté until desired consistency, normally 10 – 15 min, stirring occasionally.

watercressadvacadoAvocado and Watercress Salad

This salad is my favorite. I could eat bowls and bowls of it. I found it on Epicurious, but it’s originally from Gourmet, May 2008.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)
  • 1 tablespoon grated sweet onion such as Vidalia or Walla Walla (use large holes of a box grater)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated peeled Gala apple (use small holes of box grater)
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 cups watercress (thin stems and leaves only; from 1 large bunch)
  • 1 firm-ripe avocado

Prep:

  • Stir together vinegar, onion, apple, soy sauce, and sugar until sugar has dissolved, then stir in oil.
  • Just before serving, toss watercress with enough dressing to coat.
  • Quarter, pit, and peel avocado, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
  • Gently toss with watercress.

pesto-chicken-400x400-kalynskitchenBaked Pesto Chicken

This South Beach Diet recipe was given to me by one of my dearest friends years ago, and I still think it’s one of her greatest contributions to my life. Joking – but it really is that good. I’ve yet to meet anyone who dislikes it – definitely kid-approved.

Ingredients: 

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper for seasoning chicken
  • 2 oz. (1/2 cup) grated low-fat mozzarella cheese

For pesto:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed into measuring cup)
  • 3-4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Prep:

Pesto:

  • Wash basil leaves
  • Put basil leaves and sliced garlic into food processor and process until basil and garlic is finely chopped, adding oil through the feed tube as you process.
  • Add pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and lemon juice to the chopped basil mixture and process 1-2 minutes more, until the pesto is mostly pureed and well mixed.
  • Season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper and pulse a few times more.

Chicken:

  • Preheat oven to 375F. Trim all visible fat and tendons from chicken pieces, and then cut each chicken breast lengthwise into 2 or 3 pieces.
  • Spray a 9″ x 12″ (or 8.5″ x 12.5″) baking dish with non-stick spray, then spread 1/4 cup basil pesto over the bottom of the dish.
  • Lay chicken strips over the pesto, then spread 1/4 cup more basil pesto over the chicken.
  • Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil (or use a baking dish with a tight-fitting lid) and bake the chicken for 25-30 minutes, just until chicken is barely firm and cooked through.
  • When chicken is barely cooked through, remove foil and sprinkle chicken with 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese. Put dish back into the oven without foil and cook 5 minutes more, just until cheese is melted.
  • Serve hot.

Bon Appétit!

Post-Mardi Gras Juice Cleanse: Spring cleaning from the inside out!

With the end of Mardi Gras ushering in the beginning of Lent, we find ourselves dehydrated, bloated, with king cake practically spilling out of our ears. Even those of us who skipped town and caught a flight for snowing skies, we are no less exhausted and parched.

Lent is a resurrection of those forlorn New Year’s Resolutions – a chance to dust off good intentions in the name of a higher cause. Why not clear the nutritional slate with a juice cleanse?

I know, I know. Juice cleanses… fasts… are the current fad. I first became privy to them when my mother announced hers on Facebook, along with multiple pictures of fruit from various angles. My first assumption was that her yoga studio was a cult and that I’d soon be hearing of a guru. But after spending several nights studying for exams and pumping cheap coffee through my veins, the array of fruit did look, well, juicy.

I skeptically decided to give Dr. Oz’s 3-Day Detox Cleanse a go.

The cleanse is comprised of three (non-dairy) smoothies, to be consumed four times daily, along with supplements, green tea, and an evening lavender salt bath. Dr. Oz even provides a grocery list on his handy cheat-sheet. Each of the juices includes leafy greens (spinach, kale), berries (raspberries, blueberries) or fruits (mango, green apple), and a protein/fat source (avocado, almond butter, coconut oil). Price-wise, you’re looking at around $20-$30 a day, depending on where you shop. You can also save a few bucks if you buy wholesale bags of kale and frozen fruit. And no need for a pricy juicer! My trusty Ninja food processor was up to the task. 

What took me aback was the enormity of the juice portions. I could not finish “dinner” and never bothered with the “snack”. They were quite filling, fresh, delicious, and hydrating enough to flush away my Tulane all-nighter toxins. I felt energized and glow-y, like a reconstituted raisin, gulping away at these odd concoctions. While never hungry, I did crave solid food by day 2.5, and on subsequent cleanses, cheated with a replacement salad or roasted veggies. I also didn’t love the “lunch” recipe and prefer this winter green juice option I found in British Vogue.

Some tout juice fasting as a weight loss solution. I wouldn’t go that far. Water pushes water, so you may lose four pounds in those three days; return to a normal diet, and you will revert to normal water retention levels. However, after that first Dr. Oz plunge, I did find myself craving fresh juices and voluntarily substituting them for meals. They’re just so simple – the ultimate quick, lazy food. No chewing, no dirty pans, and a great on-the-go/busy mama forgot to eat option. I also became aware of my intake of fibrous veggies and greens, translating into fewer bread-based carbs and more juicy salads.

While not a magic bullet for weight loss or a long-term meal plan, juice fasts offer a vitamin boost, rehydration on par with an IV drip, and an increased awareness of what we put into our bodies. And they’re a tasty way to resurrect our bodies after Mardi Gras. That’s enough to keep me coming back to my Ninja. Now drink up!

Here are some go-to juice bars around the city:

The Green Fork: juices, smoothies, vegan things, salads, and open as early as 7 AM! They offer a 3-day juice cleanse for $45-$55 per day, delivered to your doorstep.

Superfood Bar: juices, food, delightful coconut concoctions.

Raw Republic: haven’t tried this one yet, but eager to. They also offer a 1, 3, and 5 day cleanse.

d’Juice: fresh juices for an energy boost or your post-workout and whole fruit smoothies – a great way to get those veggies in after school!

Olympic Cold War?

With the Olympics under way, I have been hearing a recurrent theme of childhood recollections of Olympics past. Glorious athletes! Dazzling ceremonies! Hours mimicking those flips in the back yard! That nostalgia even prompted my boyfriend to volunteer at the Sochi Olympics – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to realize a childhood dream. To many, the Olympics are a relic of childhood, and I’m no exception. Except these Olympics struck a chord with me that I did not expect.

As I watched the Opening Ceremonies with my son, I was dumbstruck by the artistic output and the cultural expression on display. The references resonated because it is “my” Olympics too – I was born in the Soviet Union, grew up in the US surrounded by plenty of Russian-ness, and got my undergraduate degree in Russian Languages and Literature. In watching the ceremony with my son, I felt I was relating something that I could not convey in words.

And then I opened Facebook and saw the countless reasons why the Russians did not deserve the Olympics, replays of the one flaw in the ceremony, and litanies about Putin. I looked up and noticed that though MSNBC was airing the ceremony 10 hours after its occurrence, they had not bothered to translate Russian speeches, nor to check the spelling of “Vladimir”. It felt quite a bit like those first few weeks in the second grade, when I spoke little English but was tormented as a “Russian spy” and a “Commie” by my classmates. Never mind that none of us knew what that meant, I was at the bottom of the pecking order.

The world has changed enormously in the last eighteen years, but that enmity remains. There are political reasons, which are eloquently addressed in this Foreign Policy article, which reads “When Americans look at Russia, they see what they want to see. And that’s dangerous.” The gist lies in Russians viewing the issues splashed across Western media in very different terms, often with indifference. Their day-to-day concerns have little to do with Pussy Riot.

Another article, from The Guardian, voices my thoughts on the anti-gay law “…while western opponents of the Kremlin’s law may have noble intentions, their criticism has far too often been both hysterical and hypocritical. Condemnation has also at times resembled hate speech, as in… suggestion(s) that Russians have nothing whatsoever of value to offer the world.” The reality is, most Americans still know little about Russia. Imagine hearing America’s loudest and most offensive fringe voices and painting the entire nation with that brush. Americans are not the only guilty party – I am equally annoyed when I hear Russian media, or even Norwegians, making fun of US quirks. It’s the bi-cultural equivalent of inviting guests into my home, only to have them criticize the silverware.

My son’s ballet teacher recently mentioned that he very proudly asked to count aloud in Russian. For now, he brags about his heritage and delights in Russian cartoons. I would love for him to one day recount childhood memories of Olympic Titans. But these games have become so politicized and polarized that he’s bound to hear that the Russians didn’t deserve them, and in some small way, that will sting. So please, when you watch the games with your children, revel in the grace and form of the individuals involved, and don’t pass on Cold War politics to those little ears. Let’s focus on the athletes who have spent a lifetime working toward those moments on screen, and on the volunteers hauling around their skis, no matter their nationalities or political leaders.

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