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Tag Archives: Kale

I can’t get no satisfaction

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Just so you know, there is something behind this nonsense diet I have undertaken. With all the running I have been doing this summer, around 50k per week these days, I decided I might as well put some goals behind it, so it’s not all aimless running. Scratch that. None of it is aimless, it’s all for fitness, staying in shape, keeping stress away, feeling good, staying young (29 and counting!). But when you can put another specific, dated goal on top, a real challenge that will push you – at least a bit – it feels even better. So I have. As long as the weather is reasonable on that day, I will run the Munich half marathon on October 11. A mere six weeks away. But considering I have been running all summer with the aim to improve, I feel like I have been training for quite a long time already. In theory, it should be a breeze. Not that I have ever done it before.

But…it would be even nicer not to come in last. I’m slooooow. And while I have seen nice improvement over the summer – so far cutting about 35 seconds off my average km speed, I know I can do better if I get more serious. More serious about core strengthening for better posture and simply easier running, more serious about speed by doing interval training, more serious about diet, for which there has been very little seriousness. I don’t eat junk, at least not much, but when you perform sport activities for 2+ hours a day (running, biking to work and back, biking everywhere), you burn a lot of calories, and I’ve noticed that the hunger gets really out of control mid-day. I snack too much in between meals and it’s not snacking on carrot sticks. I am a carb junkie. Give me crackers and pretzels and I am a really happy camper. Throw in some ice cream when the thermometer hits 30+ degrees, and I am wallowing in bliss. But all this means that calories in are only perhaps a bit less than calories out. So I have managed to lose a few pounds over the summer, but really only a few.

And wouldn’t it be nice to be 10 pounds/15 pounds lighter to run a half marathon?

With six weeks to go…time to make a drastic, impactful change and see what happens. I’m cutting carbs. Day 7 in, I’m fairly miserable, but seeing results, so sticking with it. I guess you could say I am trying out a Paleo diet – with the exception that I am also leaving out the fruit, All sugar is gone, all carbs, except what comes from nuts and vegetables, gone. Let’s see what happens. Feels like Atkins, which I tried out quite successfully a long long time ago, but much much worse because in those days I didn’t run a 10k five times a week.

Tonight’s dinner: a reflection of the diet, but doing my best to stay happy with food I love.

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Some poached salmon, long cooked kale, (always a favorite),

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And a weird but ok attempt at zucchini/pepper/cheese pancakes (I resisted adding an egg to bind everything together, hoping the cheese would do the job as the pancakes cooked, because there have been way too many eggs in the last 7 days. Wasn’t pefect).

Results:

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Good, filling, better than much of what I’ve eaten in the last few days while traveling, (on the road: piles of nuts, tomatoes, carrot sticks to fill the hunger moments) but…oh, I am really suffering without bread. Timing: gonna try to make it through another 3 weeks. For the last couple weeks before the race I’ll pull in fruit and legumes and some whole grain carbs.

So for now, dealing with this.

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Green Green Green

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Yes, this kale fad is beginning to hit Germany, although I do wish it would speed up a bit. At the moment, to find kale I have to order it in advance from the produce guy down the street or hope that the bio shop in town carries it, or in a lucky moment find it at the Viktualienmarkt. I know that I am only singing the chorus in a many-versioned opera that has resounded in the US in the last years over kale. Although I was informed that there is a backlash now against it. (A backlash? Why? People don’t like the taste anymore? They are resentful of the health benefits? They feel forced to express their individuality by *not* liking kale? I don’t get it. ) It’s such a versatile vegetable, you can eat it raw, saute it, juice it…endless variations. And as one of these “superfoods” I have to just shake my head and ask…why ever not?

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Yes, a bit over the top on the kale. But most of it was for a dinner party on Friday night. One last bunch went into last night’s dinner.

I have a variation on a theme salad that I make fairly frequently, and decided to use the kale for that last night. Rather light, incredibly satisfying, a good salad when you are still recovering from the drinks the night before and you want to feel like you are doing good things for your body.

It’s essentially a light Asian-styled noodle salad. For the noodles I can recommend either a soba noodle – although they are quite delicate and you have to be careful not to overcook them – or in my case last night – a whole grain spaghetti. You could even go with a rice noodle, although not vermicelli, or also good is a yam noodle, harder to find, but much less delicate than the rice noodles. And then I just riff on the rest:

Noodles
Protein – can be leftover cooked chicken or duck breast, can be raw or cooked tuna or salmon, or alternatively you can go with strips of firm tofu lightly sauteed in a bit of peanut oil.
Mushrooms – I like the funky crunch of tree fungus mushrooms, but I could recommend anything – shitake, oyster, even simple button – also lightly sauteed in oil. With the tree fungus mushrooms, I just reconstitute a few of them in hot water and chop them up roughly. Enoki are also really lovely. You don’t even need to cook them. Just pull them apart and sprinkle them in.
Greens – here I went for a combination – par boiled kale, reconstituted wakame seaweed, arugula. But spinach works, as do other dark greens
Herbs – last night there was cilantro and green onions, but I’ve also used mint and shiso leaf. Stick with the asian flavors – I wouldn’t do anything like parsley and certainly nothing like sage or thyme, etc.
Optional – other veggies – like halved sweet cherry tomatoes, slivered sweet red bell peppers, matchsticks of cucumber with or without skin, and avocado is always really nice – ripe, cubed.

For dressing, I try to stay as simple as possible: I like olive oil, although I know it’s not an asian flavor – but I mix it with sesame oil and some chili oil to give it some aroma. I usually put in ginger (1 inch or more if you like, peeled and processed in your garlic press – it works!), 1 clove of raw pressed garlic, a few squeezes of lime juice or lemon juice, salt to taste – perhaps start with a half a teaspoon and then add more, a bit of freshly cracked black pepper is also good. For a little heat, be generous with your chili oil or sprinkle in some cayenne. I mix it up, adjusting proportions and amounts based on how many I am cooking for – and rather go light on dressing, adding in a little more of this or that after tasting.

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So the recipe last night – serves 3-4 – we have leftovers in the fridge – was approximately this:

  • 200 grams noodles, cooked until just barely al dente in salted water, drained and rinsed with cool water
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed, par boiled for about a minute or two in salted water, drained, squeezed of water and chopped (about two cups after processing)
  • a small handful of wakame seaweed, reconstituted in boiling water, drained and chopped (a cup after processing)
  • a large handful of arugula (a cup or so)
  • a half of a leftover roasted duck breast, cut into strips
  • a half of a sweet yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • two or three green spring onions, chopped
  • a handful of cilantro, stems included, roughly chopped (about a quarter cup)
  • about 5 or so tree fungus mushrooms, reconstituted in boiling water and chopped (3/4 cup when done)
  • half of a ripe avocado, cubed – toss this in last because it is delicate and you want it to stay somewhat whole
  • a heavy shake or three of my japanese furikake mix (seaweed, salt, sesame seeds) to give it some crunch, but some toasted sesame seeds – perhaps a tablespoon or two – is a nice touch and works just as well.
  • Dressing was just as described above. I had perhaps a third of a cup of dressing when I poured it on, but I added a bit of this or that to correct flavors afterwards.

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Mix all your ingredients  above, making sure to coat everything evenly with the dressing. You want the salad to glisten with the dressing, a just barely there feeling. Correct for salt – you may likely need to add some.

For a wine pairing I would go with a dry Riesling. Alternatively, a dry French cider could be nice as well.

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Not quite smitten

IMG_9197We were really screwed on summer this year in Munich. And in fact in much of Germany. There were a few teaser days and weekends here and there, but suddenly we’re mid-September, the chill is upon us, and we’re all wondering how July and August flew by without a reasonable amount of sun and heat kissing our skin and warm breezes caressing our faces.

I am hunkered down, dreading my morning run to come, in long soft sweatpants and a hoodie, looking at recipes with duck and pasta – winter dishes really. But more on that later.

Last weekend there was a desperate attempt to make use of a favorite autumn ingredient: kale. I love the stuff and I wish I could find it more easily here. It’s a bit like finding cilantro/coriander 10 years ago here – the only place to get it was in an Asian grocery. Now, I wouldn’t call it widespread, but at least it’s more accessible. I can only hope that will happen with kale in the next year – now I have to make a special trip to a bio supermarket or the Viktualienmarkt downtown to find some kale.

Over on Smitten Kitchen I had found a recipe for an amazing sounding salad – with cheese, pickled sultanas, nuts, breadcrumbs and naturally kale – practically a meal in itself. It was worth a trip downtown. Which is where I went to pick up the kale and the pecorino the recipe called for. (Cheese photo from a stall in the Viktualienmarkt where I bought it.)

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I made a sandwich recipe to go along with the salad, but that was a whole other project by itself. Slow cooked pork in a tangy barbeque sauce, pickled onions and coleslaw…ummm. Worked well.

There are a lot of steps to the kale salad, but each are simple and doable and in the end it comes together reasonably quickly.

You have to prepare the walnuts, raisins, breadcrumbs, cheese  and the kale all separately and then in the end toss everything together with some lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. What’s nice about this salad is that it keeps for a day because the leaves from the kale are so hardy (I mixed in radicchio as well for color and bitterness). Just put leftovers in the fridge overnight and enjoy the next day.

Only critique I’d have is that I feel like the breadcrumbs were truly not necessary – they ended up drying out the salad in a way that I felt was unnecessary. The cheese and nuts were enough of a foil together with the sultanas to make the salad really delicious. So I wasn’t as smitten as I could have been with it. Next time, no breadcrumbs.

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Posted by on September 13, 2014 in Cooking at home

 

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