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Keeping the Holidays Healthy

Here is a staggering statistic that I love to remind people of at Thanksgiving time, at the average Thanksgiving meal each person consumes 2 sticks of butter!  That is 1/2 pound per person of pure dairy fat!   That butter hides in pie crust, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing just to name a few.   Now this does not mean you should not indulge and enjoy the holiday but here are a few simple suggestions to make one of our favorite holiday meals just a bit better for our  health and waistlines.

  1. Use chicken or vegetable broth to add moisture to stuffing and potatoes to drastically reduce the amount of butter needed
  2. use lots of fresh herbs such as Rosemary, Sage, Parsley and Thyme to add flavor, and always remember that fresh herbs are also dark green leafy vegetables which adds loads of vitamins and minerals to your favorite dishes
  3. use gravy sparingly, a good gravy should have a rich enough flavor that you don’t need you meal to be smothered
  4. skip the crust, unless it is truly your favorite part, eat the filling of the pie and leave the butter and refined flour crust on the plate to avoid lots of extra calories
  5. Don’t starve yourself all day before you eat, be sure to have a protein and fiber rich snack before eating to help control your appetite, think Hummus and veggies as a snack during football

This is a start and won’t make huge changes to your mealtime.  Remember it is all about balance so aim to eat loads of fresh veggies early that week and that weekend to help your body recover from the onslaught that is the Thanksgiving meal,

Sugar: The. Bad and the Ugly

So I am sure no one wants to talk sugar the day before Halloween, but since tomorrow is quite possibly the day Americans consume the most sugar of any day I though it rather timely.   Sugar comes in all sorts of forms and types, white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, and loads of scientific names all of which end in OSE.  This is important to remember , anytime you see a word such as maltose, sucrose, fructose, lactose, fructose it means sugar, sometimes a single bond, sometimes a double it doesn’t really matter because WE ALL EAT TOO MUCH SUGAR.

If you have ever participated in an Optimal Kitchen cooking class you know that I blame much of our over consumption of sugar on the fat phobic trends of the 1980’s and 90’s.  There is simply too much sugar sugar lurking in processed and packaged foods and don’t get me started on the beverages.  Many will argue that they only eat natural sugar, sugar cane is natural and large amounts of honey and maple syrup are  damaging to our system as well though not as badly and at least these 2 bring some additional health benefits.  We know that sugar causes diabetes and metabolic syndrome by overtaxing  the pancreas, but it is also damaging to many other bodily systems.  Sugar feeds malignant cells causing those cells to proliferate.  Sugar weakens our immune systems making us vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections and sugar consumption leads to weight gain which has its own set of health problems.

I could go into details about what exactly those sugar molecules do tour system and talk about double versus single bonded sugar molecules and how they affect us but  I don’t view that information helpful to the lay person just trying to feed them selves better.  What is important to know about sugars is that the simpler or more refined form we consume the sugar in the more quickly it hits our systems requiring an immediate output of insulin to cope with the surge.  This is why the sugar in whole fruits, though  abundant, hits us differently with all the natural fiber and water to help slow down the process.

SO HERE ARE THE HALLOWEEN TIPS FOR SURVIVING SUGAR OVERLOAD:

1)EAT A PROTEIN RICH MEAL OR SNACK BEFORE HEADING OUT TRICK OR TREATING

2)AIM TO EAT LOADS OF FIBER RICH FOODS ALL DAY TOMORROW , FRUITS, VEGETABLES, WHOLE GRAINS, NUTS AND SEEDS

3) MAKE A PLAN FOR WHAT YOU ARE DOING WITH ALL THAT CANDY, the amount your kids come home with might be enough candy for the whole year  so decide ahead of time how you will handle this

4) BE SURE TO FIND A WALKING ROUTE FOR YOUR TRICK OR TREATING SINCE THE BEST WAY TO REDUCE EXCESS BLOOD SUGAR IN THE SYSTEM IS THROUGH WALKING

HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!

Understanding Hypertension

Recently I have been approached by a wide variety of friends  that have been grappling with unhealthy blood pressure levels for a myriad of reasons.  Whether it is my friend who recently gave birth a month early due to preeclampsia or another who simply has a genetic predisposition to hypertension, the treatment is virtually the same , but first I want to explain a bit about high blood pressure.

As complicated as this chronic disease may seem it is really very simply, sodium and potassium work together to create the proper tensile strength in our arteries for ideal blood flow. Skew towards more sodium in your diet and they tighten and tense up resulting in too high blood pressure, much less likely but with profound health problems as well too much potassium in the diet and pressure gets to low. So here we see another  need to find proper balance in our lives, this time in the amount of sodium and potassium in our diet. But how do we achieve this?

It is actually fairly simple.  We often don’t recognize the sodium levels in packaged and processed foods because it is sweet foods such as cereals and packaged baked goods that have absurdly high sodium levels, foods that don’t taste remotely salty.  In fact most cereals have sodium levels greater than pretzels and chips where we taste the salt!  But The Optimal Kitchen is always more about what we should eat and not simply what to avoid so let’s focus on increasing those potassium levels, how do we do this?

It is actually quite simply FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES, lots of them!!!! If you follow the Optimal Kitchen at all you have heard this many times and pretty much is the go to solution for holistically controlling any cardiovascular or metabolic issue.  All fruits and vegetables are naturally high in potassium, not just bananas which are pretty high in sugar.  Another reason to get those 9, YES 9, daily servings of fruits and vegetables everyday.  Keep your fruit whole and raw and be sure to eat the rainbow since every color of vegetable has a different purpose in promoting Optimal health.  So before you decide to go on any hypertensive medication, try shifting to an all vegetable, whole food diet for a week and see the amazing results

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Stay on Track all Week with The Optimal Kitchen

For those of you who are still not familiar with what we do at the Optimal Kitchen this is for you.  Every Wednesday I am at the Wellfleet Farmer’s Market and on Saturday,  I am at the Orleans Farmer’s Market.  At each market we sell a variety of healthy prepared foods.  If your  excuse for not eating well is that it takes to much effort to cook or is too expensive, the Optimal Kitchen takes away all those barriers.  Each market we have a stock of healthy salads, soups, salsas and snacks.  Almost all items are vegan, many are gluten free and there are even several paleo options as well.  

Our favorite new item is our TOK samplers.  These samplers let you try 4 different items from the Optimal Kitchen, making it a perfect way to sample all we have to offer. Each market features a salad sampler as well as a gluten free option.  These are perfect lunches and keeping a stock of them on hand will go a long way towards helping you stay on track with healthy eating all week long.  The food from the Optimal Kitchen is always extremely fresh so items will stay good in your fridge for the week.

So get rid of those excuses, healthy eating can be easy and affordable thanks to the Optimal Kitchen so come down and see us  and learn how we can help.

GOOD HEALTH STARTS WITH GOOD FOOD

A Dose of Reality Nutrition

Perhaps it is because I just returned from vacation, where I had  some free time to read up on recent Nutrition news, that I am sitting here cringing from much of the information out there on the web.  What strikes me as fundamentally screwy is that almost every nutrition blog I read connects to some e-commerce site where they try and sell you some magical potion or powder to improve whatever ailment you may be suffering from.  I am not here to sell you anything, but I am here to tell you that good nutrition is key to lifelong health and wellness. 

What we eat profoundly affects our bodies, and no amount of exercise can make up for a poor dietconsisting of sugar and fat laden processed foods.  In fact 80% of weight loss comes from dietary changes, not exercise, so as much as I support being active everyday, what we eat is far more critical to our bodies ability to function optimally.

First I want to address the issue of supplements which is what I see pandered most on the internet.  I am going to be bold enough to go out there and say “how is it humankind managed to survive hundreds of thousand of years without supplements, which have only been popular for the last half century.”  The answer is easy, we ate a variety of whole foods, primarily plants, vegetables, grains and fruits, with a bit of meat, eggs, and either some butter or lard to make it all taste good.  We have had access to some sweet foods for a few hundred years, but history books make it quite clear that these were luxuries that only a few could afford and only occasionally.  Can you imagine?  We managed to get the nutrients we needed to not only to survive but to thrive as a species from the simple foods we ate.  Ok, I will concede that herbs and spices have always been a vital part of health and nutrition and even though Tumeric may be sold in capsule form today, I do not consider any culinary or medicinal herbs that grow on this planet to be supplements.

My issue with supplements is simply the fact that manufactured forms of vitamins and minerals are never as readily absorbed and used by our bodies as when they are consumed in foods in which they naturally occur. Here is an example, for many years consumers bought and used Calcium Carbonate as a supplement to prevent bone loss which could lead to osteoporosis.  However after decades on the market, we  realized that without the presence of Vitamin C the body did not absorb the calcium so the money spent on all those calcium carbonate supplements quite literally was flushed down the toilet.  Now companies pander Calcium Citrate which contains Vitamin C to aid absorption, but keep in mind every food that is rich in Calcium, dark green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables and many types of seafood have copious amounts of vitamin C present already.  Mother nature makes sure to create foods that match our bodies actual needs.  This same rule applies to Iron, so when you wonder why if you are prescribed an iron supplement and your doctor tells you to take it with orange juice, this is the reason.  But again if you ate copious amounts of greens and some red beans you probably would not need an iron supplement.

Another example is the explosion of probiotics on the market.  Did you know that most probiotics are found in healthy soil?  Our current system of farming which depletes the soil of these organisms is the reason so many of us lack the proper intestinal flora living in our gut.  Refrigeration has also eliminated the need for fermenting foods which was the other way humans have insured they had enough probiotics in their system for centuries.  Purchasing organic or even better biodynamic produce from your local farmer is a great way to get a wide variety of probiotics into your system.

It is always best to get the nutrients you need from the abundance of healthy foods available to us, they are designed especially for human consumption with nutrients that simply are not understood.  I encourage clients to shift some of the money they spend on these pricey supplements and instead improve the quality of the foods they purchase and eat.  However there are those suffering from illness and malnutrition that may need an extra boost of particular Vitamins and Minerals and for those  people supplements may be the best way to go, in addition to improving their overall diet to include massive amounts of fresh vegetables and fruits. But these people are more unique than mainstream.

Our addiction to these expensive and untested supplements proves an unwillingness to make the difficult changes to our diet to ensure our good health.  So many of us would rather eat a burger or pizza and take a handful of pills than eat a nutrient rich vegetable stew or a bowl of fruit salad.  History proves to us that feeding ourselves has always been challenging and it consumes a significant amount of our energy and resources.  How we face and address those challenges today is very different from our past and the state of disease in this country should be a warning bell that we may not be making the best decisions for our bodies.

As always remember GOOD HEALTH STARTS WITH GOOD FOOD

 

 

What’s New at The Optimal KItchen

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Thai Noodle Salad 

Each week The Optimal Kitchen offers a variety of selections to customers most of which are vegan, many are gluten free and there are even vegan paleo options.  After years of educating and empowering the residents of Cape Cod to make healthy food part of their everyday lifestyle, I realized for many, they did not have the time or desire to prepare healthy foods for themselves.  In response to this community need and after years of searching for a commercial kitchen space, The Optimal Kitchen has been able to move to the next level.

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Morrocan Farro Salad

Not only are the foods offered at The Optimal Kitchen designed to help you achieve your individual health goals, they are an economical solution for the single person or even couples to incorporate healthy foods into their everyday diet.  Many of the dishes offered by the Optimal Kitchen use exotic and expensive ingredients, but by cooking in bulk and portioning it out for the individual we are able to offer these incredibly healthy and delicious foods at affordable prices.  Another bonus is an attempt to reduce food waste.  More than 2 decades as a professional Chef has taught us how to make the most of our ingredients and re-purpose them so there is little to no waste.  An example is that all vegetable stocks are house made from the peels and scraps of vegetables that went into your salads and soups.  So for those of you out there struggling after years of preparing foods for a family to pare down to cooking for just one or two people, The Optimal Kitchen healthy prepared foods are perfect for you!

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Weekly Menu Board

When possible locally sourced and organic ingredients are used, but focus is always placed on affordability.  Therefore, I will never claim to be completely organic, but I will claim to always be healthy.  So come on by the Orleans Farmer’s Market and pick yourself up some of these delicious, healthy and affordable foods and you may just realize you won’t have to cook anymore!

The Myth of Eating Clean

Ok let me start with  the fact that the Optimal Kitchen promotes eating a diet of fresh, whole foods, focused on fruits, vegetables and plant based proteins, but it is the current trend and focus on eating clean we have a problem with.  In the first place what exactly does eating clean mean?  The idea of eating dirty food grosses me out as I am sure it does most  and it seems that is what is implied if I don’t EAT CLEAN.  I am guessing most people would say eating clean means avoiding processed, packaged foods, as well as eating organic, non gmo produce but what else does the term imply?

If this is really the definition of Eating Clean than eating a diet of whole plant based foods is the exact same thing, right?  Unfortunately like most trends in  contemporary American culture it is an extreme version and people who eat clean are almost militant about it and if you ask me those people are doing more to turn people off from healthy eating than turning them onto it.  In fact most people when  confronted with an all or nothing way of eating will most likely choose nothing, and who can blame them.

Feeding ourselves should be about fueling our bodies with the foods that we need to thrive and feel good and this means focusing our diets on lean plant base proteins with the occasional animal protein, loads of vegetables, organic is nice but if it is not in your budget than conventional vegetables are ok, healthy fats, some fruit and a little bit of whole grains.  It isn’t so complicated and should not require a trip to anywhere other than your local supermarket.  The more difficult we make feeding ourselves and our families, the more likely we are to push people to eating pre-made and packaged foods because they are made to feel like a failure.

Feeding ourselves is also about pleasure which is why an occasional treat is absolutely fine and in fact what it may do for your mental health is an even bigger bonus.  So don’t beat yourself up.  Eating in the 21st century seems overly complicated and extremely confusing for everyone.  Simply try to eat like you did when you were a child, whole foods, homemade from scratch because we didn’t have a choice.  And always remember it is about balance so if you spent last night sitting on the couch with a bag of chips or a bowl of ice cream, simply try to eat a bit better today!

TOK Tackles Food Waste

Food waste is a huge problem, so much more than you can imagine.  You might look at your own  trash and think ,”oh that isn’t too bad.” Here is the problem, take your personal food waste and multiply it a thousand times and that is you local grocery store not to mention major growers and food producers who are the ones creating a constant waste stream of food that in this chef and nutritionist’s view is often made up of delicious and nutritious foods.  A handful of entrepreneurs have come on the scene and are finding creative ways of using food that would otherwise be bound for landfills and selling them to the public.

A recent trip to my local Stop and Shop last  Friday allowed me to score these 3 trays of raspberries for a $1.50.  Had a purchased the same raspberries the night before,  I would have spent around $50,but since the produce manager viewed them as less than perfect they were in the cart destined for what I hope was the compost heap,  but what was most likely the dumpster.  After emptying the containers on paper lined sheet pans and examining the berries I found only 3 that had a bit of spot mold and needed to be thrown away.  Ironically I have bought raspberries at full price that were a lesser quality than these.  Luckily I know that spreading berries out like this extends their life, and taking those same trays and placing them in the freezer allows me to IQF (individually quick freeze) these delicious berries so we can enjoy them in the weeks and months ahead.

The Optimal Kitchen is about empowering clients to learn how to tackle the challenges of feeding you and your family healthy whole foods in affordable ways and reducing your personal food waste is a critical part of this process.  Below are some simple ideas on how to ensure less of the food you grow or buy ends up in the compost or trash.

  1. Make your own STOCK: this is one of the best things you can do to reduce waste and save a ton of money.  Save all vegetable scraps, items like carrot peels, onion skins, tomato tops and the likes in a ziploc bag in your freezer.  Once the bag is full empty into a stock pot, cover with water and simmer for several hours and then strain.  You will have a delicious, sodium free vegetable stock to use immediately or to freeze and safe for the future.  Most vegetable scraps are perfect for stock but avoid cucumber skins (due to wax coating), and potato skins which make your stock a bit starcy.
  2. Make your own fruit Vinegar: When you have bruised peaches, berries, apples or the like don’t throw them away.  Take those fruits and place them in a glass jar and cover with some distilled white vinegar and some water and cover with cheesecloth.  Let it sit in a cool dark spot for a few weeks and then strain and place in a glass bottle and you will have a great flavored vinegar to make your own salad dressings.
  3. COMPOST:  this is not a food item you are creating but your food scraps do become a valuable soil amendment for your vegetable or flower gardens.  If you don’t want to deal with composting please take the time to find a friend or neighbor who does and consider collecting your vegetable scraps for them.

These are a few simple ideas that will save you a bit of green as well as help to keep our planet a bit greener.  Remember:  Every time you throw food in the trash you are throwing money away and if you are like me you work way to hard to throw valuable money into the trash!20151106_134612_resized

RAW FOOD FAST

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This week Optimal Kitchen clients signed up for a Raw Food fast which includes all the items pictured above.  The fast is designed to last 2 days and is a great tool to kick start a weight loss plan, detox your body, or simply to get your gut in better shape to boost that immune system before the holiday onslaught.

Here is the lowdown on going RAW :

GET HEALTHY BY GOING RAW

People are always looking for a quick fix, and when it comes to weight loss, crash diets are as popular as ever. It doesn’t take a nutritionist to tell you this not a healthy or wise choice. However, I can tell you that there is a simple and easy way to shed some pounds, rev your metabolism, and decrease your body’s acidity, Go Raw!

It is a basic fact that our bodies were designed to metabolize most of the foods we eat in their raw and natural state. When we apply heat to food above 116 degrees F we denature it and change its molecular structure as well destroying vital living enzymes that can assist in the digestion and absorption of food. Cooking is also thought to diminish the nutritional value and “life force” of food. In simpler terms, cooking our food slows our metabolism because it does not force us to operate at peak levels. By eating our food raw we are allowing our enzymes to function exactly as they were designed to do. It requires far more work on the cellular level for our bodies to metabolize raw foods.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF GOING RAW
Increased energy
Improved skin appearance
Better digestion
Weight loss
Reduced risk of heart disease

OTHER REASONS TO GO RAW
Most types of cooking also create what is known as a free radical. No doubt you’ve read an article on the dangers of free radicals and the anti-oxidant revolution that has ensued to fight those free radicals. Simply put, free radicals are molecules that due to environmental factors, like heat or exposure to toxins, are left with dangling oxygen atoms. These molecules are desperately looking to bond with floating atoms, however unless we consume enough of these vital anti-oxidants for these molecules to bond with, we are left with free radicals which doctors and scientists have linked to a myriad of degenerative diseases, most commonly cancer.

A raw food diet contains also has fewer HYPERLINK “http://adam.about.com/encyclopedia/Trans-fatty-acids.htm”trans fats and HYPERLINK “http://adam.about.com/encyclopedia/Saturated-fats.htm”saturated fats than the typical Western diet. It is also low in sodium and high in potassium, magnesium, folate, fiber and health-promoting plant chemicals called phytochemicals. Most importantly it eliminates all so-called “junk foods”, refined sugars and white flour out of our diet completely. In addition it drastically reduces our consumption of meats and dairy, the two greatest sources of saturated fats. These properties are associated with a reduced risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. For example, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that consumption of a raw food diet lowered plasma total cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations.
IS GOING RAW RIGHT FOR EVERYONE
The raw food diet may not be appropriate for certain people, such as:
Children
Pregnant or nursing women
People with anemia
People at risk for osteoporosis – A Washington University study found that people following a raw food diet had lower bone mass. Bone turnover rates, however, were similar to the group that ate a standard American diet.
A 3-5 day Raw Food fast is a great way to detoxify and kick-start any weight loss program. Forget about all those colon cleansing treatments or expensive herbal supplements designed to detoxify the digestive track. A raw food fast will do primarily the same thing these treatments do without any harmful side effects.

For those of you willing to give it a shot (and I promise you won’t be disappointed) I am providing a set of guidelines to follow. Be wary of beverages, milk is a no, no and so is soda, bottled juices, and coffee all of which are heat pasteurized or full of chemicals. As far as juicing your own fruit, don’t bother, you remove all of the beneficial fiber that will help you to feel full longer. However it is crucial to drink copious amounts of water to help flush accumulated toxins out of your body. A good rule of thumb on how much water you should drink is a 140lb woman or 175lb man should consume in the range of 48-64 oz. daily, for every 20lbs you are overweight you should increase the amount by 8 more ounces. Herbal teas are a great way to add flavor and even more nutrients to your diet.

So give raw a chance and you might just be amazed at how you feel after just a few days. A great way to maintain the benefits of going raw is to keep one meal a day raw, for example a bowl of fresh berries and melon for breakfast or a great big salad full of raw veggies for lunch.

RAW FOOD FAST GUIDELINES
All Raw Fruits: you can eat as much fruit as you want but adhere to the rule that all fruit should be eaten alone or with other fruit only and aim to consume most of your fruit before noon.
All Raw Vegetables: You can consume limitless amounts of raw vegetables, be sure to have a variety on hand because since that is all you are eating you can get quickly bored if there is not enough variety. Make sure you have vegetables of all colors, green, red, orange and purple for their unique blend of phyto-chemicals and carotenoids.
Raw Nuts and Seeds: Nuts are a critical component to a raw food fast because they will help curb hunger faster and better than fruits or vegetables. Keep in mind that nuts are high in fat, though they are beneficial mono-unsaturated fats, so try not to have more than 1 cup per day. Raw nut butters are good too and can be found in most health food stores. Keep in mind though you can’t put it on a cracker.
Raw Fish: Sashimi (no rice)
Raw Meat: Carpaccio
Cold–Pressed Oils Olive, Canola, Some Nut Oils
Raw Vinegars
Raw Soy Sauce
Raw Honey, Raw Blue Agave Syrup
Raw Dairy Products (though for a 3-5 day fast I don’t recommend it)
Foods you’ll have to avoid though they may not seem cooked: milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, bottled salad dressing, bread, crackers, chips, chocolate, coffee, black tea, soda, store bought juice and anything processed.
Raw Vinegars, Raw Ohsawa Nama Shoyu, Raw Honey, Raw Blue Agave syrup, Raw nut butters are all available at the Orleans Whole Food store

The Key to a successful raw food fast is to make sure you have plenty of food on hand. Since you’ll be eating your food raw it won’t take much time to cook foods but you will need to prepare most of your food because there aren’t any places to buy pre-made raw foods in the area. Fats will also be critical to staying with the raw food fast, nuts and avocados will help keep you feeling full for longer, and since you will consuming only raw fruits and vegetables, they will be going through your metabolism quickly, leaving you hungry. You must make sure not to let yourself get to the point where you are significantly hungry or you’ll leave yourself at risk for cheating. You should be eating every2-3 hours, even if it is simply a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts.

 

Kale 101

Even though the days are a lot shorter and certainly quite a bit cooler, several crops flourish in this environment.  Those crops that love and embrace the cooler temps are the dark green leafy vegetables that are so critical for optimal health.  Spinach reigned supreme in this category for years, but recently Kale has become tremendously popular and widely available at both local farmer’s markets as well as conventional grocery stores. Even  with its rise in popularity , I have found that many people  are still unsure what the different types are and how they should be used.  This is important because not all types of Kale are the same and might not work for every kale recipe you find.  In fact many Kale recipes I have searched online leave out what type of kale is best suited for it.  This often leads to people being turned off by kale saying it was too tough or bitter when really that particular type should never have been used.

There are 3 main categories of kale and within each of these there are several varieties.  The specific varieties are not as important and pertain more to growing environments, certain types simply grow better in specific areas.  There are also some heirloom varieties which may have a bit different flavor or coloring , but  the differences are not significant.

The 3 major types of Kale are :

Red Russian: (pictured above) this is the broad leaf kale that has frilled edges but the leaves are primarily flat.  This Kale is ideal for salads and require no “massaging” which has always struck me as ridiculous.  Red or White Russian or Siberian Kale is mild in flavor and texture so this is the best Kale for all RAW recipes, including smoothies.  Simply remove the tough ribs by sliding a knife down the length of the stem and use the rest of the leaves for those delicious salads and raw dishes.

Lacinato, Tuscan or Dino: this is the kale with the bumpy long oval leaves.  This is without a doubt my preferred choice for kale chips.  You can use this kale raw and in salads, but if you do, I recommend laying the leaves in a stack and slicing them into shreds which helps to relieve some of the inherent toughness in the leaves.  This is a great choice for sauteing because it does not shrink as much as red russian kale, which much like spinach reduces in volume by about 70% when cooked.

Winterbore or Curly Squash:  please don’t confuse these varieties with the decorative kale you can find at any nursery center though they do look quite the same.  This is probably the most common type of kale available and when purchasing frozen kale this is almost always what you get.  Curly kale is best for cooking, especially in soups and stews.  The hardy leaves stand up to simmering in a pot for hours so if you are making a batch of Portugeuse Kale soup this is definitely the type you want to use.  Again you will want to remove the thick rib before cooking because even simmering in a soup for hours these ribs stay tough and hard to chew and can easily turn someone off to kale.

Of course it wouldn’t be an Optimal Kitchen blog with a recipe so here is one for a classic:

PORTUGEUSE KALE SOUP

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped carrots

½ cup chopped onion

1 tbs. chopped garlic

1 bunch curly Kale ( or a 16 oz bag of frozen chopped)

½ small cabbage

4 red potatoes

1lb Linguica or Chorizo

1 15oz. can kidney beans

½ tbs. dried oregano

2 quarts chicken/vegetable broth

Olive oil for cooking

Season with salt and pepper

  1. Saute onions, carrots, celery and garlic in oil until onions are clear
  2. Add cut up linguica and cook together over a low heat for 10 mins.
  3. Add chicken and beef broth and bring to a boil
  4. Add chopped kale and cabbage
  5. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour
  6. Add diced potatoes and beans and simmer until potatoes are tender

I have made this recipe vegetarian and omitted the sausage and it was a delicious soup, but I wouldn’t feel right calling it Portuguese Kale Soup since the addition of Linguica or Chorizo is key to maintaining the ethnicity of this soup!