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Archive for July, 2008

kale chips

I know, I know. I’ve totally lost it, but it’s not my fault. Josh at the Grant Family Farms CSA keeps plying me with kale. What’s a girl to do when her touch and glide crisper drawer is filled to the brim with bunches of dark green leafy things? Simply shutting the drawer has become an effort in futility. I’ve dehydrated, sautéed, and steamed my way through plenty of hearty greens lately, so I thought it was time to try something new.

Chips. Healthy chips. And what packs more nutritional punch than kale? Seriously, kale is over-the-top with healthy vitamins and minerals.

But before I launch into all that, did you know that LAY’S brand is America’s favorite snack food?

You didn’t?

Well, the website states that the country’s most popular potato chip is now more irresistible than ever before! Oh, great, just what we need. More moderately addicting, hard-to-resist, nutritionally-void, artificially flavored, calorie-laden snack food. And get this, the website lists 57 different flavors of potato chips! Fifty-seven? What’s that about?

They offer everything from LAY’S Loaded Potato Skins Flavored Potato Chips to LAY’S Crab Spice Flavored Potato Chips. Ugh — crab spice? And what the heck are loaded potato skins flavored potato chips? What does that even mean? I looked up the nutritional facts and ingredient list on the loaded version and found it difficult to sift through. Included in the long list of ingredients were 5 different artificial colorings. That’s not real food. Do we really need to feed our kids yellow 6 lake, yellow 5, red 40, yellow 6, or blue 1?

Here’s a healthy alternative and you can rest assured that kale does not contain gluten, which is always a concern with prepackaged foods containing hard-to-decipher ingredient lists.

Mineral-rich kale chips

1 bunch kale, washed, stemmed, and cut into 4 inch pieces (thereabouts)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (don’t over-oil them)
sea salt or your preferred spice mix

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rack in middle of oven.
• Toss kale with olive oil and spread out on large cookie sheet.
• Sprinkle with sea salt or spices.
• Bake in oven for 7-8 minutes. Stir once and bake for 5-7 more minutes.
• Enjoy immediately. These do not save well.

The charming butcher at my local Whole Foods gave me some of his super-secret sassy rub that I used as the spice for my version of kale chips. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t tell me what was in the mix and I didn’t have a sassy decoder ring to figure it out. After thoughtfully sniffing, tasting, and playing with the stuff, I decided it contained red chile pepper flakes, sesame seeds, ground pepper, garlic salt, and sea salt. I tossed my prepared kale in olive oil, spread it out on a baking sheet, sprinkled the sassy rub on it, and baked it. YUM! Be careful though, these chips are hard to resist and border on being addicting!

Nutritional profile:
Kale is part of the cruciferous family and is a descendent of the wild cabbage. Cruciferous veggies and their sulfur-containing phytonutrients are thought to be protective against cancer. Kale also contains high amounts of the eye-protective carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. These substances help the eyes filter out damaging ultraviolet light and provide protection against cataracts. Think of kale as a plant version of polarized sunglasses. Full of anitoxidants, kale also helps boost immune function and protects our cells against oxidative damage. One cup of kale contains only 36 calories and is an excellent source of vitamins K, A, C, manganese, fiber, — even calcium, so throw some in your shopping cart and enjoy the benefits.

*Kale contains goitrogens and oxalates, which may be of concern to some people. Goitrogens are natural substances that, in large amounts, may interfere with thyroid function. Oxalates are part of a naturally occurring group of molecules called organic acids and are found in plants and animals (people included). Our bodies convert other substances into oxalates. We also obtain them from the foods we eat. In some rare health conditions, oxalate intake should be restricted. Check with your doctor if you have concerns about this.

In good health,
P.S. I will be heading off into the wild blue yonder to add some more segments to my Colorado Trail journey, so if I don’t respond to comments immediately, I will when I return. Onward . . .

The Colorado Trail – part 1

Seventy-five miles down. Four-hundred and twenty-five to go.

The Colorado Trail is our state’s premier long-distance trail. It wanders 500 miles from Denver to Durango. Trekkers experience eight mountain ranges, seven national forests, six wilderness areas, and five river systems while on their journey. There are 28 segments with a total elevation gain of 77,690 feet. Yes, you read that right. Seventy-seven-thousand. That’s a lot of traipsing uphill. There’s also 76,210 feet of descent, so it’s an up and down journey, to say the least.

There are 54 “official” peaks in Colorado that rise above 14,000 feet in altitude and almost two-thirds of them are within a 20-mile radius somewhere along the CT. That makes for some awe-inspiring vistas while pounding out the miles. Much of the trail is at or above 10,000 feet, with two-hundred miles of it skirting the Continental Divide. The trail highpoint is above 13,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains, where we’re likely to find snow well into August this year. We got dumped on this past winter and the snow lingers long into summer in many places.

On July 12th my son and I started our hike of the CT at the Waterton Canyon trailhead, southwest of Denver. We emerged 5 segments later at Kenosha Pass. It took us 6 days to travel 75 miles. I’ve always wanted to thru-hike the CT, but family commitments and personal responsibilities take priority to wandering the wilderness. We plan to piece together as many segments as we can this summer. In a perfect world, we’ll get all 28 in by mid-September.

Oh? There is no perfect world?

Well, we’ll do what we can and be grateful for the opportunity. I’ll keep you posted.

Here’s a brief rundown of our adventure so far, complete with our own version of “Backpacker’s Pantry” foods. We prepared and dehydrated our own nutritious gluten-free dinners, skipping all the additives, preservatives, and gluten fillers that often accompany prepackaged backpacking food. I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful my GF bison chile mac was after a long day of hiking with a backpack that somehow managed to gain weight with each mile.

Day 1 (segment #1)
Waterton Canyon trailhead to South Platte River
17 miles, 2160 feet of elevation gain (most of it within a 5 mile section)
Dinner: Brown rice with dehydrated pinto beans and green chilies

Day 2 (segment #2)
South Platte River to Colorado Trailhead (FS-550)
11.5 miles, 2200 feet of elevation gain (most of it in the first 5 to 6 miles)
This segment of the CT wanders through an area that was part of a 1996 human-induced wildfire that burned nearly 12,000 acres of the Pike National Forest. The small mountain town of Buffalo Creek was partially destroyed and the natural landscape was changed forever. Twelve years later this once-lush pine forest is home to only a few surviving trees. But life goes on and the emergence of new grasses, small plants, and wildflowers is taking shape in a magical way. It’s actually quite beautiful.
Dinner: Bison chili mac and cheese (YUM!)

Day 3 (part of segment #3)
Colorado Trailhead (FS-550) to FS-560
10 miles, 1520 feet of elevation gain
Dinner: Garlic mashed potatoes with spicy chile verde

Day 4 (the last 3 miles of segment #3 and 9 miles into segment #4)
Segment 3 to Lost Park
12 miles, 2800 feet of elevation gain
At about mile 4 we joined an old logging road that was originally built by W.H. Hooper in 1885. He owned a sawmill out in the middle of nowhere. This old rugged logging road went uphill through the forest, making me wonder how the heck these guys were able to manage things like this back in the early days. I found it a grind just hiking up the old rocky dirt road. I can’t imagine actually building the thing. It must have taken a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. And a s**t-load of dynamite!
We entered the Lost Creek Wilderness area and camped along the North Fork of Lost Creek. Beautiful country!
Dinner: Corn chowder, brown rice and red beans

Day 5 (finished last of segment #4, which is about 17 miles total)
Segment 4 to Long Gulch
8-9 miles, some up and down, not sure about the total elevation gain
Since we were only planning to hike around 9 miles on day 5, we decided to take the time to make gluten-free pancakes for breakfast. Plus, we had such a lazy and serene campsite, it felt like the right time to treat ourselves to a nice start to the day. I even made maple syrup out of water and maple sugar crystals. I know, these photos aren’t exactly Gourmet Magazine quality and please just ignore the fact that the small Nalgene bottle holding the maple syrup is filthy.
Dinner: Spaghetti and meat sauce with CSA onions and garlic

Day 6 (Segment #5)
Long Gulch to Kenosha Pass
14.4 miles, 1600 feet of elevation gain
It rained most of the day, which didn’t bother us at all. It made for nice hiking as it was much cooler and the rain kept the bugs away. Our final descent down into South Park (yes, that South Park — the one on TV) and the Kenosha Pass trailhead was wonderful. We were ready for a shower, a beer (not me), and a glass of nice red wine (me). We ended up making chicken noodle soup at the Kenosha Pass Campground while waiting for our ride back to Golden. It was a nice start to our journey.
Dinner: Chicken noodle soup with all kinds of CSA veggies

Onward . . .

Go forth and explore,

seasonal foods for July

I LOVE beets and have since I was a little girl. No one had to bribe me to eat sugar in its natural form. In fact, my mom says I thought beets were dessert until someone in first grade told me I was a nutbar for thinking such things.

The possibility that I’m a nutbar does exist, but I was right about the beets. They’re on my list of seasonal super foods for a variety of reasons.

Betacyanin is the pigment that is responsible for the crimson color of red beets. Betaxanthin is the pigment found in yellow and orange beets. Both are powerful phytonutrients (protective antioxidants). Studies show beets to be protective against free radical damage and may inhibit the formation of cancer cells. The high fiber in beets helps lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increase HDL levels, which are all good things when it comes to heart health. Beets are high in folate, vitamin C, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and even the sleep-inducing nutrient, tryptophan. If that’s not enough to convince you to add beets to your shopping cart, they’re also incredibly low in calories.

* If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve probably figured out that I like the science behind the food and that often brings some offbeat information into my blog posts. Like why your pee smells weird if you eat too much asparagus. Or why curvy women score higher on cognitive tests. So, I couldn’t resist adding some strange beet science to this post. Beeturia is a condition in which your pee or poop takes on a lovely red or pink color if you eat a lot of beets. Don’t worry, it’s harmless and actually a good way to test your food transit time. Yeah, I know — that sounds rather icky-poo, but in the digestive-health big picture, that’s important information. You don’t want the stuff you eat to be sitting around in your gut for days on end. But you also don’t want it rushing through your system before you have a chance to break things down into usable building blocks. So the bottom line is, if you eat a bunch of beets, you’ll probably be able to gauge how long it takes for them to make their chemical voyage through your GI tract. Some research indicates that excessive red color in the urine after eating beets may indicate an iron deficiency, but don’t panic if your pee is pink. It’s probably not a big deal.

* Beets are also high in oxalates, which are organic acids that may cause problems in people with certain rare health conditions. For most of us, that’s nothing to worry about.


Guess what? The government has decided that almonds deserve a special nut status. Wonder if I might qualify? The FDA has approved almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts as having QHC (qualified health claim) status. This allows them to carry the following claim on the packaging label: Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. And no, almonds dipped in rich dark chocolate don’t qualify. But almonds are full of health-promoting nutrients like vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, B vitamins, and copper. They also promote good digestive health because they are full of dietary fiber. Studies indicate that people who eat healthy nuts and nut butters have a lower risk of developing gallstones. My favorite snack is Fuji apple slices dipped in almond butter. Yum!

This aromatic salad green is also known as rocket, roquette, rucola, and rugula. Low (practically none) in calories and high in vitamins A and C, this is a good one to mix in with other greens for a tasty salad. has a wonderful beet and arugula recipe that makes for a perfect seasonal side salad. Check it out.

Celery, parsley, coriander, dill and fennel are part of the Umbellifereae family. Not that you’ll remember that, but do keep in mind that fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and dietary fiber. Fennel also contains a potent phytonutrient called anethole which acts as an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent. Aside from all the healthy reasons to eat fennel, it smells wonderful and adds a delicate aroma and subtle licorice-like taste to all kinds of fresh salads. Fennel is easy to confuse with anise — although in the same family, they are different plants.

Enjoy these seasonal favorites!

In good health,

Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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