My two cents with a side of kale salad

I have been noticing a trend in the comments that I make on other food blogs I read. Aside from my drooling over them, I often find myself commenting that I’ve never heard of this vegetable or tried that dish before. This got me thinking, why is that? I think it has a lot do with my parents and growing up in a Chinese family. As I mentioned before, we don’t often eat out as a family. My mom did/does all the cooking and it’s mostly Chinese or Vietnamese food. Perhaps this is because of her job as a chef, where she prepares North American meals that she doesn’t want to make the same dishes at home. That is not to say we don’t have BBQs with burgers or pasta, but if we do, it usually has some Asian flavour or influence to it. So even though my parents have been in Canada for many, many years, they are still traditional in how they live and eat. This is my take on the core differences between our Chinese diet versus a North American diet:

  1. Rice is the equivalent of bread. Rice is our preferred carb and we can eat it at every meal. Whether it’s in the form of sticky rice wrapped with lotus leaf (lo mai gai) for dim sum, congee for breakfast or fried rice for lunch, it’s not a meal without some rice.
  2. Soup is a must at dinner. We do not have water with dinner, we have soup. The soups are not of the creamy or hearty variety. They are simple but flavourful soups made from a stock of bones and contain vegetables such as winter melon or watercress. It doesn’t matter that my mom works full-time and that these soups often take hours to make, there is always soup on the table for dinner.
  3. We don’t eat salad. All the veggies we eat are cooked either in stir-fry, in soups or hot pot. We also eat different veggies such as bok choy, gai lan, garland chrysanthemum and napa cabbage versus Brussels sprouts, asparagus and collard greens.
  4. Fruit is our dessert. We don’t often eat the good stuff: cakes, pies, brownies, cookies, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I love fruit especially the weird exotic ones like rambutans, biriba and mangosteen.
  5. We usually don’t eat large amounts of meat as a main, like pot roast, meatloaf or even steak, on its own. Okay, maybe it’s just beef that we don’t eat a lot of. The meat we eat is often used in stir-fry dishes with veggies or in fried rice or noodle. The only times we have meat (such as Hainanese chicken or roast pork) on its own is during important Chinese holidays when these dishes are used as offerings to the gods or ancestors. And finally….
  6. Every dinner is at least a five course meal of: soup, dessert and 3 other dishes along with rice. Everything comes out at once rather than one after the other. We can sit for hours at the dinner table, chatting and eating until either all the food is gone or until we’re stuffed and can’t move because in an Asian household it’s rude to say no to food. What I’ve learned over the years (something the hubby hasn’t learned yet while eating with my family) is to always have a bit of food in my bowl that I can nibble on and to pace myself. As an aside, the hubby also needs to learn to apply this trick while drinking with my dad. ;)

What do you think? Do you see any differences in your diet growing up versus the diet of others?

As promised, I will now leave you with a recipe for a nutritious salad made with my new favourite veggie – kale. I’ve only tried kale for the first time a few weeks ago, but have now found many ways to eat it: in pasta, on pizza and even to make chips.

The chicken you see is one that has been recently trending on wordpress and pinterest and it looked so good I had to try it. It’s called “man-pleasing chicken”. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t pleasing to my man. It could be that I didn’t use the maple syrup or chicken thigh that is called for in the recipe. I am definitely going to try this again with the right ingredients before making my final judgment.

Have a great weekend!

Recipes:

Kale salad (adapted from eatinghealthyinla.com)

  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 1 handful cashew nuts
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • sea salt
  1. Toast cashews at 350°F for 5-10 until golden.
  2. Wash and tear kale into bite size pieces.
  3. Add kale to a bowl along with 1/8-1/4 tsp sea salt. Squeeze in bit of lemon juice. Use your hands to “massage” or work the kale until it softens (about 2-5 minutes). I find doing this makes chewing a lot easier.
  4. In a small bowl add garlic, mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix.
  5. Add to kale, avocado and cashews.

Man-pleasing chicken (from wittyinthecity.com)

makes 3 servings

  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (I used regular syrup)
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1.5 pound of chicken thighs, boneless and skinless (I used 4 skinless chicken breasts)
  1. Preheat your oven to 450ºF.
  2. Mix together dijon mustard, maple syrup, and rice wine vinegar.
  3. Put chicken into an oven-proof baking dish.  Salt and pepper the thighs.
  4. Pour maple mustard mixture over them, turning the thighs in the mixture so they are fully coated.
  5. Put the chicken thighs into the oven, and let them bake for 40 minutes (I baked for 30 minutes) or until a meat thermometer reads 165ºF.
  6. Baste the tops of the chicken with more sauce half way through.
  7. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.
  8. Plate the chicken, making sure to spoon some extra sauce over the top.
  9. Sprinkle over some fresh rosemary.

Notes and Tips:

For the salad, we find that using all the juice from one lemon makes it too lemony so adjust the amount to your liking. I also added some dry currants to the salad; I think other dried fruits would work well too. For the chicken, I halved the ingredients for the sauce because I didn’t have enough Dijon mustard. This amount of sauce was probably too little for 4 chicken breasts and I didn’t really have any extra sauce left after baking.

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48 thoughts on “My two cents with a side of kale salad

  1. Hahaha I know exactly what you mean about the Chinese food! Rice at every meal and eating at home – even the fruit for dessert. You hit home so hard with all of that hahaha. I have also not been exposed to many different types of food. I had crepes, pad thai, and shepherd’s pie for the first time when I was 18! I also used to despise salads because the veggies weren’t cooked. Just the other day, I had to Google what lemon zest was :P I don’t know what kale is or what makes Dijon mustard different from regular mustard. But I’m venturing out one step at a time :)

    • i am much like you…i didn’t try a lot of new foods until i was in my late teens eating out with friends and when i moved out on my own. i learned to like salad because that was mostly what i ate when i lived by myself and didn’t know how to cook much. i didn’t know what kale was until i read other people’s blogs about how healthy it is and then saw it in the grocery store. apparently gai lan is Chinese kale; huh, who knew? i’m not completing sure about the difference between regular mustard and dijon mustard, but i think it just has to do with how’s it prepared and what ingredients are used. here’s a link to wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mustard_(condiment)#Yellow_mustard
      hope this helps and keep on trying new foods! :)

  2. I like the use of the kale in your salad. I have eaten it a few times before, most recently as part of an Irish dish on make on St. Patrick’s Day, but I like the look and sound of this salad and will have to give it a try.

  3. I just recently discovered kale..last weekend in fact. I made kale chips, and have a recipe for a kale, sweet potato and quinoa dish. I am going to try your salad recipe for sure. It sounds delicious and I love that it has avacado and cashews..some of my favourites! Thanks for the “massage your kale” tip…I would have never thought to do that.

  4. That’s curious that it wasn’t a great chicken recipe.. sometimes I wonder if things “trend” because of their catchy name? I, for one, would go for that Kale recipe of yours! I think the cultural foods stick with us forever because they’re our comfort foods.. they bring us home when we make and eat them. I read your list and thought, this is the healthiest way to eat ever! And I mean that emotionally and psychologically because you enjoy your meals and each other!!

  5. Love kale, and you had my taste buds at avocado + cashews. Wow, that salad sounds good!

    (And, as far as the chicken, I’m a [bone-in] thigh gal myself, though I will buy boneless, skinless breasts if they’re way on sale because they’re so easy to cook. I do like the sound of that maple Dijon sauce. I’d love to hear if you try the recipe again with all the ingredients, and I might just have to try it myself!)

    Except for my bread love, I am apparently pretty Chinese in my eating habits, as I love a brothy soup, usually eat my veggies cooked, don’t need much meat to be happy, and am perfectly content eating fruit for dessert. Micah, on the other hand, needs cookies or chocolate. :)

    • how do you eat your kale?? i would love a recipe. :)

      i tend to like white meat, but i’m starting to like dark meat more and more…. i did try the recipe again with thighs and maple syrup, except i didn’t have enough dijion mustard this time :( it did turn out much better though if you haven’t read about it already…. http://trialsinfood.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/man-pleasing-chicken-attempt-2/

      maybe you were Chinese in your past life? ;) Micah and my hubby sound like two peas in a pod.

      • Kale? We usually saute it or throw it into a soup or risotto or grits about 5 minutes before we’re ready to eat. I’ve never eaten it raw.

        Glad your chicken turned out so well the second time! I’ve been away from WordPress for a few days so I just now read your post. (It looks delicious, too!)

  6. Thanks for visiting my fledgling blog if for no other reason than it allowed me to follow it back here to that amazing salad! I’ve had quite a bit of kale in my life, but never thought to do it as a salad. Now that I know the trick to softening it, I’ll have to try it!

    • what do you make with kale? do you have a good recipe to share?? ;) i can’t take credit for the trick…i read about it on a few other blogs. i hope you give the salad a try and let me know what you think. :)

  7. It was so cool to read about the differences between Asian cooking and the typical American style. Seems like the Asian way in much more healthy! I grew up in a Southern household. While my mother insisted on serving a “green and a yellow” vegetable with every meal, she wasn’t afraid to fry them. And we ALWAYS had some form of potato.

  8. Kale is one of my favorites, too. So versatile and really REALLY good for you. Those whole grain mustard seeds look awesome on the salad. I’ve never tried “massaging” kale before– I usually blanch it (drop in boiling water for 30 secs then put in ice water to stop the cooking) if I’m using it for a salad, or use it raw and shredded on top of a romaine salad. I’ll have to give that a shot.

    I always use chicken thighs instead of breasts– they’re a little fattier but you can trim the extra fat, and they’re really difficult to dry out. Chicken breasts are so easy to overcook.

    Thanks for sharing!

      • Soup, always soup. It’s great in curries, omelets, stir fry… anything you’d use cooked spinach in you can pretty much substitute kale. I’ve even made mexican flavored cooked kale and used it like a taco “meat”… just remove the big ribs first, of course. :)

  9. I really enjoyed reading about your daily evening meal. I think it is wonderful that you sit around the table for so long. It seems todays families have lost that tradition of eating and talking around the dinner table together.

  10. Oh goodness, that is so true! I traveled to China last year – I have to admit I got a bit despondent at eating egg-fried rice for breakfast every morning ;)
    But this rings so true – I specifically remember the dessert being made of sweet potato (it was quite good!).

    Also, this salad looks great!

    • thanks! i think as a visitor to other countries, we often find ourselves feeling the way you did in China, but for the locals it’s their life. other than the same food everyday, China must have been amazing. lucky you!

  11. Pingback: Man-pleasing chicken attempt #2 « trials in food

  12. I just discovered kale myself – kale chips are very tasty and nutritious. Dehydrate or cook in oven with either coconut oil or olive oil, sea salt with parmesan – delicious! Your salad looks amazing!

  13. Pingback: An avocado treat | trials in food

  14. Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment! I’ve been exploring through yours this afternoon and I’m really excited to try some of your recipes. I caught the tale end of a cooking show my husband watches the other day and they made Kale Salad as well. I’ve never tried Kale in my life and so I’m looking forward to the adventure:)

  15. Pingback: Two years and counting | trials in food

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