Refresh Your Diet with Leafy Greens This Spring (Recipe Included)

 

Cashew Kale recipe from TheKickingKitchen.com

Spring is finally here! Even with the rain it brings, spring is one of my favorite seasons. Spring is a time of renewal and growth. We see it in nature as flowers bloom, grass turns greener, buds begin to open and the ground drinks up refreshing rainfall.

I’ve always loved springtime because I feel like it offers the opportunity for a fresh start. I finished cancer treatment just before springtime a few years ago, and moving into this new, life-sustaining season helped me to move onto a new phase in my cancer journey.

This doesn’t mean we need to make dramatic overhauls in our lives just because spring is here – and we can often feel the pressure to do so! But simply by opening the mind to new things – new foods, new people and relationships, new habits, and new opportunities – we begin to lose some of that stagnancy we often find ourselves in over the winter. And the days just seem a little brighter, clearer and more energized.

Another reason why I love spring is the abundance of food that becomes available, especially leafy greens! Leafy green veggies (kale, spinach, collards, chard, mustard greens, dandelion greens, and lettuces) bring vitality, energy and amazing nourishment to our bodies. They are the food most missing from modern-day American diets, and the food we usually need most. Greens are high in dietary fiber, calcium and iron. They also contain high levels of vitamin K, magnesium and folate and cancer-fighting phytochemicals such as vitamin C, lutein and carotenoids.

My first recommendation to clients who want to improve their diet for any number of reasons (increase energy, lose weight, balance moods, fight or prevent disease) is to add in more leafy greens. If you do nothing else – just get those greens in on a daily basis, if possible. Make a greens salad, steam greens or sauté kale, collards or spinach with a little olive oil, sea salt and garlic. Or try the recipe below from Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen.

Cashew Kale

Yield: makes 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large carrot, thinly sliced into rounds (about 1/2 cup)

2 bunches kale, thick stems removed, thinly sliced (about 8 cups)

1 garlic clove, minced

2 to 3 tablespoons tamari (soy sauce)

1/2 cup raw cashews

1/4 cup raisins

Directions:

Heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the carrot for five minutes. Add the garlic, kale, tamari, cashews and raisins and sauté a few minutes until cashews begin to soften. Serve and enjoy!

Chocolate Walnut Bark

Missy and the universe, flickr.com

Kendall: I’ve always been a chocoholic. Cake, cookie, chocolate bar, whoopie pie, ice cream, M&Ms, chocolate-covered just-about-anything (except bugs – seriously, what’s up with that?).

Well it turns out that as I’ve worked on improving my diet over the last few years – adding in more real, whole foods, more plants, lots of leafy greens and crowding out the processed, refined stuff – I’ve found that not all chocolate is created equal. And my taste buds know it. My body knows it. And my cravings tell me so. I definitely don’t crave chocolate candy and bars or highly processed baked goods anymore. Honestly, the flavor just isn’t there. It tastes artificial. Processed.

I suppose you could say I’ve turned into a bit of a choco-snob. I know what the good stuff is. I’ve tasted it, made it, and all the other, um, CRAP just isn’t nearly as decadent and delicious. Nor does it really curb my cravings (Now, WHY we have those cravings is another topic altogether. We should be telling you to look at your diet, eat more bitter foods, eat more naturally sweet veggies, consider any voids in your life you may be trying to fill with chocolate, and so on. But right now I just want you to have your chocolate. That’s okay too.).

So what’s the real deal when it comes to chocolate? Raw, pure cacao (kuh-KOW). Right from the cacao bean. And this is where all chocolate begins, but it just ends up getting so far removed from its original form that it isn’t even food anymore. Or other stuff, like refined white sugar, corn syrup, artificial flavors and more is added.

Not only does chocolate made simply from raw cacao taste orgasmically delish, but it can also be GOOD for you. That’s because raw, unaltered cacao has some seriously health-beneficial nutrients. It contains iron, calcium, magnesium, antioxidants and supports the immune and cardiovascular systems. It also increases energy. Just to name a few. When you hear that chocolate is good for you because it has antioxidants, well, that’s true, but not so much when it’s a highly processed chocolate.

Where can you find raw cacao powder? Try your local health food store or order online. If you simply can’t get your hands on some, you can use cocoa powder, but it isn’t raw and has lost some nutritional properties. However, it’s far better than buying that chocolate bar.

I am now going to share with you a simple, divine, rich, amazing chocolate recipe. I make this all the time for friends and family and they beg for more. :) It’s so easy – you just need a few key ingredients and the rest is up to you.

Chocolate Walnut Bark

Ingredients:

1/4 cup cacao powder

1/4 cup coconut oil (for some coconut flavor, use unrefined – for no coconut flavor, try refined)

2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey

3 tablespoons chopped raw walnuts

Directions:

Heat oil by scooping into a glass heat-safe measuring cup. Place glass cup in a small pot with one inch of water on medium-low heat. Heat until oil is in liquid form. Oil should not heat over 118 degrees to retain its “raw” nature.

Combine cacao powder and coconut oil in a mixing bowl and stir until smooth. Add maple syrup or honey as desired and mix well. Stir in the walnuts. Pour chocolate mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper in a thin layer, about 1/4-inch thick. Let cool and harden in room under 70 degrees or place in refrigerator for quicker cooling.

Break or cut chocolate into pieces or “bark” and enjoy.