Kitchen Experiment: Kale Soup With Italian Sausage

There are a million recipes for kale soup on the Internet – make that a million and one now.

Kale is one of those foods that you ought to find a way to like – ounce for ounce, it is one of the best foods you can eat. No, you can’t live on it exclusively, but it’s one of those veggies that have a high nutrient density.

Problem is: kale can be a bit of a challenge to cook in a fashion that people served it will tear into with gusto.

I’ve been looking for a kale recipe that might work like this for me – partly because I have completely given up vitamins. More on that in a later post, but I need to introduce more yummy, vitamin-rich foods into my diet. Kale – ranked on the ANDI scale at the top of the list (and more on the ANDI scale in a future post as well) is one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there.

But how to get past the ‘yuck factor’? I’ve made kale chips – they’re great, but not an everyday thing.

So, after checking out a half-dozen recipes, I came up with this one. My wife expressed concern at first that I was about to waste a pot full of food, but afterward, asked me to put it on our weekly ‘Sunday cooking list’. My older daughter also, voluntarily, went back for more, and deemed it tasty.

The trick here was the use of an immersion blender, which makes the amount of cutting a much less exact and time-consuming task – remember this as you read the instructions.

Kale Soup With Italian Sausage

  • 2 bunches kale
  • 2 Italian sausages
  • ¾ stick butter
  • 2 sweet onions, cut in large chunks
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 boxes chicken broth
  • 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil

In a frying pan, fry the onions in the butter until some are browned. Then brown the sausages, not cooking completely. grind some pepper on them. What you’re looking for here is some of that ‘roasted’ flavor that adds another dimension of flavor.

Cut the kale crosswise. Other than cutting off the very ends of the stems, use them, cutting like scallions. Cut the rest crosswise.  Toss in soup pot, cover with the onions fried in butter and put in 2 boxes of chicken broth. Season with maybe 2 teaspoons of thyme. 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Be careful with the thyme – I almost overdid it. Start with 1 teaspoon as the recipe notes, then maybe add more – you can’t take out spices.

Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Add the 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil at this point. Using an immersion blender, blend. The immersion blender is excellent at getting clogged with the long stringy bits of the kale, so it works great to remove this if it offends you. Just remove the immersion blender, unplug (so you don’t end up in the ER from this process), and remove the long, stringy bits stuck in the blades of the immersion blender that the fussy eaters will not approve of. Repeat this process a few times and you will have most of the stringy stuff that you could have spent HOURS trying to remove from the kale leaves removed in about 5 minutes.

I myself was quite surprised by the result. Maybe you will, too.

Nothing here that isn’t induction-friendly, so if you’re doing that, this should fit fine into your diet.

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Eulogy for a Bread

This is a continuation on my last post about chemicals in our foods.

A lot of readers here don’t want ’em. I don’t want ’em.

And it’s easy to demonize the companies that make products, think these people are soulless bastards, and hope we all die an early death eating their poisons.

While I don’t doubt that is true for a certain number of psychopaths out there, the vast majority of folks are really just trying to survive in a very competitive market. Fine: make the best damn product in your category. Don’t use the chemicals that cut costs and subtly improve the product in a way that customers expect. Charge a fair price, which, by necessity, is a bit higher than the price of your competitors.

Watch sales plummet, lay off workers, and find yourself out of business.

Here’s an example that still galls me. There is a company that  still sells in the Northeast US called ‘TheBaker‘. They made a natural bread unrivaled by their competitors. It was a bit hard because of the ingredients, but it made the most awesome toast and was full of flavor.

One day I went to buy it and found the packaging subtly changed. They had made a low carb version, but it was nowhere to be found. And the ingredients had suddenly included a lot of junk they never had before.

I was livid!

So I wrote them this letter:

From: Low Carb Confidential [mailto:lcc@lowcarbconfidential.com]

Sent: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 4:11 AM

To: askus@the-baker.com

Subject: You’ve Ruined One of The Best Breads Ever

Folks, you can’t imagine the disappointment that I now feel about you discontinuing one of the best breads ever.

I was a fanatical fan of your low carb breads – they were of the finest ingredients, and made the most heavenly toast of any bread I’ve ever had.

Now I find them gone – replaced by loaves with much higher carb content, as well as inferior corn oil – if you didn’t think your customers appreciated the fact you used olive oil, – you’re mistaken – this one did.

I base my buying decision on carbs first – the quality of your ingredients came in a strong second. The fact that it tastes unbelievable came right after.

Since there are a few crappy low carb breads still out there where I can have twice the amount, you lose in that regard.

As you’ve dropped the olive oil, that ruins your ‘quality ingredients’ label for me.

So now I find it hard to envision myself buying your bread again. I went to the store last night, picked it up, read the label and put it back – there’s little value proposition anymore.

I’m guessing that your low carb breads are a niche product and that economic conditions drove you to reformulate your products, making them more appealing to a greater number of consumers by upping the carbs and creating a softer bread. I also imagine that the corn oil is much cheaper.

I hope the strategy works for you overall, but it backfired on this particular consumer. I’m switching brands.

Thanks for the memories. I had the last slice of your 5 net carb Whole Grain Bran. It was great.

If you ever re-introduce the low carb breads, feel free to drop me a line and let me know. I’ll forgive you

Regards,

LCC

http://lowcarbconfidential.com

They were nice enough to write  back

Dear Low Carb Confidential

Thank you for sharing your comments with The Baker® about our Whole Grain Flax Bread and our Whole Grain Bran Bread. As you know, these products have been reformulated to our new Wheat & Flax Bread and Wheat & Bran Bread. The old products contained 12 grams of total carbohydrates per slice (1.5 oz) and the new products contain 15 grams of total carbohydrates per slice (1.5 oz). The old packaging had nutritional information for 1 oz of bread. The old bags were a carryover from when we sold the bread unsliced. So, the net carbs changed from 8 grams per slice in the old formulas to 11 grams of net carbs per slice in the new recipes. We remain committed to baking delicious, all-natural breads without the use of artificial ingredients or chemical preservatives. We will let our R&D Team know that you would like to see fewer carbs and the return of olive oil in the new recipes.

We have made changes to our breads and will be following consumer feedback to these changes. Any new changes that we make will be listed on our website.

Our top priority at The Baker® is to ensure that we always provide you with the highest-quality products possible. Your interest is of utmost importance to us, and we take your comments and questions seriously. Thank you again for taking the time to contact us.

In Good Health,

Tim

The Baker Consumer Service

http://www.the-baker.com

The answer was lacking because I still have the packaging from the old bread. Here’s the ingredient list for their ‘5 Net Carb Whole Grain Bread’:

  • Organic stone-ground whole wheat
  • Water
  • Wheat gluten
  • Organic whole rye
  • Wheat bran
  • Sea salt
  • Oat fiber
  • Olive oil
  • Yeast
  • Organic apple cider vinegar

Their closest equivalent – their ‘Wheat & Bran Bread’ – which comes in at 11 net grams per 1.5 ounce slice contains:

  • water
  • whole wheat flour
  • wheat gluten
  • whole rye flour
  • wheat bran
  • cold pressed corn oil
  • yeast
  • cultured wheat flour
  • vinegar
  • sea salt
  • oat fiber

Now to the carb count issue. The old packaging counted a slice as an ounce, so comparing apples to apples, the net carb 1.5 oz. of the old stuff is really 7.5 net grams to 11 net grams for the new.

Truth is: I wrote this email in May of 2009. They are still in business. Their bread is still good – just not as good as it used to be. Compare the ingredient lists.

Just one example: why use organic ingredients if their breads can’t carry the official ‘Organic’ seal? You need to have a certain percentage of your ingredients be organic to be allowed to use that seal, and they probably didn’t make it – so does it make business sense?

They lost me as a customer, but their breads are softer, and still very tasty and good.

But this one crackpot still misses the old bread.