Super staples: Kale, Brussel Sprouts, and Bacon Salad

Eating a paleo diet means a few things: One, eating nutrient-dense, vegetable based diet; and two, a whole lot ‘o cooking.

And that means having some awesome go-to meals that are quick and easy to prepare, but pack in a bunch of nutrients, protein, and a little fat.

Enter: Super staples. Foods that will re-energize the crap out of you with their uber-nutrients and astound you with their ease.

I’d like to first introduce you to this kale, brussel sprout, and bacon salad. Originally I found this recipe at Multiply Delicious. I haven’t changed it much, since it’s so simple to make there wasn’t much to change. I do prepare things a wee bit differently, so here goes.

I should also mention I don’t take super great photos (yet…) and background cleanliness isn’t my first priority. I’ve got three dogs, two jobs, and one husband. In the words of one Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”  

Nutrient wise, kale is amazing. It’s anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and packed full of vitamins and fiber, very important things to your cave lifestyle. Brussel sprouts are amazing for a lot of the same reasons. And, well, bacon is just bacon, no explanation needed there.

Put the three together in a super-easy, quick recipe? You’ve got a hat trick of awesome.

So let’s get to it.

The Recipe:

No exact measurement necessary. Go with your feels.

No exact measurement necessary. Go with your feels.

This isn’t a specific recipe. Measuring is for people who have time to measure and clean things. And – everyone together now – ain’t nobody got time for that. Adjust to your tastes, whatever you have on hand, etc.

  • Roughly equal parts brussel sprouts and kale. Time saver: Get yourself some pre-shredded sprouts and kale pieces at your grocery store of choice. I find them at Trader Joe’s. 
  • A few slices of bacon. If you’ve using a whole head of kale, I’d use 6 – 8 pieces of bacon. Actually, make that ten, since you’re probably going to do some snacking while things heat up. Time saver: You can also use packaged bacon bits, pre-cooked bacon, etc. Nitrate and preservative free, of course (that’s really one thing I never “80/20″ because of processed meat’s link to cancer.) I like Open Nature’s bacon, although it has a bit of sugar in it, the pre-made pieces are the same as the packaged stuff, so I feel perfectly happy using those versus cooking fresh bacon when I’m short on time (or fresh bacon.)
  • Some bacon grease. Don’t need any extra if you are using uncooked bacon, but make sure to have some if you are using some pre-packaged bacon bits.
  • Chicken broth. Preferably homemade chicken stock.
  • Crushed red pepper, if you like a bit of heat.

The Process:

Kale, brussel sprouts on a cutting board.

Kale and brussel sprouts in process.

Grab a big ol’ pan, since your greens will need some space before they wilt down.

Two options here: Saute the bacon as whole strips, and crumble later. Preferable if you have a little bit more time. Or, cut the bacon up in to pieces first, and saute as “bits.” Preferable if you don’t mind washing a cutting board and want the bacon cooking to happen more quickly.

While the bacon is getting awesome, slice up your kale and brussel sprouts. Wait for bacon to finish cooking.

Bacon done? Great. Scoop those bad boys out of the pan and set aside, or pull out the bacon strips and cut/crumble in to bits. Leave the grease behind, or add some from your grease jar (you do keep a bacon grease jar, right? Oh darling, you must! It’s instant-bacon flavoring, has a high heat point, and so on. Just pour out your drippings through a little sieve in to a mason jar. Yummy extra bacon flavoring.)

Add your shredded sprouts and chopped kale. Spin it around in that bacon grease, until it’s all shiny and yummy looking. Not enough bacon grease? Feel free to add more.

Ready for cooking...

Ready for cooking…

Pour on a little chicken stock – enough to cover the bottom of your big ol’ pan maybe a quarter inch high. You want enough that it won’t boil off totally (burnt kale is a really bad thing), but not so much that it’s soupy. You can always add more later, and you’ll get a feel for how much stock you need after you make this a few times. Shake on a bit of crushed red pepper if you like the heat.

… And that’s about it. Put a lit on that bad boy and cook away. Every few minutes stir the kale and sprouts around to help things cook evenly, and in about 15 – 20 minutes, you should be good to go. Add bacon about five minutes before the kale/sprouts are finished.

The Result:

Bacon, kale, brussel sprouts side dish.

Happiness in a bowl.

A savory, soul-warming bowl of greens full of bacon flavor. A huge heaping bowl of vitamins, nutrient, fiber, antioxidants, and flavor. I like to make a huge batch and eat it with a side of pork chops, grilled chicken, hot italian sausage, or straight up by itself for a tasty breakfast. This recipe took kale and brussel sprouts on my foods list from just above dirt to just below bacon. And since bacon is in this dish and it takes about 20 minutes to make, this  is just about perfect food for a time-strapped cave girl.

Be sure to let me know what you think in the comments!

Scratching the Surface

Health and nutrition can be boiled down to two things: Eating good things. Moving frequently.

Male scratching his head in deliberation.

Photo courtesy imagerymajestic | Freedigitalphotos.net

But what constitutes “good things?” How much moving frequently is too much?

Every year, some new diet comes out and tries to tweak our definitions of “good things” and “moving frequently.”

Most of them, regardless of their tenants, all fall back on the old dogma calories in, calories out. And that’s always going to be true, if you eat more calories than you consume, you’re going to have a bad time.

But what about when you don’t eat more calories than you consume, and are still unhappy with how you feel, your fitness performance levels (if you have any), and your looks?

Some of you may have heard of this paleo diet thing.

It sounds pretty simple on the surface – eat like a caveman, be awesome.

And it is pretty simple to do. Eat like a caveman, be awesome.

But how did caveman eat? What are the similarities to today’s diet? What are the differences?

Then things don’t get so simple.

The food we eat these days aren’t the same foods. The food we eat today literally didn’t exist in caveman times – Grok definitely wasn’t eating Twinkies.

A lot of people believe in calories in, calories out, and you’ll be healthy, fit, and look good naked.

But when you’ve tried calories in/calories out kind of dieting, tracking your every caloric move on websites like MyFitnessPal, FitDay, or SparkPeople, doing hours of cardio at the gym every week to move the calorie goals so you can fit in that extra serving of whole wheat pasta, and still feel bloated and lethargic while not meeting your fitness goals (and looking better naked) – maybe it’s time to try something different.

Maybe there’s more to feeling and looking good than just calories in, calories out.

Maybe it’s the fact that the food we evolved along with kept evolving, and we didn’t. Or maybe that evolution of food hasn’t been an evolution, but a degradation from pure, natural foods that feed our body and mind to things that provide a meager amount of nutrition patched together with chemicals expertly designed to please our brains while turning as big a profit as can be. Or foods that have been selectively bred and genetically modified beyond recognition. Modern wheat, in particular, has been bred to feed the masses as efficiently as possible, but in the process became a mutant chemically and genetically different than its ancient form.

And maybe these degradation and mutations aren’t as benign as we thought they were.

There’s the difference between a paleo diet and, well, everything else. Most diets play the calories in, calories out game, without much consideration to the quality or nature of the food we eat.

But eating the chemically-modified, chemically-cooked, chemically-preserved “food” of today is having an affect on us. It’s making us fat, tired, and sickCeliac disease rates are on the rise, obesity is on the rise, and this generation may be the first in a long while to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

Could it be the food? Maybe?

So that begs the question: How long will we ignore the data? How long can we ignore the data?

You may not buy in to the whole eat-like-a-caveman, chase deer and chew on bones thing, but most people can get a handle on just eating healthy foods and moving frequently.

It’s up to you to first find out what foods your body can handle. You’ve tried diets and working out relentlessly and still haven’t found the secret to a happy, healthy body. You’ve paid untold amounts to gym memberships, fitness programs, and fitness games (that maybe got you somewhere for a while, but  you aren’t sure if they are affective anymore, or ever were.) What’s one more thing on the “maybe this will work list”?

All you’re in for on this one, to feel the best you have in years, is a 30 day clean-out program to give your body a chance to heal. Eat veggies. Eat lean meats. Eat healthy fats. Don’t eat grains, legumes, or dairy. Move whenever you can. You don’t have to buy books, or website subscriptions, or slave over a website entering every caloric move to feel better.  I’ve just scratched the surface on living a clean eating lifestyle, but there’s plenty of free resources to learn about this stuff - robbwolf.commarksdailyapple.comeverydaypaleo.com, and communities like reddit.com/r/paleo or paleohacks.com.  Finding recipes is easy; see the sites above or the absolutely fabulous resource that is Pinterest. No books, diet club memberships, or gyms required.

What do you have to lose? A month of eating things that are still good for your body? A little time spent cooking more than you normally would?

But what do you have to gain? How’s a energy-like-crazy, feeling-good, looking-good-in-a-bathing-suit body sound? Knowing what foods make you feel good?

Give it a shot – you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Rainy days.

Well, for living in a desert, we’ve sure had our fair share of rainy days this past month in Las Vegas. Normally, I love the rain. The sound, the smell, the humidity in the air. All good things, if you ask me. And living in a city that gets so much sun, it’s wonderful to have the change of pace.

Unfortunately, rain in Vegas also means hiking and outdoorsy things are fairly out of the question, if for two reasons: 1.) My dogs. I have two fantastic dogs… who absolutely hate loud noises. I’ve also heard thunderstorms may alter the electromagnetic field in the air, and dogs feel the static change in their fur, and tweaks them out. and #2.) Flash flooding. Even if I’m hiking to high ground, rainwater still flows down, leaving the concern of washed out trails or worse, drowning. Hiking, I suppose, is just not very safe in the desert when it’s raining.

So what is a cavegirl to do instead?

Blog posts. Yup, that’s right. This here typing that you are reading right now.

Of course, that’s after I’ve done my homework, looked up knitting, and thoroughly exhausted the content on Reddit, while waiting to get to go shopping for some shirts to use on my new Yudu screen printer (… which is another story entirely!)

But now, I’ve done all the things, even threw in some cleaning, and it is still. raining. And i’m still on puppy sitting duty, lest I journey out and come home to the aftermath of upset puppies (piles and puddles.)

At least it gives me tome to actually post some content, and move this little wagon along its way, since I couldn’t be out shooting for content like I had wanted to do today.

Silver linings – everything has one.

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