Kate & Swiss Chard Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

I would like to give more room for my writing because it brings me joy. Michigan is on the cusp of winter and incline in COVID cases. These are the times that my mom and I would say to eachother “Tits up!”. As usual there are things we cannot control so I ask myself what can I control? My answer: the food I eat. I love food. I love cooking food. I love eating food. So I shall write to you today about my complicated relationship with swiss chard.

My most recent bout with cancer left me with a scare that was enough to make the big changes that were asked of me by the chinese doctor that I have put my faith in to keep me alive. Instead of bombing my body with chemotherapy again I have been on a path of weekly acupuncture, and a serious focus on what I put in my body.

Here is a general breakdown of where my culinary boundaries are now:
*No sugar, I can have honey thank goodness.
*No gluten. I am supposed to avoid processed foods which would include the gluten-free bread that I love from Trader Joes but I do allow myself an occasional GF cinnamon raisin toast or a GF bagel. Moderation is key as much as I could powerhouse toast with nut butter, honey, sprinkled in cinnamon EVERY DAY, I shall not.
*No peanuts, which is not a restriction from my doctor but rather a peanut intollerance seems to be a sad by product of my first round of chemotherapy. My immune system was like “ok, I am going to go pout in the corner now. No peanuts for you.”
*No red meat.
*No soy.
*No cow dairy.
*No coffee.
*No deep fried food.
*No spicy food – this one I do bend at times because I love kimche and I love Cholula hot sauce in my oatmeal. (At some point, I will be sharing that amazing recipe that I have eaten for over a decade – my kids called it a “bowl of vomit” when they were younger. They are charming offspring. Lucky they are cute because I may have eaten them many years ago.)

Tuesday was the last day forcasted above 70 degrees. It was fantastically beautiful. This means that if we are going to try to overwinter our greens in the garden we need to build a coldframe over our raised bed. Our plan late last winter and early this spring was to six build the raised beds and overwinter two of them. We may get lucky if we get one overwinter contruction done.

My kale this year was a huge disappointment. A little cabbage worm and aphids found my kale to be the best cafeteria in the neighborhood. Our local woodchuck may have also joined in on an occasional feast. Our swiss chard on the other hand has championed like a beast. She grew long bright lush leaves, which is so wonderful but there is one problem – I don’t actually like swiss chard. I apparently garden with hopes and good intentions that I will love swiss chard. I actually do this almost every year. This year I fully realized and owned that I LOVE growing swiss chard BUT I have never liked eating it.

Later in the summer this year, I have come close many times to ripping out the plants and feeding them to the chickens and bunny. I have told neighbors, friends and strangers to come into our yard to take some. I considered moving my crop to the front yard next year and growing it next to a sign that says “Take as much as you want!”. But something magical happened in late September/ early October. I do believe that I found a recipe that I like for swiss chard! This is after years of trying so many recipies that I have found on Pinterest and suggestions from random people – I didn’t like any of it. I am a kale lover. I started considering, maybe that is where my love of greens stops. I do like to think that our property speaks to us about what we need. In the spring the prolific dill everywhere, reminds me to pickle for the winter and to spruce up my morning eggs with its leaves. This year we were blessed with so much horseradish that has many health benefits. Especially for achy joints. I processed and enjoyed with almost every dish until I realized I need to process more. I cannot ignore that the swiss chard has been screaming, begging and pleading for me to make a greater effort in our relationship. She is pretty. She is hearty. I just couldn’t figure out how to love her…. until this fall.

We were up north at a small cabin on Carp Lake. In the small cabin was a small kitchen. We had limited ingredients that we brought with us. I was hankering for some greens. Luckily, I remembered to quickly pick some greens from the garden right before we headed up north. The original version of this magical recipe was made with spinach and collards because I was not yet in a good space to take swiss chard on a vacation. We were still in the hanging our from a distance phase with occasional coffee dates. I had coconut oil, garlic salt, pepper, cumin, red onions, dried onion (dried white onion is a new thing to me that I am excited about and probably overuse at the moment), mushrooms and my greens. Frequently I cook without a recipe but I am learning to write down what I do so I can replicate it. There have been so many amazing dishes that I can never replicate because I didn’t write the down and so many dishes that I am thatnkful there is no record of them every being made.

It helps that I keep a daily notebook now for all my thoughts, happenings, and to do lists. I have twice referenced back to my September book to use this recipe. It is like a portable external hard drive for my brain. Chemo-brain is a real thing and this is how I have chosen to deal with it – honestly it is better than journaling.

Here is the recipe. I have not mastered the art of measuring things out yet but on this journey of sharing recipies I will work on that. The recipe below are guestimations of what I used. Baby steps – #1 write down recipe: check! #2 measure ingredients: work in progress.

  • In our big cast iron skillet I heat up approximately 2-3 Tbs. of coconut oil over medium heat.
  • I take one chopped red onion and sautee with a half tsp. of salt, 1-2 Tbs. of dried chopped white onion and 1 tsp. pepper – until onion is translucent.
  • Add chopped mushrooms if you like them. I used shiitake.
  • Add a little water, maybe a 1/4.
  1. Fill the skillet with washed swiss chard chopped into half inch chunks and ribbons. Swiss chard you do not have to remove the stems like kale.
  • Add 2-3 Tbs. cumin (we love cumin)
  • Sautee until fully cooked
  • I have sometimes added a bit of lemon juice if my tastebuds were calling for it.

I hope you like it as much as I do. I feel like a new world has opened up for me. I am glad our swiss chard has been persistent, she is a good (garden)bed fellow.

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