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The Journey: To be or not to be organic…

Something came up recently that I’ve been struggling with and want to everyone what they think. And for once, it’s not my lack of French language skills… It’s a question that I keep asking myself over and over.

How important is it for The Kale Project to be 100% organic?

It’s a question I frequently think about. I truly believe in organic produce and hormone-free/grass fed meat and dairy. Eating organic is in my blood, it’s a way of life. I ate organic, thanks to my mom, before it was cool to eat organic. Back then it was just considered weird. I ate organic when there were only co-ops and not Whole Foods. As I transitioned into adult life, organic didn’t come easily at college (you’d think for Penn State being one of the largest agricultural schools, they would have been a bit more progressive) and then in New York it was easy and I chose organic as often as possible.

When I think of the kale that will hopefully be grown as a result of The Kale Project, in a perfect world, all of it will be organic, or bio in French. But at the same time, I am figuring this out as I go along and of course am coming across difficulties along the way.

Already, Madame Mustard is certified organic. Monsieur Vincennes grows without pesticides and is working towards his certification. So right there, the first two potential farmers are organic. Goal achieved.

If things continue to go well, like they are now, and conventional farmers show an interest in growing kale, is it wrong if I want to work with them and include them in The Kale Project?

My primary goal is to bring kale to Paris and I think that if I can do that with both conventional and organic farmers, I will have a better chance at success.

It will just be imperative that I am transparent about which farmers are organic and which are not. This way, you as a kale love in Paris, will know where and when to find organic and/or conventional kale.

What do you think? Are you OK with having conventional kale as well if it means there will be more kale in Paris?

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Kale Monday: Spicy Lentils with Sweet Potatoes and Kale

Happy Kale Monday! Hope you all had a nice weekend. Not sure about all of you, but Monday is always a day when I am ready for a little detox. And there is no better way to eat healthy than with kale (or some hearty green). For those that read the first For The Love of Kale, here is Saren’s recipe from her blog, This Dynamic Life. Start your week off right, pick up something green on the way home (kale for the lucky Americans!) and enjoy the first Kale Monday recipe! 

Spicy Lentils with Sweet Potatoes and Kale
serves 4-6

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and small diced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into small 1/4-1/2″ cubes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 knob of ginger, chopped
  • 1 bunch red kale, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 serrano pepper
  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt (or, to taste)
  • 3 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock
  • Goat cheese, optional
  • Whole grain bread, optional

  1. Heat the oil in a medium sized pot on medium heat.
  2. Once hot, add the onion, carrot and sweet potato and cook for about six minutes, until softened. 
  3. Add the garlic, ginger, and kale and continue cooking until kale wilts.
  4. Add the lentils, bay leaf, rosemary sprigs, serrano pepper and stock.
  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until lentils are tender and have absorbed most of the liquid.
  6. Season with salt to taste and remove the bay leave, and rosemary sprigs before serving.
  7. Sprinkle goat cheese over your bowl of warm, deliciousness and serve with grainy bread.

[adapted from

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For The Love of Kale: Saren from This Dynamic Life

Bon week-end à vous! In just the short six weeks since the The Kale Project has launched, I have received fantastic messages, comments and feedback from so many supporters. Your kind words, advice and suggestions have only encouraged me to keep going with this movement.

While I had a hunch, the support has only confirmed to me how many people there are in both France and the United States that truly love kale. And I’d like to share these lovely people with you. Today, I am launching a weekly series, called For The Love of Kale. It will feature a new kale enthusiast and the following Monday their favorite kale recipe. I love providing a new kale recipe for you to try (or dream about trying) on the infamous ‘Meatless Monday.’  A Monday with kale is the perfect way to get your week off to a great start.

For the first For The Love of KaleI’m pleased to introduce Saren from This Dynamic Life. Saren and I have known each since we were born and grew up together. While life has taken us in different directions (me to Paris and her to Chicago where she just completed law school) we still keep in touch. Saren has embodied healthy eating, yoga (she’s a hardcore yogini and teaches in Chicago) and a balance into her life that I’ve always envied. 

When did you start This Dynamic Life and why?

I started This Dynamic Life this last semester of law school. I was finally living and embracing the many sides of myself: the yoga side, the legal side, health and wellness side, the creative side, the spiritual side, etc. I noticed that I felt the most joy when every side of myself was expressed and nurtured. We’re not one dimensional beings. We’re complex and vibrant–we deserve to live that way.

What is the idea behind This Dynamic Life and does it have an ultimate goal?
This Dynamic Life is meant to reflect the practices that allow me to live to my fullest potential. The idea is not that you should follow my way of life. The idea and ultimate goal is inspiration–for people to discover their own practices, ways of thinking and living, that allow the utmost learning and growth.

Has cooking and good, natural food always been a part of your life? Or was there something that happened in your life that altered the way you cook and eat today?
Yes, cooking and natural food has always been part of my life. I was blessed with a mother that encouraged me to experiment in the kitchen. She also set her family’s health as one of her highest priorities. Since that wonderful upbringing, I have experimented with a plethora of diets and food lifestyles. Ultimately, I’ve come to relish feeling well and honoring my needs above else. This mostly includes gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar free living. Though sometimes, if the universe moves me, I’ll have a burger and beer! Why deny yourself life?

When did you first try kale? How? And what did you think?

Oh, kale. My first time with this magical vegetable was at your house. Your mom dressed it with a bit of olive oil and umeboshi vinegar. I was hooked for life. I will be forever grateful to Sharon Beddard-Hess!

What is the most common way you eat kale?

I have kale at least once a day. For breakfast, in fact – see my breakfast smoothie. For the rest of the day, I may include it include it in salads (steamed or raw), put it on sandwiches, or have it as a side in Sharon Beddard-Hess style.

Describe what kale tastes like to you in one sentence.

Kale tastes like a buttery, invigorating green that can make me feel healthy and nurtured in just one bite.

What’s the vibe about kale in Chicago and with your circle of friends/acquaintances? What are some restaurants in Chicago that serve kale really well?

In Chicago, the vibe about kale certainly depends on the friends you keep. All my friends adore it. Simply put, if you’re at all healthy, you love kale. Chicago restaurants that serve kale well are Karyn’s Raw and Karyn’s on Green, Native Foods, and the Lincoln Park Whole Foods’ salad bar (you can get it every which way!).

What’s one thing about you  that people do not know?

Most people don’t know that my biggest weakness are french fries with truffle oil. Seriously, its my kryptonite.

Merci to the lovely Saren and for your inspiration. If you need a pick-me-up during your week, check out her blog as there is always a motivating message. And get ready for Monday’s first kale recipe from Saren!

Follow This Dynamic Life on Facebook or Twitter.

*Photo credit: Heather Scott

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Farmer Update: Monsieur Vincennes

Last week I told you about MP and the sweet note that she went me about her excitement for The Kale Project as well as her farmer friend that sells his produce at the Vincennes market.

MP and I were scheduled to meet last week at the Vincennes RER stop – which is the regional train system for Paris. Vincennes is outside of Paris to the east. When MP and I scheduled our meeting, she recommended I take the RER instead of the métro as it would be much faster and since I rarely take the RER except to airports, I agreed to try it out. There’s always a good time to learn something new. But as usual, the RER from where I live was shut because well, sometimes in Paris things are just shut. So I had to take Line 1 and ended up late for our meeting. Little did I know that the Vincennes RER station is a good 10 minute walk from the Line 1 Château de Vincennes métro station. And unfortunately because MP just returned from a period of time spent in the states, she does not have a French cell phone. I was stuck.

Was it fate? Was I not meant to meet this new farmer? Or my first French advocate of The Kale Project? Surprisingly for me, I did not stress out too much and sent MP a note explaining the mix-up with trains. As with her first email, she sweetly replied that we could meet later that week.

Take two.

Cut to me on the RER (it was running this time!) and on the correct train as it whizzed by the Vincennes spot at exactly 8:30am – the time I was meant to meet MP. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of public transportation but it’s times like this one that it just annoys me. Of course the train wouldn’t stop at Vincennes – a very common stop – on the day that I need to stop and be on time for my important farmer meeting! Luckily I was able to get off at the next stop, switch trains (after confirming it would actually stop at Vincennes) and arrived 20 minutes late. But MP was there! Waiting for me! With her Whole Foods market bag just as she said she would be!

And then we met her farmer. An adorable, energetic man with absolutely gorgeous produce. I have not seen produce this perfect since I’ve moved to Paris. The chou pointu (a cousin of chou frisé that has more collard-like greens) was to die for. I just wished I was heading back home so I could buy as much as possible and take it home!

Monsieur Vincennes’ beautiful produce.

While MP and I did not meet up the day before, she had already spoken to her farmer about kale and The Kale Project. And he was in before he even met me. When she introduced us, he showed his big smile and told me that all I need to do is supply the seeds. And as you all know, I’ve found my seed supplier in Cornwall.

Monsieur Vincennes’ perfect chou pointu

It was obvious that Monsieur Vincennes has a larger operation than Madame Mustard which could be good for volume as I begin to have more meetings with restaurants. One other thing about about Monsieur Vincennes that I liked, is that while he not certified organic yet, he farms organically and is working towards his certification in France – which let’s be honest – can you imagine the paperwork and bureaucracy one has to go through for that?! May the force be with him.

It was short and sweet and I left him with more information about the mission of The Kale Project and my contact information with the promise to have seeds for him very soon.

Needless to say, the journey back was a little less traumatic and I am so excited to have Monsieur Vincennes as The Kale Project’s potential newest farmer!


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Restaurant Update: Verjus

Now that kale farmers are feeling like more of a reality, I felt it was time to start contacting some of the restaurants from my restaurant wish list.

Verjus was up first.

My husband and I missed the Hidden Kitchen wave but landed in Paris just in time for Verjus to open their wine bar and eventual restaurant in the 1st arrondissement. On our first visit this past November, fresh into the Paris food scene, I asked one of the owners, Laura if she as a restaurant owner had ever come across kale.

Her answer was disappointing and not what I wanted to hear. She confirmed what I knew that I already knew. Kale did not exist. She said she knew loads of other people that had searched high and low for it but to no avail. I think this confirmation of no kale from Laura was what really enabled me to move on beyond the mental stage of “I’m going to find kale in Paris,” to the stage of “I’m going to bring kale to Paris.”

Laura and Braden are such a lovely pair and after only one visit to the Verjus wine bar, Laura already remember me and my husband (I’m convinced it’s because he is this silly English man), but their personal touch to Verjus is what makes this place so special.

We returned to the Verjus restaurant in March and after indulging in the fantastic tasting menu, I knew that Verjus could be a prime spot for The Kale Project to introduce kale.

Laura and Braden were the first two people I contact and they were the first to that responded!

Laura’s response: “Kristen, This is awesome. Of course we would be interested!” 

And so dear friend of The Kale Project, I am so excited to announce that The Kale Project has their first restaurant supporter of kale… Verjus! 

I spent more time talking with Laura and also Braden (who just calls me “the kale girl,” which I totally love) about who they know in the industry, distribution details and insights, who else might be interested in kale and how they are so excited to incorporate it into their menus.

It was just another example that The Kale Project is more than just me. It’s all of you whether you live in Paris or not. It’s Laura and Braden introducing me to their friends and whoever you are introducing The Kale Project to your friend wherever that is a health-food enthusiast.

I’m so excited to share more about Verjus as they help The Kale Project with the kale journey!

Here are fantastic reviews about Verjus:

Verjus: Expat Edna

Verjus: David Lebovitz

Verjus: The Paris Kitchen

Verjus: Paris By Mouth

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The Journey: A search for seeds…

As with many French words, seeds or les graines is not one that easily comes off my tongue. I never can remember whether to say the “s” or not which has led to Madame Mustard correcting me each time. That’s one think I know about her, she loves to correct my French.

After our what I think mostly successful phone conversation yesterday, I spent today searching for seeds. Two weeks ago, a friend of The Kale Project, educated me on chou reflex and where to buy seeds online from a French company. Although Google translate normally helps me through many French websites, I feel more comfortable trying to find an English provider.

Plan A, Johnny Seeds, America: I started first with Johnny’s Seeds in the States. Of course they sell exactly what I need. Kale seeds in bulk with endless variety. But I knew the issue with buying from an American supplier would not be their offering but shipping agricultural product from another country. It would be impossible to get any shipment past French customs that is in bulk and for potential commercial use. Clearly the option most familiar to me would not work. But I have assumed as much.

Plan B, Thompson & Morgan, United Kingdom: It wasn’t hard to find other seed companies in the UK. And their shipping policies to other countries within the European Union were not stringent. Since I have an address, there would not be any issues buying in bulk. So I found XXX and they too sold a variety of kale seeds in bulk. After a few email exchanges, I was led to their organic seed selection, which was not as promising and did not have any kale options. Next…

Plan C, Tamar Organics, United Kingdom: Well, third times a charm right? The next company I found sold only organic seeds and they too had kale. I wasn’t overly impressed with their website which sometimes makes me a bit weary of a company’s credibility but I emailed them anyways asking if it was an issue to have bulk shipments of seeds sent to France. Immediately they wrote back a really friendly note telling me they are located in Cornwall and that of course shipment to France is never an issue and they led me to their professional online store. This felt like an important step for The Kale Project. I was going to order seeds from the “professional” site?! Amazing. So I did.

Friends of The Kale Project – today is a big day. A bulk order was placed for three different kale varieties. I should have them in a week.

Madame Mustard asked for at least 40 – 50 grams and that is what she’s going to get!

Here is what we ordered… all varieties are the basic, green, curly kale but the two of the seeds are best grown later in the year which suits our timeline since they will *Hopefully* be planted in late June or early July.

Halbhoher Grun Kraser: dwarf green curled. frost hardy kale with dark green, deeply curled heads.

Ribor: medium tall type for autumn and winter cropping. very high yielding with dark green leaves which stand well and are slow to yellow.

Westland Winter: large plant type with blue-green, well-curled leaves. cut october to march.

Could we possibly have kale through the winter into march?


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