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Be trendy, eat leafy in the new year

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It's always interesting to read the onslaught of food trend reports as each new year begins. According to the Hartman Group's annual "Looking Ahead: Food Culture" report, we can expect to see vegetables become increasingly fashionable in 2012.

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Their analytics show consumption of meat is becoming more of a condiment than a center plate main attraction.

As I read through the report, the Hartman Group's predictions of what's trending in and what's trending out in 2012 made me dizzy with optimism as I imagined seeing more happy, healthy, physically fit people living the good life. Local, seasonal superfruits, the family dinner, fresh produce, portion control and eating more leafy greens are trending in, while superfruits from afar, activities trumping family meal time, excessive supplements, elimination diets and drinking shots of wheatgrass are trending out.

Oh, and put on your dancing shoes, because dancing, in particular zumba, is pushing treadmills out of the exercise scene.

In the introduction to their report, the Hartman Group writes, "...we analyze the cultural forces at play to determine whether something is a flash in the pan or has real lasting significance in consumer culture. To give a little context, our take on "Trending In" gives knowledge as to what's going on in the front of the food world, while "Trending Out" does not necessarily mean it's no longer in use, it's just no longer around the bend." No need to haul your treadmill to the basement storage room just yet.

I do believe consumers are becoming more educated about what kinds of food to eat for better health and overall wellness in order to enjoy a good quality of life. I know that fresh fruits and vegetables are good for all of us. I plan to increase my consumption of leafy greens in 2012.

Stir-fried Kale with Raspberry Soy Sauce and Rice Noodles highlights one of the most ignored greens. Many people are fearful of kale. Since it is a descendant of the wild cabbage, there is concern the flavor might be too robust or bitter and the texture too tough and fibrous.

It's unfortunate kale can seem so ominous. It is rich with vitamins K, A and C. It's also a very good vegetable source of calcium. The fact that one cup of kale has about 35 calories seals the reason-to-eat-kale deal.

When kale is stir-fried with onions, garlic and tiny bits of hot pepper it becomes tender with a mild flavor that might remind you of broccoli. Raspberry jam and soy sauce are accentuated with freshly squeezed lime juice to produce a lively dressing for the blend of vegetables and rice noodles.

Don't worry. Be trendy. Eat your greens and be healthy and happy.

To read more about what food trends the Hartman Group predicts, download the entire report at www.hartman-group.com.

Stir-fried Kale with Raspberry Soy Sauce and Rice Noodles

6 ounces rice noodles, 1/4-inch wide

1/2 cup raspberry jam

3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice

1/4 cup low-sodium tamari or soy sauce

3 tablespoons peanut oil

1 cup chopped onion

4 chubby cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper

3 cups sliced kale, tough ribs removed

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2/3 cup chopped peanuts

Green onions, sliced, for garnish

In a large, covered pot, cook rice noodles according to package directions, until tender but firm. Drain the cooked noodles, rinse them under cool water and set them aside to drain well. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the jam, lime juice and tamari. Set aside.

Heat peanut oil in a wok or large skillet. Add chopped onion and sauté for a couple of minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and jalapeno and sauté for another couple of minutes. Add the kale. Stir until kale appears to be coated with oil. Cover the wok or skillet and allow the vegetables to steam until the kale wilts and is tender, but firm.

Push the vegetables to the sides to make a well in the center. Pour the beaten eggs into the center and quickly scramble them. When the eggs have just set, pour in the sauce and stir everything together. Add the drained rice noodles and toss mixture. Stir in the peanuts. Sprinkle sliced green onions over each serving. Serve hot. Makes 4 servings.

Tips from the cook

--Tamari is a Japanese soy sauce brewed without wheat. It has a slightly thicker consistency and a richer flavor than regular soy sauce. Some chefs use tamari for seasoning food while cooking and soy sauce for adding flavor at the table. Tamari can be found in well-stocked grocery stores.

--Firm tofu can replace the eggs in this meal. Mash the tofu before adding it to the well in the wok or skillet. Cook until it just begins to turn brown.

--Rice noodles are a tasty, gluten-free alternative to traditional pasta. Now you can buy brown rice noodles that are made of whole grains and offer a nice dose of fiber. The brown rice noodles I used provide 2 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein per 2-ounce serving. Brown rice noodles taste a little nuttier than regular rice noodles.

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