Fix-It-And-Forget-It: Simply Beautiful Southern Greens Crockpot #WHOLE30 Compliant

Super Simple Southern Style Mixed Greens & Sausage in a Crock

Super Simple Southern Style Mixed Greens & Sausage in a Crock

A few weeks ago, I began a series of recipes based on a recent HealthGrove study identifying top 30 foods for beautiful skin and hair. As I’ve mentioned in each recipe I’ve shared in the series, 27 of those 30 foods are #WHOLE30-compliant foods (the 3 exceptions being non-soy legumes, e.g. green peas and pea pods). None of the 30 foods from the list are dairy or grains products. I found the study so inspiring that I challenged myself to create all new #WHOLE30-compliant recipes with each of the 27 foods from the list (again, not counting the 3 legumes); and thus, the birth of this series of recipes. If you’ve missed any of the previous recipes, I’ve included links for each at the bottom of this article.

Coming in at #3 on HealthGrove’s list of best foods for beautiful skin and hair, today’s featured ingredient is – KALE!!! The curly leafy green earns an A+ nutrient rating with incredibly high levels of Vitamins A and C (almost 400% RDA and 55% RDA respectively) with only 40 calories per cooked cup. Kale has become über popular over the last 5-10 years, so I probably don’t need to tell you it’s a healthy food. There’s just a ridiculous number of (often absurdly expensive) kale “health” foods on the market these days. But properly cooked, well-seasoned greens are a southern tradition. I’ve been eating them since I was a little girl. They’re inexpensive and relatively easy to make (relative to say, making your own dehydrated kale chips with raw cashew “cheeze” sauce).

Truthfully, authentic southern style greens are usually made with fresh collards, turnip or mustard greens, not frozen kale and spinach. But frankly, I’m not about to go through the hassle of soaking and stemming fresh greens. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Frozen chopped kale is inexpensive, almost as healthy as the fresh stuff, super convenient and readily available everywhere. As you can see from the pic below, I purchased a couple 1 lb. bags at Wal-Mart (Great Value, Wal-Mart’s store brand), and each bag was less than $1.50 each. Frozen chopped collards (#4 on HealthGrove’s list BTW) are also widely available, and you could use those instead of kale if you wanna be more authentic. But because collards and turnips can be a tad bitter, I wanted to try this recipe with kale first. I DEFINITELY recommend adding spinach to the mix because spinach has the most mellow flavor of all the greens and brings its own healthful punch to the mix (it’s #8 among beautifying foods).

***UPDATE: I tried making this recipe again. But this time I used 3-12oz. bags frozen chopped collard greens in place of the 2-16oz. bags frozen chopped kale used/listed in the original recipe below. Guess what! It turned out just as good. So, if you want a more authentic crock of greens, feel free to use frozen chopped collard greens instead of kale. Just try to keep the ratio of other green:spinach more or less equivalent to the base recipe for best results.***

Super greens short cuts - frozen chopped kale and spinach

Super greens short cuts – frozen chopped kale and spinach

I should add that back in the day, my southern Grandmothers would have thrown ham hocks into the crock (instead of the organic chicken & apple sausage that I used), and they would have offset the greens’ bitterness with a quarter cup (maybe more?) of sugar. But ham hocks surely have additives not approved during #WHOLE30 (plus they’re kinda gross IMO). And sugar is most definitely off limits during #WHOLE30. So I used unsweetened (pure) apple juice as the cooking liquid and threw in some applesauce and balsamic vinegar for good measure. As the balsamic cooks down (over that last hour of cook time), it thickens and condenses, becoming sweeter and more intense in flavor. See note below regarding selection of cooking ingredients.+++

• 2-16 oz. bags frozen, chopped kale
• 1-10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach
• 1 Tbsp. iodized sea salt
• 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
• 3-4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
• ¼ tsp. white pepper
• 1 cup pure, unsweetened apple juice (see note below)+++
• ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce (organic if possible, see note below)+++
• 1 Tbsp. hot sauce (optional but highly recommended for true southern authenticity)
• 3 Tbsp. balsamic or apple cider vinegar (I used pure balsamic vinegar, see note below)+++
• 12-16 oz. package fully-cooked sausages without sugar or other unapproved additives (I used Aidell’s All Natural Chicken & Apple Sausages)
• 4 pieces fully cooked bacon, crumbled (again, choose a bacon without added sugar, sulfites or other additives not approved for consumption during #WHOLE30. Check out the #WHOLE30 list of officially #WHOLE30-approved brands and products

+++When doing #WHOLE30, it’s so important to check the ingredient lists of any products you plan to consume (actually it’s always important to be aware of what you’re feeding your family, right?). Many processed meat products (e.g. bacon, sausage, etc.) contain sugar, sulfite preservatives, something called carrageenan (thickening and stabilizing agent) and other additives not approved for consumption during WHOLE30 (and which aren’t healthy for us to consume anyway). Some brands of applesauce and apple juice have added sugars (the naturally occurring sugars are fine). And many juices “drinks,” especially those called “lite,” “low calorie” or “low sugar” contain artificial sweeteners to replace the natural sugars removed. Sweeteners of all kinds are off limits during #WHOLE30. Likewise, some balsamic vinegars are nothing more that colored white vinegar with corn syrup added. I know! Frustrating right? But that’s why you gotta be a label reader. For a complete list of #WHOLE30 program do’s and don’ts as well as answers to just about any #WHOLE30 questions you may have, I highly recommend you check out the program rules here and other resources available at WHOLE30’s website to educate yourself prior to beginning your own #WHOLE30 journey or whenever you have questions or need some support (N.B. – the Facebook and Twitter feeds are tremendous sources of encouragement and support). Also, consider reading the book It Starts with Food prior to attempting a #WHOLE30. It’s chalked full of useful info and helpful tips to make surviving the whole 30 days a whole lot more tolerable (pun intended).

• Crock pot                                                                     • Cutting board
• Chef’s knife                                                                 • Kitchen sheers or scissors
• Measuring spoons                                                     • Measuring cups
• Microwave                                                                   • Large microwave-safe bowl(s)
• Crock pot liner (optional but makes cleanup a LOT easier)

1. Using scissors or kitchen knife, carefully snip small holes in tops of each bag of frozen kale and top of package of frozen spinach.
2. Place one bag of frozen kale into microwave-safe bowl, cut-side up. Microwave on HIGH for 5-6 minutes. Repeat this process for remaining bag of frozen kale and package of frozen spinach.
3. If using crockpot liner, place in pot and turn crockpot on HIGH setting for 4 hours. Add all 3 bags of greens to pot.
4. Add sea salt, EVOO, chopped garlic cloves, white pepper, apple juice, applesauce and (if using) hot sauce. Then add sausages. Stir to combine. Place lid on crockpot and cook on HIGH for 2 hours.
5. Reduce heat to LOW setting. Remove lid. Add vinegar and stir to combine. Then recover crockpot and cook on LOW setting for 1 hour.
6. After 1 hour, decrease heat to WARM. Remove sausages and set aside until cool enough to handle. Then cut into bite-size pieces. Return sausage pieces to greens and stir well. Recover the pot, and allow greens mixture to warm about 15-30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon just prior to serving. P.S. – Don’t toss the cooking liquid (known as “potlick”). My Grandma used to drink it like broth. It’s delicious!
7. NOTE: If you need to cook this recipe for longer (say 8 hours or more) you would follow this procedure: Prepare crockpot as above (with liner if using) and turn to LOW setting for 8 hours. Microwave each bag/package of frozen greens for only 2 minutes on HIGH (greens will still be mostly frozen but will be easier to pour into crock). Place all ingredients except vinegar into pot. Add 1 cup water and additional 1/4 cup apple juice to crockpot. Cover and forget it for 8 hours. Then about 1 hour before serving, remove crockpot lid; add vinegar and stir mixture well. Cook for 1 more hour on LOW. Remove sausages and (if desired) cut into bite-sized pieces. Then return sausages to the mix. Stir well. Reduce heat to WARM setting. Recover mixture and allow to rest about 15-30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon just prior to serving if desired.
Servings: Makes about 6 generous servings

Hubs requested his sausages remain whole. He's sooooo picky ;)

Hubs requested his sausages remain whole. He’s sooooo picky 😉

Serving Suggestions: The primary protein in this dish is sausage (recall bacon is basically just a condiment, not a quality protein source). But sausage (even without unapproved additives) is not what the Hartwigs would call high quality protein (see It Starts with Food Chapter 5, for more detail on what constitutes a healthy and satisfying meal. Hint:an effective meal is based around a high-quality protein + good fat(s) and veggies.) So to boost the protein content of this meal I recommend adding a high-quality lean protein to whatever side dish you serve with this entrée. Example, I added hearty portions of chopped, hard-boiled eggs to the tossed green salads I served. I like mine with extra hot sauce and no bacon.

Don’t Miss the Other Recipes in This Series:
Quick & Easy Paleo Lemon Garlic Salad Dressing #WHOLE30 Compliant
Chicken Tri-Almandine Casserole
WHOLE30 Stuffed Zucchini 2 Ways
Easy Cheezy Chicken & Broccoli Soup with Crispy Potato Croutons

Wisdom for the Day:
And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” ~Genesis 1:29 (English Standard Version)
Read more here.

Beauty Resource of the Day:
Save your money! Why spend the extra $$$ for high-end cosmetics when you can get a cheaper (sometimes better performing) product at the drugstore?
Check out this incredibly in-depth video from the amazing Tati as she compares her fav drugstore dupes to expensive makeup.

P.S. – I don’t usually watch 23 min. YouTube videos either but this one is SO worth it! She literally compares each product side-by-side and tells you the prices of each product and money saved; links to purchase for all products also included. This one is not to be missed!

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