Gluten-free Vegan Almond Kale Recipe and Calafia Palo Alto Review

This winter has been a hard one for our family at the house of yum. It seems like every week, Toddler Yum comes down with a new illness. The most recent one resulted in my mom and then me coming down with a miserable case of pneumonia. I would certainly like to give my lungs a piece of my mind. What do they think they are doing, throwing in the towel and inviting buggies in to build a home like that? It did make me think a bit about what I should be doing, rather than what I have been doing, to maintain my health. For example… I have to admit, although I’ve never been that much of a sweets girl, ever since I got pregnant with Toddler Yum, I have developed something of a chocolate habit. I like the dark stuff, mind you, none of that nasty sickeningly sweet candy bar or drugstore chocolate box chocolates for me! But still, even though dark chocolate supposedly has some beneficial properties, it contains sugar that I know very well doesn’t do anything good for me. In fact, when I eat sugar, the crash makes me cranky and feel a little bit like someone is scratching my brain, ever so annoyingly. Do any of you ever get that feeling? Maybe it is just me.

But anyway, getting sick and not having the energy to cook good (or bad) food for myself did make me think about my diet and the things that I know are good for me and make me feel good. I stopped the chocolate habit cold turkey, and turned towards the good stuff. Kale is one of those things that makes me feel good. I like to buy it from Whole Foods because they have organic kale in all kinds of varieties, or even better, from the Farmer’s Market when it is in season. The other day, though, the DH took me to my follow up-checkup on my lungs (because he is a sweetie) and I was feeling so much better that we decided to get lunch out together.

Calafia Cafe

Town & Country Village Suite 130
855 El Camino Real (at Embarcadero Road)
Palo Alto California
(650) 322-9200

I had read about Calafia Palo Alto being a good restaurant with a gluten-free menu, and I’d passed it numerous times in the Palo Alto Town and Country square, but I’d never actually eaten there. Half of the restaurant is a deli, and I’m easily intimidated by delis. However, the other half of the restaurant is a nice, sit-down restaurant with menus, and we decided to get a table. I was happy to see the gluten-free labeml on many of their dishes, but weirdly enough, I was even happier to see that they split the menu in half between vegetarian and omnivore options. They even labeled their vegan dishes. Unfortunately, I wasn’t actually that hungry because I had eaten a very full and nutritious breakfast (leftover Dal made my the DH the night before, my hero!). But I decided to order their Braised Greens with Almond Butter, which they describe on their menu as: “rainbow swiss chard, sautéed with shallots, glazed with cider vinegar and finished with a vegan turmeric scented almond butter,
dried cranberries and walnuts.” The small dish that arrived wasn’t very dramatic, but when I took a bite I could literally feel my blood being supercharged with nutrition. The funny thing is, I wasn’t completely in love with the balance of flavor. I could taste cayenne more than turmeric in the almond butter, and was a trifle spicy for me after years of cooking for a DH with a sensitive tummy and now a toddler who despises spiciness. At the same time, I felt so good as I ate it and I was ultimately very happy with it. It was also novel because it was both like something I might cook for myself but at the same time not with the exact balance of flavor I would choose. How often can you go out to eat and feel like you’re getting a more nutritious meal than you would have at home? That is why I fell in love with this restaurant and would go back in a heartbeat. They had an intriguing assortment of specialty smoothie beverages, and tons of entrees and other dishes marked gluten-free and vegetarian. The DH was also happy, although he ordered a gluten menu item of what he called a “salad pizza”- a pizza with goat and blue cheese with a gorgeous pile of arugula on top. (They don’t offer gluten-free pizza, but plenty of other places do so I didn’t mind.)

I did some reading and found out that Calafia was started by a chef named Charlie Ayers that was the head chef at Google for six years after being a caterer for the Grateful Dead. Not only that, but he has his own book called Food 2.0: Secrets from the Chef Who Fed Google. According to the booklist description, “Raw, organic, and fermented is Charlie s mantra, which is reflected in more than 90 easy-to-prepare recipes, whether it s a Kick-start Breakfast, a Power Lunch, or a Light, Bright Dinner. And, following the world-famous formula Charlie used at Google headquarters, the meals and snacks are designed to feed your brain exactly what it needs at different points throughout the workday.” It has been a while since I went to a restaurant that I found as exciting as this one, and after reading more about the chef I can understand why. It isn’t a raw-foods cookbook, and not even a vegetarian cookbook, but I was intrigued enough by the description that I ordered a used copy for myself. I’ll let you know how I like it!

Anyway, their braised green recipe with almond sauce was a delightful restaurant offering and also got me thinking about how I might try my own (very different) version when I brought home some tasty organic kale from the farmer’s market this weekend. Here’s my take on it, which met with approval from my omnivorous dad and allergy-sensitive mother. Toddler Yum found it to be too much green for her, but since she scarfs down raw broccoli, cauliflower, and roasted chickpeas, I think I’ll overlook this temporary disdain for kale. It took me some years to develop a love affair with kale, after all, and now it is my favorite breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu item! I hope you enjoy this recipe for a vegan almond sauce kale recipe as much as we did.

Looking for more kale-almond recipes?
Addictive Vegan Kale Salad
Kale Almond Pesto
Almond Crunch Kale Chips
Chopped Kale Salad with Toasted Almonds
Just Plain Scrumptious Kale Recipes:
Cashew Creamed Kale Recipe
Kale and toor Dal
Kale in Puttanesca Sauce
Gluten-free Cornmeal Dumplings with Red Beans and Kale
Gluten-free Stuffing with Kale, Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms
Kale with Pine Nuts and Raisins
Vegetarian Lasagna with Kale and Cheese
Feta Breakfast Kale

Hey, I’m in the running for the Circle of Moms Top 25 Vegan and Vegetarian Mom Blogger Award!

You can vote once per blog every 24 hours until February 14th at 8pm EST. I’d love to make it to the final count!

Almond Butter Kale Recipe
2 tsp. grapeseed or olive oil
1 small to medium bunch of kale, rinsed and dried with spine cut out, chopped
3 tbsp. diced onion

1/4 cup roasted almond butter
2 tbsp. hot water or more for desired texture
1 tsp. agave nectar, maple syrup, honey (look for neutral flavored honey), or simple syrup
1 tsp. lime or lemon juice
herbamare or your favorite salt blend
dash cayenne pepper or paprika

Heat olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet on medium high and add your chopped kale leaves. I like to pan fry them until they get browned and dry in patches, but you can cook them to your preference. When almost done, add your diced onion to the pan and saute until translucent.

Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. Add more hot water if needed to have a sauce you can pour.

When kale and onions are done, put into an attractive bowl and drizzle generously with sauce. Fold sauce into the kale until evenly distributed and serve.

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11 Responses to “Gluten-free Vegan Almond Kale Recipe and Calafia Palo Alto Review”

  1. Valerie (m.) Says:

    I hear you about getting sick a lot when a child starts at daycare. I’ve found that when each of my three kids started, we were sick almost all the time for the first 1-2 years. (They say that kids who don’t go to daycare or preschool just go through all those illnesses in kindergarten instead.) This year my youngest is finally in his third year of being in school, and I am reveling in being so much more healthy than we were for the last two years. I don’t think you did anything wrong to have caught pneumonia — I know lots of people all over the country who had it this year — I really think it’s been going around. So I’m not sure that eating differently would have prevented it — especially with a child in the house who has newly started daycare. However, I am a big fan of greens and healthy eating, and I totally know what you mean about how awful my body feels after eating sugar, and I just recently switched my favorite food from red chard to beet greens — so I am a huge fan of cooking that includes more greens and less sugar. :-)

    I am glad that you are healthy again! Pneumonia is scary stuff.

  2. This sounds lovely. I actually adore kale, but it’s been a slowly growing love affair. I have a BUNCH of red Russian kale in my garden right now. I think this would be perfect for some of it. You’ll have to tell me how that book is – I am off to add it to my wish list right now!

  3. this sounds so easy and so good!

  4. I don’t have a love affair with kale yet, but a few years back I turned up my nose at the stuff. Now I put it in my smoothies, in which some folks who otherwise like kale absolutely detest it, so I think I’m making good progress. ;-) I have to confess that adding almond butter to just about anything makes me love it! I’ve had it on savory dishes before and it’s wonderful. :-)

    So glad you are feeling better, Sea, and enjoyed eating out. This chef sounds like a very interesting fellow. I’m all for brain food. Imagine how innovative our country could be if all the companies had a chef creating brain food! I love that concept! And I absolutely know what you mean about feeling nourished/charged when you eat certain dishes.

    Thanks for your rendition of this recipe! xo,

  5. ROASTED almond butter? Something new? I’m not into buying products I can make myself. So I’m wondering if just plain almond butter would be okay. I usually find good food through my Facebook account and would love to add you, but notice you don’t have any? PS — what is a DH?

  6. Joyce, You can certainly make your own almond butter with toasted (rather than raw) almonds. I don’t care for the flat flavor of untoasted, raw almond butter, which is why I specified roasted almond butter. Depending on where you source your almond butter or nuts, I find it is usually just as cheap to buy pre-made almond butter rather than make it from scratch myself. I usually buy my nut butters at Trader Joe’s because it is a lot cheaper.

    I have a Facebook account- do a search for Sea Maiden and my blog page “Book of Yum”. Hope to see you there. I update whenever I have a new blog post.

    DH= dear husband.


  7. Hi Shirley,
    Isn’t the idea of brain food/ matching nutritional needs throughout the day a cool one? I hadn’t really run into a chef like that in a restaurant outside of a raw foods restaurant, and those are kind of their own special genre. I really like this restaurant and chef! I’ve never had kale in a smoothie- how goofy am I! Maybe we can inspire each other. :)


  8. Hi GF Veg, Thank you!

    HI Alta, I have some kale growing (sloooowly) in my garden too. I have a bunch of beets also flourishing… can’t wait to harvest them! I’ll keep you posted on the book.

  9. Hi Valerie, Thank you for the encouraging words. I know you’re probably right about the daycare thing. It has just scared me that the last two years I’ve gotten serious pneumonia- makes me feel like, if this is what 35 is like, what about when I’m 60? This case was a lot better than last year, though, because I went to the doctor as soon as I had symptoms.

    Mmm, beet greens… Can’t wait to harvest ours from our garden! In fact, I think they need thinning…. ;)


  10. You have beet greens in your garden now? I am envious — we have three inches of snow on the ground here in Michigan.

    The Valerie Oracle says: I think at 60 you’ll be catching horrible bugs from your grandkids, but that you’ll be healthy for all the years in between the time Toddler Yum acclimates to daycare germs and the time when the grandkids start. :-)

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