Thursday, July 3

A Fresh, Lowfat Twist on Cole Slaw: Swiss Chard Cabbage Salad Recipe with Garbanzo Beans, Broccoli Stems, & Cottage Cheese

Colorful, crunchy, and good for you - pass the salad, please!

During a live chat last year with Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, authors of the bestselling Silver Palate cookbooks (and The New Basics, one of my all time favorite cookbooks), my foodie friend Sonia asked an interesting question:

I think that we all tend to read a recipe and then make it our own by adapting it to our tastes or to what is readily available in our areas. At least, that's how I usually cook. For example, the stuffed tomatoes recipe in the Silver Palate calls for ricotta and spinach, and although ricotta is readily available here in in Hawaii, I have a goat farmer friend up the road who makes chevre, so I use that recipe, along with Malabar spinach from my garden.

I'm curious, though—when someone tells you they have changed your recipe around, does it bother you, or are you pleased that you at least gave them a starting point?

And Julee replied:

I really take it as a compliment that someone has made [one of] our recipes and chosen to make it their own. That's what cooking is all about. I have an insatiable curiosity, and so sometimes I want to make the familiar, sometimes the new!!

Since I started Farmgirl Fare three years ago, I've heard from people all around the world who have made my recipes. While I love to know that you've enjoyed them, I also love it when you tell me that one of my recipes inspired you to head into the kitchen and create something of your own.

The other day I received this note from Sarah:

I read your blog regularly, and the other day I was bored at work so I was looking back through your archives. I was intrigued by your broccoli soup with chickpeas. I didn't follow your recipe at all except for the suggestion of an addition of a can of chickpeas.

I had a 2 month old head of cauliflower in my fridge and so I put some onions, garlic, celery, and cauliflower in some broth, cooked it up, added a can of beans, pureed and voila! I did have some pesto on hand so I added a teaspoon of that to the soup and it was amazing. My cat even ate a small bowl of the stuff! Thank you for the inspiration! I don't usually follow recipes but read them compulsively and rework them.

So not only did I inspire Sarah to whip up something delicious with that languishing head of cauliflower in her fridge, but I now have a tasty sounding new recipe for cauliflower soup as well.

Fortunately my dear friend Kat feels the same way as Julee and I do, because although I doubt anyone would recognize her Fresh Veggie Salad in this recipe, it was my inspiration.

Two things about Kat's salad jumped out at me: the intriguing combination of cabbage and spinach (something I'd never thought to do), and the addition of cottage cheese, which I've been tossing into all kinds of stuff lately, like this Fiesta Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip.

With those two ideas in mind, I simply took her recipe and ran with it.

Kat's version is versatile; she's rolled it up in chicken breasts, used it in omelets, and even tossed it on a pizza. Mine might be versatile, too, though I have yet to move beyond just gobbling it out of a bowl—or straight from the dish in the fridge.

This flavorful salad is low fat, low carb, and packed with fiber—but you don't have to share that part if you don't want to.

Farmgirl Susan's Swiss Chard Cabbage Salad
Makes about 8 cups - Inspired by Kat's Fresh Veggie Salad

This is actually the second Kat-inspired salad I created. The first version was made with spinach, but since I never got around to planting any spinach this past spring, I simply made due with what I had on hand this year—and that was plenty of homegrown Swiss chard.

I also took advantage of our scallion bounty. I'll hopefully get around to sharing the spinach version, too, but since I know a lot of you are looking for new ways to use up all your gorgeous Swiss chard right now, I figured this one needed to come first.

Freshly harvested Swiss chard from the Kitchen Garden

There's a nice crunch to this salad, in part because Swiss chard—which is easy to grow from seed—gives you a bonus veggie: the stalks can be chopped up and used like celery. Choose colorful varieties of chard such as Pink Lipstick, Canary Yellow, and Orange Fantasia and you'll have some of the prettiest 'celery' around.

If you tend to throw out broccoli stalks and only use the florets (shame on you!), this is a great place to toss them instead.

This pseudo slaw—which would be perfect for picnics and potlucks—looks best right after it's been mixed up, but it tastes best after it's chilled for a couple of hours. I use a large serrated knife to thinly slice the cabbage and a big chef's knife to slice the chard, which I kind of roll up into a bundle before cutting.

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients; they really do make a difference. Organic garbanzo beans are a staple in my farmhouse pantry and can usually be found for under two dollars a can. I often buy them by the case.

4 cups thinly sliced Swiss chard leaves
1 cup chopped Swiss chard stems
2 cups shredded green cabbage
1 cup shredded purple cabbage
1 or 2 large handfuls peeled & chopped broccoli stems
7 or 8 large chopped scallions (green onions)
1 15-ounce can organic garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1 16-ounce carton cottage cheese (I use low fat)
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon onion powder or granulated onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder or granulated garlic
Salt & pepper to taste

More chopped scallions for garnish

Combine Swiss chard leaves, Swiss chard stems, green and purple cabbage, scallions, and garbanzo beans in a large bowl. Add cottage cheese and mix well.

Add vinegar and stir to combine. Sprinkle with onion and garlic powders and mix well. Salt & pepper to taste, adding a little more vinegar if desired. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve.

So how do you use recipes? Do you follow them to the letter? Improvise with what you have on hand, is in season, or that you think might taste even better? Or do you simply look for inspiration and then just totally wing it? If you've written about a favorite recipe creation on your own blog, you're welcome to include a link to it in your comment.

Related posts:
How To Grow Swiss Chard from Seed & Why You Should
Recipe: Hot Swiss Chard Artichoke Dip (and other ways to use Swiss Chard)
What To Do with 125 Scallions
How To Grow Arugula — Seed to Salad Bowl in Less than a Month
How To Grow Your Own Gourmet Lettuce from Seed

Other salads & potluck/picnic fare you might enjoy:
Swiss Chard Tuna Salad with Scallions & Kalamata Olives
Sour Cream & Onion Dip (and foodie travel)
Fiesta Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip (and factory tours)
Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw & Quick Vegetarian Tacos
Colors of Summer Salad
On Loving Lettuce & Eating Salad for Breakfast
Summer in a Bowl
The Easiest Greek Salad Ever

Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

©, the greener than green foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories, photos, and recipes from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and we're slightly obsessed with salads (and cake).


  1. I'm a person who loves to read cookbooks cover-to-cover. I absolutely love cookbooks that are more than just recipes--I'm so glad you've discovered Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's books. They are much more than just a collection of recipes. He not only tells you how to cook a chicken, but how to raise one as well! Now with wonderful blogs like yours I can also read inspiring recipes ideas online. Anyway, when I actually cook something, I rarely get out a recipe. Instead I pretty much take inventory of what's available in my fridge or garden, re-think some recipes I've read, and then merge all that information together to make something to eat. I'll use a recipe as a guide, and then figure out what I have on hand might be a useful substitute. But the recipes themselves are a wonderful inspiration and incredible resource for me. I always love reading about how people put ingredients together to make something better than the sum of their parts. That's the magic of cooking!

    Jeannine from Pittsuburgh

  2. I like to follow recipes, but I tend to pick a few similar ones and create a mix-n-match recipe, depending what ingredients or cooking techniques i have on hand. I made your swiss chard tuna salad the other day and LOVED it. I used the leftover chard leaves and stems later in the week in a stir fry. I'd never had chard before, can you believe it? Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Thanks for sharing Kat's blog. Now I have something new to read! Your salad sounds delicious, and it also reminds me to plant some spinach, which I completely forgot this year. I think I still have time. Thanks for always supporting Grow Your Own!


  4. I'd have to admit that I rarely (if ever) follow recipes. Not even my own when I make them again, except for a very few things.

    Love the sound of this. It's fun to see a recipe that uses broccoli stems, which I think taste great!

  5. Hopefully you will be happy to hear that the day you posted your yip yap banana snaps, I went home and made them...and have made them every few days since although with my own adapted recipe - I have halved the sugar, substitued half the flour for wholemeal and added a bit more banana. The OH loves them plus they are kinda healthy so I can convince myself that eating half a batch in one go isnt REALLY that bad for me :D hehehe

  6. I've been out in my gardens and away from my computer! I missed your earlier question about purple basil.

    Back when I was a caterer, I had a very popular little appetizer sandwich. I sliced mini French bread thin. Then spread it with Aunt Nellie's Special sauce, adding a squirt of Dijon mustard. Yeah, spread it on both slices of bread. Then add sliced smoked turkey, Monterey jack cheese, purple basil leaves and a wide slice of homemade dill pickle.

    Not earth-shaking, but different enough to perk up your taste buds!

    I grow Mammoth basil, for its big leaves. I use them in place of lettuce on my BLTs. Mmmm. Can't wait for my first big fat ripe tomato from the garden!

    I'm allergic to cabbage, but I have some beautiful rainbow Swiss chard growing right next to some flowers. I really miss cole slaw. Your recipe has given me a great "jumping off place" for a new taste treat. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

    My brain doesn't even mourn the loss of allergy foods anymore. It automatically looks for substitutions when a good recipe contains forbidden ingredients. It was a relief to get to that point in my healing process!

  7. Generally speaking, I only follow a recipe strictly when I'm baking. The rest of the time, I just wing it. If I want to make something new, I read between 3-5 recipes for it, then choose the elements of it that seem "essential" to me.

    A big advantage of this style of cooking is that I'm never flummoxed by a missing ingredient. I usually know a workaround.

  8. I'm jealous of all these great recipes I'm seeing everywhere for Swiss Chard. Everyone seems to have an over-abundance and we have NONE. We didn't get it planted until just recently, so I'll have to wait awhile before I can try all these things.

    I used to follow recipes very, very closely, and still do for certain dishes because I love the way they taste just as the recipe makes them, but as the years have gone on I've gotten much better at using recipes as a guideline and winging it from there. Is this called "growing up"? :-)

  9. I start with the recipe verbatim, and then I experiment. I love finding new recipes on blogs; I know they're tried and true!

  10. I cook every which way. I will sometimes follow a written recipe to the letter, particularly when I've tried one recipe and found it lacking, and am trying another cook's or baker's version of the same dish in hopes of improvement.

    I often look for guidelines or rules of thumb, or ratios for certain combinations of ingredients, and then wing it from there.

    Other times I just wing it completely, especially when I'm working with a basic structure that I'm familiar with (e.g. soup, pasta, risotto, sitr-fry, etc). It's great to have the confidence to do this, especially when the garden is in full production.

    Here's a post I did that included my own impromptu chard recipe:

  11. Try a handful of raisins or dried cranberries to the cole slaw. Gives it a nice additional flavor. Love your blog, especially your donkeys.

  12. This sounds delicious. I will have to check out Kat's blog as well.

  13. This is a wonderful and inspirational post, Susan. I, too, am always reading and then interpreting recipes with what I have on hand. I am greatly inspired by so many of your ideas and recently have been having a great time using the baby rainbow chard which I am able to get at my local farmers mkt. It has enhanced my tuna salads, as you suggested, and I will now look forward to trying the slaw. Also, I, too, have used the base for the broccoli garbanzo bean soup to use up carrots, cauliflower, etc. It works so well! Your voice on the matter of making changes to recipes from cookbooks, I am sure will give new freedom to many and encourage experimentation.
    Thank you, as always, and keep those donkey, kitty, sheep and farm photos coming. They make my day!

  14. I've been meaning to send thanks to you for a couple of your recipes. I'm currently working on a sub Antarctic island and a couple of weeks ago when the chef was away for a few days walk down the island, as slushy I found myself as default cook for the day with 11 people to cook for.
    The pita chips, served with sun-dried tomato pesto, were gobbled up as pre-dinner nibbles and the tomato pesto pie was a crowd pleaser. The pie recipe was slightly adapted to make do with what I had on hand in the way of cheese and fresh ingredients from hydroponics. I didn't realise pita bread was so wonderfully easy to make. I'll be making those again.
    The meal turned out beautifully and as a reluctant cook it was a huge relief. Many thanks for sharing your recipes. Cheers Ali.

  15. When it comes to baking, I almost always follow the recipe the first time I'm making it. The proportions and times are what matter in baking, so it seems only fair.

    But with cooking...well, I take liberties. I love the idea of this slaw. I've been experimenting with lots of different slaws lately -- most have no cabbage at all. But the thing I wonder about is the cottage cheese. It just seems so...out of place. Okay, I trust you. Love your blog and your writing. I'll give it a shot.


December 2015 update: Hi! For some reason I can't figure out, Blogger hasn't been letting me leave comments on my own blog (!) for the last several months, so I've been unable to respond to your comments and questions. My apologies for any inconvenience! You're always welcome to email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com.

Hi! Thanks for visiting Farmgirl Fare and taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love hearing about your experiences with my recipes. Comments on older posts are always welcome!

Please note that I moderate comments, so if I'm away from the computer it may be a while before yours appears.

I try my best to answer all questions, though sometimes it takes me a few days. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your e-visits to our farm!