I don’t recall eating kale for most of my life. It’s not that I didn’t know what it was it’s just that I didn’t buy it, cook it or know that it was edible. As a teen, I can recall the salad bar at Sizzler (a family favorite) being decorated with its curly leaves stuffed into the ice – not something that would have been mistaken as a crudité and piled onto your plate. It must have slipped quietly into my diet when I started studying nutrition. Even then, I was taught about its superfood properties, but didn’t think much about those hardy, dark, green leaves.
When I talk to people about kale now, most of them know that it’s good for them and feel that they should be eating it, but still they don’t. Typical comments include: “I don’t know how to cook it,” or “It’s tough and bitter, isn’t it?” or “It’s too healthy for me.” Basically, people are afraid of it and like me, many people didn’t grow up eating it. Now, people are curious.
Can you shift your knowledge of kale from an ornamental plant that lines driveways in the suburbs and brings color to the White House Rose Garden in the fall? Can you get over your fear of this intimidating green and instead welcome it onto your dinner plate?
Preparing for a recent road trip with a kale-fearing friend, I decided to sneak some of this immune-boosting superfood, hopefully unnoticed, next to our traditional road trip foods. I made kale chips, a salty, crunchy favorite of mine. The night before our departure, I turned a big bunch of kale into bite-sized morsels. My friend sat in the kitchen talking to me while I packed other snacks and taste tested my kale chips until they were crisp to my satisfaction. “Taste this for me.” I said, as though I were talking to a child who doesn’t like to eat vegetables. I didn’t mention that it was high in vitamin C, B6, manganese, calcium, copper and potassium. “Yum,” he mumbled as he reached for another. “These are tasty. Can we eat them instead of popcorn while we watch the movie?” The chips didn’t make it to the car the next morning, but I think I helped him conquer a fear of kale that night.
Learning about kale’s nutritional value might boost its image in your head, but ultimately it’s the taste and versatility that will win you over. While kale can boast reducing cancer risks, increasing cell detoxification, fighting belly fat and promoting immune systems, if you don’t know what to do with it, you aren’t going to eat it. You will find a few varieties in the store, including curly, dinosaur and purple, but my personal favorite is the basic, curly leaf kale. You can bake it, sauté it, boil it, add it to soups, spice it up or even sweeten it. To make that first step towards allaying your fears, I suggest making kale chips. It worked for my friend and it can work for you.
Crunchy Kale Chips
These tasty treats are salty, crunchy and make a healthy substitute for potato chips. They go from perfectly cooked to burnt quickly, so keep an eye on them. The thinner leaves cook faster, so pull those out and leave the others in a few extra minutes. The kale will shrink, but don’t worry, there will still be enough to enjoy and share. When they are ready, the kale chips will crunch!
1 bunch curly kale, washed, dried, stemmed and ripped into large pieces
1 1⁄2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1⁄2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground (or to taste)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Put kale into a big bowl. Add the apple cider vinegar and olive oil and gently toss until all the leaves are covered. Sprinkle the nutritional yeast, salt and pepper over the kale pieces and toss a little bit more until the seasoning is evenly distributed.
Spread the pieces onto baking sheets in a single layer. You might need 2 or 3 sheets depending on the size of the bunch of kale or you might have to do this in batches.
Cooking time varies depending on the thickness of the baking sheets and the size of the kale pieces. Start with 10 minutes, then turn the kale over and cook for another 7 to 12 minutes.