What used to be nothing more than a garnish on your local restaurant’s salad bar, kale has exploded in popularity in recent years and is now found on dinner plates everywhere. It’s not just in restaurants; even health conscious home cooks are in on the trend.
Because it’s packed with nutrients, many people like to eat it as much as they can, which can get boring after a while. Luckily, there are many uses for this versatile leafy green, so if you’re looking for a new way to get a boost of nutrition, you’ll love these inventive uses.
Green smoothies are becoming a popular breakfast choice for the health conscious, but the green of choice is usually spinach. Kale makes a good option, as it is just as nutritious (if not more so) and it has a mild flavor that you can’t detect when blended with fruit. It goes well with just about anything from apples to pineapple, to berries, so experiment until you find your favorite. You may want to leave out thick stems, as they may not blend as well and also add a somewhat bitter flavor.
If you like potato chips and other crunchy snack foods, but want a healthier option, kale chips are an easy answer. To make them, simply cut a head of kale into pieces roughly the size of chips. Toss them with a little bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool, and then enjoy as a healthy and nutritious snack.
You can customize your chips by adding whatever favorite spices you like. Curry powder, chili powder, or even a little Parmesan cheese can make a healthy flavorful chip that has no preservatives, unhealthy oils, or other additives you may not want to eat.
Add it to Soups
You can easily add kale to your favorite soup. Simply chop it into bite-sized pieces, and either sauté it before adding the liquid, or add it near the end. It will be much softer if you add it in the beginning.
It makes a good pureed soup as well, especially when paired with other greens. Kale pairs nicely with tomatoes, garlic, white beans, and curry, but its mild flavor means you can eat it in almost any type of soup or stew.
Make a Great Salad
You may think that eating kale raw isn’t that appealing, but that’s because it needs to massaged in order to avoid something that is tough to chew. Simply tear your kale into bite-sized pieces and put them in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt, and massage the pieces lightly with your fingers for several minutes to soften up the leaves.
Kale goes well with hearty vegetables like sweet potatoes and winter squash (try roasting it before adding to the salad), bell peppers, and onions, but is also good with dried cranberries and blue cheese. Since it’s generally a heartier green, it’s not often found in light summer salads, but it goes really well with grains like wheat berries, farro, or barley.
Use it as a Wrap
The thick tough leaves of kale make nice wraps, although like a salad, you may want to massage them slightly first (just be careful not to rip the leaves!)
You can then use these as a low carb wraps and fill them with chicken or tuna salad, turkey and cheese, or even a taco filling. Pretty much anything you can make a sandwich out of, you can wrap. Just be careful when using spreads or dressings, as the extra moisture can make the leaves fall apart.
Traditionally pesto is made with basil, but kale pesto is a healthier, high fiber option that makes a great sauce, sandwich spread, or dip.
You can either make a pesto using only kale as the base, or you can swap half of the basil in your recipe with kale leaves if you still want that fresh basil flavor. Then just put all of the ingredients in a food processor like you normally would, and blend until you have the consistency you want.
Use kale pesto anywhere you would use traditional pesto for a more nutritious, yet still decadent and flavorful sauce.
Layer it In a Casserole
Kale is delicious when added to lasagna, and the nutritional bonus you get from it will make up for some of the guilt from eating such a high calorie meal.
The dark leafy green also works well in casseroles made with sweet potatoes and winter squash, and you can even chop it and sauté it and add it to your mac and cheese.
Add it to Quick Bread or Muffins
If you like zucchini bread, why not try using kale? It’s got a mild flavor that will add nutrients and fiber to your morning muffin, but it also makes a delicious savory muffin when made with Parmesan cheese. For an easy, low carb breakfast muffin, beat some eggs with a bit of milk, stir in some freshly chopped kale and maybe even a little chopped bacon. Pour into muffin tins and bake until the eggs are cooked. These freeze nicely for a super fast healthy breakfast on a busy morning.
Bartenders everywhere have been creatively using vegetables to make unique cocktails and kale is a popular choice.
There are a few ways you can add kale to your next cocktail. The first involves infusing vodka with kale by putting the vodka and kale leaves in a jar and letting it sit for several weeks. Then you can use it in your favorite martini or gimlet.
The other involves juicing the kale and then adding to a cocktail with your favorite spirit. Kale juice goes well with pineapple and lime, or as an extra addition to your gin and tonic. While you can’t expect a lot of nutrition to be added to your kale cocktails, it does make a fun and interesting addition to any party, and will surely help keep your guests talking.
Make a Simple Side Dish
One of the best ways to enjoy kale is to simply sauté it in some olive oil with a little garlic. It’s easy to do, and results in a delicious side that goes with anything.
Heat a pan over medium heat and sauté a little bit of garlic. Add the chopped kale leaves, and stir until wilted. Season with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon, and you’re done. Keep in mind that greens in general will wilt tremendously when you cook them, so that giant head of kale will turn out to be way less than you think.
Serve these greens with roasted meats, pan seared fish, or toss them with pasta and cheese for a healthy, delicious meal.
The next time you’re at the farmer’s market and see an abundance of kale, you can pick up a few bunches knowing that you have many creative uses for it.
Don’t let these limit you, however. Be creative and you can find your own uses for this super food of a vegetable. Experiment, and you’ll find yourself eating more and more of this nutritious leafy green.