Did you know that kale is such a nutritional rockstar that it has its own day? Yep, October 7th is National Kale Day! Ok, it’s a bit crazy but hey, everything else seems to have its own “National Day” so why not kale? Kale is really amazing in the nutrition department boasting so many vitamins and antioxidants for your body that it just boggles the mind. Here’s my top 5 good for you facts about kale….
It is only a mere 33 calories per cup. You can chop it up and add it to your dishes for an almost calorie-free nutritional boost.
It is loaded with antioxidants. It contains a lot of beta carotene (Vitamin C) which is known to reduce oxidative damage in the body. Oxidative damage is believed to lead to aging and many diseases including Cancer.
Kale contains substances that bind bile acids to lower cholesterol levels. Steamed kale is particularly effective for this.
It contains Vitamin K which is crucial for blood clotting. This is good if you’re an accident-prone gal like myself (hello tree-trimming incident this Fall). So, your cuts heal faster without as much blood loss.
Kale is high in lutein and zeaxanthin. People who have diets rich in these two nutrients have a much lower risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, two of the most common eye disorders as we age.
Kale is quite easy to add to your diet. Try chopping it up small and adding it to your salads like the tabouli salad I’m sharing here. It is also great in smoothies, its taste disappears and it adds tons of nutrition.
I’ve more than made peace with kale; I’m actually enjoying it and not just because its a nutritional powerhouse but because it’s delicious. It’s delicious in these recipes anyway! I still live by the belief that people who eat kale are beautiful. The “kale glow” if you will. Click on the photos below for the recipes. I hope you enjoy them and here’s to you developing a new love……for kale.
How many nutritious greens can you get into a pasta? I’m not sure but I’ve used two powerhouses here. They are kale and swiss chard to be exact. By now we’ve all heard the health benefits of kale but swiss chard is often overlooked as it’s less known than some of the other greens.
Swiss chard is most common in Mediterranean countries and an excellent source of vitamins K, A and C. It is also full of magnesium, potassium, iron and fiber. It’s stems come in a variety of colors making it beautiful on the plate if you steam or roast it with the stems attached.
Summer produce lends so well to quick pasta dishes. Forget those heavy tomato sauce laden pasta dishes. This light summer pasta is delicious and healthy and a snap to throw together.
This one uses my kale pestoand has a bright flavor with the lemon that is added to the pesto as well as the lemon juice and zest that’s mixed through the dish. If you’d like to add meat, try some Italian chicken sausage as I’ve done below. You could also substitute spinach for the swiss chard.
I think I might be overdoing the summer pasta dishes but they’re just so beautiful with all their colors. And again, they come together so quickly. They’re just perfect for a weeknight meal when you get home from work and don’t really feel like cooking.
This salad is also a wonderful main course on its own or served along side a veggie burger on toasted sourdough or asiago cheese bread. Speaking of which, and this is totally off the subject, I love the asiago cheese bread from Panera. It’s truly decadent treat. I buy it but the loaf at my local Panera. Try buttering it on both sides and then toasting each side until golden brown and crispy on a skillet over medium heat. WOW!! It’s highly, highly addictive and makes a bowl of soup way better…thank you Panera, you hit a home run with this one!
Ok, I seriously digressed there. This farro salad is colorful and really comforting with the roasted veggies, bite of the roasted chick peas and the soft nutty farro. I added some roasted kale here as well not only for added nutrition and color but a nice flavor as it comes out crispy when you roast it until browned.
3 carrots - peeled, sliced lengthwise and diced into approximately 1 inch pieces
½ of a large head of cauliflower - cut into small florets
1 can of chick peas rinsed and drained
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
3 cups of chopped kale - washed and patted dry
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Pour the farro into a large saucepan and add water to completely cover it with at least one inch over the top. Bring the farro to a rolling boil with the cover on and cook at a low boil for approximately 15-20 minutes until tender to the bite. If your farro comes in a package, cook it according to package directions. Drain the water off the farro and set it aside until the veggies are ready.
Place the veggies and the chick peas onto sheet pans lined with foil (if they're not non-stick). Lightly drizzle the veggies with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. I add about ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes to the chick peas for extra flavor. If you do not like the heat, you can omit this step. Roast the veggies and chick peas in a 400 degree oven for approximately 15 minutes until fork tender and the chick peas are golden brown. Stir and flip the veggies and chick peas around with a spatula after about 10 minutes. This is a good time to check the tenderness of them as well.
Toss the kale with some olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice. Sprinkle it with salt. Cook it on a sheet pan in a 400 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes until browned and crispy.
Mix the veggies, chick peas and kale into the farro and gently stir to combine all ingredients. I think this would also be nice served drizzled with a honey balsamic dressing. That recipe is on the next post.
Flavor explodes out of this salad! It can be used as a side dish or a vegetarian main dish as the beans and farro contain good sources of protein. All the different textures make it fun to eat and the colors just remind me of Spring, even though it’s still darn cold here! All together now let’s chant “Bring Spring, Bring Spring.”
I’ve added a lot of extra touches to the ingredients in this salad. It’s just an option and not necessary. The salad is excellent with the radishes, chick peas and golden raisins as is. I would however toast the pine nuts. The nice thing about this salad is that the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time and you can assemble it quickly before your meal.
If you’ve never tried Farro I really urge you to try it. It’s another ancient grain, like quinoa, but it has a more rice-like texture. It’s a nutritional powerhouse with a unique nutty flavor. Farro was a mainstay in the diet of ancient Romans. In fact, it is believed to be the original ancestor of all other wheat species. It’s sometimes called “The Mother of all Wheat.” Farro is high in fiber and a good source of iron and protein. It is easily digested making the nutrients easily absorbed into the body. Farro can be used in stews, casseroles and salads making it pretty versatile. It is a good substitution for brown rice and wheat berries and it can even be used to make a delicious risotto! Farro is easy to prepare but still exotic enough to impress the heck out of your friends and family. I buy mine in a package and it’s usually the organic variety. The package has cooking directions on it and following those directions, it always turns out good. I often use low sodium chicken or vegetable broth and a couple of teaspoons of all purpose no-salt spice blend in the cooking liquid for added flavor.
Colorful Farro and Kale Salad with a Honey Balsamic Dressing
(These amounts will prepare 4 servings if using it as a side dish or 2 portions if using it as a main dish).
4 servings of prepared Farro - cook Farro according to package directions.
4 (or more) cups Kale - Please see my post for the "Best Dressed Kale," that's how I prepared the kale for this salad.
4-6 Radishes - thinly sliced. I actually used pickled radishes. However, it is not necessary in this recipe. The crunch and flavor punch of the radish on it's own is enough.
¾ cup Golden Raisins - try soaking the golden raisins for about an hour in your favorite white wine or the wine you're serving for dinner for a wonderful flavor. For a sweeter flavor soak them in a Moscato. It will definitely be the touch that puts the dish over the top.
1 can of chick peas drained and rinsed - I roasted mine in the oven. Place the chick peas on a baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle some olive oil on them and mix it with your hands so all peas are coated. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until the chick peas are lightly browned and a bit crispy to the bite.
½ cup Toasted Pine Nuts - Heat a non stick skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts with no oil. Toast them until lightly browned (you'll begin to smell them).
Shaved Parmesan Cheese for garnish - I use my veggie peeler to make ribbons of parmesan.
For the honey balsamic dressing: (makes 1 cup of dressing)
½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup honey
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Prepare the kale with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder and Kosher salt according to my "Best Dressed Kale" recipe. The kale should sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes for it to soften up and for the flavors to set in. Cook the farro according to package directions. Set aside, allowing it to cool to room temperature.
Stir the golden raisins, chick peas and pine nuts into the kale.
Cover the bottom of your plate with the farro. Place a mound of the kale mixture on top of the farro.
Place the thinly sliced radishes on the farro, around the kale mound. Grate some ribbons of parmesan onto the top of the kale mound for garnish. Drizzle the kale and farro with the honey balsamic dressing (recipe below).
For the Honey Balsamic Dressing:
Place all ingredients in a small Mason jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake the jar until the honey dissolves and the dressing becomes smooth.
I have really been struggling with liking kale which bums me out as you can’t turn on a television food show or pick up a recipe magazine without hearing the word kale. Plus, it’s a superfood. I really believe that people who eat kale are beautiful; true story, I’ve seen it first hand. So, I’ve been on a mission to find a way to like kale. One of my closest friends, Paula, was kind enough to bring a homemade dinner to our house last month and one of the dishes was a simple raw kale dressed in a very simple dressing. I admit it, I was nervous. I mean, I HAD to try it as she was nice enough to bring it right? Well, low and behold, she made me a kale lover! Well, at least for kale prepared this way. Here’s her no-longer-a-secret method.
1 16 oz bag of kale, pre-washed and trimmed with the big stems removed. Most bagged kale in the store comes this way.
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
Put the kale into a very large bowl (I actually have to divide it into 2 bowls so I have room to groove the kale around). Drizzle the olive oil over the kale (I go about 3-4 turns around the bowl). Juice the lemon over the top. Sprinkle with garlic powder and kosher salt. Get in there with your hands and really work the ingredients onto the kale by massaging the ingredients into it. The kale has a tough, thick texture and by really using your fingers to massage it, the oil and the lemon juice get into the greens, breaking it down a bit and softening it.
After it’s all mixed, place all of the kale into one large bowl, cover and refrigerate. It needs at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator but I’ve found the longer it’s in the fridge the softer and tastier it becomes. It is just wonderful to snack on by itself! It could also be made into a beautiful summer salad adding some fresh strawberries, mandarin oranges, red onion and toasted pine nuts.
And yes, Paula is beautiful; and she eats kale, my theory stands. Try it and see for yourself!!