Kale was not a staple green on my plate as a kid. My mom was a health-conscious cook who made sure there was a cold salad or warm vegetable at dinner time, but I never saw kale. The first time I enjoyed this leafy green was during college at the Earth Foods cafe. I never knew a plate of brown rice and steamed kale could be so satisfying. Kale is much easier to make than I thought, as I found out when I brought home a large bunch this week.

Why Kale?

The leafy green has many health benefits according to World’s Healthiest Foods. Kale:
* helps the body detox
* has cholesterol-lowering benefits
* can lower your risk of “bladder, breast, colon, ovary, and prostate cancers”
* provides a non-animal source of basic omega-3 fatty acid
* is an excellent source of Vitamin K which can lower risk of chronic inflammation
* can be found during the winter months, when the produce section can be somewhat limited

Selecting Kale

Look for kale with smaller leaves with a deep green color. Avoid leaves with holes, brown or yellowing leaves. When you buy kale it will come in a large bunch, held together with a twist tie. As with any produce, do not wash it until you’re ready to use it. I took about a quarter of the leaves off the bunch for the first meal.

Cooking Kale

Kale may look intimidating but if you have a frying pan, some fresh garlic and olive oil and a couple of minutes you can conquer it.

  1. Chop fresh garlic with olive oil and heat in a pan.
    2. Wash the leaves of kale and remove the stems.
    3. Cut the leaves up into even pieces.
    4. Toss in the kale, adding pepper or salt or both.
    5. Stir occasionally and remove from heat when the leaves are softer and smaller.
    Optional: Add mushrooms to the garlic and cook before adding the kale.

Enjoying the Kale

Once the kale is cooked there are countless ways to enjoy it:

* Serve the kale mixture atop whole wheat pasta with or without tomato sauce.
* Make a homemade whole wheat pizza crust. Add a bit of sauce, your favorite low-fat cheese and top with the kale.
* Use as a side dish for any grilled chicken.
* Enjoy any leftover cooked kale by tossing it into a vegetable or chicken broth with some white beans and any leftover meat or vegetables you have in the fridge, for a tasty soup.
* Kale that is already cooked by steaming or sauteing can be frozen and reheated quickly for a later meal.

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