Kale is perhaps the most talked-about, poster-child-food for healthy eating. Every serious and joke post I read about healthy eating makes some reference to kale. The thing is, it really is exceptionally healthy. Wikipedia has a great post on kale and its nutritional value:
Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and rich in calcium. Kale is a source of two carotenoids, lutein andzeaxanthin. Kale, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties. Boiling decreases the level of sulforaphane; however, steaming, microwaving, or stir fryingdoes not result in significant loss. Along with other brassica vegetables, kale is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. Kale has been found to contain a group of resins known as bile acid sequestrants, which have been shown to lower cholesterol and decrease absorption of dietary fat. Steaming significantly increases these bile acid binding properties.
OK, so that’s a lot to take in, but it’s a very healthy vegetable.
A basic way to eat it is to steam, sauté or boil it, but my favorite way is to make kale chips. You can buy lots of different kale chips in flavors like parmesan, but I find the store-bought ones to be over-done in terms of flavoring, which typically means they’re loaded with things you don’t need to put in your body (ahem, clean14). You can make your own kale chips super easily, and make sure you don’t get any of what you don’t need.
First, you need to know a bit about the various types of kale. You can make chips with any of them, but I suggest lacinato kale, which is also called dinosaur kale. It has a flat leaf, unlike most other types of kale, which lends itself really well to making chips.
- 1 bunch of lacinato kale (aka dinosaur kale)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1-2 tbsp sea salt or himalayan (salt to your liking)
- Optional flavors – cayenne pepper, ginger, sesame, dill, cilantro, parmesan cheese, curry, etc – experiment with spices and flavors you like, but stay away from sauces – use the real spices behind the flavors
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. You can use aluminum foil, but it’s better to avoid the heavy metals, and also the parchment will help the chips end up lighter as they’ll keep the chips from sitting in a pool of oil by allowing it to permeate away from the chips a little bit.
Once the leaves are dry, you can mix them with the flavored oil, either in a bowl or right on the baking sheet. Really work the oil throughout the chips, coating both sides. Then arrange the chips so that you don’t have layers of plastered together chips. It’s ok for a chip to have another on top of it, but try to turn each layer so there’s air between them. This will allow them to crisp up.
Pre-heat your oven to 350˙ F. While it heats up, the kale will get a bit marinated to enhance the flavor. Do feel free to let them sit with the flavor a bit longer, but not too long or the leaves will wilt a bit.
Cooking time is usually about 12-18 minutes, so start looking in on them at around 12 minutes to make sure they aren’t burning.
That’s it. It’s an easy recipe that doesn’t take too long (the longest part is getting the leaves off the spines), and it makes a light, crispy, enjoyable snack or side dish that you can feel really good about eating. As we try to change our lives to be healthier, it’s great to find ways to do it that also are fun and enjoyable – proof that healthy eating doesn’t have to be a chore or be joyless.
These healthy chips are one way to deliver on the clean14 challenge if you have vowed to cut out junk food from your diet.
As an update, four-and-a-half years after writing this, I got turned onto a great resource for anyone wanting to go one step further with their kale-chip-ness by looking into growing their own kale (which is surprisingly not hard to do if you have a garden and the right climate). I’ve seen local kale in my favorite Whole Foods in New England and down South, so I know it can grow in very different areas. Check out this great page from Sproutable on growing your own kale.
Recipes like this really show how you can eat fun and tasty food while you enlighten.your.body.