Cooking With Kale: Easy Recipes for Real People

by Julie Rains on 29 August 2012 9 comments

Kale is packed with healthful and disease-fighting nutrients. Plus, it’s cheap. A bunch that contains several servings can be had for a dollar or two at the grocery store, or a large bag with washed and ready-to-cook leaves can be purchased for about $5. (See also: 6 Cheap Cruciferous Vegetables for Health-Conscious Cooks)

Many recipes containing kale, though, require expensive and hard-to-find ingredients; preparation time is often excessive. That may have prevented you from cooking with kale.

But there are easy and inexpensive ways to use this vegetable in everyday recipes. Preparation varies but generally starts by washing the kale's leaves, separating the leaves from the thick stems, and tearing the kale into small pieces. Then you might food-process raw kale, steam it in the microwave or stovetop, or sauté it.

Consider these ways of making kale part of your diet.

Breakfast

One of my favorite cheap and quick breakfast foods is a smoothie. Kale can easily be added to a smoothie by food-processing or blending torn-off parts into itty-bitty pieces and mixing into the smoothie. Extra-sweet ingredients can help mask the slightly bitter taste of raw kale.

Grown-ups may like a strawberry-kale smoothie for a nutritious start to the day. Kids may enjoy a sweeter apple-juice smoothie. These recipes call for crushed ice, but I substitute water or milk to avoid clogging up my blender.

For a more traditional type of breakfast, try eggs and kale. I especially liked this recipe using extra butter to sauté kale to a crunchy texture plus add flavor to the dish.

An elegant dish for a more leisurely breakfast or a Sunday brunch is this kale and Parmesan frittata. This recipe is slightly more elaborate than a scrambled-egg dish but uses ingredients that you are likely to have in your kitchen. I substituted corn meal for almond meal.

Lunch

Jazzing up lunches cheaply and easily is often a challenge. Kale and some special ingredients can help add variety without dramatically driving up costs.

For a quick lunch meal at home, this four-ingredient cheese and kale quesadilla is a filling solution that can boost your energy rather than induce sleep. Add black beans, rotisserie chicken, and/or spices (like cilantro or dried red pepper) if you want something more exotic but still easy.

A yummy and hearty meal that can be prepared for lunch, or served as a dinner entrée and eaten as leftovers, is kale pesto spaghetti. This recipe calls for goat cheese and cashews, but you can substitute feta cheese and almonds if those are your mainstays. You can also lighten up on the salt and water and still have a great pesto. Keep extra sauce in the refrigerator.

Appetizers and Side Dishes

Kale can be a great snack, prepared and eaten on the spot or saved for another day.

A popular snack is kale chips. These are relatively easy to make, but you do need to make sure the kale is completely dry before baking. Soggy kale does not become crisp even when cooked. Tastefully Julie offers valuable tips in her recipe.

My own concoction for an appetizer is a sour-cream dip made with a bunch of kale (approximately 7-10 large leaves). Steam kale (place rinsed and cut-up kale pieces in a steamer basket, put the steamer inside of a pot with water on the bottom, bring the water to boiling, cover, and cook for a few minutes to bright green). Chop the kale into fine pieces in a food processor; use half now, and freeze the rest for later. Mix the finely chopped kale with 16 ounces of sour cream, Parmesan cheese to taste, and either onion soup mix or your favorite spices. Serve with tortilla chips.

To serve kale as a side dish, prepare like chard or a similar green vegetable, steaming the kale and then sautéing in olive oil. For a side with even more healthy ingredients, try this quinoa recipe. Use olive oil and brown rice as substitutes if you don't have coconut oil and quinoa on hand.

Dinner

Kale can be part of a main dish for dinner. You might use kale in your favorite soups, stews, or pastas, substituting for spinach or mixing with entrees on a whimsy.

Kris at Young Married Chic (who shared her fabulous, cheap, and easy crock pot recipes with me) offers this kale and white bean soup as a perfect meal for a rainy evening.

For those of you who are cooking for one, try this kale and feta bake with marinara sauce (it's wonderful, though I prepared the recipe without the egg). This dish can be doubled or quadrupled and serves as an easy-to-make and nutritious vegetable lasagna.

Do you cook with kale? What are your favorite recipes?

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Guest's picture

Yum! I love kale chips. It's great that something so delicious is actually good for you :)

Meg Favreau's picture

I know! The first time I made them, I was amazed by how crispy and delicious they were.

Julie Rains's picture

The chips seem to be really popular. I am glad that folks have fun eating the healthy stuff!

Guest's picture
Scoutmaster

I want to try the kale chips. Sounds yummy.
Try making kale cole slaw for a fresh, clean taste that of course requires no cooking.

Julie Rains's picture

I use my food processor to chop cabbage for traditional slaw so I could just as well try kale. Thanks for the tip.

Guest's picture

i just made a kale, mushroom and potato hash! check out the recipe here, if you're interested: http://plumsintheicebox.typepad.com/plums-in-the-icebox/2012/08/kale-mus...

Guest's picture
Becca

I have a recipe for kale, potato and turkey sausage soup which is out of this world good. Will post it next week. It basically consists of the above and chicken broth. I add onions to it for more flavor. Good on colder days.

Guest's picture

I've just added new images of the Kale Pesto Spaghetti recipe listed above! Hope you'll come on over and check them out :-)

Julie Rains's picture

Thanks for sharing Whitney -- images def. help me by showing what the final product is supposed to look like.