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If you’ve made a resolution to focus on healthy habits in 2020, you’re certainly not alone. But you might want to think beyond taking a weekly yoga class or focusing on your daily hydration. After all, it takes the average American family 6.5 years to use 660,000 gallons of water — and upping your H2O intake isn’t the only way to take care of your health.
Nutrition plays a substantial role in how you feel, of course. And if you get enough nutrients from the foods you eat, you won’t have to turn to additional sources (like supplements or even large infusion pumps — one of the two basic classes of IV equipment used in hospital settings). And if you feel your eyes glaze over every time someone mentions a healthy diet or a trendy superfood, you might want to consider the benefits of certain ingredients before you order take-out for the third time this week.
Take kale, for example. This produce darling has been around for centuries, but it didn’t enjoy widespread popularity in the U.S. until about a decade ago. Although figures show its trendiness may be starting to decline, it’s still been solidified as a grocery shopping staple for countless Americans. It’s easy to see why, too. Kale is reportedly one of the most nutrient-dense foods around, with just one cup providing more than 100% of your daily vitamin C and over 200% of your daily vitamin A intakes. Kale also contains calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, and phosphorous, as well as vitamin B and omega-3 fatty acids. So whether you pick up a bunch from the farmer’s market, buy a pre-washed bag from the store, or are one of the 113.5 million people who gardened between 2013 and 2014, it makes sense that you’d add kale to your list.
That said, kale can be a challenging vegetable to work with. It’s naturally bitter and tough to chew. Although it’s often used in salads, it can be offputting to some. That’s why many home cooks (and those who are among the 78% of campers who participate in outdoor cooking while camping) might want to find some new ways to incorporate this veggie into their regular meals. If you’re stumped on how to use this leafy green in a way the whole family will love, here are a few scrumptious recipes to get you started.
Pasta With Cheese, Bacon, and Kale
The words “pasta,” “cheese,” and “bacon” might not evoke visions of weight loss, but this hearty dish is sure to please the entire family. You might consider using turkey bacon or zucchini noodles to lighten up this dish from the Washington Post. You’ll need:
- 1 pound of spaghetti
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil (with extra for pasta)
- 8 ounces of bacon or pancetta, cut into 3/4-inch strips or cubes
- 10 and 1/2 ounces of curly kale (with stems removed), chopped or torn
- 1 cup of finely grated pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Kosher salt (optional)
Fill a pot with two quarts of water and bring to a boil. Salt, if desired. Cook pasta in boiling water for roughly seven minutes. Drain pasta and reserve 1 and 1/2 cups of the cooking water. Drizzle cooked pasta with olive oil and use tongs to coat. Dry your pot with a towel and put over medium heat. Add one tablespoon of olive oil, then add bacon and stir frequently until fat is rendered (about five minutes). Add in kale and stir until it starts to brown (around three to four minutes). Reduce heat to low and add pasta after fluffing with a fork. Add cheese and one cup of pasta water. Stir until cheese melts and turns into a sauce (four to five minutes). Add more pasta water as needed in small increments. Taste and season with pepper as needed before serving.
Kale, Mint, Feta, and Tomato Salad
If you’re not into the idea of a traditional salad, you might like this refreshing twist from Chowhound. While it’s a bit on the summery side, it’ll be a welcome respite for your tastebuds this winter. You’ll need:
- 1 pound (or two bunches) of flat-leaf kale
- 1/3 cup of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt (or more, as needed)
- 2 medium-sized garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
- 12 ounces of cherry tomatoes (red or yellow), halved
- 6 ounces of crumbled feta cheese
- 2 medium scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
Wash and dry the kale before discarding the stems. Arrange kale leaves into stacks and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch ribbons. Place kale into a large bowl and add 2 teaspoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Gently toss leaves with your hands until coated. Place garlic and remaining salt on a cutting board. Drag the side of a chef’s knife across the garlic and salt at a 15-degree angle until a paste forms. Transfer this mixture into a medium-sized bowl and add vinegar and mustard. Whisk to combine and add remaining oil in a slow stream. Add dressing to the kale and toss. Then, add tomatoes, feta, scallions, and mint. Season with salt as needed and serve.
Toasted Kale Chips With Sesame Seeds
Looking for a healthier snack to grab when you’re watching TV or get the munchies at your desk? Kale chips might sound like a poor substitute for a bag of Lay’s, but they’re probably more delicious than you might think. This easy recipe from Chowhound turns mindless snacking into mindful snacking — and you probably won’t even miss the potato. You’ll need:
- 1 bunch of dino kale, torn into large pieces (stems removed)
- 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce or tamari sauce
- 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash kale and dry in a salad spinner, if available. Then, pour oils and soy sauce or tamari sauce into a large bowl. Add kale and coat evenly. Arrange kale leaves in a single layer on two baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes and switch your pan positions. Add sesame seeds on top and bake until kale leaves are crisp but not browned. Turn leaves over and bake for about five more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before enjoying.
Ultimately, incorporating nutrient-rich foods into your routine isn’t as difficult as you’d think. Kale might not be your favorite vegetable yet, but these recipes might make you more inclined to say, “kale yeah!” at your next family gathering.