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10 Ways to Cook Kale

Kale packs a nutritional wallop -- 1,300 percent of your daily vitamin K, for starters -- and is incredibly versatile and easy to cook. See more vegetable pictures.
Hemera/Thinkstock

If you've never had the pleasure of eating kale, please allow us to introduce you. You might have bypassed this cabbage cousin in the store many times -- what on Earth do you do with those enormous, crinkly leaves, anyway? Don't let yourself be intimidated. Kale is actually very tasty, and it's versatile, too -- equally delicious stir-fried, steamed, sautéed, baked, added to a stew or blended into a smoothie.

In terms of vitamins and minerals, you can't get much better than kale -- it packs a huge nutritional wallop. For starters, it provides more than 1,300 percent of your daily vitamin K allowance (yes, we said 1,300 percent). You'll also get about 350 percent of your vitamin A allowance and 88 percent of your vitamin C for the day. And as if that weren't enough, kale goes a few extra miles with plenty of fiber and folate, a healthy dose of iron and 45 different flavonoids. And it can help lower your cholesterol, too. All this for only 33 calories a cup. Basically, it's a perfect food.

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You probably ran out to the grocery store immediately after you read that paragraph, so now that you're back with a big bag of kale, let's start cooking! First up is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser: kale chips.

If your kids are the "no green stuff" type -- and, let's face it, most are -- no amount of preaching about kale's nutritional value is going to persuade them to eat those enormous green leaves. But you could win them over with a tray of crispy, salty kale chips. The kids might turn up their noses at first glance, but if you can get them to take a bite, we think they'll soon be singing a different tune.

  • Kale Chips

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Sautéing is an excellent way to prepare kale: It wilts like spinach but doesn't lose nearly as much volume, so a little bit of it will go a long way. Tuscan kale, or dinosaur kale, is a little bit thicker and tougher than standard kale, so it holds up especially well in the sauté pan. In this recipe, it's cooked with cannellini beans and plenty of garlic.

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It doesn't get much easier -- or versatile -- than steamed kale. If you need a quick side dish for a fillet of salmon, perhaps, or roasted chicken, or a juicy grilled steak (you get the idea), steamed kale is just the ticket. All you have to do is trim away the kale leaves from the tough stems, chop them up, melt some butter in a Dutch oven, and steam the kale about a pound at a time for a few minutes each.

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Smoky kale chiffonade makes a delicious side dish.
Smoky kale chiffonade makes a delicious side dish.

If you're unfamiliar with the term "chiffonade," you might think this recipe is fancy and complicated. But fear not: All it means is that the kale leaves are rolled up and chopped into thin ribbons. Not so difficult, right? There's really nothing to this recipe -- you just cook a few slices of bacon and sauté the kale ribbons in the drippings. Then crumble up the bacon, toss it into the kale with some blue cheese, and voila! A delicious (and fancy-sounding) side dish.

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This recipe takes a bit more effort than the previous ones, but it's well worth it. You'll need to start the night before by soaking your beans, which you then sauté with mirepoix (a blend of diced carrots, celery, garlic and onions) and simmer for an hour or so in chicken broth. Then you sauté kale, tomatoes and onions and fold the bean mix into it. Savory perfection for a side dish or on its own.

  • Braised Rice Beans with Dinosaur Kale and Heirloom Tomatoes

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If you like your kale on the tender and mild side, it's best to opt for younger, smaller plants. This delicious slaw recipe calls for young Russian red kale, which is a variety with reddish-purple stems and silvery leaves. It has a nutty flavor that pairs perfectly with grilled asparagus and Parmesan cheese -- and in this recipe, a bit of lemon juice and zest lends a tangy zing.

  • Asparagus and Baby Russian Red Kale Slaw

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Minestrone recipes often call for chard, but we suggest throwing some kale in there instead.
Minestrone recipes often call for chard, but we suggest throwing some kale in there instead.
TLC

Minestrone soup is a classic crowd-pleaser -- you can't really go wrong with it. It's a pretty versatile and forgiving recipe: You can add almost any variety of vegetables, starches and spices to its tomato base and end up with a perfectly tasty soup. Minestrone recipes often call for chard, but we suggest throwing some kale in there. It'll hold up nicely and pack a nutritional punch, too!

  • Minestrone Soup

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Because its leaves are a little sturdier than spinach or chard leaves, kale is a perfect choice for stews. Instead of adding greens a few minutes before the stew is done, you can throw in kale at the beginning and not worry that it'll get soggy or overdone. This one-pot meal features sweet and regular potatoes and red peppers, with ginger, turmeric, coriander and coconut milk, giving it a little bit of a South Asian twist.

  • Potato Kale Stew

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If you're like many parents out there, you're always searching for sneaky ways to slip some much-needed nutrition into your kids' meals. So go ahead and add kale cheese pie to the menu this week. It has hash browns and lots of cheese in it -- who's going to notice a little kale and red pepper?

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We understand your hesitation to drink a glass of greens. But having a kale smoothie doesn't mean choking down a bunch of soggy, tough leaves. A good-quality blender will pulverize the kale, making it virtually undetectable and even more nutritious than if you chewed it yourself. You can easily mask any bitterness with fruit -- try this recipe first and then feel free to experiment!

  • Kale Smoothies

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Sources

  • DrWeil.com. "Tuscan Kale." (Feb. 14, 2012) http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03040/Tuscan-Kale.html
  • Thompson, Chloe. "Eight Healthy Facts about Kale." WebMD, Nov. 30, 2011. (Feb. 14, 2012) http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/eight-healthy-facts-about-kale
  • TLC.com. "Easy Cool-Weather Crops: Kale." Jan. 11, 2012. (Feb. 14, 2012) https://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/easy-cool-weather-kale.htm
  • TLC.com. "How to Cook Kale." May 4, 2007. (Feb. 14, 2012) https://recipes.howstuffworks.com/tools-and-techniques/how-to-cook-vegetables9.htm
  • Vitamix. "Vitamix Green Smoothie." (Feb. 14, 2012) http://www.vitamix.com/household/Health/green_smoothie.asp
  • The World's Healthiest Foods. "Kale." (Feb. 14, 2012) http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?dbid=38&tname=foodspice

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