How to love kale

Kale has grown on me to the point that I crave it. Thankfully, it has tons of nutrients and gives me energy. My kids–aged two and four love it too! How can that be?

Kale is a very woody vegetable that often needs a little doctoring up. I recommend starting with baby kale if you can find it in your grocery store. The triple washed baby kale at Trader Joe’s is fabulous.

IMG_3737

However, buying regular, triple washed bagged kale is a disaster! Do not buy this or something like it:

IMG_3736

The problem is that when regular kale is triple washed and bagged, the companies leave the stems on with the leaves. Unless you are sautéing or throwing the kale in the soup, this will be very chewy and earthy.

If you can’t find triple-washed BABY kale, this is a time when you must buy kale and wash and dry it. I learned from Jessica Seinfeld’s “Can’t Cook Book” how to properly use kale and I’ve been hooked ever since.

You must fold the kale leaves and then tear off the stems. Do not eat the stems.

The only time that I can use regular bagged kale or the stems is when I make a pesto with kale. It sounds crazy, but it’s delicious. But I still think it’s better without the stems. I like using nuts, oil, fresh herbs, garlic and the kale. I put it on pizza, pasta, chicken, with some ricotta as a dip…the list goes on and on.

Kale Pesto Recipe:

2 cups packed fresh kale

5 leaves of fresh basil

2 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup walnuts (lightly toasted is also good if you have the extra time)

2/3 cup EVOO

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (any kind will do–even Kraft tastes good)

First, grind the nuts and garlic with 1 TBS of the oil. Then add a handful of kale and the basil with more oil. Continue to add kale and oil until you have a nice consistency. At the end, add the cheese, salt, and pepper. I like to have the food processor going and add the oil as it purees. Then your pesto won’t separate later.

My kids love eating “green pizza.” I just put it on any pizza crust, homemade or store bought, and add some shredded mozzarella.

A great party dip is to add 1/4 cup ricotta cheese at the end and serve with pita chips.

No excuses veggies for kids

Just like I always have things on hand for my salads; I also stock a few basic ingredients for my children’s “salads.”

IMG_3745

1. Baby Carrots–rinse and serve. Easy. Just like triple-washed salad greens, if I have to peel the carrots, they may not make it on the plate in time.
2. Broccoli–raw or steamed. To steam- place chopped broccoli in a ceramic or glass bowl. Add about 1/4 cup of water.

IMG_3746

Place a plate on top of the bowl and microwave for 2.5 minutes. Voila. I often put a little EVOO and parmesan cheese on this method, but plain always works for my children’s palates.

IMG_3748
3. Frozen peas–take a couple handfuls of these and a tablespoon of water. Microwave in a small ceramic or glass bowl for about a minute. Serve. You can add butter or salt if that is in alignment with your food view. Plain is always good too.
4. Apples–slice and serve.

I have cute plates with slots for various toddler/preschool foods. I put the veggie in one compartment. I put some sort of dip in the other. My go-to dips are ranch dressing or hummus.

I learned from my friend Becky to just put the healthy food out before the meal. Around the witching hour, those kids get hungry and pickier eaters are more likely to choose the healthy option.

This is not perfect eating, but my kids are getting fiber and nutrients from this arrangement. Often times a very kid friendly food such as macaroni and cheese, plain pasta, pizza, or hot dog (all beef, nitrate free) are served alongside the fresh fruit or vegetable.

How do you get your children to eat and enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables?

When to buy organic and when to save money on conventional fruits and veggies

My children attend a cooperative preschool. That means that the parents are very active in the community and even teach at least one day a week at school. We joined at my prudent husband’s suggestion, but soon realized it was a magical place that was very good for our children and for us. Besides teaching one day a week, each family is also assigned a job at the school My jobs are to teach the really fun dance class and to do the grocery and paper goods shopping. For me, this is easy because the guidelines for purchasing are already in alignment with what I do at home. I love local, organic produce but sometimes it is not always practical. Still, the “dirty dozen list” was in my guidelines and it was a good reminder for me. I don’t know who the original publisher of this list is, but just enjoy the information.

So, the twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables (meaning get organic if possible) are:
1. Peaches
2. Apples
3. Sweet Bell Peppers
4. Celery
5. Nectarines
6. Strawberries
7. Cherries
8. Pears
9. Grapes
10. Spinach
11. Lettuce
12. Potatoes

Twelve Least Contaminated–meaning conventional can be OK
1. Onions
2. Avocado
3. Sweet corn (frozen)
4. Pineapples
5. Mango
6. Asparagus
7. Sweet Peas (frozen)
8. Kiwi fruit
9. Bananas
10. Cabbage
11. Broccoli
12. Papaya

Eating well is important; so is staying on budget. Save money on the conventional things, but really spend on the contaminated items and get organic. Cheers!