JESSICA KARLEY: Hail to kale

This summer, I have decided to make my first attempt at growing kale. The hardy, green leaves will make a nice addition to my backyard, and it's easy to grow.

Kale Pine Nut Pesto is a great dish to fit kale into your diet. photo by Jessica Karley / Accent contributor

This summer, I have decided to make my first attempt at growing kale. The hardy, green leaves will make a nice addition to my backyard, and it's easy to grow.

It thrives in the cooler climates and gets a slightly sweeter flavor after a light frost. Of course, you can find kale in most major grocery stores, but it's always fun to see what you can grow on your own.

This all-mighty vegetable is in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens and Brussels sprouts, and is said to be a "super-food" because it's loaded up with fiber and vitamins. One cup of raw kale contains: 30 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 1,020 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin K, 200 percent vitamin C, 180 percent vitamin A, 40 percent magnesium, 15 percent of both calcium and vitamin B6.

Recently, the antioxidant qualities have helped kale to gain in popularity because of its high levels of sulfur containing phytonutrients. These phytonutrients and antioxidants rid our bodies of toxins and can assist in the fight against cancer.

So, how can you incorporate kale into our diet? I have enjoyed eating kale for a few years now and have been substituting it in hot soups when recipes call for spinach because it will hold its shape and color better. However, my favorite way is to prepare Kale Chips or "Crispy" Kale.


They are a great appetizer for parties and are excellent for snacking while I am getting dinner ready. With its low calorie and high fiber, kale helps to keep me from over eating during a meal. My friends also agree that the salty, crunchy snack is a great option for late night couch-potato sessions.

My family, however, was a little slower to get on board with my new-found healthy treat. I was eventually able to get my son to eat the "chips," but his favorite is our new recipe for Green Smoothies. On weekdays or busy weekend mornings, they're a great go-to breakfast for warm weather.

The smoothies are so speedy and packed with the foods we need to keep us going strong all morning. In our Green Smoothie mix, we include our favorite fruits: bananas and pineapple spears with a touch of almond milk and, of course, kale. We add a couple of ice cubes and have a frosty breakfast treat.

I'm a busy mother, so I knew it was impossible to think I would be able to take the time to make these smoothies each day, so I devised a plan. I made my own smoothie packs just like they have in the grocery store by placing the fruit (bananas and pineapple) and kale in a resealable plastic bag. I removed as much air as I could, sealed it and placed them in my freezer. Then, all I have to do in the morning is grab a pack out of the freezer, cut it open, place it into the blender with almond milk and blend away. Because my fruit it already frozen, ice is optional. Delicious and ready in seconds.

In my quest to get everyone to eat kale, I decided to go "big" and serve this to one of my toughest "new and strange food" critics -- my father. I'm slightly ashamed to admit that, in order to accomplish this bold move, I had to tell a little white lie.

In my defense, I knew if I could get him to try it, he'd like it. (Hmmm .... sounds a lot like my meal-time strategy with my son, doesn't it?) I was also aware I'd have to put it in a format that was familiar to him.

I decided Kale Pine Nut Pesto was going to be my winning recipe. Here is where the white lie part comes in.

When he asked what was for dinner, I told him I was testing a new pesto recipe without basil, but told him it still had all of the other ingredients he loved. Being the culinary savvy man he is, he assumed I was using parsley. I simply didn't correct him. That's not so bad, right?


It turns out he loved the Kale Pine Nut Pesto! It was a win/win for both of us. That made me 2 for 2 on my kale-loving quest. Now that I have these two believing, I am sure the rest of you skeptics will follow suit.

Jessica Karley can be reached at

Green Smoothies

1 banana

1 cup cubed pineapple (or 3 pre-sliced spears)

1½ cups kale

1 cup almond milk (vanilla or plain)

1 cups ice cubes (optional)


Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Serve cold. Store leftovers in refrigerator and refresh the next day with ice cubes.

Kale Chips

4 cups kale leaves, torn into bite-size pieces and large middle stems removed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 325. In a gallon-size resealable plastic bag, combine torn kale leaves, olive oil, kosher salt and garlic powder. Seal bag and shake until kale is coated and spices are evenly distributed. Open bag and pour kale chips on to two baking sheets or trays. (Try not to overlap the pieces) Bake for 10-15 minutes or until kale chips are crispy and still green in color. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Place into serving bowl. Will keep for 2-3 days unrefrigerated.

Kale Pine Nut Pesto


5 cups kale, rough chopped

¼ cup chives, fresh

3 tablespoons garlic, minced (about 5-6 cloves)

1 cup olive oil

2 cups shredded parmesan cheese

¾ cup pine nuts

½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

¼ to ½ teaspoon kosher salt


Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides when needed. Serve at room temperature tossed with your favorite cooked pasta or alongside grilled meats.

What To Read Next
Get Local