It’s hard to think of a more stereotypical health food than kale, and there’s good reason for that. Along with collards, kale is ranked as the most nutrient-dense food, with more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants per calorie than any other commonly found food. It’s an excellent source of vitamin A, which supports healthy vision, and vitamin C, an antioxidant vitamin that supports the immune system. Kale contains bone building nutrients, like calcium and magnesium. The sulfur compounds and glucosinolates in kale support the body’s natural detoxification processes, and may also help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. It also contains a surprising dose of heart healthy omega-3 fats.
That said, if your taste buds run more fast food than fresh food, kale can be a hard sell. Knowing how many nutrients are in kale won’t make you want to eat it if you don’t like the taste! While the phytonutrients in kale make it extra nutritious, they also give it a slightly bitter, “green” flavor that can be an acquired taste. A green smoothie or raw kale salad might not be the best way to introduce kale into a fast food diet.
Want to introduce kale to a skeptic? Here’s six tips, plus and a recipe for Greek-spiced beef tacos with garlicky kale and a creamy feta sauce that’ll win any fast food lover’s taste buds over!
1. Blend kale into sauces, like pesto or tomato sauce, which will camouflage it’s bitter taste. Then use that sauce on pizza, pasta or burgers. Try it in this heirloom tomato and kale pesto grilled naan pizza.
2. Mix it into spicy soups or chili, where it melts it with other flavors. Bitter kale is especially delicious with sweet and spicy flavors, like in this crock pot sweet potato chili.
3. Try kale chips! You might need to do some convincing on this one, but baked until crispy in the oven, kale chips are the perfect vehicle for your salty, crunchy cravings. I especially love them dipped in a garlic and herb yogurt dip for a boost of gut-friendly probiotics.
4. Surprise them with a green smoothie they’ll actually want to drink. This morning green smoothie has enough frozen fruit, plus a date to add sweetness to cover the flavor of the kale, as well as coconut milk for an extra creamy texture.
5. Add bacon or cheese! This dietitian is all for it, as long as it gets someone to eat and actually enjoy vegetables. I love fresh kale braised with onions, garlic and bacon, or steamed kale mixed with a cheesy cheddar sauce.
6. Kale is extra tasty in comfort food dishes, especially ones that are southern inspired, since green leafy vegetables are such a big part of traditional southern cuisine. Try chopped kale in macaroni and cheese, chicken and rice casserole or this vegetarian spin on shrimp and grits – spiced cauliflower and cheese grits.
Greek Beef Tacos with Garlicky Kale and Creamy Feta Sauce
Serves 4, makes 2 each
Creamy Feta Sauce:
¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
½ cup crumbled feta
1 small cucumber, shredded, and lightly squeezed to remove extra liquid
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh scallion
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 bunch fresh kale, stemmed and chopped
1 lb ground beef
½ red onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 small whole wheat tortillas
1. In a medium bowl, mix together ingredients for the creamy feta sauce, season with salt and pepper to taste, and refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Next, sauté the kale. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté 30 seconds until fragrant. Stir in kale, pour in ¼ cup of water, cover and let cook 10 minutes until tender. Remove lid, season with salt to taste and continue to cook until liquid is absorbed and greens are tender, adding more water if needed to cook to desired tenderness. Remove greens and set aside until ready to use.
3. Carefully wipe skillet clean with a paper towel, set on medium-high heat and add beef, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, and pepper flakes. Cook, breaking apart with a spatula, until meat is cooked through and browned. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
4. Warm tortillas in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Divide greens among the tortillas, top with ground beef and dollop or two of creamy feta sauce. Serve immediately.