Summer is all about growth and revival. The long winter months give way to rainy spring days, and finally summer arrives to shine sun on us all. So it’s understandable that the season is associated with health and wellness more than any other. While we should always take care of ourselves in the best way possible, holiday feasts and cold weather definitely don’t provide the same type of opportunities to get in shape and eat right as the warm, summer months do.
When we think about this time of year, we think of bright colors, cold drinks and the beautiful outdoors. Our food choices for this season often reflect those things, too. Everyone knows fruit is a favorite on hot days, especially blended into a refreshing smoothie and salads are staples for lunches and dinners. Looking for an extra ingredient that will boost the health-factor of your snacks and meals, while complementing those seasonal flavors? Try Kale.
You may be familiar with the fiber-packed leafy green due to its rise to fame in the wellness world the past couple of years, and rightfully so. The vitamin nutrient vegetable has such a diverse taste, that it can be paired with almost any type of meal. It makes a great side dish for main meals that feature meats like chicken, fish or pork. It’s incredible in salad, paired with other leafy greens or as the star of the show and yes, you guessed it, smoothies blended up with this veggie make the perfect on the go breakfast or midday snack.
This veggie is actually so incredible for your health it’s been dubbed a “superfood” and really only one of twelve to be called such in the world. Ironically, most of the superfoods are plant-based, but Salmon and Greek yogurt also make the list. Naturally (pun intended), all the superfoods go excellently when paired together in different ways. Feeling like salmon for dinner? Add a tasty bed of this green underneath it. Need a quick, breakfast you can grab and run with? Blueberries, Kale and Greek Yogurt make the most delicious smoothie you’ll ever have. Additionally, you can include walnuts on just about any dish you’re packing full of superfoods and you will have a flavorful, incredibly nutritious meal.
But what about this particular vegetable lands it on the holy list of foods and on the plates of health-enthusiasts everywhere? It is an amazing source of vitamin A and C, providing over 130% of the recommended amounts we need daily. It also provides more iron per ounce than beef and contains enough dietary fiber to help aid in combating hunger, making it a great friend to anyone trying to get healthy and slim down for their beach-bod. But it’s unbeatable health benefits aren’t the only reason everyone loves this vegetable. It’s also an extremely versatile food, with a flexible flavor. Depending on how you cook it and what you pair it with, it can really bring out unique tastes in different dishes and once you master it’s changing consistency you will find how truly wonderfully it accentuates just about anything it’s coupled with.
The ability to mix this leafy green with so many things and create a healthy, iron rich, vitamin infused snack or meal reminds me of a childhood story my mom used to tell me. I was a picky eater as a child (I still am, but my taste buds have evolved at least a little bit since I was three) and my apparent favorite food quickly became ham. I would staunchly detest any other type of food, meat or otherwise, and my mother quickly took to convincing me everything was ham; broccoli, mashed potatoes, cheese, strawberries – it was all ham to me. Barely being out of infant-hood, I knew no better and ate everything my mom dubbed “ham” even if it tasted nothing like the delicious lunch meat I really wanted. As an adult, I think back to my mom’s struggle trying to get me to consume all the important parts of the food pyramid everyday and I wonder if this superfood had just hit the level of popularity it has now, how much easier it would have been for her. Being such a hide-able, mixable veggie allows for it to be snuck past tiny, protesting taste buds, completely unnoticed.
There are some really delicious and easy to make recipes on the internet that involve this vegetable and the best part is how quick it is to make in any dish. The prep time is basically non-existent and the proper time to cook it is only five minutes. It makes a great meal planning aid, as well as being made fresh because it has a shelf life slightly longer than most leafy greens, so it can prepped, cooked and stashed in the fridge for an all week go-to. One of the most popular ways to whip it up is in a fresh salad.
In order to really release a great taste in the leaves, you need to massage it with a bit of technique to get it ready to prepare and eat. You will want to remove any stems from the leafs, cut them into your preferred size for eating and coat your hands in a little olive oil or lemon juice, if you want it to have a nice fruity hint to it. Then, work your hands through it and watch it become a deep green color. Cooking gurus and foodie bloggers alike swear this makes the vegetable taste a thousand times better and I can confirm. The best salads have a beautiful pallet of colors, so don’t be afraid to really mix in a variety of veggies and fruits with your salad. Try adding half a cup of cranberries and blueberries to your salad for a bit of sweetness. You will also want to add other vegetables, like a half cup of carrots and a half cup of broccoli, mixed. These veggies will add a little variety, both in color and taste, blending perfectly.
If you want to add another main leafy green to your salad, you can accompany the leafy green with Spinach leaves. Toss in a handful of Vitamin E, Manganese and Fiber packed sunflower seeds, red onions and almonds to create that delicious, perfect crunch you really want in your salad. You can dress your salad with any of your favorite dressings, but if you really want to keep it healthy (I know you do), try a little oil and vinegar. If you’re feeling particularly crafty, you can make the super simple, homemade lemon dressing using red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, honey and fresh lemon juice.
This salad is always a family favorite in my household. The ingredients ring in under $15.00 and the calorie count is just above 330, which makes it a double win in my recipe book. Plus, it takes about ten minutes to assemble and it easily feeds four. My own family loves when I make it (even the little ones). It really comes off as an extravagant salad, when in reality it’s just so deliciously simple and such a great go-to for those mid-week dinners.
Needless to say, it’s really true: Everyone loves Kale and the added benefit that it’s so incredibly good for you and can be prepared so many different ways really justifies it’s superfood status. Whether you are an adventurous food connoisseur or a mom trying to sneak something green into your toddler’s favorite meal, this leafy green deserves a place in everyone’s diet.
- Kale (any kind… Lacinato or curly preferred)
- Red onion (1)
- Pomegranate (1/2 cup)
- Avocado (1)
- Quinoa (1/2 cup)
- Balsamic vinegar (1/4 cup)
- Olive oil (1/2 cup for dressing and 1/4 cup for Kale)
- Orange juice (1/4 cup)
- Dijon mustard (1 tablespoon)
- Honey (1 tablespoon)
- Poppy seeds (1 tablespoon)
- Salt (1/4 teaspoon)
- Cut up Kale and put in a big bowl.
- Cut up a red onion roughly or into small thin strips and add to the bowl.
- Break open one pomegranate and add to the bowl.
- Add avocado. You can cut up into small or longer pieces.
- Make the quinoa and refrigerate for about 20 minutes to cool off before serving with the salad.
Directions for dressing:
1. In a small bowl, add balsamic vinegar.
2. Add olive oil.
3. Add orange juice.
4. Add Dijon mustard.
5. Add honey.
6. Add poppy seeds.
7. Add salt.
8. Mix everything, then pour over the salad.