kaleWe’ve wrapped up January, how are we doing with our resolutions? You remember the time you were supposed to start eating better, adding whole grains, leafy greens and the like to your routine? Crash diets aren’t the answer but a healthy dose of all the good stuff is the best path to a happier and healthier lifestyle.

Kale especially is one of those ingredients that is constantly being hammered into our heads, but if you’ve never used it before, what are you supposed to do with it? With high levels of beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C and calcium, there’s no reason not to eat it regularly. Here a few easy ideas and recipes to help you get started.

Kale Pesto

In a food processor or blender, combine blanched and cooled kale, the zest and juice of one lemon, 3 tablespoons Parmesan Cheese and enough olive oil to make a smooth puree. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Mashed Potatoes with Kale

Make mashed potatoes as you normally would, but add ½ bunch of finely chopped kale (the kale pesto would also be great here) about ten minutes before the potatoes are finished cooking. Then mash and enjoy!

Braised Kale with Apple Cider, Caramelized Onions and Toasted Pine Nuts

Heat a large skillet with one tablespoon of olive oil, then sauté one sliced onion over medium-low heat until starting to caramelize. Add 1 bunch chopped kale and stir to coat, seasoning with salt. Add enough apple cider to just cover and simmer until the kale is tender, 25-30 minutes. Add the zest of one lemon and toasted pine nuts if desired.

kale chipsKale “Chips”

Cut one bunch of kale into large chunks, spread them out onto a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in a 400 degree oven until crispy, about ten minutes. Seasoning is endless, try: sea salt and pepper, shredded coconut, sesame oil, cayenne and ground coriander, smoked paprika and crushed garlic, lemon juice and parmesan.

Stir-Fried Kale with Ground Turkey, Edamame and Soy

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil to lightly coat. Add 1 pound ground turkey or chicken and season with salt and pepper. Cook until browned and cooked through, about 7-9 minutes. Remove from skillet to a separate bowl. Add ½ bunch finely chopped kale and 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger to the skillet and season with 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil and ¼ teaspoon fish sauce. Cook until the kale is starting to soften, about 5-7 minutes. Add 1 cup frozen and shelled edamame and cook until warmed through, about 2-3 minutes. Return the turkey back to the skillet and stir to coat. Add the juice of 1 lime and 1 sliced fresh chili, if desired. Adjust seasoning with soy sauce and sesame to taste.

Kale Rolls with Quinoa, Dried Cherries and Sage Bread Crumbs

Blanch kale leaves in boiling salted water until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Meanwhile, cook quinoa according to package directions, seasoning with salt and pepper and adding 1 cup dried cherries or cranberries at the end of cooking. In a small skillet toast ½ cup panko bread crumbs with 1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage until light brown, about 3-5 minutes. Take the blanched kale leaves and separate them into 5-6 inch pieces if too large. Spread a layer of the quinoa into each leaf and roll up tightly. Arrange the leaves, seam side down in a deep baking dish and add chicken stock or water to come up one inch. Add the sage bread crumbs and bake in a 400 degree oven until browned and tender, about 25-30 minutes.

Contributed by Chefs Richard Chudy and Katie Barszcz of The Skinny Beet.  A native Bostonian, Richard Chudy graduated from the Professional Chef’s Program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in 2007 and started a private chef business.  When he’s not busy in the kitchen, he runs Boston Burger Blog, his ongoing quest for the perfect burger in Boston.  Katie started her blog, The Small Boston Kitchen, in December of 2009 as a way to document her hours spent in the kitchen, as well as her eating adventures throughout the Greater Boston area.  In January 2011, Katie attended the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, where she received her Culinary Certificate. Katie co-owns a personal chef and catering business, The Skinny Beet